Some of us, myself included, use the phrase “forever” a lot.
BFF (Best Friends Forever)
I have known him FOREVER
I’ll love you forever
This time, it’s forever
And of course in popular song lyrics (“Forever’s gonna start tonight” comes to mind. So many others, of course.)
Forever is kind of like happily ever after. All or nothing. Yes or no. Success or failure. Black and white.
I can see the bumper sticker now: “Forever or bust.”
If it is real, it is forever. Anything else….well, if it doesn’t last then it isn’t/wasn’t real.
When I got divorced and would run into people who’d just learned my “big” news, some would look at me with a sad, all-knowing expression and say something well-meaning (I assume) like:
“I’m so sorry it didn’t work out.”
“I thought you guys were in it for the long haul.”
“Not everything is meant to last forever.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll find you’re your ‘forever’ love.”
Hmmm…I wasn’t under the impression that I had messed up. I wasn’t worried, so why were people telling me not to worry? I certainly didn’t see the situation as a failure.
Yet that’s what the implication was: Keep trying, keep hoping until you do achieve forever.
And “keep trying” implies we are constantly working for something that everyone wants but only the fortunate few achieve.
“Keep trying” implies good effort but no dice.
“Keep trying” is like saying, “Maybe next time, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” And P.S., there is no consolation prize. Because half of something that can’t be divided or reduced is nothing. Half of forever doesn’t exist.
Sure, when something is right, when it feels amazing, then why wouldn’t we want it to last forever?
If it is delicious, why wouldn’t we want to savor it as long as possible? And when it comes to as long as possible, isn’t forever the ultimate?
Makes me wonder….how many of us are walking around and living feeling like failures in the Department of Forever?
How many of us stick around because the idea of forever has become more important than the reality of now?
Think of your work, your relationships, your habits, every aspect of your life: Where are you sacrificing your happiness, your peace of mind, YOURSELF in favor of the idea of forever?
Where are you “sticking it out?”
How many of you have put up (or are putting up) with crap, nonsense or, worse, abuse or pain all in the name of forever?
How many times and how many ways are you opting for (whether consciously or not) the straight path of forever over the sometimes-windy and uncertain path of change, of now, of nothing-including-forever-is-really certain?
Let me cut to the real question here: How many of you are telling yourselves some B.S. story of forever so that you don’t have to deal with the fact that something in your now really isn’t working and/or really sucks?
How many of you feel sorry for someone who gets divorced or quits their job or downsizes or moves or “breaks up” with a friend or questions, ends or cuts “short” something that “should” have lasted forever?
And how many of you have felt superior because you remain or in the past remained committed to your forever job or spouse or home or decision or place or life?
I know I did. I opted for safe, and long haul, and “good on paper” over messing around with forever.
Uncertainty wasn’t for me. As a kid and even well into college, I knew I was going to be a lawyer or stay forever in some other similar steady and reliable and forever kind of work. (Shout out to lawyers: I love you! My dad is one of you. Some of my best friends are one of you!) I was bound and determined to stick with friends and work and a life that was on a nonstop bound for the destination of Forever. There were no stops, no turns and no refunds or givebacks.
Yea, forever worked real well for me……
Um…not so much.
Well, guess what?!
Some of the greatest loves, feelings and moments of your life will be fleeting or temporary or seasonal. (Ever hear the saying that everything in life comes in for a “reason, a season or a lifetime?”). That doesn’t in any way diminish their importance, their intensity, their meaning or the lesson they are to bring to and leave in your life.
In fact, in some ways, non-foreverness may actually enhance those things. Sometimes, the least-forever of people and situations give us our most important lessons (even and especially the hard or painful ones).
If you opt out of forever, you are not giving up. You are not breaking that which should not be broken. You have not failed. Just the opposite, actually. You are choosing life. Choosing shine over dull. Having the balls to go with uncertainty and potential over acceptable and utterly, totally incongruent with who you are to the depths of your soul.
By the way, I am not saying that forever is the unicorn of time. It does exist. Some great loves, great adventures, great work does last and does remain forever.
(By forever I mean for as long as at least one person in the “thing” in question is alive in this life on this planet. I am not talking about what came before, or what comes next. Please…I can barely figure this life out, don’t ask me about the next one or the last one.)
Sure, I will love my kids forever, no matter what, no holds barred, unconditionally. Same goes for my feelings about my sister. And I know that my grandmother loved me in that forever way.
But for the most part, I think when you promise (yourself or another person) forever, you are doing so more out of fear, actually, than out of love. Because you don’t know what the future holds. You know only how you feel and what you want in this very moment. And promising (or wanting someone else to promise) forever is a way of trying to stake your claim, to reserve your spot, to tether someone or something in the now to as far out as you can possibly imagine. In theory, it a nice sentiment but in reality, it’s not grounded in anything remotely resembling a sure thing.
That’s where we set ourselves up for failure or at the very least for disappointment: If I don’t love you forever or if I can’t promise forever, does that mean I don’t really love you? If I am not going to work for or with you forever, does that mean I am not committed to the job or the project?
Ultimately, though, forever is more about fear than about love. Forever is where we get tangled and caught up. Now is where we love. Now is the only place where we can be sure the deliciousness is. (Though remembering delicious moments that have passed is its own delicious activity, but that’s another story.)
One of my favorite lines in “Eat, Pray, Love” is this:
“When the karma of a relationship is done, only love remains.”
Not only will the love, the energy of that love, the memory of that love (and it is not only for a person, in my opinion, it may be for a place, a job, a situation, an event, anything) remain – but to stick around after the karma is done is actually bad karma. To stick around for the sake of sticking around can be a damaging thing on many levels.
Sorry to lump forever with the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and sugar-free chocolate, but it just doesn’t exist the way we’ve so wanted it to. At the end of it all, there are so few guarantees. All we have, for sure, is ourselves. And our capacity to love. And now.
So instead of thinking that these things may not be enough or wondering what happened to all of the other stuff you wanted to think were “sure things,” I am thinking that if you just focus on yourself, on your capacity and your ability to love and on this very moment, you will actually find that your forever is right now.
And only right now.