Essay: Romantic or Realist?

Disclosure on me:

I’ve been told that I’m a sensitive man. Given the smiles and nods around the room, it was intended as a compliment. The unstated enigma was that men normally are not.

I was recently told that I am a romantic (noun) because I’ve written romantic (adjective) poetry. The person who said that was laughing at the time because in her view, that is ironic. She claimed the higher ground of a realist (noun) partly because she was on her third (two bad experiences) marriage. This time to a man who was quite ill, adding to the reality of life.

The poem was about the dreamy desire of a (real) woman who was not in a happy, romantic relationship. It was my interpretation of her romantic dream – how she wanted things to be.

I responded that I accept who and what I am, that one can be both romantic and realist (definitions-dependent), and that a romantic realist is a thing in art, if not in people. Realistic art does not necessarily point to a realist artist. A writer of romance literature or romantic poetry need not hold personal romantic views. But, she was partly correct about me (does not know me well).

Most of this is because people attach my writing to my persona (or vice versa), which is okay, but what I write is not always me and certainly not about me. Often, I write about the world and people or things I see. In this case, my poem was about someone I knew who is struggling with life and her circumstance – her dreams and desires, perhaps pushed beyond the limits of practical reality.

Once bitten, twice shy

I believe that we learn best from the most painful lessons of life. We recall shocking or painful times well, if not always accurately. For my age group, it might be when JFK, RFK, or MLK were shot, among others. I suspect that the lady judging me formed her view because of her personal life experiences. That’s fair enough. But given the number of times I have found myself speaking in defense of reality and things as they truly are, a true romantic I am not.

The paradox

I haven’t posted about the paradox of love in a long time. I’m uncertain and struggle with what to say and how to say it. What will people say or think? I worry less about my writing and more about the subject or content. I sometimes wonder if I wrote about crime (I haven’t) if the FBI would show up at my door with a search warrant. But let’s give this a go even if I admit to the romantic leanings of a realist with both feet planted in the real world.

How long is long enough to love someone? In both quantity and time, “I love you now and I will forever (time), to the moon and back (quantity).” Is one day or night all there is? Is 20, 30, or 50 years enough? My mother died about 30 years ago, but I still love her. I’ve been married over 50 years, and my wife and I love each other.

I write about the Paradox of Love, loosely basing some of what I say on a book of the same title by Pascal Bruckner. I add my observations and limited experiences (in the worldly sense mostly, but I love many people, most seem to love me back). There is no shortage of material on this topic, many experts, and hundreds of ways to look at it.

The paradox to me is when love is added to the learning mix of life, painful lessons do not seem to stick. For some, the devastation from damage where love is involved is virtually unrecoverable. Yet, I have seen many times when the paradox of love allows us to move on with life and with love. Once again, “I love you forever…we love each other….” For me, that is the paradox. The human relationship quandary. However, as with the lady who labelled me a romantic, we may move on with less romantic naivety.

The human condition

Yet, love is forever until one of us blinks, looks away, wants more, samples greener pastures, or simply decides it’s over. Then all bets are off. Forever isn’t quite so long as we thought, right? None of that for better or worse shit, it must always be better and continually improving. Bore me and you’re gone. Then there is the ubiquitous found someone else. I admit to being dramatic here, but I’ve seen ugly romantic breakups and divorces. I could add friendships, but I am focusing on romantic love. What makes it work so well for many, yet repeatedly fails for others? Why?

I get it. The human condition is imperfect, and these things happen. People in love can, and do, fall in love with others. How many times do we love before we spend a lifetime with someone? Some people are polyamorous (one is not enough – a blog for next time).

Rarely is it okay with the other person to act on this. And if we do act on it, often all the shit in hell piles into the manure spreader and is sent flying (shit storm). On the bright side, without all the misery involved with love, over half of country music’s best crying in yer beer tunes would have never been sung. That’s also true for much R&R, R&B, and opera. I enjoy romantic comedy, but there’s room for tragedy in my mind. And is pain not the best teacher?

Free love – by the book

In his book, Bruckner describes the 1960s liberation movement (mostly civil rights, anti-war, and feminism) as a time of “free love” (especially within hippy groups but certainly not for all). No commitments, openness and a willingness to share even the most intimate and sexual experiences with others. That still goes on, I suppose, but without all the publicity of post-1950s drama.

Many good things came from the movements of the 60s: improved equality (woman, people of color, others), better human rights, music, long hair, care for the environment, and others. But the oxymoron idea of free love was not one of them – fortunately, according to Bruckner and me.

Free and open sex is just that. And love is also just that, meaning it is neither open nor free (e.g., she/he is mine). While I can’t speak for anyone else, and certain groups (religious, LGBTQ, cultural) may see or experience this differently, the romantic love two people may share could be about the most powerful emotional human force we possess. But, (and my idea of the paradox is) it is also among the most destructive.

All my exes live in Texas

A friend of mine who had been married several times, looked at me one day and informed me that her latest husband told her that he no longer wished to be married. Obviously shaken, she further confided that she had never loved him. I didn’t ask her (or him) if he felt the same way.

After the divorce ball was rolling along, he asked to reconcile (meaning he’d been dumped). She declined, which pissed him off, and it was not a nice, amicable divorce after that. The third thing she told me was that she was sure that she was not good at marriage. A difficult time followed for her, but that was mostly recovering from financial and ego damage. In time, she survived both and eventually remarried a guy after a long partnership (News update. I recently learned they divorced, and she is engaged to a new man).

Which are you?

To love and to be loved are wonderful things. Romantic me. To love often may also be wonderful. To be the couple in my poem is indeed romantic, but is also realistically feasible. Yet, to love comes with great risk and personal vulnerability. Remember, even the realist was on her third marriage. What is this human condition I call the paradox of love?

My original post on the paradox of love was over a year ago. It is more about the book than my thoughts. Read it by clicking here. You can read the poem that started this by clicking here.

Look both ways in romance and reality.
Be especially mindful of gaps in romance and real world relationships.
Live and learn, love and learn. Risk love, always.

 

Note: paradox synonyms; contradiction, contradiction in terms, self-contradiction, inconsistency, incongruity; oxymoron; conflict, anomaly; enigma, puzzle, mystery, conundrum, dichotomy, and incongruity.