What Is Epic Love…and Why It Eludes Me
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about…epic love. Or true love. Probably because two friends of mine seem to talk about it quite a lot: one, who lost his epic love years ago, and the other who just married hers, a man twenty years her junior who’s been her partner for nearly a decade.
I’m jealous of the way they talk about that kind of love. It’s something I want, and something that I’ve been thinking that I never had. But who knows? Maybe I did and didn’t really know it.
Just because I’ve loved a dirtbag or two in my time doesn’t mean that my love was any less real, and it doesn’t mean that, just because things didn’t work out–Glory, Hallelujah!–that they didn’t really love me at the time and that some of them don’t still have feelings for me now, even though I shut off my feelings for them to preserve my sanity.
I suppose I define epic love as two people who truly love each other in spite of their problems and whose love endures. But my own definitions are out of sorts, aren’t they?
There’s no love in my life right now that I consider to be epic, either because I loved and lost it or because I still have it and it still endures and it will for the rest of my life, with visions of us dying in each other’s arms in old age, our souls hand in had as we wander together toward the blackest of rooms to spend our eternity. I have a big heart, and I give it easily, and I like that about myself. I also give myself completely in a relationship, and I’m loyal to the very end. If I’m with a partner who isn’t good for me or good to me, then that’s to my detriment, yes, but I can’t be in a relationship with someone where I hold back any part of myself. Not anymore. Not ever again. It’s all or nothing.
I still carry the romantic notion that I might give my heart just once more, and that just once more will be enough because that love will be epic and true and enduring, long past this lifetime and into the next. But I’ve not been destined to find anything true that has been lasting. I have found love that I thought was epic, the kind of love that when you look into the other’s eyes, it becomes a spiritual experience…though to be honest, there have been only a few moments of that here and there and I can point them out easily across time. But again, nothing lasting. Not forever, anyway. Some for months. Some for years. But not forever.
A few years back, I thought I’d found that epic love, much like the friend of mine who fell for a much younger man, an old soul who is perfect for her in every way they can imagine. The subject of my intense affections left with the military, with promises to return after he took care of business with his little boy. He never did return. After a year or two, I found out what his promises were worth and that our love wasn’t so epic after all. Incendiary, yes. Epic? Not so much. If I’d never found out the rest of the story or what happened to him later, I might still carry a torch for him.
But if I think of epic as long-lasting, then there was certainly another love in my ancient past. It was a love that shook us both to the core and changed everything. The only reason we parted was because the military took him away as well. We tried to keep our long distance relationship going, trying to re-wicker our jobs and lives and families to be together again. He was always loving and gentle with me back then, and I’d known him almost a decade before I ever heard him raise his voice at me…we were lost in traffic and I misread the map because reading in a car nauseates me too much to keep my eyes on the page. We just never could get things to work out where we could be in the same city. Eventually he married someone new–a short-lived marriage–telling me that he could no longer keep pining for me and he was looking for happiness with someone closer by. We had new lives and families, so we ceased to communicate.
For all the years we knew each other, we argued exactly three times, and I can still tell you exactly what we argued about and where we were–the smells of the restaurant, the feel of the phone clenched in my hand, his knuckles white on the steering wheel–but it didn’t work out. I put that away, that fairytale epic love that a romantic like me is always looking for.
And then one day….
He returned to my life.
I was divorced and free, and so was he, again. We had a chance at last to be together and have that epic love. Like high school sweethearts who lose a lifetime together and come together after decades apart and separate lives, his return carried with it that prospect.
As we reacquainted ourselves, though, he was only the ghost of the man I had once known. The caring, gentle, romantic was…different…after years of addiction and alcohol abuse. He could no longer remember what had happened between us, although he did remember that something between us had been special. That much was obvious from the text messages he sent me of mementoes he thought I’d given him…but hadn’t. The vices that were only seeds of destruction when we had been together had had their way with him over the years, pillaged his mind, and the things that had once made our love seem epic had decayed. I reunited only briefly with him, long enough to see who he was, and then shut him out of my life for good, like closing the lid on a coffin. He may have been the kind of man I wanted to be with when I was very young, but what he’d become is not the kind of man I want to be with now.
The experience made me wonder about the idea of true love, about how love and relationships change, about how sometimes the purest and sweetest things can’t be revisited because times and people change. Had he not returned briefly to my life, I might have spent the rest of mine dreaming what-ifs, living in that illusion instead of being disillusioned with him.
I guess part of me still thinks that idea of a love that is true and epic is a love that I carry with me until my dying day–or his–and that that’s the only way epic love can be epic. Even if I lost that person long ago and never see him again, then at least I’d leave this incarnation with that illusion of perfection still intact.
I look now at the possibility of new relationships, and if they seem short, shallow, unimportant, then I don’t bother. If there’s not the hint of a promise that they might be epic, then I don’t waste my time. I guess that’s the idea of epic. Love, true love, authentic love that I attach to the idea of duration. I want them both and I want them intertwined. Inseparable.
So maybe I don’t really know what epic love is, after all. But I do know what love is. And I want it to last.