By John Gray
Is there an expiration date on love? I mean, much like a gallon of milk or loaf of bread, is there a set date or window of time during which a person can truly fall in love? I wonder that sometimes when I think about the human heart and how it beats and aches and changes as we get older. Doctors will tell you the heart you have at 40 is much different than the one you had at 14, and while they would be speaking in medical terms, I think it's true emotionally as well. Age may make us wiser, but life can make us harder. Harder to trust, to believe, to love.
Think back if you will to that day in the third grade when you gathered for homeroom and fidgeted nervously in your seat. It was Valentine's Day and in a moment the teacher would announce it was time to pass out Valentine's to the classmates of your choosing. Those cardboard cutouts weren't worth a nickel, but to your fragile heart it meant the world to get one from the boy or girl you had a crush on.
Jump ahead to that 14-year-old child falling hard for the first time. Has there ever been anything close in your life to that first kiss or those late night phone calls that refuse to end? You could talk for hours about everything or nothing at all. Just sitting still in the dark of your room hearing the other person breathing on the other end of the phone was heaven. Strange how 20 years later you're laying in bed listening to them snore thinking, "God, this is hell."
As adults, we say all the time that children are reckless and don't consider the consequences of their actions. I think that's true, and especially when it comes to matters of the heart. First love isn't tainted by logic or worry or common sense. It just is. And sadly, as we get older I think we lose that ability to just jump off the cliff holding someone else's hand not thinking about the depth of the water below.
February can be a tough month for many people because everywhere they turn they have that stupid cupid shoved down their throat. Even the M&M's turn pink and red this month reminding you of LOVE. Girls at work who don't deserve a hot dog from Stewart's get roses, candy and dinner and it's all enough to make you want to curl up in front of a sappy Meg Ryan movie and eat frosting straight from the can.
I feel your pain, but here's the thing. You're not dead. You're just old and decrepit and too damn guarded to remember the fun 14-year-old you used to be. The one who dreamed big when anyone would listen, sang into a hair brush when no one was watching and fell in love like nobody would hurt them. It's the way we were and the way we could be again if we stopped worrying so much. I'm 46, divorced and done marrying people. Done. When it comes to love, my kids, friends and family are first and last in line. That said, I haven't given up on love. But, I'm not looking for it; I might not even recognize it if it bit me on the backside (no, I'm not into that kind of thing). However, I refuse to close my heart to the possibility I could meet someone special. Or, realize someone already in my life who is dressed as a friend might upgrade to something more significant down the road. That's the cool thing about life I think, that you have no idea what might be waiting around the next corner. That's the point of getting out of bed. That, and the fact that if you lay in bed all day with frosting stains on your face your friends are going to start calling you Meg, you'll end up with nine cats and kids in the neighborhood will throw rocks at your house. Plus, the cliché is true, when you stop trying to make something happen it tends to happen all on its own.
The people at Hallmark tell me that roughly 188 million Valentine's cards will be exchanged this month. Don't bother checking the mailbox because this column is my Valentine to you. (And if you're a guy reading this don't take that the wrong way. Um, consider it a fist pump or something really masculine like watching football or refusing to ask for directions when you're lost).
If you're an old married couple, God bless you. If you're divorced and lost in the woods, keep moving because the road home is just past those trees. And, if you are young and in love we salute you; just don't call each other "snookums" or do Eskimo kisses in public because it makes us single people wanna hurl. Love isn't a many splendid thing. It's tough and messy. Bob Seger once said, "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." It took me 20 years, but I think I finally know what old Bob was talking about. To put it another way, when it comes to love, if we could forget for just a moment that we might get hurt maybe we won't. The water may be deep enough for the both of us, but we have to jump in to find out.