I was brought up reading fairytales. As a little girl I was fed a strong intellectual diet of true love, dragon slaying, fairy godmothers and a sprinkling of magic. Little girls are brought up believing in fairytales and believing that love conquers all.
Yet, at some point, once that little girl has grown into an adult, faced with the real world, that belief starts to fade.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s a symptom of the world we live in, that people stop believing in love.
As a 30 year old, single woman, in days gone by I would have been relegated to the shelf and given the ‘spinster’ label. Having done my fair share of dating, been rejected, or done the rejecting, met people who I have fallen in love with, and seen that love come to an end, it’s easy to see how I could become cynical and give up on the idea of ‘love’ altogether.
We are faced with depressing facts about love all the time — rising divorce rates, technology ruining relationships and even clinical heartbreak. It’s hard, desperately hard sometimes, to truly keep believing. Every new person you meet who lights that fire inside of you, and holds your interest, only to then lose them through circumstances, time or simply through their or your own choices…..sometimes you wonder just how much your heart can take.
At what point do people give up? At what point do they decide that’s just enough heartbreak for one lifetime, and close up shop, resigned to the idea of being on their own? “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” wrote the poet John Donne in the 17th Century. We’re not meant to be on our own. Connectedness is a part of being human, and the closest and most connected any two people can be is through love.
Yet, I still believe. I completely believe in love. I believe because, without love, what are we even doing here? When our money has gone, when our careers have come to an end, when our material possessions are no longer ours, what remains is what keeps us going. What remains is love.
“You know when I said I knew little about love? That wasn’t true. I know a lot about love. I’ve seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate… It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves… You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and… What I’m trying to say, Tristan is… I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I’d know it for myself. My heart… It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it’s trying to escape because it doesn’t belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I’d wish for nothing in exchange – no gifts. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.”
― Neil Gaiman, Stardust
I believe in love because I’ve seen it. My grandparents on both my mother and my father’s side met, fell in love and celebrated 25, 30, 50-odd years of marriage. They lived, laughed and loved through every crisis and event that life threw at them. And they loved deeply – it was clear to see for anyone who ever met them. I remember my Gran saying, when my Granda died suddenly following a heart attack, that she couldn’t imagine life without him. That he was her soulmate. Every year since he passed away (20 years ago) she has quietly marked another year without him and spoken of looking forward to being reunited with him in heaven. Soulmates.
How can you stop believing in love when that exists in the world?