If the sleepy world of dreams represents the world of the subconscious, then dreamers must be the authors of their own nocturnal fantasies. Nearly seven years ago, I remember waking up one morning with the faint reminiscence of a dream of myself walking on a silver sheet of ice. I’d once read in a dream handbook, that such a dream offers a warning to the dreamer that he or she is risking security for fleeting pleasures.
Even now, looking back after almost a decade has passed, I can say I never felt like I was walking on ice or risking anything at all. Though I did feel as if I was weightlessly walking on air—the air of fantasies and romance. When I first started my college romance with the guitarist from the Catholic Center, happiness consumed me. I could do nothing but listen to the likes of Bryan Adams, Air Supply and classic Beatles’ love songs (cheesy, I know). I read Shakespearean sonnets. Even as people scowled at the obnoxious love-happy smile plastered on my face, I walked about with the stars in my eyes.
Admittedly, I was young and naive. I’d so badly wanted to meet the “perfect Catholic guy” that I allowed my bliss to blind me because I never saw IT coming. IT being the inevitable heartbreak – his doing, of course. He crushed me – at least I thought so at the time. And I did use to wonder: If dreams are deemed prophetic, why hadn’t I dreamt about the ice sooner—before he took my heart, dropped it and let it break into a million pieces? Now I know there’s nothing prophetic about dreams or anything else, except maybe what you discover in prayer. I do recall having tiny doubts creep into my heart and mind when I’d sit quietly to pray and think about the relationship, but it was never enough to make me take any action. Thankfully, God was watching over me and what at the time seemed so cruel and unfair – this terrible, unexpected breakup – was his way of making me a better person and preparing me for the real love of my life.
It wasn’t the first heartbreak I’d endured. Another long-term romance of mine ended abruptly when I got dumped the day upon my return from a sojourn in Europe where I was studying theatre and journalism the summer after my freshman year of college. The boy – and he was only a boy at the time, lanky and unsure of himself – told me I was too ambitious, that I had too much wanderlust, that he wanted to sit around on Saturdays with a family underfoot and fix things around the house. The irony is, at the time, I believed him. I thought I’d never be happy sitting in one place. I wanted to see the world, maybe live in the Big Apple. So the timing just wasn’t right because later I did want to settle down. After briefly living in Los Angeles, I quickly decided a Bohemian lifestyle wasn’t for me. I craved stability and regularity. I thought I found it in the aforementioned guitar player.
I was wrong. It turns out that just because someone goes to Mass doesn’t necessarily make him a family man or even a particularly nice person. Fortunately, God gave me these heartbreaks and eventually reunited me with the man who would love me unconditionally and show me what it means to be in a healthy relationship where “a sincere gift of self,” the phrase Pope John Paul II used to refer to the “spousal” character of a relationship between two individuals, was brought to fruition on both my and my husband’s part.
My husband and I dated briefly in high school and then went our separate ways. We were reunited after graduating from college. The relationship evolved slowly, but it always felt different than my previous ones. He was my intellectual equal. We were able to talk about serious matters, but we were also able to laugh. We had fun together. We could just hang out and do nothing; yet, the time flew by. We’re still that way, even now that we’re old married farts with the second child on the way. My husband only dated me. He’s never suffered the malady of a broken heart. He doesn’t know what a “fleeting pleasure” or fleeting romance is. My parents are the same way – they found one other when they were very young and were married before they even turned 20. I can remember weeping to my mom about my breakups and her telling me that she didn’t know how to help me. “You don’t know what it’s like,” I’d lament. I suppose she didn’t: My mom and dad fell in love and the rest is history; they will celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary in August. She could hold me and listen to my woes and bear me up and tell me to put my trust in God that he knew what he was doing with my life, but she couldn’t truly empathize.
But I can, even with strangers I’ve never met before.
My brother is a great guy – unselfish, funny, successful. He’d really like to meet someone, but he’s learning a lot about relationships right now. He’s never had a serious relationship, but he’s definitely suffered tiny heartbreaks along the way; rejection even after only one date never feels good. He often comes to me for advice. I frequently quote Scripture and tell him to continue praying that God will send him a suitable life partner. Sometimes I tell him just to pray, “Thy will be done” because I know that not everyone is meant to marry. There are so many lonely hearts out there who’d love to be in a relationship but are still waiting for the “one.”
When he’s been hurt, my heart aches for him and just recently, the roles were reversed: He was the one who did the hurting. I never met M., but I grieve for her. I had a visceral reaction when my brother told me he just wasn’t “feeling it” anymore. Less than one week earlier, he was going on a second date with M., bringing her flowers and talking about her as if she was his dream come true. How could his feelings change so quickly? What happened? Why did he insist on making her feel special before he even knew enough to know that she was, indeed, special? He handled the situation kindly. He broke it off in person and was gentle with her heart, but she was confused. Who wouldn’t be? My brother treated her like a princess for a few days and then quickly discarded her with no real explanation. I love my brother and am not judging him. You can’t help the way you feel, but I also wonder how M. is doing. I imagine she lies in bed at night and wonders what she did wrong, what changed. I know I used to do the same thing. I’d over-analyze every little action, every word I had ever uttered. I’d try to figure out what I could have done differently to make so-and-so love me. But wisdom, age and a beautiful, healthy marriage has taught me this much: It was nothing I did or didn’t do. As cliché and trite as it sounds, it just wasn’t meant to be. And all the while God knew this. He knew what I needed, whom I needed. He possesses the same knowledge for all of us.
Once my daughter falls asleep, I often wander into her room and watch her. She’s like an angel, so innocent. I want to hold her and protect her and keep her safe always. Watching her sleep so contentedly, I begin to worry about the disappointment and heartache she may one day have to face. She’s not even 3 yet, but I’m already dreading those dating years! My husband has commented on the fact that we’ll have two girls so close in age, both navigating their way through the dating scene. Yikes! I pray the Holy Spirit will give me the guidance I need to teach our daughters and all of our future children to respect themselves and to choose dating partners wisely. However, even if she does everything “right,” she may have to endure a broken heart. But that’s just it: She will endure. I know because I’ve been there.
What becomes of the broken-hearted? After all this rambling, here’s the Cliff’s Notes’s version: With God’s grace, they survive. I did. M. and my younger brother will. And so will my children.
The Serenity Prayer that has helped me through all of my life’s disappointments and heartaches. May it help you or someone you know who is hurting as well.
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.