I’m not a hopeless romantic, not in the slightest. In fact, when I watch romantic comedies, I never watch the final 15 minutes– the part when true love triumphs and the Celine Dion soundtrack begins. Truth be told, I’ve never seen the ending of “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” or the classic, “Pretty Woman.” My motivation for viewing such films is simple– mindless entertainment, and at the moment when the characters are overwhelmed with emotion, well, I stop being entertained.
But every so often there is a story– usually in the Vows section of The New York Times— that makes my heart smile ever so slightly. In this week’s edition, a couple, who met while working at the Disney store in Edison, NJ, fall in love and marry despite the husband’s terminal case of colon cancer.
When Michael asks Angela if she will stay with him despite his grim diagnosis, she replies, “Why would I leave?” And while any rational semi-pragmatic slightly logical individual might question her sanity, I didn’t. I’ve never known that kind of love– or perhaps any at all– but if I should ever happen upon it, I hope I would give a similar response.
I hope those four words would be the only ones my lips could form. And if we should both lose our jobs, our homes, and the money to satiate our somewhat extreme caffeine addictions, I hope I can maintain that devout sense of loyalty.
Part of the therapy process, at least for me, has been about defining what I want emotionally. Given the fact that I’ve devoted most of my life to answering an entirely different question, one steeped in cognitive thought processes and academic pursuits, this has been a tremendous challenge. To turn to myself and say, “But how does it make you feel?” And then to respond just as quickly, “You don’t have to apologize; you are allowed to feel that way” is no easy task.
But in beginning to ask these questions, centered almost exclusively on feelings and emotions, I have learned that I want to feel so passionate, so loyal, so interconnected with someone. To that point that a terminal cancer diagnosis does not make me cower in fear and recede into the quasi-intellectual projects in my life. To the point at which I embrace the vulnerable side of myself first and the academic side of myself second.
And with that I am off to watch the ending to “Pretty Woman.”