Friday, December 31, 2010

Embracing love

Despite being a hopeless romantic, I'm infatuated with tragic love stories. Maybe it's because they seem more genuine, or maybe the love just feels stronger when contrasted against loss and heartache. Either way, they make my heart want to explode.

I've always been very idealistic when it comes to relationships. While I'm hopeful for my very own storybook ending, I'm beginning to wonder if it's really that important. Sometimes even genuine love is fleeting. And finding genuine love, for even a moment, is worth everything, even a broken heart.

So here are my favorite tragic love stories. Each one offers real-life lessons that fairy tales leave out.

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind
Love is messy. Sometimes we'd rather forget than let go, but neither is easy.

I never really know how to feel at the end of this movie. Should I be happy because they can walk away in ignorant bliss, with their hearts still in tact? Should I feel sad because they lost their moments together, and they have no memory of how beautiful their love was? I just don't know -- maybe it's because I have no idea what I would do in their situation.

Sometimes I wish I could erase my memories so I could eliminate my unrealistic expectations for future relationships. I feel like it would make my life a lot easier.

But relationships are meant to be learning experiences, and they have certainly played an important role in my own self discovery. Over the years, I've learned that I can let myself be vulnerable; that it is OK to question my beliefs; and that I can be very patient, giving and selfless. I'm also strong enough to be on my own.

I always had a hard time understanding the expression, "it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I felt that even the happiest memories would seem sad when the person is no longer in your life. But now, after surviving a lost love, I'm not sure I would opt to have my memory erased just to be left with an aching emptiness. The memories I'd miss the most are the trivial, seemingly inconsequential ones. It's in these brief moments that my love felt indestructible.

500 Days of Summer
Sometimes love is one-sided. When grieving over a relationship, it's easy to obsess over the happy memories and overlook its flaws.

It's hard not to love a movie starring dreamboat Joseph Gordon-Levitt, especially when he plays a gushing romantic. In the film, he falls in love with a girl named Summer. He gives his heart fully -- without a moment's hesitation -- only to have it crushed.

While it was obvious that Summer was only along for the ride, his naivety left him blind-sided by the breakup.

Moving on after your heart has been crushed isn't easy, and fantasizing about fluttering hearts and first kisses only prolongs the healing process. As those happy, romantic experiences are replayed over and over again, the unhappy (but very real) memories of fights and hurt feelings become blurry. You're left with a distorted perception of what really was, and letting go becomes a daunting task.

The movie was very familiar to me. My big love was everything, and when it fell apart, I was devastated. All I could do was try to preserve my memory of love, so I would never forget what it felt like, so I would never settle for anything less.

In the beginning, it was easy to think back on the positive memories. But as time went on, and I began to evaluate the relationship with an unbiased heart, I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I kept falling short in his eyes. To have something I believed in with all my heart disproved, left me feeling lost.

But that's the reality of love. The only way to find it is to risk it all.

Vanilla Sky
It's easy to fall in love with the idea of being in love. Timing really is everything.

Who doesn't want to be in love? Movies and books make it seem like love is all you need to make anything right. But it's not. Love can be hard - it's full of compromises, surprises, and decisions.

And despite our efforts, sometimes we're doomed for failure simply because the timing isn't right. It's frustrating - especially once you've grown up and realize that what should have been could never be.

Blue Valentine
When love is it's strongest, you have the most to lose. Sometimes people grow apart.

I saw Blue Valentine as soon as it came out. I knew it was going to be sad, but I think that's why I wanted to see it. I wanted to see a movie that was real. I wanted to see a genuine portrayal of love -- beautiful and ugly.

Yes, the ending was sad, but the story was an evolution of their relationship. The only reason it ended in tragedy was because their early years were filled with so much love. Unfortunately, it's often hard to sustain a relationship so intense, particularly when you still have so much growing up to do.

Although my heart may have a few scars, it also has empty pockets waiting to be filled in with love. I look forward to one day having a patchwork heart, made from pieces of all the people who entered my life and shared their love.