Happily ever after is my favourite delusion…

“In one way or another I’ve always suffered. I didn’t know why exactly. But I do know that I’m not so scared of suffering now. I feel more than I’ve ever felt and I’ve found someone to feel with. To play with. To love in a way that feels right for me. I hope he knows that I can see that he suffers too. And that I want to love him.”

– Secretary

Today is Valentine’s Day and it is practically impossible to avoid thinking about Love. So in that spirit, I thought I would attempt to talk about love and share my favourite delusion – that I still believe in ‘happily ever after.’

I’m afraid that I am an eternal optimist. I have an as yet unshakable faith that Everything Will Be OK. I don’t spend too much time worrying about the big things because I know it’ll be alright in the end. It doesn’t really help with the smaller, more every day crazy girl worries but that’s another story… When moving house, applying for new jobs, meeting new people, I know that whatever happens will be right for me – either as a positive achievement or through that I will learn from the adversity. And, actually, this has worked for me so far. My life is pretty good right now.

My favourite part of this delusion, but the one that requires most faith, is that I will find my happily ever after. I don’t know where or when, but I know it will all end well. By this I usually mean meeting someone who I can grow old with but, when I’m feeling less romantic and more realistic, I know that I will be happy even if I am on my own. I don’t have any justification for this certainty. Christ, my own life has done nothing but try to convince me otherwise, but it remains nonetheless.

I think this is why I love movies and books so much. I love the escapism and how I can disconnect from my life while immersing myself in someone else’s. The stories that I love confirm my faith in optimism and how love can occur in the strangest of places or circumstances, which makes me really happy.

This is why I love Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and why I wish I had never seen Before Midnight. I have loved Before Sunrise since I first saw it many years ago but I saw the entire trilogy for the first time yesterday, which was the inspiration for writing this post about my delusional faith. Before Sunrise is just adorable. It is innocent and full of hope. I knew that it was the first part of the trilogy so knew that their story was not over. The future possibilities following that one night were intoxicating. Did they meet up? Did they fall in love? It reminded me of all of the times that I have not given up hope and when I believed, despite evidence to the contrary, that maybe, just maybe, love could actually conquer all.

So imagine my joy when I saw Before Sunset and realised that my faith was justified. It became, for the few short minutes until Before Midnight started, my new favourite film. The way Ethan Hawke looked at Julie Delpy was exactly how I want to be looked at. And I loved, I adored, that they had both been waiting for each other for nearly a decade…never giving up hope, and still loving each other as they had on that first night that they met. Both were so miserable apart, but had lived their lives to the best of their ability before being brought back together. The waiting was worth it. The film ended with such hope and desire, and I loved it! It made me smile like an idiot, and I wish it had been the end of the story…because Before Midnight proved me to be a fool. It took all my romantic ideals and rubbed them in the dirt of reality. Add another 9 years and the love that they had is no longer enough. They fight and bicker and resent each other. I left the cinema in a foul mood, furious at Richard Linklater for exposing me to reality when all I had wanted was to escape it.

Once I had recovered from my disappointment, I realised that I shouldn’t have been surprised with either the ending of the story, or my irrational reaction to it. It is honest and real, and delusions by definition do not cope with reality. Fairy stories end with ‘happily ever after’ because the bit that follows is the hardest part and I don’t like to be reminded of that. Can I continue to believe in happy endings, like a child, when there is so much proof mounting against it?

Luckily…or stupidly…the answer is yes! My optimism remains undefeated; I will keep my faith in the delusion. It comforts me and, so far, has not hurt me. Knowing the reality somehow only makes me want it more. I want to find someone who is worth fighting for and fighting with. I want to find someone who knows me well enough to hurt me but doesn’t. I want to find a happy ending, and live through it to the mystery on the other side.

So I will celebrate Valentine’s Day by reaffirming my faith in love and watching the greatest love story ever told on film – Secretary, a film about sex and kink, and, apparently, the original Mr Grey. But as hot as the sex is, that is not why I love it. Or perhaps more correctly, it’s not the only reason why I love it.  I love this film above all others because it is about two people who think that they are irrevocably broken but find that they are perfect for each other, just as they are. They do not fix each other or change for each other. Watching them, there is no doubt that they will be happy together forever because they are no longer ashamed of what makes them who they are as they know their perceived flaws make them more beautiful in the eyes of the other. It reminds me of the Japanese pottery technique, kintsukuroi, where broken pottery is repaired with gold or silver lacquer so that the repaired item is more beautiful than it was before it was broken.

That is what I imagine love to be like.

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