What is that thing about love that draws us in again and again?
That makes us go through hell and back and still want more? If you polled a thousand people who had been through horrible breakups, I bet 99% of them would do it all again for the love they experienced while they were with the one they loved.
Love is courageous and loving people is brave.
It’s a lot easier to be a turtle, only sticking your head out when it’s safe and there are no signs of danger and retreating as soon as a threat is sensed.
A hard shell to protect you, rarely if ever exposing your underbelly. Only rolling over when someone accidentally kicks you and then slowly righting yourself back into position.
I have found certain kinds of love to be bone-pickingly painful. Like the game of operation I am picked at until my buzzer goes off and I’ve finally had enough.
The kind of love where my only parting words are, “can I have my spleen back now”?
The thing about love is that it’s inconvenient. Like getting your period on prom night. Like a root canal right before visiting Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
It comes at the most inopportune time and uproots and dislodges everything in your life. You don’t give your consent but suddenly no consent is needed and it takes over everything. It barges in sometimes loudly sometimes quietly and becomes a fascist dictator, demanding that attention be paid.
I have experienced all different kinds of love. Love that sings, love that soars, love that is envious and covetous, love that invokes in me a version of myself that is much better than the person I really am.
Love that has caused me to believe that maybe there is a strength in me that I never knew was there. Love that has caused me to question my faith and question my beliefs, forcing me to choose either the way of safety or the way of love.
And love really is the only way, isn’t it?
Love has sometimes come into my life so cunningly and quietly that I didn’t realize it was there until whatever it was that was masquerading as love, had destroyed everything in sight. Like a quiet predator, hunting its prey and then blindly attacking.
The prey being me and the love being not all that gentle.
I have given up all I have in the name of love. Where upon closer examination have found that what I gave up was myself and what I gave it up for was not love, but some bitter, caustic version of selfishness, parading itself around itself and dressed like love.
Love’s cleverly disguised twin—named Self—walks in and convinces me that what this person has to offer (whomever my object of adoration at that time happens to be) is oh my god the thing that I have been missing my whole life, and thank God that God finally took notice of me and sent me the person who has what I need.
This person who has inside of themselves everything that is necessary to glue me back together. They’ve got the special glue.
Now I just gotta convince them to give me the goods.
Disaster follows. Look me up a few weeks after I am running around gushing about love and you will find me shaking in a corner, desperate for anything that will take the pain away.
I will be looking to everyone who walks by for a cure. You’ll find me desperate like a kidney transplant patient who can’t have the surgery because their insurance won’t cover it. Begging snake healers to perform a miracle on my soul. Fix me, please!
Like a really bad head cold, love has stuffed me up. It has left me unable to breathe and stayed like that so long that my nose is running and the snot is dripping everywhere, and I can’t stop the flow of yuck no matter how much Kleenex I shove up there. Praying for a break in the congestion it then moves to my chest. And it settles hard and heavy there until I’m spewing up junk from the inside.
Remember that envious version of love I was talking about earlier? I have experienced that version of love perhaps more frequently and more heavily than any other version. It wears a strong, heavy scent and I can always smell it coming. You’d think after being in several head on collisions with that kind of love that I would steer clear of the freeway. But not even close. Instead I rush headlights first into the next car wreck. You know, the really bloody messy kind? The kind where the freeway is backed up for miles just so everyone can get a good look at the twisted metal and strewn about bodies?
That’s my love life when envious love is around. A backed up freeway pissing people off with a big bloody mess in the middle of it.
And everyone’s thinking, geez, I hope those people are okay. But if those victims could talk (remember those victims are me..) they would said hell no we aren’t all right!
We’re dying here! When is the goddamn ambulance gonna get here to take me somewhere where I’ll be fixed?
I need a love lifeguard. Someone to warn me where there’s shallow water and remind me not to dive there and yell at me when I am running by the pool. I need someone who is sitting in a tower equipped with rescue equipment for when I swim out too far and am too weak to make it back on my own. Someone to notice when I’m starting to drown with my feet wrapped in the seaweed beneath the surface and come free me.
Cue the music because here’s where it gets good. Hear that triumphant symphony? The love I have today is orchestrated perfectly to swell just at the right time. It doesn’t lean on me to the point of breaking me, but it’s also not what is holding me together.
After freeing myself and forgiving myself and forgiving all those people who almost took me under, I am blessed with a life that moves to the beat of love. At some point along the way I was able to recognize that the damage that was caused to me in those relationships, was caused by human beings who I wanted to be superhuman. It was caused by icky, mistake making human beings and I am now able to see that I am also an icky, mistake making human being. It’s hard to hold judgment with people who are just like yourself.
Just like me they were trying to find their way and messing up big time. It wasn’t them, really, that hurt me. I am able to see through them and shoot forgiveness through like a beam. I am able to see that they loved me. They just didn’t love me the way I wanted them to.
Grown up love, the opposite of most of the love I have experienced speaks louder than the others, but not by shouting. It’s what’s left over when all the pretty parts fade away. It’s the firm commitment that’s there when life isn’t going so great and you want to give up. When you have the thoughts of how it would be easier to go it alone than to drag along what you perceive at this moment to be the dead weight of another human being, but remembering that dead weight is a part of you that cannot be severed like an infected limb.
I feel strongly that what we must believe is that fear and faith cannot co-exist at the same time. Fear paralyzes us or causes us to lash out and faith does the opposite. It calms us and frees us from the bondage of self. The two cannot be present at the same time. So if we are living and loving in fear, faith is not home. But we are loving others with faith, fear is the odd man out.
And just like they say, love is a leap of faith. It’s trusting that there will be a net, or that you won’t need one. It’s trusting that the things that are coming out of that other person’s mouth are true, and not lies to cover up their devious intentions.
We have to love… love is as close to us as breathing. Living a life devoid of love is no life at all. So let us move forward and trust that we will be protected, that there will be a foxhole if we need to run and hide for cover.
If we’re not running the show, love might just show up and stay. And as long as we quiet those voices telling us to run, it just might not ever leave.
Cue the happy ending.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Benson Kua at Flickr