I wish I could say that I wisely hold back in loving the people around me. But it’s not true – I’ve never once been a ‘hold back on love’ kind of girl. Which means I’ve loved deeply and truly a bunch of times, but I can honestly say I’ve never been in love, not really.
And now it might be too late, because I’m falling out of love with the idea of falling in love. At least, in the way we think about it. The way the movies tell it, or at least, the way most movies tell it.
Was there ever a more unlikely couple than Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, confessing their love to one another as the world ended in the film ‘Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World’? But by the time the story reached an inevitable conclusion, it was obvious that neither character could have found a partner better matched. It was not a long list of shared interests and mutual sexual attraction that made their love story so compelling or so real – and it was, despite contrived circumstances, honest and truthful about what love can be.
Instead, they found in one another an honest, endearing, truthful and compassionate friendship. Both characters were able to be themselves and grew to a more honest and engaged individual when supported and encouraged by the other. They gently inspired one another to a better self.
But I believe that this what we should all be looking for, a friend for the end of the world who loves us as ourselves, rather than an idea of us. The friend who brings us home to ourselves with humility and the one who helps us feel capable of climbing mountains. It’s idealistic but that’s kind of beautiful – for a girl as smart as I am to recognize the naïve innocence of that desire and desire it anyway.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to pretend that chemistry and attraction aren’t a really big deal in successful relationships. But I also know from experience that the deepest attraction grows from the heart and mind. From the soul, I guess you could say.
True passion requires a lot of fuel, on an ongoing basis. I’ve watched love fade from the eyes of people who once couldn’t keep their hands off each other. If the sparks are your only fuel, you might fast run out of matches. True love takes a long time to grow. We confuse the possibility of love for Love itself and where we ought to nurture true and deep companionship, we burn out in a flash of heat and sparks.
And here’s the truth hidden in the detail of a movie of a story we should pay more attention to: sometimes the best friend we’ve been looking for our whole life is just within reach, within eye contact or a phone call. We just don’t recognize it when we’re busy looking for something that feels like love (sparks) but isn’t friendship.
The older I get, the less I’m looking for lusty sparks, I’m looking for a different kind of chemistry. One that is no less exciting, but a little more substantial. Is there a chance we can share a common outlook? Is there a chance I could care about you more than myself? It is probably a terrible sign for my love life, but the truth is I’m no longer looking for a fairy-tale kind of love story. I’m seeking a friend for the end of the world and that makes dating even more of a challenge. The more experience you have of what true Love looks like, the more you are able to recognize what is good and what is not worth holding on to.
In the same way you might study Van Gogh originals to best recognize a forgery, once you’ve recognized the kind of life-changing love that can be experienced in the embrace of a true deep friend, everything else feels like a cheap knock-off. I have too much good love in my life already, so it feels intimidating and impossible to start from scratch.
I’m looking for someone who can follow the sub-text of a conversation, who shares the meta-narrative, the one I laugh with like no one else and who embraces my sentimental, romantic nature. While I don’t believe that any one love can meet all our needs, I’m looking for my best friend and the one who knows I’m theirs.
Here’s why: if anybody is going to stand a chance in making love work for longer than the sparks do, it will be those who are friends and continue to nurture that friendship and relationship above all things. That’s what I’ve learned watching my parents, my friends and dozens of disasters.
I’m talking about the kind of friendship where trials and triumph matter as much to you as to your friend and layers of sub-text and meta-narrative accompany every experience. Where trivial moments of laughter, bad humour and everyday experiences meld effortlessly into what matters and what does not. Sometimes the deepest friendships appear shallow because the foundation is so deep. A deep foundation that anchors people to a common outlook is the richest and best kind of love, no matter who it is shared between.
While I would gladly embrace the heat and spark of new love, I can’t wait for old love. I’d give anything to fall in love with someone who already knows my best stories, my deepest hopes and maddest dreams. I’d love to fall in love with a friend and skip ahead to holding hands.