Up until about a couple years ago, shamefully late in life, I realized that life does not need to be tragic. Some lives can be lived without event, without drama, without a tragic twist to an otherwise peaceful, good life. There are people that are born, grow up, meet someone, marry, and die at 87 without the slightest bit of disaster. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there are people who never experience pain, or loss, or suffering. We all experience that to different degrees. What I am talking about is the love addict’s natural inclination to believe that life, and love in particular, is “tragic.”
Our belief in tragedy (drama, omens, symbols) comes from the way we were raised, the movies we watched or the books we read. And since most love addicts are prone to fantasy, it’s no surprise that they begin to believe that tragedy is a natural part of life. When every dramatic movie has a tragic element, it’s hard not to start to think that real life must be the same. And yet, it’s not.
Being a literature major, didn’t help. After having read things like Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, Tropic of Cancer, The Sheltering Sky, Madame Bovary, The Red and The Black, how could I want anything less than that same amount of passion for my own life? There was a bitter sweetness to the utter bliss of having found someone, and the agony of knowing I would lose them. In fact, at certain points in my life, I was proud that my life was so tragic. I was, after all, an artist. And an artist must live a tragic life.
The trouble is, when I recovered and wanted to live my life without all that drama (and art!), and find a stable, healthy relationship, I maintained an enormous sense of mistrust for the universe. I could never be completely “happy” or comfortable in my relationship because lurking around the corner, was tragedy disguised as a “perfect life.” It was only a matter of time before tragedy would strike and my love would be struck down and taken from me or vice versa. Isn’t that the way the world works?
Again, a resounding No. Life can indeed be a tragedy. But, depending on your perspective, and circumstances, it can also be a story with no point. It can be simple. It can be complex, but manageable. It can be average–not like Hollywood at all. How do I know? I see it now that I look for it. My mother lived a very chaotic life when she was with my father, but in 1986, she met and eventually married the man she is with now. If I look at their life together it is a simple, happy one. Although she has overcome some huge hurtles (lost her brother, survived cancer) for the most part, her relationship with her husband has been steady, stable, loving, and strong. No extreme ups and downs. No craziness. No tragedy…for almost 30 years. That’s a long time to live a peaceful life with someone. And what I need to start to believe in.
So, the next time you’re sitting alone in your room, crying over the tragedy and drama of your life, remember, that’s Hollywood. That’s literature. It is the fiction that YOU are creating for yourself as part of your need to fill the void, to distract, to numb. To experience something bigger than you are. Life doesn’t have to be that way.