The ordeals of love

I know I’ve been quoting a lot of Paulo Coelho lately, but he seems to be delivering a lot of direct wisdom to me. In a rare interview, Paulo recalls a conversation where someone asked him how he has remained married with the same woman for so long:

I answer that they are wrong. She is not the girl I met back in 1979. She changed a lot. So did I. Just like you build a house, and then you say, ‘This house does not fit me anymore. So, let’s reorganise, but let’s continue to live here. We don’t need to move because I love you, and you love me. So let’s reconstruct this house’. So we’ve been through many ordeals, many, many, many ordeals, but to survive it – why? Because of this… love.

I’ve written about the fragility of life changing you in an instant (Letting there be room to fall apart) –  a catastrophic event that Nick Cave describes as changing you from the known person to an unknown person. But I haven’t written about how the reality of the impermanence of life not only changes who you are as a person, but how it also changes the houses of your relationships.

I don’t think relationships can ever be prepared for catastrophic events. When there is so much grief and sadness – and that person inside the skin is now a different person – how can you both keep carrying on as before?

Alain de Botton, in his book The Course of Love, writes about how there is so much about how love starts, but recklessly little about how it might continue. Everything we see, everything we read, is about the happiness of love. But there is also the sadness of love, when everything around you is broken, and your light has been lost.

To love someone so truly and deeply does not mean that your house will never need reorganising. Although most of us don’t want to change, when we are forced to become a different version of ourselves, we have two options – to forever yearn for a house that we will never find again, or in the silences of love, of all that cannot be said, accept your ordeals, reorganise your house as best you can, and continue to live this life hand in hand… all because of this… love.