Over the weekend, I sent a friend of mine a care package—as I so often do— this one containing a movie that’s special to me. In the course of conversation, I mentioned the film “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”, a movie I hadn’t seen in years. I shared that it was slightly ironic that many years later, people who were important to me at the point in my life during which I highly identified with that movie still felt a strong attachment to me when they watched the movie, or couldn’t deal with watching the movie at all.
It’s a little sad, but since it goes along with the premise of the film, that relationships touch our lives and create memories that are worth holding on to no matter what happens in the end, it’s also somehow appropriate.
Tonight, I decided to watch it, because I couldn’t really remember what it was that touched me so deeply about that movie. It’s a good movie, but it always affected me on a very personal level, and when I thought about it, I couldn’t remember why. I’m sure I saw a lot of resemblances between myself during those years, and the main female character in the film: a very unfocused, reckless, impulsive person who couldn’t stand two things in life: being bored, and not being loved. I’m sure I empathized with how painful it could be to be in a relationship with someone who hurt you and made you feel rejected just for being you, because opposites don’t always attract. Or, opposites sometimes do attract, and then leave one another completely shattered.
While watching the movie, I was reminded of someone I dated at the time. Our relationship was very complicated, very emotionally draining, and in some ways, very toxic. I always felt like being with him was being with someone who’d dismissed the possibility of me being “the right kind of person for him” the moment we met, which is not a kind of judgment I buy into. It just isn’t how I see relationships. If people knew instantly who or what was right for them, we’d have many more examples of positive relationships in the United States today. I’m incredibly intuitive, and I’m the first to admit, I don’t know right away. It takes me some time to “see how things develop”. Sometimes, things develop out of situations I never would have seen coming. Other times, things that make logical and emotional sense and seem perfect on paper just never happen. I don’t know; chalk it up to timing, destiny, whatever.
I am intuitively wary of people who claim they know who or what is right for them based on preconceptions; they’re usually wrong, they’re usually in the process of finding themselves—or closed off to possibilities that don’t fit into how they imagine life working out, which is usually exactly how life works out—, but getting too attached to anyone who judges a relationship before it even has a chance to develop is masochistic. Some people are open to the unexpected, to “you never know what life brings your way”. Other people will do their best to force life and relationships and opportunities into a certain mold, and end up spending year after year looking for the thing they think they want, while ignoring so much of what’s passed through their lives. (yes, I know more than one person who fits into this category. Most of them, unsurprisingly, are still single many years after I happened to pass through their lives.)
Anyhow, this ex of mine was one of those people who knew I wasn’t right for him, and yet, remained in my life in one aspect or another for a very long time. As it turned out, he wasn’t right for me, and I wasn’t right for him, and we didn’t really connect deeply on any level. We could never really bond on that emotional level you need in a relationship where someone just “gets” you, and when it did end, the next person in my life was someone with whom I shared that very naturally. Yet, something kept us together, or coming back to each other, and I don’t think I’ll ever really get it.
One day, I found an e-mail under his bed, one he’d written to me but never sent. I don’t remember what all it said; it was basically a rant about all the reasons he shouldn’t be with me. One of them that stuck with me, though, was reading “How can I take a grown woman seriously who puts butterfly clips in her hair and wears glitter everywhere? How could anyone take someone like that seriously, much less think about marrying her or having a future?”
It was one of the most hurtful things I’d ever encountered in a relationship; finding out the truth about how someone who claimed to love me really felt about me. I don’t really think I ever got over that. It was something else that made me less secure in myself, knowing that even those closest to me were incapable of accepting me and loving me as I am. And, yet, I knew he wasn’t the only one who felt that way. There were at least three people in my life at that time who claimed to have feelings for me, wanted to be involved with me, fell for me on some level, yet ended up with more “sensible” and “practical” partners.
Today, I know that if I have a right person, that person will love glitter and butterflies and my quirky fashion sense and not judge other aspects of my personality, especially my intellect or capability to take life “seriously”, on the fact that I like the parts of me that are winsome, childlike, and want to enjoy the world. People aren’t exactly one dimensional. I never traded in my butterflies and flowers for a business suit, and I don’t think I’ll intend to. I sleep with a stuffed animal every night, and don’t particularly care who thinks I’m far too old for such nonsense. I’ve learned to take being judged less personally, because I know it isn’t about me, it’s what you get when you mess with someone’s conception of how you should be.
In any case, this is not a tangent, but rather, what allows me to experience this extremely personal connection with “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”. Being hurt and betrayed and judged, and going through the hell of severing an intensely personal connection with another person, even if you knew it wouldn’t last forever—well, that’s just part of the human experience. When I think of people who were once central to my life and are now less so, usually romantic relationships that didn’t work out, I don’t have a single person I’d like to erase. I have memories I wish never happened, things that a decade later, still hurt beyond belief and make me realise someone can never again be a part of my world, no matter how deeply I loved them (or perhaps because of it.) Yet, there’s nothing I would erase, or take back, or given the option to never cross paths with someone again, that I’d make that choice.
I know there are people out there in the world who’d probably like to erase me, and have likely done so, as much as possible. But I always hope there are one or two memories that haven’t been deleted, that come back every now and then.
I think that’s why I sob through three-quarters of that movie, and tonight was no exception. I can’t think of anything worse than being forgotten. I think that’s why I take so many pictures, keep so many journal entries…so that one day, if I’m old and all my memories aren’t there anymore, they are still alive somewhere.
I’m strange, I know. I feel too much, too often, too intensely…or not at all, not in the right way, or not in a way that makes sense. But, I have the sort of heart from which nothing is ever deleted. Once you occupy space, you’re kind of there for a lifetime…even if we never speak another word to one another again, even if our paths never happen to cross, even if we don’t particularly care to see one another.
Love is one of those strange emotions that may not always actively exist between you and another person, but the moments when it did can’t be erased. I hope other people feel the same way. I hope the pieces of myself I’ve given to others over the years somehow mean a little too much to be deleted.
I don’t think I’ll watch that movie again for another few years. It still hits me really hard, on a really personal level.