Some things are easy for me to remember, but my birthday is not one of them. Fortunately, my mother always remembers, and she calls every January 10th to wish me a happy birthday. Usually, that’s how I learn about it. But this year is different.
For once, I’m well ahead of the curve. And for some reason, I’m feeling proud of myself that no one must tell me it’s my birthday this year. I feel as if I’ve accomplished something. But why did I remember it this year?
I’m pretty certain the reason is TJ. She reminded me a few days ago that my birthday was coming. She seemed to feel it was important, and so I began to feel it was important. For the first time in memory, I’ve been looking forward to my birthday. Which brings me to the point: This isn’t the only time in my life I’ve noticed a thing suddenly take on a new meaning merely because that’s the meaning someone I’m in love with gives to it.
For instance, a very dramatic change of sentiment overcame me many years ago when I was deeply in love with my ex-secretary. At the time, I was quite enthusiastic about politics and in the habit of often commenting to my secretary on the subject. Yet, one day, Tara told me in a simple but politely emphatic way that politics was of no importance to her and bored her silly.
The shift was abrupt, almost like an epiphany. I quite suddenly saw how politics was little more than an entertainment for me and not much of a real or serious interest at all. Yet, until that moment’s insight I had been wrapped up each day in politics — attached to politics, a Buddhist might say. More precisely, I had until that moment the dogmatic, loud, and false passion for politics you see so often in people who think ideologically rather than realistically. All those sentiments dropped from me within a minute or so of Tara’s declaration.
The change was not superficial. For several years afterwards, I seldom thought about or discussed politics. When I eventually took up the subject again, it was in a different spirit.
In a more minor way, TJ’s interest in my birthday seems to have caused my interest in it this year. Moreover, I can think of other times in my life when I’ve viewed the world through a lover’s eyes and have been changed by what I’ve seen. Not just intellectually, but emotionally.
I think that last bit is important to understanding the phenomenon. Like nearly everyone, I have studied with teachers, read books, and so on that have changed me intellectually — changed my understanding of the world — and then perhaps eventually changed how I felt about the world. But what stands out to me about the experience I had with Tara, or to a much lesser extent the recent experience I had with TJ, is that in those cases both my understanding and my feelings have changed at the very same time — and changed quickly.
Are there other things that can bring about so much change in us so quickly? I am sure there are. The best art seems to do that for some of us. And the best science for others. And so forth. But I wonder if anything does it so surely as love?
At least, that’s how it seems to me. I strongly suspect, however, that I only imperfectly understand the phenomenon. There seems to be so much to it than I’ve been able to get at here.
Anais Nin somewhere says, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” I have often thought of her words when I’ve thought of how we can be changed in both our understanding and our feelings by seeing something through a lover’s eyes.
It is now a couple hours into the tenth of January, the day on which I was born into this word. And while this is officially my 52nd birthday, I believe in my life this world has been born many times — in both small and great ways — on those occasions when I have seen the world, not in my own habitual way, but fresh through the eyes of someone I’ve loved.