“Why do I fall in love with every woman I see who shows me the least bit of attention?” Joel Barrish, Jim Carrey’s character in the amazing film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, asked himself that very question sitting across the diner from Clementine, as played by Kate Winslet. The very idea that you could fall in love like that is silly though, right? It’s based on nothing but fleeting glimpses and unrealistic views of romance and love. It does not factor in compatibility, personality, or anything else of a more objective nature. He sees a woman that smiles back at him and he is smitten. Hard. I think many viewers of the film simply wrote Joel and the rest of the film off after that. That’s too bad, because they missed a great movie. I, on the other hand, didn’t write off Joel or the film. In fact, that line, heard very early in the film, hooked me. It intrigued me. To explain why this line had this effect on me will probably reveal more about me than I care to, but it is unavoidable.
I was hooked because I was Joel Barrish.
Years ago, as a single man, I did not date much. In fact, I only dated three women. Clearly, I was not a player. I was, and still am, shy. If I saw a girl and she showed me any attention at all I could picture us dating. In my mental version of things, I was charming, funny, handsome, and pretty irresistible so the odds were she would say yes. In real life, I would not even get past pleasantries though. I just didn’t want to risk the rejection that might follow. I stayed safe and alone on the outside. All of that changed in the summer of 1996.
I was meeting a college friend for a Cardinal’s baseball game and for some reason still unknown to me, he wanted to meet at the stadium hours before the game started. Summers in St. Louis can get pretty hot, and it was not a comfortable experience, but it did give me the opportunity to meet his friends, one of which was a beautiful, friendly, Missouri girl who gently forced her way into my heart and mind. It was then that I had my Joel Barrish moment. I didn’t fall in love with every woman I saw that showed me the least bit of attention, but I fell for her. Before you roll your eyes, let me clarify. I didn’t love her. Love is not simply a romantic feeling, even though that is part of it. Love is a choice. It is a decision. But romance, attraction, chemistry, beliefs, and a myriad of other things play into what “love” ultimately becomes in a relationship. So, while I didn’t fully love her, I was smitten. Hard. I would even say that I loved her based on the limited information I had. I knew then and there that I wanted to spend every waking moment in her presence. I knew I wanted to find out everything about her I could. I knew she was so beautiful that it actually made it hard to think when I was around her. I knew she was intelligent and funny, and she had really great tastes to be a Cardinals fan. I knew she was a Christian and she was thinking about coming to my college in the fall. More than once that summer I prayed that God would make that possible.
We parted ways after the game. I thought about her all the time. Unfortunately I was not the best company that afternoon at the ballpark. I did not feel well and I was frustrated with my friend for making us get there so early. So, needless to say, I don’t think my dream girl thought about me much. Remember when I mentioned dating only three women? Well, I was dating one of them when I went to that baseball game. I had just started going out with a girl that worked at the same grocery store where I was employed that summer. She was nice. She really liked me. We were into the same bands. We had many similar interests. There was only one problem: I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl I met at the baseball game. Immediately after my second date with the grocery store girl, I got home and had one of those pitiful, sentimental day-dreams about my future wife – the baseball fan. I had spent one afternoon in the same ballpark as her, and that was all it took. She had captured my eyes, my mind, and my heart.
Shortly thereafter, I ended things with the grocery girl. I was returning to college in Tennessee and didn’t think it would be wise to try to keep things going since my heart wasn’t really into anyway. The day I arrived in Nashville is a blur. I remember very little about it and what I do remember is probably not that accurate because what happened when we pulled into the college was like something out of a dream. We pulled in and there she was. My dream girl. She was on her way to the women’s dorm. My heartbeat went into overdrive. Questions raced through my mind: Is she here as a student? Is she here to drop off friends? Does she even remember me? She saw us, stopped, waved, and said hi. She remembered me! We talked for a few seconds, enough to find out that she was in fact enrolled as a student. Praise the Maker! We went our separate ways. She walked to her dorm room oblivious of what her presence had just done to that poor sap in the car. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop smiling. I promised myself right then and there that I was going to pursue her. In fact, I decided right then and there that, God willing, I would marry this girl. Ridiculous? Absolutely. Romantically hopeless? Certainly. Did I tell my friends and family about my newfound conviction? Never.
So, what was the end result of all of this? I finally asked her out and she said no. End of story.
Just kidding. We dated for a year. She broke up with me. I was crushed. For one, it was a blow to my pride. Secondly, I truly loved her by that time. But most importantly, it rocked my world because I was absolutely convinced that we were going to spend to rest of our lives together. My early romantic dreams had solidified into a rock hard belief. I spent the next year in a haze. My grades plummeted. My attitude soured. I became cynical and bitter. That is, until I realized that it was out of my hands. If I was supposed to marry this girl, things would eventually work out. As soon as I came to that conclusion I was a much happier person. I forgave her and moved on. Slowly she moved back into my life. First as a friend. Then gradually, as something more.
Ten years ago today, I married my dream girl. Take that you cynical jerks! She has given me the best ten years of my life. She has blessed me with love and acceptance. She has given me three wonderful boys. It is everything I dreamed of and more. Let this be a lesson to those of you out there that have given up on love. Dream big. I did and it has worked out magnificently.
I love you Amy.