Never; Once; Still

I went to see a play with three bright, shining women the other day: two widows and a long-and-happily married head of an adoption agency. Man, if I could have bottled up the conversation in the car, I'd take it everywhere with me. 

We saw Once at the Weston Playhouse. It was fantastic. In the final scene there were six guitars, two fiddles, a mandolin, piano and accordion being played on stage. I cried a few times during the performance. It was so well-staged and well-acted that I forgot that I was sitting inside a theater on a sunny summer day; I had been transported to Dublin and into the lives of the people there.



It's a love story, an improbable one, where two people from different worlds fall in love because of music and a broken vacuum cleaner. It's a sweet story that had a mostly happy ending in real life: the two people who were in the original movie fell in love during the filming, formed a band, toured and made music together and then split up.

All three of the women I was with deeply loved their husbands. Patty entertained us with stories of how her husband, Ned, who died about twenty years ago, had appeared in her dreams over the years. Dobi's grief is fresh: her beloved died last winter, soon after they got married, after 45 years together.

The stories got better: Dawn told me that she picked up her husband, hitchhiking, "married him and we're still madly in love." I don't know how many years ago that was, but I'm guessing about forty or so. I forgot to ask.

I am deeply curious about love in our lives, how it manifests, what it feels like, how we give and withhold. The fine line that can exist between loving and loathing someone. How some love seems effortless, almost pre-ordained, and some is full of struggle and discord. How love is perceived as a universal experience and yet everyone lives it in highly personal ways.

The comings and goings of love.The ways some hold love for most of a lifetime and others put it on and cast it off, over and over. 

I was in a relationship many years ago in which the man was not forthcoming with words of love. We had dated for about a year when he told me, for the first time, that he loved me. Not long after, he broke things off with me. "What about you telling me that you love me, finally, just a few weeks ago?" I asked him in the heat of the break-up melt-down.

"I might have been lying," he said.

I dated a man once who told me he loved me on our first date. Granted, I had known him earlier in my life, but I hadn't seen him in about twenty years. 

I wonder if love makes liars and zealots out of us.

I am fascinated that many of us seem to spend most of our life's energy seeking, wanting, putting ourselves in partnership, hoping for love. And then the leftover energy complaining, bemoaning and questioning the love we worked so hard to gain. How is it that love can bring such happiness and satisfaction and so much pain and suffering? How does love change from kindness to contempt? From hope to despair? From everything to nothing?

I wonder a lot of things about love. I have said the words, "I love you" many times in my life and I now practice a vocation that is deeply rooted in love. Still, like Joni Mitchell, I am left feeling that I really don't know love at all.

I wonder how many songs have been written about love. How many poems. You really can't turn a corner in this life without running into love. 

I met a man recently who is 70 years old and he told me that he had never been in love. His entire yard is cultivated in perennial flowers and vegetables, to which he tends each day. But he has never been in love.

When I came home from the play I received some news that will cause the rivers of my life to be rerouted later this summer. "The universe is blowing you in a new direction, again," is what Lauren said when I told her.

Sometimes I wish the winds of the universe would take a break, let me sit still for a while, give my heart a chance to rest. It was a hard spring. It's been a beautiful summer. The fall will bring change. I am waiting for both my car and my brain to be diagnosed, still. I may need a new engine, but I am afraid I'm stuck with the same old brain that has led me here. Maybe the aches are a result of too much thinking, too much wondering. Maybe my brain has had enough of me trying to figure everything out all the time.


When the lights go down at the end of the play, you don't know if the woman who plays the piano and the man who plays the guitar are going to be together or not. He has a ticket to go to New York, to track down his old love, the one for whom he wrote all the songs; he is leaving. And her husband is supposed to come to Dublin to try to save their marriage; she is staying behind with her daughter. So you don't know what will happen, but somehow it feels OK. I didn't leave the play feeling gypped. They had made a good record together, and life would go on, one way or another.

I guess that's how it works. Life goes on, one way or another.