Romeo returns from exile to find his Juliet apparently dead. He commits to death. Juliet awakens from drugged sleep and finds Romeo dead. She too commits to death. This is their “Dark Night of the Soul.”–
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
I think we’ve all been there. Lonely, we felt a vague ache within us that we might not even acknowledge. Then…we meet someone, so beautiful, so attractive to our eyes that we can feel something within us say: YES! THIS ONE. We see our fate, our destiny stretch before us. The notion of spending our lives, making love, sharing dreams, raising a family, growing old together with THIS ONE is almost overwhelming.
So we try things. Meet. Court. Open our hearts. And at some point…it all goes to hell.
I remember the very first girl I ever asked to “go steady” with me. Her name was Sonja, and we were in Junior High together. Just the cutest little thing. I was too shy to ask her directly, so I asked a mutual friend, Neil, to ask her for me. He called me and said she would give me her answer the next day.
All day long I had butterflies in my stomach. I saw her glance at me in our classes, and giggle with her friends. It was just a crush…I was only about fourteen…but I imagined us having lunch together, going to school dances together (maybe she would even teach me to dance!) study together, walking home holding hands. If I was very very lucky, maybe I would even steal a kiss or two.
All day long I could hardly concentrate on my classes. When would she give me her answer? Yes? No? Was this the beginning of something wonderful..? She even SMILED at me a couple of times: oh, frabjous day!
Then in the last period of the day, she passed me a folded piece of paper. It passed from hand to hand until it reached me, and with trembling fingers I opened it.
“Dear Steve,” it said. “I wouldn’t go with you if you were the last dog on Earth.”
Boom. There it was. The bottom falling out of my stomach. The very first heartbreak of my life. I wasn’t’ even angry with her…I blamed myself. How dare I try to fly with such an angel?
Depression, despair, fear. Fear that no one would love me, that I was broken, that the happiness I saw others experiencing was never to be mine. All the burning acid in my gut, all the sense of shame and guilt and embarrassment, knowing the others were laughing at me, that all my friends knew what had happened.
I spiraled into the depths of the “Dark Night”, which is the place where it seems that all of our abilities are insufficient to reach our goals and dreams.
I never should have asked her! I should have had the courage to ask her myself! Everyone else in the world was happy except me! How dare I even dream of being happy, thinking that an attractive woman would ever be attracted to me! All the voices in my head, screaming at me. Laughing faces sneering at me, scratching cat-claws of her laughing friends ripping my heart to pieces.
And…I knew that somehow, someway, some day I would be happy. SOMEHOW. I didn’t know how.
But there was a voice deep inside me. It was a younger Steve. The one who, long before, at the age of five or six had had no father, who looked at every man my mother dated (and there weren’t many of them) and wondered: Are YOU the one? Will you be my Daddy? And when they went away, curled up and cried and wondered if I was so ugly, so broken, that no one wanted me.
That younger me…that part of me is the part that writes, that plays, that has the joy in life. I heard his screams and something inside me rose up.
IF NO ONE WANTS TO LOVE ME, I WILL LOVE MYSELF. I looked at the women I was attracted to and realized that ALL of them were attracted to larger boys. Stronger boys. Smarter boys. Older boys. Athletes and leaders. And at that moment, I could have taken the Incel path, and resented them. It’s not fair…
But that was the screaming of the “Child” within me, a boy some eight or nine years younger than I was. And I realized that I was not that child…I was the one who had to PROTECT that child. Somehow…instead of resenting Sonia, resenting the lovely girls who liked the older, stronger, more confident boys…
I DECIDED TO BECOME ONE OF THEM. Somehow, in some way, one day I would BE one of those boys who attracted the kinds of girls I yearned for. Somehow, instead of blaming them, I congratulated them on the self respect to go for what they really wanted and needed.
Somehow, even then, I sensed that Sonia knew my timidity did not make me a good prospect. She was holding out for more, as was her right. And in the depths of my pain, it was hearing the voice of the even younger child within me that gave me STRENGTH.
One day…I will be strong.
One day…I will be confident.
One day…I will have the power to build my life, and be a good prospect for a pretty girl looking to build her life.
Not today, thought. Not then. And I didn’t know how I’d do it. But I did know that the only other course was either being alone…or “settling.”
You know the people: “well, she was all I could get.” “Oh, he ain’t much, but I guess he’s mine.”
That’s not enough. You want to look in your lover’s eyes and know she ADORES you. You need to look at her, hear her voice, watch her move and feel your heart SING.
I didn’t make Sonia’s heart sing. And if I really liked her, really wanted the best for her…then I wanted that for her.
I cried at night, yes. But somewhere, under the tears I was thinking:
And one day finally came.
Love yourself…and share the love