I have some theories about love.
As someone who finds comfort in lists, organization, and over analyzing, I want to force calm on the chaos, put love in a box and keep it there. I want it to make sense, and be easily definable. I want to pinpoint that moment when my heart went from “yes, please.” to being so heavily fortressed it’s hard for me to find sometimes.
“I’m mostly scared. I’m scared of actually pouring myself out, because there is no going back after that. I don’t know why or how it happened, but I have so many walls and barriers and battlements. Because I’m scared what would happen if they weren’t there. Maybe it will be overwhelming, or scary, or trite, or sad, or pathetic. Too much or too little.”
My theories are simple. For those of us who have been shattered by love, we’re doubtful. We love, but not like we used to. We always hold back because it’s easier that way. We will enter relationships with trepidation, never giving our whole hearts again because we remember how it felt to have the rug pulled out from under us. Maybe that’s just adulthood. We collect our broken bits and hold onto them, tighter and tighter after every disappointment. It’s not that we can’t love again, it’s just that we do it differently, more responsibly… whatever that means.
“I was in love. I’ve been in love multiple times and I’m in love right now – it’s different with each episode. I want to say that I can give myself to someone 100% without fear or doubt, but I’d be lying. With each episode I feel like I’m less able to do that, but then again I guess that is growing up. Or growing, rather. Or shrinking? I can collect experiences, refine thought processes, and increase my skill, but the pieces of myself that I’m willing to give up become less. Maybe I’m more static? I’m growing and shrinking, I’m Alice in a confusing adult wonderland.”
And then there are those people who have never been in love. They may have dated and felt a connection with another human, but they’re not sure if love has entered their world. If you have been in love, you’d know. It is all consuming. There is no room for doubt because being with them is like breathing. Love is not one grandiose adventure after another; it’s being your most human self and doing it together.
“We have this silly secret kiss and we hold hands and dance in the kitchen and he hates the sound of me eating grapefruit, but usually puts up with it. We know each other deeply and we’ve seen each other at our absolute worst, and we still (happily) choose each other. To me, that’s love.”
It is finding charm in their inability to clean the cast iron correctly. Knowing the way they sleep, and not caring when you snore in front of them. It’s never looking for a date or adventure buddy because they are your partner in everything. To be in love is to have some one you trust with your heart, your family, your friends, your entire existence. Love is the ultimate vulnerability, and it’s downright beautiful (and fucking terrifying.)
“You’ll move mountains. There will be no other option. It feels like when you find the best pair of boots for free on the side of the road. It feels like an IPA that blows your mind. It feels like winning bingo. It feels like your moms hug when you were 8. It feels like praise. It feels like church did when you liked church. It feels like new socks out of the dryer. It feels like the best and most beautiful morning.”
My theory on those who haven’t been in love is that they live in that blissful world where the idea of love is untarnished. They have hopes and expectations and daydream about what love will look like for them. It will be different than any one else’s love. It will simultaneously picture perfect and horribly messy. It will be open and honest, and each person will pour everything into the other, because that’s what it’s supposed to be. Waiting for love and not knowing what it will look like is mesmerizing. I am envious of these people. I wish my first love happened when I was a fully formed human, solid and confident in my presence in the world.
“I want the love that is a cataclysm. Seeing a girl and feeling the world move. Having all experiences and history boil down to two people. Fall into each other, drink up everything, have her lay on top of me to feel the weight of her body, tear pages out of books and feed them to each other, sit on the floor of an empty apartment, run away from the din of things that aren’t us, accidentally kill a border guard, hide away in some arid part of Bolivia, build a small home and have strong, honest, kind children.”
Lastly, there are those that have been destroyed by love and have been the destroyer. They know what it takes to break another person’s heart, and have picked up the pieces after being told their love wasn’t enough. It’s these people that have found a balance. They walk the tightrope knowing how easy it is to fall either way. They are the people who have fallen into a familiarity with love. They know the importance of independence and greet vulnerability like an old friend. They allow themselves to be a partner without losing sight of themselves. They are the people you want to grow up to be, the kind of people you want to fall in love with.
“Our love evolved from an intense, head-over-heels, my-heart-is-going-to-explode kind of love, to a deep, meaningful understanding and appreciation of one another. He saw the real me – the generous, vivacious, full-of-life me, along with the volatile, insecure, and resentful me – all in one… Being in love feels a lot like being vulnerable, exposed, and naked. You can’t hide yourself when you’re in love and the person you’re in love with sees the most raw and authentic version of you at that particular time in your life. Love changes as we change, and that’s why it’s beautiful.”
I know that trying to define love is pointless and naïve and ridiculous. I needed to categorize, if only to find some hope. To test my theory I reached out to the people in my life. Single, married, gay, straight, old, young… All of them. I wanted to know their stories. To see if there was validity in any of it. Their quotes are peppered throughout this post (you were curious about why those random quotes were thrown in, weren’t you?) Their responses did the following things.
- Made me cry. Lots of tears. Their words! Their love! Their openness!
- Reminded me that I have the most eloquent friends who live with breathtaking passion.
- Their love has taken on so many forms, done so much damage, and created so many beautiful partnerships.
- Their answers disproved my black & white theories. Everyone has their story and their voice, and none of it falls in line with my compartmentalization of love.
Regardless of their validity, I created these theories so I don’t lose my mind.
Four years ago I was champagne-glass broken, baseball-meets-window broken, drive-until-morning broken. One second this man was my best friend and then he was gone. Two weeks later he was with some one else. Once this happened, my heart hardened. I put on my stoic face, fought off the sympathetic looks, and when it got too heavy, moved to Texas.
My heart went from curious and accepting, to closed-off and cynical. Now, my expectations are so low when it comes to love that I write everything off as a casual fling, because there’s no point in letting it be anything else. I keep all these handsome men at arms length because it’s easier, and there’s no risk if they don’t know my heart. Trust is the main tenant of love, and that’s not a thing that exists for me… Not now.
This isn’t based off of one terrible, horrible, no good heartbreak. I’ve witnessed love outside of my own and a lot of it has been full of disrespect, dishonesty, and distance. I’ve stared unfaithfulness in the face, both hating and joining hands with it when I felt weak. I’ve been the other woman, experimenting with the ease of wooing men into abandoning their current loves for the possibility of me. Terrible? Absolutely. But we all move through this world trying to figure our shit out, and sometimes you make questionable choices to get there.
This post is definitely going off of the usual style, but it’s important. These words matter. Love matters. To hear this chorus of passionate people knowing that they’re with the right person is inspiring. Many of them were shattered and they picked their pieces up, welcomed vulnerability back into their lives, and found their forever. Those of us who are wary and distant to love just might not have fallen into a rhythm with the right person. Perhaps we just have to be patient and let the mountains move when they’re supposed to.
“A love note in Twelfth Night is signed from “the fortunate unhappy”; Jane Austen describes love as “half agony, half hope”; Gabriel Garcia Mendez tells us that “the symptoms of love are the same as the symptoms of cholera”. No rational person would want to be unhappy, or in agony, or sick with love. But love is an irrational enterprise and makes us do what we know is bad for us, in the hopes that it will be better in the end.”
My takeaway from this is that my theories are bullshit. There’s no rhyme, reason or pattern to falling in love. I will just have to deal with my own heavy baggage and learn how to be vulnerable again. It’ll be the ultimate practice in patience.
How brilliantly frustrating.