To my next love,
I don’t know who you are or if we have met yet or when we will decide to be together, but I do know my ex-boyfriend Brian wanted me to be with you.
As my future love, you normally wouldn’t want to hear about my last boyfriend. In this case, you should not only want to know about him, but you should also be grateful to him.
Brian and I met at the end of January, 2011. Soon after, he asked me if he could take me out for Valentine’s Day. Typical me – I declined because I had work to do.
February 14th rolled around and I was in my pajamas, writing a script, when my phone rang. It was Brian.
He said, “What are you doing?”
I said, “Working.”
He responded, “Come down to your lobby, just for a minute.”
Brian lived an hour away, so I certainly wasn’t expecting him to be there. But there he was with a dozen red roses in hand.
He said, “I know you are busy, but you are too beautiful not to get roses on Valentine’s Day.”
I couldn’t help but smile.
From the very beginning, Brian found thoughtful ways to make me happy. These days, memories like that one are hard for me to share.
See, this year, I know Brian won’t be sending me flowers or showing up in my lobby or anyone else’s for that matter.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Brian died unexpectedly in his sleep. I don’t know exactly why or how it happened. I just know that he is no longer here.
Our romantic relationship was long gone when he passed away. Truthfully, we had no business ever being together. From our politics to our personalities, we were complete opposites. At times, the contrast increased our passion as we indulged in heated debates. In other moments, our differences made us feel closer, as one of us would slightly bend on a stance and we’d find this peaceful satisfaction in our compromise. However, in the end, our relationship wasn’t sustainable and I can’t exactly explain why.
There is so much about Brian’s death and our connection that doesn’t make much sense to me. However, what I now know for sure is that even when it doesn’t last, true love can still have a lingering effect on your life.
About three-and-a-half weeks before he passed away, I spent time with him while I was on vacation in Los Angeles. At this point, we had been broken up for a few years. Verbatim, I remember one of our last conversations. It was similar to a conversation we had on Facebook once before, which I still have saved on my phone.
He said, “I need you to make me a promise.”
I said haphazardly, “What’s that?”
He said, “Lauren, I loved you how you are meant to be loved. I treated you how you deserve to be treated. I did that on purpose. I wanted you to know what you should expect from a man and a relationship. I need you to promise me that you will use that as the bar for the rest of your life and you will never allow anything less.”
I said,” OK.”
He responded in a serious tone, “No, Lauren. I need you to say, ‘I promise.”
And so I picked my head up, looked him in the eye, semi confused as to why this conversation was even taking place and said, “I promise.”
On some days, that promise haunts me. Brian set the bar very high, making it feel hard to honor. There is the temptation to settle instead of waiting for you and me to come together.
But as that promise echoes in my head, I am also reminded of the lessons Brian taught me about love.
See, before I met Brian, actually before I lost Brian, I saw love and dating very differently. Since high school, if not earlier, I always received a fair amount of attention from men. I always felt like the next guy was around the corner. I didn’t value the good ones and I didn’t despise the bad ones. The gestures from the nice guys flattered me and the challenge of the bad boys excited me. I never fully recognized or appreciated the sincerity of someone who truly loved me.
Brian once showed me a quote said by Thomas Merton, that makes more sense now than when he showed it to me.
It reads, “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.”
Since Brian passed, I have read over and over the messages he sent me and the letters he wrote to me. It’s in his words that I have found who I want to love and how I want to love and be loved.
He once wrote, “You’re a great girl with a great heart, super talented, beautiful and really hard working. I don’t know how, but I know you’re going to change the world. Big or small, you will make a difference. Keep growing and improving and learning but never lose sight of the fact that you are destined to do some great things someday. That’s just who you are.”
Brian recognized my passion for creating social change but also my fear of fully pursuing it. He used to be my editor for stories. When I started a website years ago, he became my cameraman. He taught me love is recognizing your significant other’s passions and through words and actions doing everything in your power to help them see them through.
Also, Brian showed me that love is learning.
He once wrote, “You showed me a part of myself that I didn’t know existed. The sweet Brian, the one you loved that couldn’t do enough for you, that would listen to you for hours, and was happier watching a movie with you than at the best club, with the hottest girls, doing the wildest things. You made me realize that is the person that I want to end up being, that I want to be a boyfriend and a husband and a father and that I want to be great at it.”
When you love someone, you allow yourself to learn more about who you are deep down inside. You break down the walls that have guarded your heart and you address any pain that lingers from your past. You allow yourself to be yourself.
To get to that point, you need trust, which requires a certain amount of selflessness.
He explained to me, “You used to say that you would never do anything that you wouldn’t want done to you, but it should be nothing that the person you care about wouldn’t want done to them. When you love someone it isn’t about you anymore. That is the special part about it. You are supposed to live for the person you love as much as for yourself. That is what love is.”
Love is not easy. Love is scary. It puts you in an incredibly vulnerable position. Being vulnerable, even with Brian, has never been easy for me.
Brian knew that for love to work and bring me happiness, I need to be with someone like you. That’s why I will keep my promise to Brian. I will wait to find you. You will respect me. You will encourage me and you will share your life with me. You will be someone who loves me how I am meant to be loved and someone who treats me how I deserve to be treated.
The patience Brian has given me in waiting for you will be why you and I end up together, but that’s not the only reason you should be grateful for him. See, he did not only make me promise to hold a high standard, but our relationship will be so incredible because he showed me how to meet that standard as well.
Whoever you are – Happy early Valentine’s Day!
I can’t wait to love you,