“It frightens me, the awful truth, of how sweet life can be…” ~ Bob Dylan
Most of us are familiar with that intense and magical feeling of looking into the eyes of passionate reciprocity.
In other words, wanting someone with an intensity that is closer to pain than almost any other feeling—and them feeling exactly that way about you. Of course, it doesn’t happen often in our lives, but it doesn’t have to. It’s got a footprint similar to a car accident but far more benign. It all but tattoos itself onto our brains and stays there, ready to remind us—as we lie on our death bed—that life was pretty okay after all.
Recently, I wrote an article about my inability to stay in relationships for longer than three months. Now, of all the possible traits a man might advertise internationally about themselves, one would not expect that this one would bring a person their dream lover. But God—and Elephant Journal—works in mysterious ways. My lover’s sister, somewhere in the western part of Europe, saw the piece, forwarded it to her sister, and now, two months later, I am getting ready to drive several hours to spend time with her (much to the chagrin of the management of my day job.)
The problem with a situation like this is that it began in two dimensions and is about to become three. I can easily hide my physical imperfections through social media, but sleeping next to someone takes all of that off the table. We can cripple ourselves with the sheer volume of “what ifs.”
And, yes, it’s okay to ensconce ourselves in the works of Brené Brown and talk about the priceless value of vulnerability, but that’s as useful as planning a marriage on paper. I’m fairly certain we have all had the experience of being set up with someone who “would be so perfect” for us. And had it fail miserably. It’s the same thing with vulnerability as a concept versus vulnerability as an “I’m about to drive seven hours to make love to someone I’ve only ever seen on FaceTime” reality.
Two completely different animals.
I’ve reached an age and a period in my life where I have learned what to do with the kind of uncertainty that, at one time, would’ve easily given me a panic attack. Here is the only way to see it:
If (God forbid) we go from “I have never felt this way about another person” to “I’m not sure this is going to work out,” the only thing to do is give thanks for the blessing of having experienced the excitement for a couple of months and keep it moving. I could admit that I have already lived through similar experiences and, while I will not be dishonest and say that it wasn’t soul-crushing and heartbreaking, I wouldn’t be getting ready for this new adventure if I did not survive it.
As a writer, it becomes part and parcel of life to use seemingly unbearable situations as the raw materials for our trade. Because when all the smoke clears, we will find ourselves, some Saturday morning at dawn, tapping into our most painful moments and opening doors for others who simply don’t have the ability to get there by themselves for one reason or another.
And that, I believe, is the secret of life and love. We need to be ready to accept the most excruciating pain if we are trying to experience the most joyful moments of our lives. There is a perfect balance of how much one is willing to gamble and how much one could possibly win. In other words, you can’t expect to hit the jackpot with a $2 bet. You absolutely must put all your chips on one square.
And look, obviously, this kind of playing big is not for everyone. I’ve had friends in the past who have had their hearts broken so badly that they all but stopped trying for fear that it could happen again. We, as autonomous humans, must make that determination on our own.
But, if you are the type of person who wants to know what it takes to win big, here is everything you need to know: you have to play big.