Friday, July 20, 2012

Love at First Sight & Other Musings

This rainy morning I am thinking about love at first sight. And not necessarily romantic love, although that thought is there, too.

 What prompted these thoughts?

As a writer, as a person, I can often be an insecure soul, full of doubts and lacking confidence. When you release a book into the world, it takes on a life of its own, almost as though it's your child out there in the world, making its way. There are people out there, waiting to put the stamp of their own experience on your work. Sadly, no matter how hard you try, there are people out there who want to say that your child is less than you want, hope, and believe for him or her.

Such is the case with my novel, Caregiver, which is based a lot on my own experiences as an AIDS buddy back in the early 1990s, when being HIV+ or having the virus itself was truly a death sentence. On a site called Goodreads, where thousands of readers come together to critique, catalog, and talk about books, I found a review of Caregiver that caught me short. Among all the glowing reviews (and there are many), was one reader that didn't like the book because he thought the main character's love for the AIDS buddy in the book happened too fast to be credible.

Now, this is where the insecure part of me comes in. I can easily shove aside all the many five-star reviews and immediately begin to doubt myself and my work. "Maybe this reader is right," I muse, "And all the good reviews are wrong."

The part that wants to defend my child against this person, though, wants to shout at that reviewer, "But it did happen that fast. It wasn't made up. This connection happened after only meeting two times. That's my truth, not fiction."

See, this is where the stamp of someone else's experience and mine diverge. Intellectually, I do believe that reviewer's criticism was valid. That person, sadly, has maybe never experienced an instant connection with another person. It's not his or her experience. So, he's not buying it.

But, for me, I believe fiercely in love at first sight. For me, when I met Jim, who would become Adam in my book, I felt a rush of emotion for him: sorrow, fear, but most of all a deep, human connection that, in spite of death and the passage of many years, I still feel. And all it took was meeting him for a couple of times. Like Adam, Jim did go to prison--and died there from AIDS. I can count on one hand the number of times Jim and I were actually face-to-face, yet his impression on me is powerful, lasting until this very day, some twenty years later.

I believe we often, or maybe even always, know when someone is right for us, when there is a connection of heart and mind, perhaps even of spirit. This connection happens for no logical or intellectual reason, no basis in shared interests or experience. It's just there, and we know it, deep inside ourselves. For me, that is true of almost every person I've loved. I wish I could explain it, and maybe my writing, which is chock full of people loving each other very quickly, is an attempt to make that explanation.

For me, it happened with Jim. It happened with Bruce, the man I've been with now for more than ten years. I remember picking Bruce up for our first date and seeing him for the first time, sitting on the steps of his apartment vestibule, waiting for me. I can see him as clearly now as I could ten years ago.

And I fell in love, then. There was no basis for it. I had no idea then that we would share many things, like a lifelong passion for the humor and wit of Lily Tomlin (for whom our dog is named), or that we would one day compose a family.

But I knew it. I knew it in my heart. Just from one glance....

I can tell you the same story about others whom I have loved. Friends I fell for immediately--based on only a smile or a quick conversation.

I can't explain why. It's almost like magic, as though something deeper lies beneath the surface of body and spoken language. It as though we see something in the other that proves to be deeper than easy explanation.

Most of the people in my life that I have truly cared about--and conversely, truly loathed--I knew right away, before I had any rational basis for believing it. I think, when we connect with someone, it's because of something we may never even consciously know, but our heart knows it.

So, while a lukewarm review caused me to write this blog, I will give that reader his or her due because I know that we all have different frames of reference and beliefs.

But for me, I will stick to mine about loving at first sight. My heart tells me it's true.
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  1. I see love -- or friendship -- at first sight waved off as unrealistic all the time (even in, gawdhelpus, romance reviews, where it's pretty much a staple) and it always irks me. I'm normally a shy, reticent person IRL, but my deepest and most long-lasting friendships are those where something within myself forced me to make the first move with someone because it just felt RIGHT that they be in my life somehow. I'm even including my husband; on paper we shouldn't work at ALL (and sometimes it's hard) but we've got 13 years under our belt now, complete with 3 kids, various pets, and a military career that has involved 2 cross-country moves and 3 overseas deployments.

    That said, sometimes those types of stories don't work for me. The ones that don't work are the ones where no tensions come from within the relationship itself. There's no clash of personalities, neither person is fighting it or wondering if this is all moving a little fast, there're no misunderstandings or false steps of any kind. No relationship is without its stresses and pitfalls, and stories where ALL the conflict comes from outside the couple just seem, to me, to skate over the more interesting possibilities -- the ones that will most surely lead to personal growth.

    As I recall, Caregiver was one I...I hesitate to say "one I really enjoyed" because that seems to undercut the more serious parts of the story. But it definitely didn't bore me or irritate me!

    1. Thanks so much, Tracy, for the thoughtful comment!

  2. I fell in love with my husband at first sight. Well, it wasn't sight exactly, it was a crowded, dark movie theater. I loved how he talked (through a double feature of Rocky Horror and Shock Treatment, fortunately, where audience members can talk without upsetting anyone.)

    I loved how his mind worked, right there and then. I loved how gentle he talked and how quick witted. I loved his kindness. I loved his intelligence. By the time the movies were over and we adjourned to a bar nearby, I was crazy about him. By the time we parted, I believe I felt the same way about him I do today, nearly thirty years later. I believe we connect with people and maybe it's kismet, maybe it's a shared history in another lifetime, the preexistence, the astral plane, or maybe it's basic chemistry, and we combust, but whatever. I believe in love at first sight, sound, whatever. It shows up in my work all the time too...

    Different strokes, as they say.

    1. I knew you'd agree, ZAM! And you are one of those people I knew, as soon as I met you, that there was a connection.

  3. In my experience, I've been in love, deeply, many times, and each of then was "at first sight" and they were, thankfully, mutual. We just clicked. They might not have lasted, but the last one, my husband, clicked and did last. I remember the first time I noticed him and we talked. He captivated me. We didn't see each other for almost a month, and when we did, we just fell into it.

    I believe in love at first sight, and I write about it.

    I can't understand how someone can just negate the feeling - either with a love situation, or just meeting a person for the first time and then sit and talk and the time passes and it's like you've known each other for ages, like that person is a part of you that was missing from your life.
    And there are friends I have, who, after months, years, decades, of not seeing each other, fall right into the groove, right back into the conversation as if one of us has just come back from the bathroom at the bar, or it's the very next day and nothing about how we feel for each other has changed.

    But, I find it sad that some people have never experienced that zing, that spark of connection, that "insta lust", craving, that can happen. Magic doesn't happen often, but when it does, wow. You never forget it.

    1. I know just what you mean, Lynn, especially the part about very true friends that distance, time, whatever kept you apart and you're able to pick right up where you left off when you do see each other again. There are a few people like that in my own life.

  4. You know... love at first sight happens a lot. And not just romantic love, like you said. You just KNOW when you're going to click with someone be it a friend or partner. You surround yourself with like minded people, people who are your opposites to balance yourself out and lots of other reasons. But the romantic love at first sight? Oh hell yeah! I had it hit me with my husband. I had been married twice before, both relationships abusive. It wasn't until I decided, "Screw this, I'm done" that I met my current husband. I heard him laugh. Laugh, for pity's sake and something inside me just ... clicked. We've been together for ten years and still act like freakin' newlyweds. So to whoever wrote that review... meh. Forget it. Their loss and someday, maybe they'll experience what you are talking about and then go... "OOOhhhhhh okay!" :D

    1. I love hearing from people like you. The same thing happened to me. It wasn't until I said, "You know what? I want to be single; I'm happier that way. I am so NOT looking for a relationship." One month after that, I met the man whom I know I'll spend the rest of my life with.

  5. There was one man, and the instant i saw him, I had this "ah ha" moment. A running commentary where the words "you really do exist" kept repeating itself in my head. It was like i knew him, even though i had never met or seen him before. I swear my body, heart and soul knew this man but the rest of me needed an introduction.
    He only lived for 6 years after that day, but he changed, and in some ways, even saved my life. I firmly believe we knew each, on some other plane or lifetime or what have you, and he came into my life at the time when i needed him most. I miss him every day.

  6. I'll go out on a limb here and see if I can reason this out in a way that makes sense. I believe that there are people we are meant to meet. Some of them will become good friends and, if things go well, one will be that soul mate we hope is there for us (if you believe that sort of thing...and many don't). If and when that happens and we meet the person of our dreams, it's not by accident, not really. If we're meant to be together, then that attraction between the two souls was in place before we were even born. So, can we have love at first sight if there was foresight into us meeting? Sure.

    That's just one theory, but one I like.