Tuesday, April 12, 2011

hearts, then and now

This memory snuck up on me today and warmed me right through the rainstorm happening outside.

When Rachell and I were 12 or 13 we spent a lot of our time imagining our futures, as children are prone to do. I had big plans to be a Broadway star and Rachell was already hatching a plot to become the CEO of the Disney Corporation. However, seeing as we were young teenage girls, the vast majority of our discussion focused more on our romantic futures. We would lay in bed and watch the clock tick away the wee hours as we tried to avoid getting in trouble for being awake far past our bedtimes. We reached inside ourselves and examined our delicate girlhood hearts. Back then they seemed so strong and resilient; they beat out a lively song and they were smooth and pink and waiting expectantly. Our hearts were so open and ready then, they were eager and hungry and practically bursting out of our chests. Of course they had yet to be touched then...yet to be broken. I like thinking back to the way we envisioned Love then; considering the unblemished view of what we thought the future would hold. Some of the uncompromising hope from those days always sneaks back in to my heart when I remember those sleepovers and hours of giggling.
On one occasion, for whatever reason, Rachell and I decided we were going to design for ourselves the perfect boyfriends. We were going to get out our pens and paper and write our profiles of our dream men, and their attributes, and the stories of our relationships with them. That way we figured that should any unwanted advances come our way we could say, "sorry, I have a boyfriend" and then be prepared with a backstory...Not to mention we just thought it would be fun to think about. Perhaps we believed that in writing all this down we would will it to be true...
So Rachell and I set to work thinking of the perfect names and occupations and backstories. We made lists of the good qualities they would have; important things like "good hair" or "nice to his mom" or, for Rachell, "wears a backwards baseball cap." After we had created sufficient backstories and molded precisely the correct character we sat in my bedroom with the unfortunate pink walls and read them out to each other. Rachells "boyfriend" was named Shawn, as she had a deep and undying love of Shawn Hunter from Boy Meets World. He was a bit of "bad boy", at least by 6th grade standards. He skateboarded. I don't really remember much else about him, but Shawn was effective for Rachell...she used him as her imaginary boyfriend when needed and he suited her just fine.
As for my imaginary boyfriend, I cannot remember what I named him because as soon as I read his profile out to Rachell I promptly ripped it up and threw it away. As I was reading it I realized I didn't like him at all, in fact, I had created for myself the world's most boring boyfriend. And from that day on I have refused to make a list of who the "perfect man" would be because I realized that real people are so much more interesting. I realized that while I may know myself well, I need to be open to being surprised. I need to understand that there are some things that I don't know I desperately want. So often the best things in life come in those surprising moments, in the things you never expected, or the things you thought you never wanted. I don't want to miss those things.
There are many lessons I am so glad my heart has learned, despite the inevitable damage those lessons have inflicted on my heart. I can never love the way that soft girlhood heart would have loved, because I am different now. I like to think I am better. I am thankful for the way I see Love now. I am thankful I can see it as something real and tangible, something to find with my feet on the ground, something that exists not in this lofty realm that is above us, but rather on the streets and sidewalks we use everyday. But I do think there is still a bit of room for the core of that little girl heart that is still inside of me. There is a space for its hope and wonder and boldness; for the open arms it welcomes life with.

So I will try to unfold my arms from across my chest and let a little bit of surprise in. I will let some real living into my life.

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