“What happens when you meet someone you really want to get to know,” people ask me about this project of mine. “What happens when you fall in love?”
At first, I answered, “I don’t know,” because I didn’t know. And then I answered, “we’ll see.” Now, I shrug. In my experience, love sort of sneaks up you from behind, like a toy fox terrier stalking a fat, city pigeon. It’s simply because we’re pecking on the ground instead of looking up and around that it feels like we’ve been hit by a speeding freight train.
Inevitably, my over-therapied friends who have read too many relationship self-help books will diagnosis me as being afraid of love and/ or commitment.
I want to set the record straight.
I’m not afraid of being blindsided by love.
I’m not afraid of being hit by a freight train either.
A few years ago, during the Christmas season, I was walking down Broadway, enjoying Christmas lights, dodging Christmas shoppers, brainstorming Christmas gifts.
I love Christmas in the city.
I saw a man running through the crowd. “That man is running towards me,” I thought, and stepped off his path.
He changed his trajectory. And I thought, “that man is running a-”
I was on the ground, scrambling for my bag, my incomplete thought hanging in the air as he sped away, disappointed, no doubt, by my lack of interesting things he might’ve wanted for himself. Or as Christmas gift for his loved ones.
My point is, if I couldn’t finish a thought at the laborious, slow speed of a human running through a city crowd, I surely won’t be able to put my thoughts together if I find myself standing in front of a speeding train. Or watching Cupid fling his arrow in my direction.
That event, only seconds from beginning to end, took more than my whole life to occur. I can’t even begin to comprehend how many architects there were to that single moment. People. Places. Prior events. Dreams. Goals. Conversations.
How many architects are there for every single heartbeat of my life?
I heard myself blink last week. I was floating in a floatation tank for the first time. No lights, no sound, just me with myself and a ton of epsom salt. I listened to my breath, and then my heart. And at once, I became aware of a quick, twinkle of a sound. I heard it again, the tiniest rain drop falling on the thinnest pane of glass. That sound was me, too. I winked one eye for a bit, then the other, and then listened again in stereo.
Neither change nor love happen with the elegance and beauty of a blinking eye. Nor do they emerge from nowhere with the fury and power of a run-away freight train. The build up is slow, the event, most often, unnoticed, and the repercussions parsed out over years. Change, like love, sits heavy on an over-burdened tug boat, pulling with all its might an over-loaded barge against the tide. Laborious and joyful, that little caboose has the power to move mountains.
I used to wish that change would hit me like a bolt of lightning, my life permanently altered for the better in one glorious swoop. My friend warned me that, not only is change inevitable, it’s also painfully slow. I would add that it can be stunningly simple and of a rare and subtle beauty.
I heard myself blink and I will never be the same.