Chapter Titles and Prologues
THINKING OF YOU
Unlike the stories you will find in the rest of Heartscapes, each of these is like an un-sent letter written directly to, not about, an earlier love. This approach creates a vulnerability, an intimacy, a sense that we, as readers, have come across something almost too private for us to witness, an unabashed willingness to speak from the heart.
A HINT OF WHAT IS TO COME
From an early age, girls and boys conspire to create unspoken "rules of engagement" that allow them to comfortably coexist. But eventually a day comes when one of them reaches out and ignores those "rules." They then experience a hint of the enchantment that will become a major part of their lives as adolescents, and beyond.
A TIME TO DREAM
During our junior high and high school years, we often feel rather bewildered: those who were once barely tolerated are now infused with a mysterious attraction. We begin to notice, and respond to, the presence of a certain girl or boy, the "other," in a new way. This transition, often clumsy, always confusing, is undeniably exciting.
Let us be especially kind to our younger selves, reaching for the stars, hoping, falter-ing, and then reaching again—dreaming the possible and the impossible with equal fervor.
Just those words, "first kiss," have a certain magic. And why not? They often define the precise moment of a rich and evocative crossing of one of life’s thresholds.
At last we have surrendered to our desire to bestow this mysterious seal on our budding relationship. And, having experienced what earlier may have felt too risky or foolish, we are, perhaps, tempted to prolong our celebration of that moment, wanting to put off washing our face.
WHEN PARENTS INTERVENE
Believing they are doing the right thing, parents sometimes meddle in the romantic lives of their children. That interference is often disastrous for the young sweethearts. They are left with a legacy of resentment and questions that cannot be answered: What might have happened if my parents hadn’t interfered? Could this have worked if I had been allowed to make my own choice?
BEYOND THE MALE STEREOTYPE
Men are sometimes stereotyped as making self-serving choices when it comes to their relationships with women. But some men, maybe more than we realize, are willing to put their own interests aside in order to support a woman as she moves along her path. A man may do that even if the woman’s path will not continue to include him. Here, we navigate the fog-bound waters between stereotype and essence—the best of what a man can be.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
Some of us, when we are moving toward deeper commitment in an intimate relationship, become aware of a vague sense of discomfort. And we wonder why, because in the beginning the closeness felt so good.
In these stories, we see that something not quite named may have caused a person to just walk away from a relationship that otherwise held promise. That something was likely an unrecognized or unacknowledged fear—the usual suspects being fear of rejection (or being abandoned) and fear of commitment.
But named or not, fear is inherent in deepening intimacy. Couples walk a fine line, both wanting to be close emotionally and holding back to avoid a feeling of being "too close." Even if their fear is not seen for what it is, it can still precipitate action. Sometimes it leads right to the path of least resistance, the nearest exit.
THE TASTE OF REGRET
Is there anything that tastes more bitter than regret?
To feel that maybe you should have done something differently, long after it is possible to make it right, creates a special kind of torment. Having hurt someone who loved you, you wish, too late, that you had behaved with more integrity.
Perhaps you were responding to a fear you didn’t recognize at the time. But now, with the clarity that time can bring, your past behavior seems thoughtless and cruel.
Without necessarily using the words, "I’m sorry," all of these stories acknowledge having done something hurtful. They express a hope that, even now, giving voice to that regret will help an old wound begin to heal.
STEPS ALONG THE WAY
While every special love leaves a unique imprint, some change you dramatically. Later in your life, you can look back and see that you experienced a fundamental shift in how you view yourself, your life or just what a relationship can be. In these stories, we are privileged to witness some formative steps along the way.
When you pretend to be someone you are not—or allow yourself to be routinely discounted or diminished, a relationship is on a shaky foundation. Sooner or later it becomes too difficult—and damaging—to maintain the masquerade.
These few cautionary tales illustrate consequences of assuming a persona that is contrary to your true nature. Fortunately, when such pretenses are finally acknowledged and left behind, it is possible to find, with someone else, the joy of loving and being loved as who you truly are.
A SUMMER OF LOVE
Shaped as it is by the knowledge that it will be ephemeral, a summer romance can be both sweet and sad. More than likely, come September, distance and ordinary life will intervene. Until then, surrendering to the magic is almost irresistible.
Sometimes, though, only one heart is smitten. Still, when all is said and done, a summer romance is just long enough to be delightful, short enough to avoid complications, and perfect for creating lasting memories.
In the time right after Cupid has released an arrow, it is easy for couples to blithely ignore their different family, cultural or religious values. Love, if at first not totally blind, is at least willing to look the other way.
These stories are reminders of how complicated it can be to love someone when, for one reason or another, your two worlds will never become one.
WHEN ONLY MEMORIES LIVE ON
Whether the loss is very sudden or comes more slowly, the death of a heart mate leaves a particularly large rent in the fabric of your life. All your dreams of a shared future shatter, and you are left to find your way through a changed reality.
Each story here vividly portrays that poignant experience of love and loss, where, unlike what happens when a relationship ends some other way, not even the possibility of an ongoing friendship remains.
A brief encounter, especially with someone whose vibrations resonate with your own, can continue to sound an echo in your heart. That fleeting connection, with its sense of inevitability and strong emotional impact, may have changed your life. Its memory, now a permanent part of your story, radiates an almost tangible warmth.
Many people think of a soul mate as the one person they are supposed to be with, a sort of foreordained pairing. And those who have actually found a soul mate often describe a sense of mutual recognition, a familiarity, a kind of intimacy that cannot be accounted for in any other way.
Most of these stories do not use the words "soul mate," but they do share a quality of unaccountable and immediate connection, something that seems to exist the moment the two meet.
A soul mate, however, is not necessarily a life partner. Having met and loved, soul mates, after they part, remain psychically "with" each other in the ether as a sort of support, a lifelong touchstone. A soul mate can provide a way to recognize—in future relationships—the elements truly necessary to nourish and sustain body and soul.
Like Romeo and Juliet, some lovers—or potential sweethearts—just seem to have the stars against them. But even if no one dies, circumstances, sometimes dramatic, sometimes not, can create an insurmountable obstacle. Having found the possibility of true love, these pairs then find that their dreams of a future together have been swept away.
No matter how deeply these lovers care for each other, outside forces have conspired to orchestrate an end to all they have worked and hoped for. They are left with an unsettling sense of "if only things had been different."
THE SPACE MY HEART CIRCLES
Because the focus of Heartscapes is remembrance of loves now past, each of its stories involves some degree of loss. But a few seem to highlight the loss itself, one by offering a loving portrait of what the couple had shared, others by describing a particular experience of the absence of a beloved person.
This void exerts its gravitational attraction, just as the person did. Like a planet that has lost its sun, each heart circles an empty space, finding only the warmth that comes with remembering.
IN THE SHADOW OF WWII
All wars have a profound impact—on both those sent to fight them and those left at home. But in the 1940's, during WWII, at least one factor was dramatically different: communication with those overseas. There was no email or texting, no satellite phones or skype. The only viable way to stay in touch was with pen and paper letters that traveled to and from overseas war zones by ship.
A serviceman would climb the gangway of a ship, then travel across an ocean. Weeks or months later, if the ship had not been torpedoed by a U-boat, the girl he left behind might receive a censored letter or V-mail.
Couples were separated for years—so it was not unusual for a romance to fizzle out. When letters stopped, a person was left to wonder what had happened—perhaps for the rest of her or his life. These stories, like the popular songs of that time, evoke the mood of the whole era.
RESOLUTION AT LAST
Uncertainty about why a relationship ended can haunt you, even years later. If you were left wondering just what happened and questioning how the other person really felt about you, that uncertainty may wander out of the shadows from time to time, like a ghost, disturbing your equilibrium.
Then, one day, you and the other person have a chance to revisit that earlier time. You learn about factors that were not evident when you were together, and gain a larger perspective. Seeing there was nothing you could have done, you are finally free of what had haunted you, free to truly move on.
What ever happened to...?
It is not surprising that wonderings about an old flame occasionally slip into a person’s thoughts. And, in this electronic age, it is more possible than ever to find an earlier sweetheart, making it is easier to act on curiosity, maybe just say "hello."
Those renewed connections offer myriad possibilities. One may find that the other person is still married—or married again, now happily. Or maybe she or he simply isn’t interested in renewing any connection, romantic or otherwise.
But if both are now free to explore the possibility of an encore romance, they may decide to meet—to see what, if anything, is there. And sometimes they find a spark that rekindles a love that began long ago.
KEEPING THE JOY OF FRIENDSHIP
When a romance doesn’t work out, it is possible for the former lovers to remain friends. They do, afer all, have a common history. They know a great deal about each other and may even still care deeply for one another.
But post-romance friendship is not exactly easy. There are so many painful reminders of how it once was—and now is not. You may fear that you will have to relive your loss again and again. Then, to further complicate things, you have to take into account each other’s new loves.
Making the effort, however, can be worthwhile, creating for past loves the chance to keep some of the best of what they had and find great comfort in mutual support. Life-long friendship may be the most valuable gift former sweethearts can give each other.