On Christmas, the Eiffel Tower, and leaving Las Vegas
December 11, 2017
It’s Christmas. It’s a time of year when love is all around us. All the kinds of love. And we’re supposed to enjoy it, to cherish it, to put it on parade in some sense, but we know. We know not all love is perfect. We know love ends and begins, but that sometimes it doesn’t. We know sometimes we pretend and sometimes it aches and sometimes it seems like it’s too much to bear. The Christmas story itself is one of fear and mystery, of endings and beginnings, and of joy and forgiveness. All those things that go hand in hand with love.
The truth is, for me, Christmas as a divorced person is pretty awful. It makes me feel like a failure pretty much at every turn. It’s a shame, really, because I used to love it; the music, the magic, the joy. But now every one of those things is just a reminder that my love didn’t last, that I made promises and couldn’t keep them. I know I have grown and I am better for it, we all are, and that is absolute. I am by no means unhappy. But even if you know that beyond a shadow of a doubt, at this time of year there are signs of it around every corner. Guilt. Loneliness. Failure. Worry. Love. It sneaks up on you.
This past weekend I went to Las Vegas to see some friends. On my way home, while I was standing in the crowded security line, I glanced ahead through the rows of people walking through the turnstiles and there it was: a large plastic Eiffel Tower souvenir cup with a straw coming out of the top. The sight of that plastic souvenir cup almost took me down right then and there, but I didn’t let it. I took a breath. I felt that ache. I cried a little right there in that line. You just never know when it will hit you.
Just a little over 15 years ago I took my first trip to Las Vegas. I went with my ex-husband, who was then my fiancé, to meet friends for the weekend. Of course, that was before; before all the pressures of life caught up with us, before the unmet expectations, and before the disappointment. I was a young woman with a big heart and even bigger insecurities. Things were happier, we enjoyed each other then. Very honestly, it’s hard for me to remember that those times existed, because our relationship now is so strained, but they did. We were so young.
In any case, that weekend, we had one day to explore the Strip with a group of friends. I kept seeing these women walking around with these huge Eiffel Tower souvenir cups and I did not know why, but for some reason I had to have it. That damn Eiffel Tower cup was all I could talk about that day. I was hyper-focused on getting that Eiffel Tower cup- when were we going to get to Paris? What if there’s none left when I get there? Why does that girl have an Eiffel Tower cup and I don’t have one yet?
Finally, we arrive at Paris & I was thrilled. I think I paid almost $50 to have that Eiffel Tower filled with margarita; truly, I am not sure if I have ever built up so much anticipation about a beverage before or since. I remember I sipped it, I'm not so sure what I thought was going to happen, maybe that the heavens would open and the angels would sing, but I took that sip… and it was disgusting. It was chemical-tasting and sweet, the outside of the cup was all sticky, the straw was leaking, it was a mess. I wasted my whole day obsessing about that fucking Eiffel Tower and as it turns out, that Eiffel Tower was not AT ALL like it was in my head.
I remember my ex-husband being playfully exasperated with me, telling me to relax. He thought it was cute. It probably was. He reminded me that not everything in life is what it’s cracked up to be. Man. Truer words were never spoken.
We do it all the time in love and in life. We decide in our heads that if we could just get that one thing, if our partner could just be a certain way, if we could change someone just enough, if we could just get the perfect house, the perfect body, the perfect car, what have you, that somehow… somehow our lives would be better. We fret and obsess and tunnel vision our way to what we are sure we must have and when we finally get it, it’s not at all what we wanted. It’s just not at all what we wanted. For me, fifteen years ago, it was a plastic Eiffel Tower. Two years ago, it was my entire life.
It’s a lot when I read it like that. It’s heavy. I’ve had to learn to forgive myself. To let myself off the hook for plowing through life and trying to change people. For missing the joy in the journey, for missing the love. The fear and the mystery. The process. All the good parts. I barreled past them full steam and forced myself into a life that was never meant for me anyway. And then I was stuck. But love. Love is what saved me and what changed me. Love showed me the way out.
So go through these days and love. Love all the people that are in front of you and love them without fear and without reservation. Accept the ache and the joy and the fear and the mystery because it’s all a part of what will change you. Don’t be so focused on the outcome that you forget to allow yourself to love and be loved. It's so difficult for me, it's scary, but it feels good. It feels so good. I’m learning so slowly that it is indeed the pain and the love that will show you how to change yourself for the better. Don’t be afraid to allow it. Merry Christmas.