Send in the Clowns?

2 12 2010

You know, ultimately, building a life is not funny. There are unlimited opportunities for fun, but they’re not regularly scheduled or guaranteed. Buying a house, or getting into something new might actually be very cool – assuming you are happy doing it on your own, unless you’re not. Ballroom dance lessons sound cool – but not as a prime number. Starting over in a new place is certainly exciting – but the difference between doing it alone and doing it with someone you love is kind of like cooking. For two it’s a pleasure, it’s exciting, maybe even sexy, and fulfilling even when the food is not. For one, it’s a chore, rarely worth the effort and often depressing on some level.

The stories we tell, the singles’ adventures, the nights out, the missed opportunities and the crazy people we sometimes encounter make for colorful tales, but after a while the pages they’re written on begin to yellow, and suddenly the story of how that relationship ended or never started becomes like the 10th night in a row of eating alone: It’s not funny anymore.

We put up a good front, and we tell ourselves the things we hear again and again. It will happen when you’re not looking.

  • It will happen when the time is right.
  • Someday you’ll meet someone nice.
  • She is looking for you too – it’s just a matter of time.
  • You’ll meet a real guy who likes you for who you are.
  • Just be patient.
  • It will happen.

There’s not one person out there, single in some way, who hasn’t heard those, doesn’t think them, and doesn’t believe in each and every one. We have to. This would be otherwise unbearable. The thoughts that we are wasting the life we have, that we are running out of time, that we will have to settle with what we can get, not what we long for – are ever present.

As wrapped up as I get in my own search with its ever-retreating horizon, I get dispatches from the front every now and then that remind me of how this plays out in all different ways for all of us, but the story is painfully familiar.

One way or another, we keep passing by dozens, hundreds, thousands of each other, all looking. We sort and label and discard and keep moving, bent on finding the one that meets all the needs, and maybe some of the wants. We all want the same thing. To be dizzy in love. To be crazy about someone. To daydream about the word, the gesture, the touch, the caress that is – how was it put?-  the smallest but the most profound – that puts a smile on their face, that locks their eyes with yours, that makes their heart pound a little. To give to one person everything that you are, and to accept from them everything that they are.

We all suffer the same setbacks. Wrong space. Wrong time. Wrong town. Wrong job. Wrong age. Wrong background. Wrong needs. Wrong wants.

We all want to stop. We all want to be done with it forever. If you’re like me, you convince yourself, at least for a while, that it no longer matters like it once did. That you can and will dwell alone for the rest of your days, and pursue the life of the mind, or whatever you idolize. Some day, though, we all wake up to the reality that that is not what we are made for. We are built in pairs. We are built to exchange love always, and crave it when we don’t. No matter what castles we build in the air, what fantasies we spin about our own independence, sooner or later they all fall.

Perhaps the oft-recycled song lyric that it’s better hurt than to feel nothing at all is right. We can’t stop, because, love it or hate it, this is what we do. Next time you look at a friend, especially if they’re telling you the latest singles-adventure, take a moment to notice that behind them, it hurts a little. Because in the end it’ll all be worth it, but at the moment, some of this stuff isn’t funny.




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