When I was a little girl, I was constantly in love. My first love happened when I was four, a neighbor boy named Jimmy. We were best friends, inseparable. And I loved him.
I also loved Joey Oswalt. Then Andy. Then Patrick. Then Michael. Then John. Then another Patrick. Then Tim. I never chased boys—unless we were playing dodgeball or scooter tag—I just loved them.
From a young age, I thought “I. Know. Love.” Everyone else was just playing; I KNEW.
And it’s true, I’ve had a rich romantic life. My husband now was my high school boyfriend before we broke up, went to college, married other people and had kids. When we were both separated from our first spouses, he found me —Pre-Computers-In-Every-Home— and wooed me back into his arms. It didn’t take much. I will admit, I am lucky in love.
The RevealBut something else about love has been revealing itself to me lately, and it has nothing to do with romance, so I’m a bit wrong-footed, unsure how to process it. Aside from the love of couples, or of romance, there’s something deeper, something that feeds romantic love and also feeds all the other kinds of love. It weaves between siblings and best friends, in the short or wide distance between parent and child, in varying degrees between fans of the same sports team, or the same sport, or Broadway musical fans, or lovers of the same author. This fabric is made of millions of tiny links or individual enormous ones, but those links create the magical underpinning of love; connection.
ConnectionThe realization about connection has dawned on me after living here for a while. Portland’s open-hearted culture, its protective fondness of idiosyncrasy, caught my attention. There are bird people and running people and gamers and barflies all happily coexisting most of the time. Right next to an art center on the east side, you can find a gamer’s paradise, lit up at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, full of people intently staring at some table game. Lectures about science and psychology across the city are packed full of old and young, attentive audiences soaking up new information. Soccer games and hockey games, basketball and cycling. Our crazy wonderful bookstore as big as a city block, and all the tiny independent bookstores chockful of fervid readers. Chamber music and burlesque, old-school funk and new folk, symphony and experimental, theatre and improv and poetry and dance performance and the opportunity to dance yourself silly all pop up across the city just about every night of the week.
Each of these events is another chance to make a connection; not just a “falling in love” moment, but a shared experience, a recognition of similarity, a view of a fellow participant’s humanity. We find the people interested in the things we’re interested in, we talk before and after the show with strangers who don’t stay strangers, we try new events and learn something new about ourselves, all the while knitting the connective tissue that binds us to other people.
Finding new connections at my post-child-raising era has been a great joy. It is here that I discovered my fondness for storytelling. Every time I go to Portland Story Theater, I’m riveted to every one. Riveted, another connector. Being part of a storyteller’s audience, I am joined with the other audience members, and with the storyteller, for the minutes or hours of their time on stage. I am witness to the work the storyteller has done shaping a story, to the moment of courage it took to get on that stage, and to the story itself. All of these points of connection serve to forge the links between us as humans.
And now, I finally know; romantic love, couple-love is far from the zenith of the human experience. It’s the most intimate, the most acute, perhaps, the incisive form of love that opens us wholly to another person. But it is the connective love, friendship, camaraderie and kinship, that is the underlying fabric that makes us not alone. That gives us something to hold on to in our lives adrift, because we are all, at some time and in some respect, adrift, alone, wandering around on our own trying to figure out where we’re going. But we find someone or something who lights us up, whose light is visible from a distance, and we move toward it, the blind moths that we are, and in our collective solitude, we find a way to gather around the flame.
A Place for Shared HumanityPortland Story Theater’s events give me a place, an experience that ties me to our shared humanity, the humor, the moments of awkward silence and billowing laughter from a punchline perfectly delivered. With every show, I am eager to once again witness and partake of these hours of communal weaving, and to find once again the threads that tie me inextricably and joyfully to my fellow humans.
I’ll sit in the dark and watch these strangers open their hearts and seek blindly, as we all do, for a place for their threads of connection to meet.