So this is the week I thought I’d try putting up some love stories and some art to go with those stories as a little homage to the upcoming Valentine’s holiday. I’m not a huge Valentine’s day person, more because of the commercialism and pressure it puts on couples but the general sentiment of the holiday … well, I think we should celebrate the love in our lives every day if we can.
I was talking to a friend of mine this weekend about this week’s blog project and was trying to explain the interesting mix of responses I got. I only got a few classic happy tearjerkers but then I got several sad but very loving stories. Half of the people who sent me stories did not not even want them posted. They just wanted to share it with me. My friend offered a couple suggestions as to why this was. She thought a lot of people might not share their story because either they don’t think its that special or because the best love story they had didn’t end with them staying together. So then the question arose, is it a love story if the people involved were no longer in love. “Well,” she said,”we both know a really good story that didn’t end with the couple staying together but its still a great story?” So I’m going to tell that first this week. This is a story about two people we used to know. We changed the names and a few details to protect the innocent that don’t know we are writing about them.
We chose this heart off Pinterest to go with this story. It is a wonderful little piece by Betty Jo Hndershott and matches another conversation I had this week about simplicity. Simple is actually really hard to do well but this is one such example of a great success with simple things. This very solid faux ceramic heart has inside of it a wrapped up little wire heart. It has a great contrast in color, texture, size and line. When I saw it, I thought, the wire heart is like that fragile little thing inside the big love we all have, the thing we try to protect even though we can’t always keep it from harm.
So here’s the story, as best we can remember.
A Different Kind of Happily Ever After
It was James’ birthday and he was sitting at home alone. He had just moved to town after years of basically being a hermit. He felt misunderstood and had a violent childhood that had left him angry and closed off. But he wanted to change. He got online and posted a simple message on a message board:
“Songwriter/musician, new to town, just would like to have a drink and maybe see a live band with an intelligent pretty girl today because it’s my birthday. I’m smart and funny but I’m not tall or rich. Just an ordinary guy turning 31. Would you come make my night?”
He got a lot of responses like, “Ok, where do you want to meet?” But only one stood out:
“Hey songwriter/musician, new-to-town guy. Just wanted to drop in and wish you a happy birthday in case no one else does. I’m not the one to take you out for a drink though. I’m not ordinary, I’m tall for a girl, 8 years older than you, not a live music fan and I’m not much of a drinker. But know that at least one person out there is thinking of you and wishing you the best!”
James couldn’t resist. He wrote her back. They went back and forth, he giving her a hard time about not wanting to go out with a poor, short, young, ordinary guy and she coming back with funny quips about how he’d hate to hear about her crazy busy life of running charity events and trying to be an artist again. But then she stopped responding. He felt bad. Maybe his jokes went too far. But somehow even just that brief exchange made him feel better.
Valentine’s Day was a few weeks later. He decided he’d try his luck at getting out again. He read through some posts and this caught his eye:
“Anti-valentines Date—I don’t want to go on a Valentine’s date but don’t want to stay at home either. Feeling the same? Propose some wacky night out and let’s spend the night on our own terms.”
He wasn’t against Valentine’s Day but he did hate how society made you feel like some kind of loser not having someone on that day. So he wrote back. A minute late he got this:
“Lol. I don’t think you want to go out with me. You already kicked me to the curb on your birthday.”
It was that same woman he thought had stopped writing him! Apparently their last messages on his birthday didn’t make it through and they both thought the other had decided to end the conversation. He decided he wasn’t going to wait for Valentine’s. He wrote her back and said “What are you doing right now?”
A few hours later, they meet for coffee. He thought she was beautiful and she found his humor irresistibly charming. They talked and laughed for hours. They decided to have dinner the next night but that didn’t go as well. She had asked what he wanted from life and he said he just wanted something ordinary–work 9 to 5, come home, hang out with his girl and do simple things. She looked at him intensely and said, “No, you don’t.” It made him angry although he wasn’t sure why.
When they parted that night he thought he would never see her again. He was too ordinary and she was too driven for him. But he stayed awake all night thinking about it. And when he woke the next day he called her and said “Do you want to hear the story of my life.” She said yes and he told her all about it. She cried at moments and eventually told her own story. They both had been through a lot of difficult times. He dealt with it by being angry at the world; she dealt with it by constantly helping others but could never ask for help herself. They both distrusted others but in their hearts they wanted to. Their first big step came in trusting each other enough to fall in love.
Over the next four years, James self- managed his anger until it wasn’t a part of him anymore and Lynn made a point of asking people to help her out, even when she didn’t really need it. Together they both went out and met new people and grew a great new circle of friends. James started helping out at the fundraisers Lynn worked for and found out that he really liked organizing events which made him brave enough to get into working on music and other events. He was happy with his work for the first time in his life. Somewhere during that time James realized why he’d been angry that first dinner. He really didn’t want to be ordinary but he hadn’t known how to change that.
What he wanted–what they both wanted–was someone who made them more than they were on their own. For four years they did that for each other and grew personally and in their professional lives. In the end, they did not stay together. Lynn ended up traveling more than James could be happy with and James was heavily involved in the music community which he knew wasn’t Lynn’s thing. It came down to wanting lives that didn’t work well together. But that didn’t change the fact that they loved each other or that they still believed in each other. As far as we know, they still remain friends and as Lynn once said, “It may not have worked out but what we gave each other will last the rest of our lives.”
It was that line my friend and I remembered so well. So in a way, there was a happily ever after, after all.
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