I spent this past weekend in London, visiting girlfriends. Roshni, a bomshell from India who is married to a British doctor. Emily, who was my flatmate and fellow American at the University of Leeds. And Nat, a British native who I’ve known for three lives and actually met way back when in Maine. All three of these women are in serious, but very different relationships. I’ve loved surrounding myself with strong and powerful women over the past few months, and this trip to London was no exception. Roshni and I drank tea and watched her wedding video. Em and I enjoyed brunch and discussed her upcoming relocation plans. And Nat and I sat in the dark corner of a pub, sipping cider and discussing Lithuanian men. I’m learning so many things, from so many bright and brilliant ladies. But they’re also inadvertently teaching me things about myself. Some of which I am sad to learn.
A year ago I would have told you that I believed in commitment. My grandparents have been married for 51 years, and on their 50th wedding anniversary, I asked my Papa, “What’s the secret? How did you make your love last for 50 years?” His response? “We didn’t give up. So many people these days walk away when things get hard. There will be days, weeks, or maybe even years where marriage is difficult. The only way to make it work, is to keep working at it. To be committed to your commitment.”
As a romantic, I was somewhat upset. I had expected to hear that my Gramma and Papa were swans. That they always clicked, that they had moved seamlessly throughout life with an abundance of love. But I accepted my Papa’s answer with respect and consideration.
In the last year of my relationship with Ben, I did everything imaginable to make us work. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells. Trying to avoid certain topics. I consented to life decisions I didn’t necessarily believe in, but was willing to make work out of love and devotion. I would have done anything to make Ben smile, to have him adore me again like he used to. I was utterly committed to making us work. We were engaged. He had proposed. He had held had my face, looked me in the eyes, and told me that he wanted to spend his life with me. And I had believed him with all of my heart.
And so a lesson I have learned, is that certainty is not all that certain. That we cannot predict things in life. That commitment can cease. People can change. Basically, shit can happen. I feel wise for understanding this lesson, and openly communicated it to Ro, Em, and Nat this past weekend in London. Surprisingly, each time, this sentiment was met with an uncomfortable frown. Having a few hours by myself on the journey back to Amsterdam, I questioned why this might be. And upon arriving at Schiphol airport, I burst into tears.
I’m not wise or knowledgable. And I haven’t learned a great lesson.
I have just forgotten how to trust.
I put myself in a situation where I loved blindly, completely, and was betrayed. I dreamt a life that was shattered. I committed to someone who lied about being committed to me. And now I feel cynical. I don’t know if I believe in forever. Can I allow myself to rely on someone again? Is it normal for my sense of trust to feel crippled? Maybe 51 years is an anomaly. Maybe swans aren’t real. Or maybe, I just have a long road ahead, with a lot of healing to do.
I’m going to leave you with a note on trees. Random, yes. But incredibly brilliant and loaded with insights on life, happiness, and discovering trust. It’s been a long day, but this essay has really helped assuage my doubts before bed. If a tree can stand still, never look, and yet live in trust and flower year after year, I think I can too, for every crazy unpredictable season in this life. Continue reading