The coffee shop empties as the morning shift locals make their exit, and the noise level quiets to a low hum. Staring into space, I absentmindedly click the end of my pen against my chin. I’m searching my brain’s thesaurus for an adjective to describe a snort, the laughing kind. Loud comes to mind, but it’s not quite right. Sudden or unexpected might work.
My concentration breaks when a twenty-something couple catch my eye. They playfully lean into one another as they shuffle in flip-flops toward the door. The young woman makes an abrupt one-eighty to face her boyfriend, causing him to stumble into her. Teetering a bit, she still manages an intended kiss. Not quite on his mouth, but near enough. He grins, pulls her close, and plants a solid kiss on her lips. Caught up in this sweet show of affection, I remember how good it felt to be in love. I sip my mocha, and smile.
To say I am a hopeless romantic would be an understatement. I have put my faith in impossible love stories and improbable partners. I have experienced disillusion and disappointment, and still believed a happy ending was right around the corner. And then, a few years ago, just as I was making that final turn, my heart was ambushed. I was back to where I started, single. I haven’t been in a relationship since.
At first, I tried to embrace my single status. But, it wasn’t any fun. I whined about the lack of quality men my age. I cursed dating apps and our culture’s obsession with youth and beauty. I feared growing old, alone, and I envied couples. They had everything I wanted, a reliable dinner date, a partner in adventure, a travel mate, a best friend to laugh, and grieve with. I wanted the practical perks too. I needed someone to rub lotion on my back, or help pull my ‘too tight’, sweaty sports bra over my head, OR, just open a jar!
Sharing funny anecdotes about single life in middle age added a little levity to the topic, and made my friends laugh. But in reality, I was hiding behind humor. Take away the jokes, and I was still complaining, counting grievances, and creating negative energy. So, I pushed dating to the back burner. I stopped chasing love. These days, I focus on my relationships with family, and good friends, I have strengthened bonds, and in some cases made repairs. I help people who need my time, or a listening ear. I don’t wait for love anymore, I make it happen, in all kinds of ways.
This morning, it was the young couple who made me feel love, But, it could have been anyone; the elderly man who helps his disabled daughter order her special coffee drink, or the barista who gives a homeless man a large cup of ice water, and a snack. These are the stories that put romantic love in perspective. Sure, I remember being in love . . . the simple joy of knowing that a person is my person. It is truly something. But, it’s not everything.
For the second time today, I search my brain’s thesaurus for an adjective to describe the current state of my heart. I settle on Transformed. It fits. One’s heart is a reflection of one’s journey.