Because I will watch any movie starring Ryan Gosling, I often find myself in an odd state of mind for a few days after watching one of these movies. There’s a similarly conflicted emotional state of the characters in his films, leaving me emotional and conflicted after spending time with them. Last night I watched Blue Valentine. Never have I seen the line between romantic love and marriage so realistically, and sadly, depicted.
The love stories we love typically end with the characters young and with all of life’s possibilities reaching out before them. Rarely do you see how their story pans out after kids have tired them out, life has passed them by, dreams and potential never having been reached. It’s hard to watch on screen and even harder to watch when it’s people you know. People you knew who had big dreams, who were full of potential, whose relationships made you pine for one of your own. Then to watch these people get lazy, or depressed; to see them give up themselves to dependent relationships or to see them filling an endless void with SUVs, big screens and endless other things, material and otherwise, it’s easy to understand and hard to see.
People fall in love and people fall out of love. The saddest thing about this movie is that you desperately want them to remember their courtship, how they were with one another when they were still ambitious and inspired. But they don’t remember, they never remember and finally this guy, who on the surface is the right guy, is rejected by his wife, but not in the Hollywood way where it’s easy to explain. There’s no one else. There’s no real reason. Just baggage and time and more baggage. They can’t see themselves how they were and their reality is too grim to look at head on. And that’s it. That’s the American dream. Get married, have a kid, start to hate yourself, hate your partner for making you hate yourself, get divorced 8.8 years later (the average length of a marriage).
I cried watching this movie. I cried thanking whatever fortunate spirit has kept me from a similar fate. But I also cried knowing I’m not at the end of my story yet. So I cried for our younger selves, for our love story, for the night I ran through the streets of Rome hoping he’d be awake so that I could tell him how I felt about him. I cried for the road trips, the movies I made, the photos he took, the songs I wrote for him, the letters we wrote, the conversation we had about getting married after knowing each other for a summer.
Eventually I woke him up. I had to tell him how much I loved him, that I needed him to love me even though I’m boring, even though I’m getting old, even though I work too much. I told him he had to love me even when all of our dreams have faded away and we exist for grandkids and solitaire. He smiled when he realized I had been crying because I was thinking about how much we love one another. When I apologized for waking him up he pretended like he hadn’t been sleeping (even though he was snoring). And that he was happy to be woken up to hear such things. He said he would always love me, that he was boring too, or maybe just tired, and that I had to love him despite all that too. It was a great moment.
And then, as if on cue, Luca walked in. He said he wanted to sleep with us. He sleepwalked himself right into our bed and said in his grumpiest voice, “I’m gonna sleep right here!” It was such a classic parenting moment I couldn’t help but crack up. I cracked up all the way to his room. He finally asked me why I was laughing. I was crying and laughing at the same time. He hugged me, I rubbed his back, it was 1am and I was happy.
When I got back to our bed I said, without context, “I’d rather be poor.” Lorenzo knew exactly what I meant. In our life together, we have mostly been poor, and it has never stopped us. It has kept us on our toes. It sounds elitist to act as if it’s a choice, it never is, but if the choice is to pursue opportunity because of the monetary value, that will never be my motivation. Keeping work to ensure their’s a roof over our heads, yes, working hard for cash rewards that keep me from my family or my soul, never. I will always work hard, I will just never make that larger sacrifice. And I hope I always have some level of choice.
It’s scary with kids to take risks, especially financial risks. But we do it in order to keep challenging ourselves. We unfortunately aren’t comfortable having it any other way. I think our kids will be better for it. Then again, I have no idea how things will end up. I may not manifest my biggest dreams, but at the very least I can keep the doldrums at bay. That’s the hope anyway.