“Maybe it’s not about the happy ending. Maybe it’s about the story.” ~Unknown
Growing up, I often pretended my life was a movie, and created quite a few awkward situations by trying to force real life to look like a romantic comedy.
In the movies, everything was so electric.
People didn’t just care about each other; they adored each other. They didn’t just date; they had a montage of amazing memories, complete with tandem biking, skipping, hand-in-hand, in a field of flowers, and dancing in the rain.
That’s the kind of love I wanted—the intense, always exciting, never disappointing, made-for-the-big-screen kind.
And I was willing to fake it ‘til I made it.
I remember this one time when I was dating someone who quite obviously didn’t care for me. (I gravitated toward a lot of men like that back then. My Pavlovian response to disinterest? Obsession, every time.)
I told him I didn’t think we should see each other anymore, hoping he’d put his finger on my lips to silence me, then kiss me after realizing what a huge mistake it would be to let me go.
That didn’t happen, but I still held out hope for a cinematic realization that we were meant to be.
I left his family-owned restaurant, got ten feet down the street, then turned around, ran back in, leapt into his arms, and said something horrifyingly cheesy, like, “You complete me! I’ll never let go!”
I didn’t have to. He let go. And then pushed me away. And probably filed me under “crazy stalker” in a mental folder for girls he’d never call again.
(Somehow those lines sound a lot less worthy of a restraining order when said by Renee and Kate.)
I’ve since realized that I fixated on romantic love because I was trying to fill a massive void that stemmed from low self-esteem. And I inadvertently repelled men with my neediness, obsessive behaviors, and lack of self-awareness.
I’ve also come to learn that the type of romance depicted in these comedies differs from real love—and that we need to complete ourselves first if we ever hope to experience it.
Real love isn’t about finding your one and only soul mate, sweeping them off their feet, and maintaining a fantasy worthy of popcorn, soda, and waterproof mascara.
Real love is messy. It takes effort, sacrifice, and compromise. It entails both highs and lows—moments both extraordinary and ordinary.
And it’s not reserved from romantic relationships. It’s what inspires us to hold a door for an injured stranger, hold a friend’s hair when she’s battling cancer, and hold a parent’s hand when he’s taking his last breaths.
It all comes from love. Different flavors, of course, but love nonetheless.
All this being said, I still want to experience the kind of love you see in the movies. Not the romantic kind (though I’ve always wanted to dance in the rain).
I’m talking about something altogether different, but equally magical and transformative.
It’s the kind of love that creates a world so beautiful, we don’t need escapist fantasies.
The kind of love that fills us with something far greater than lust and euphoria.
It’s something we can all experience by doing these five things, and in doing so, create a better, kinder, more loving world.
In his definitive guide to screenwriting, the late Blake Snyder instructs writers to introduce their movie hero with a “save the cat” moment—meaning the hero does something kind, which makes the audience like and sympathize with him or her.
While there’s no one whose sympathies we need to earn, because we’re (hopefully) not being watched, we can all create a better, more loving world by looking for these “save the cat” moments.
It’s when you step in to defend someone who’s being bullied, or grab an extra sandwich for the homeless person sitting outside, or take a little time out of your busy day to help someone who’s struggling—with anything; homework, a heavy bag, or a heavy heart.
The best way to experience love is to be willing to give it. We can do this every day—no field of flowers required.
In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with bad news, it’s easy to become jaded. It’s tempting to assume the worst in people and live behind a metaphorical suit of armor, ever ready for someone to do something that justifies our cynicism.
But when we constantly look for the worst in others, we miss out on the best.
You can certainly find your fair share of cynics in the movies, but for most Scrooges, there’s a transformation—a shift in their fundamental beliefs that changes how they engage with the world, thereby changing the world they experience.
If we want to see a world of beauty, hope, and kindness, we need to be willing to look for these things.
This doesn’t mean we should ignore the harsh realities of life; to create positive change, we need to first acknowledge what needs changing.
It just means we open our eyes to see those “save the cat” moments when they happen. People do good things every day. If we want to nurture a loving heart, we have to recognize and appreciate them.
We’re more likely to see the best in others if we proactively aim to inspire it. It’s not always easy to do this; unlike in the movies, the Jerry Maguires of the world don’t always get the business and the girl in the end.
But we’re all drawn to people with visions—people who put other people before profits, people for whom integrity is more important than notoriety.
When someone stands for something good—something that benefits not just that person individually, but the world at large—it touches something inside us, and motivates us to devote ourselves to a purpose that can help create a better world.
Choose a purpose—maybe not for your lifetime, but for this time in your life. Write your “mission statement.” Wrap your love around a cause. Aspire to make a difference, no matter how big or small, and you will.
As story consultant Jen Grisanti wrote in her Tiny Buddha post, in the best movies, the protagonist starts with an ego-based desire—to get the job, or revenge, or adoration and admiration—and ultimately reevaluates their goal to better serve and connect with others.
It’s when Bruce Almighty stops obsessing on being a successful news anchor and instead, becomes a loving, attentive partner to his fiancé, and someone who actually appreciates reporting on good people doing good things.
We all have goals and ambitions, even those of us who consider ourselves spiritual. For some of us, those ambitions might be more about making a living or making ends meet than making a name for ourselves.
But many of us are chasing a feeling, whether we hope to feel worthy, valued, or important. Ironically, the things we chase, when caught, often leave us feeling emptier than when we started.
To truly feel fulfilled, we need to set goals that reflect not only what we want to gain, but what we want to give.
I used to think “you get what you give” referred to reciprocity, but I now know this means that the giving itself is the getting. If you’ve ever experienced profound joy after helping someone else, you know this too.
In the movies, a protagonist might not believe in love from the get-go, but if not, that’s his or her journey—to open to the possibility of love again, despite having been hurt or betrayed.
Then there are those heroes who start their journey obsessed with finding love, much like my former self, only to realize they first need to heal and learn to love themselves.
We’ve all been wounded in some way, and most of us have learned to either push people away or cling to them in attempt to lessen our pain.
Real love is neither fearful nor needy. It’s not about broken people completing each other. It’s about coming to each other healed and whole, ready to complement each other.
To experience this kind of love, we need to let go of how we’ve been hurt in the past, and believe that there are people out there who will treat us with care, kindness, and respect, if only we give them the chance.
And we need to show ourselves we’re worthy of this kind of love by treating ourselves the same way, and letting go of people who don’t.
Real love isn’t a fairy tale, but it’s so worth it, and possible if we work for it.
I still like to think of my life like a movie, but not because I’m waiting for someone to ride off into the sunset with me.
I think of my life like a movie because I want to be inspired. I want to be kind, I want to see the best in people, and I want to do my part to create the kind a world where we all inspire the best in each other.
The goal isn’t a happy ending. It’s to live a happier story. And that starts with how well we give and receive love.
**If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the upcoming bookTiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges, launching October 6th. Pre-order now and you’ll instantly receive $300+ in free bonus gifts, including several eBooks, eCourses, and meditations on love and relationships.**
Love is in the air image via Shutterstock
Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal is available for pre-order now. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..
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