Friday, April 11, 2008
The Secret to Falling in Love
It’s spring, when hearts turn to thoughts of love, sex, and romance, hey? I know mine will, if it ever stops with the cold rain here in Wisconsin. This will be my life’s 51st spring, but who ever gets tired of falling in love? If the average human had her way, she’d like to do it every day.
I was pondering that thought this week while reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, during a chapter that discussed married love. My dear departed friend Jack (as Mr. Lewis was known to his friends) talked about the folly of expecting to stay in love with your spouse. And he made an excellent point: considering the insecurity, anxiety and nervous excitement that accompanies romantic love, who would want to experience that forever concerning one’s life mate? It’s fun, but just too stressful. The feelings of security, contentment, and quiet happiness that come from a good marriage are far better.
But didn’t I just say I’d like to fall in love every day? Well, yes...but I’d like to do it in a less serious and stressful capacity. I’d like it to be fun, exciting, arousing, adventurous, abounding in rapturous emotion, invigorating, fresh, sensuous, and glorious. You know, just like that spring day when you were nineteen and met that really cute guy in your Psych 101 class and dreamed about him meeting you for a beer, and you laid awake all night imaging kissing him...well, you know what I’m talking about.
You may be thinking, that kind of thing is possible when you’re young, but the older you get, the less likely it is that you are going to fall in love on any given day. You may feel that at this point in your life it’s impossible. Some days I sure feel that way. But in point of fact, the older you get, the more control you have over your life, and the less desperate you are. If the cute guy in Psych turned out to be not interested, or actually a loser, you were doomed to some very unpleasant disappointment relationship-wise. But an older, happily married woman is already contentedly attached. She doesn’t need to be desperate about falling in love, she can just sit back and enjoy it for the fun of it.
Well, clearly I’m talking about a certain sort of falling in love, and it’s the kind in the realm of fantasy. (And after all, if you’re going to be truly honest about it, all falling in love is in the realm of fantasy!) Whenever you discover someone new that you find attractive, whether it be a character in a book, an actor on TV, an athlete, or your new pool boy (naughty!), you can play at falling in love. You can enjoy the thrill of masculine beauty and charm, you can revel in the particular gifts of this guy, you can rejoice that he exists and that you encountered him...and most of all you can rejoice that you are only playing at being in love so won’t ever have to learn all about his shortcomings by actually having a relationship with him!
While it’s spring, and we’re focusing on falling in love, why not broaden our definition a bit for the fun of it? You can fall in love with a piece of music (try Beethoven’s Ninth), a dish (there’s this amazing orange liqueur cake I make), a piece of art (I felt that way about a statue of David once), a film (how many times have I watched “Love Actually” now?), a pair of shoes, a lilac bush, a pet, a cologne, etc., etc. This kind of romance may not venture into the realm of the erotic (that cake comes damn close), but it still satisfies the soul.
Of course, being a romance writer, I especially love to fall in love with characters. I think romance readers are on to something: they know how to fall in love over and over again throughout their lives, deriving great satisfaction and pleasure therefrom, without any of the unfortunate side effects that come from lusting after “real life” romance experiences.
Jack Lewis is one who highly recommends that rather than trying to force ourselves to feel romance in areas where in fact we might be perfectly content, we be open to the exciting things each day brings our way. Fall a little in love with each good thing you encounter, and you’ll have plenty to be romantic about.
Of course, it’s a lot easier--at least here in Wisconsin--to do it in spring.