The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - NEWS - This week, First Per­son ad­dresses the ups and downs of love. IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY KAREN SHANGGUAN So­phie Nadeau lives in Toronto.

I got lost in what I thought my life should be, and what it ac­tu­ally was, So­phie Nadeau writes

Aso­lar eclipse hap­pened to fall around the one-year an­niver­sary of my re­la­tion­ship end­ing. When it came to my love story, the sun had gone out long ago. To mark the oc­ca­sion, I ran through Toronto’s High Park try­ing to avoid cou­ples en­tan­gled on the lawn drink­ing Cham­pagne. They were thrilled for the chance to wit­ness ce­les­tial magic. I was con­sid­er­ing where chas­ing magic has got­ten me. Love, it turns out, is some­thing you should avoid look­ing at di­rectly.

Work­ing, writ­ing and seek­ing out beauty and good peo­ple have helped me feel better. But, after more than a year on my own, I wish I could go back in time to give my 20-year-old self a reality check. Had I started in a dif­fer­ent place, maybe I wouldn’t have needed to shield my­self from romance as I ran through the park.

In my 20s, I was that girl who watched ev­ery ro­man­tic com­edy and took men­tal notes. I was ob­sessed with When Harry Met Sally. I was look­ing for a ro­man­tic arc any­where I could find one. Harry, run­ning through New York on New Year’s Eve, breath­less: “I came here tonight be­cause when you re­al­ize you want to spend the rest of your life with some­body, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as pos­si­ble.” Sigh.

Man, did I ever hold on to the idea of ro­man­tic love for dear life. I met a guy, wrote the script, cast the movie and, for a while, thought I had it all. We have a beau­ti­ful daugh­ter. She’s the kind of kid who lights up a room with­out try­ing. Over 11 years, we built a life. The busi­ness end of be­ing a cou­ple was chug­ging along fine. The love part wasn’t.

I for­got to ac­count for the fact that hu­mans are in­fin­itely more com­pli­cated and un­pre­dictable than we can know. I for­got to cal­cu­late for my im­per­fec­tions. My fail­ings. We plum­meted out of love. It would be satisfying for some to hear me lay blame. It would be easy to get an­gry. The truth is our paths were des­tined to diverge. I held on longer than I should have. Over the past year, the most dif­fi­cult of my life so far, I dis­man­tled the story of perfect love, sen­tence by sen­tence.

Now, I try to re­mem­ber that love can’t last for­ever and rarely looks the way we imag­ined. We can’t con­trol our ro­man­tic out­comes any more than we can con­trol the sun. The churn of life pulls at the threads of love in un­ex­pected and un­for­giv­ing ways. It’s bru­tal. But, as a bat­tle-worn friend re­minded me, “Life doesn’t care.” No kid­ding.

I’m not a re­li­gious per­son. I nor­mally find sup­port in the kind­ness of other hu­mans. I try to find com­fort in the idea that there is more good than bad in the world. I want to be soothed by the be­lief that if I of­fer love and un­der­stand­ing I’m more likely to earn it in re­turn. How­ever, after a year’s worth of per­sonal mis­ery, cou­pled with the drum­beat of de­press­ing news, I’m hav­ing sec­ond thoughts. Shared trust is more pre­car­i­ous than I ex­pected.

My glo­be­trot­ting brother re­cently re­turned to Canada after years abroad, in­clud­ing lots of time in East and South Asia. He en­cour­aged me to view my ex­pe­ri­ence through the lens of Bud­dhist truths. Ba­si­cally, we suf­fer be­cause ev­ery­thing is im­per­ma­nent. We suf­fer be­cause we hold on to the things, the peo­ple, the rou­tines and the sense of reality we feel we need so we can avoid the bru­tal­ity of change. Change finds us re­gard­less, cue the drama.

For me, cling­ing to ideas and ex­pec­ta­tions cre­ates the worst kind of mis­ery. It is easy to get lost in the space be­tween what we think life should be and what is ac­tu­ally pos­si­ble. I am heart­bro­ken that, de­spite do­ing many things right, I can’t pro­tect any­one from the hard­ships of life. The peo­ple I love are vul­ner­a­ble. I am too. Life is a speed­ing train. I’ve been using ev­ery ounce of en­ergy I have to try to change its di­rec­tion. I have learned this year that choice is wasted effort.

Bud­dhists rec­om­mend we avoid at­tach­ment and live in the present mo­ment. They say we should con­sider the big­ger pic­ture so we can see life for what it is. These choices should, in the­ory, help us con­nect to the world around us with com­pas­sion. Putting these ideals into prac­tice takes a life­time and prob­a­bly more med­i­ta­tion than I can pull off. After all, I can barely man­age to stay off my phone many days. But, still, worth a try. My brother did re­mind me that de­spite the drama of our ex­pe­ri­ence in North Amer­ica we are for­tu­nate. It wouldn’t hurt to stop try­ing so hard to con­trol the world around us.

I’ve come to un­der­stand that there is lit­tle about life that is neat and tidy. I should stop wait­ing for the perfect out­come. I can’t write the end­ing to my story after all. It is what it is.

Love might be the rap­tur­ous thrill of one stolen kiss. Or maybe it’s about hold­ing hands in rock­ing chairs after years of bat­tles and com­pan­ion­ship. Or per­haps it’s the wealth you gain from ac­cu­mu­lated kind­ness and sup­port from friends and fam­ily. The joy of a mil­lion mo­ments we never ex­pected.

I’ve spent too much time try­ing to fig­ure it out. It is a fool’s er­rand. Rea­son and love are in­com­pat­i­ble. Love hap­pens. Sub­mit to reality. Show up with com­pas­sion. Move through life – mess and all – with grat­i­tude. That’s the job.

At the end of my run I walked up and across the pedes­trian bridge over the train tracks that leads to my home. My neigh­bours lined the bridge, their heads tilted, eyes fo­cused on the sky. They were buzzing with an­tic­i­pa­tion for the next ex­cit­ing thing. I was not com­pelled to look. I’m fo­cused on let­ting go.

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