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On Love*

May 18, 2020 1 comment

Love is terrifying, isn’t it? Objectively, when you think about, there’s nothing rational about it. It’s being chased by wolves, almost stepping in a landmine, then hurling yourself off a cliff and hoping for the best.

When we go after love, we are either very brave or very foolish. Sometimes, both. Sometimes, you can’t really tell the difference. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. Maybe what matters is the ability to take a breath and walk into the darkness, a light in your heart, unsure of what you’ll find.

But to open yourself up to love—even the possibility of it—is to risk hurt. If you’ve been hurt before, you can feel it echoing in your soul, howling even. If you have known love and lost it, the agony is not unfamiliar. It is visceral and all-consuming. It is not timid or without teeth.

Neil Gaiman, in The Kindly Ones, struck a chord with this: “Have you ever been in love? Horrible, isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses. You build up this whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life… You give them a piece of you. They don’t ask for it. They do something dumb one day like kiss you, or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so a simple phrase like “maybe we should just be friends” or “how very perceptive” turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. Nothing should be able to do that. Especially not love. I hate love.”

I’ve scribbled it everywhere for ages now. Love leaves you gasping that way, sometimes, because it isn’t always enough. You can, as it turns out, love someone who is incapable of loving you the way you need. You can also be loved by someone who can only glimpse, not hold, your heart. Love, as you probably know, is complicated—but it is also unmistakable, the kind of true thing that shakes you down to your core, if you are brave enough to let it. But I digress.

So, if you’ve loved and been shattered by it for whatever reason, you know. You know that it makes you unspeakably vulnerable. You have to show someone exactly who you are, not neatly, not guardedly. No, there’s nothing neat about you here. It’s showing your ugly face, your fears, your insecurities, your bad habits, your unspeakable stubbornness. It’s dropping the façade and the act, because you feel comfortable enough to. It’s finding joy in the ordinary things, like laughing over silly things on YouTube or swapping favorite songs or trying to decide whose brownie recipe is better (spoiler alert: I will always win that last one).

To open yourself up to love is to sharpen the knives and hope for the best. It’s not an action that makes sense, but truthfully? The best things in life aren’t about sense. They’re not what happens when you play it safe. They’re not an endeavor where you play by the rules. Maybe the rules are a lie, a fairytale, something to keep us in line. But to entertain the idea of love is to take a step forward knowing there might be pain, that people change, that wants change, that every can shift in a moment and change…forever.

So, given that love and loss can bring us shattered to our knees—why do we do it? Why do we jump off that cliff and hope for the best? It’s not machoism, most of the time. It’s hope—that it will be different, that it will work out, that we will see and be seen, not as some glammed-up version of ourselves, but the true one. It’s the desire that someone will calm our souls, laugh at the same jokes, buy you plants they don’t understand just to make you smile.

The truth is that love is worth risking everything for. It’s worth cracking yourself open. Because that connection, when it’s right and true? It’s everything—even when it’s ridiculous and messy and full of nonsense and surprises. It’s literally just the whole fucking point of this mad existence, and you won’t ever convince me otherwise.

I’ve closed down a few times in my life. I’ve broken down and shut doors. I’ve slept with that agony of loss, convinced it was a comfort—maybe feeling like it was earned. There was a moment in my life, years ago, where I just couldn’t fathom that “soul-hurt” again. I was done. More recently, too, I’ve wondered about this in others—if we all are afraid of the same thing. Perhaps we are, perhaps that is human nature.

And eventually, I remembered a very specific truth. When we lose someone we love, it makes us afraid of love to a degree. It makes us wary; it makes us ache. When that absence fills with silence and darkness, it’s so easy to become afraid. It’s so easy to list all the reasons why even entertaining the idea is a bad proposition.

But what if it isn’t?

Because the other side of that coin is that losing someone can also make you love harder, more fiercely—when the opportunity presents itself. It can make you throw out the rulebook and not take a moment for granted. When you’ve lost something—someone—that seems un-survivable, you can find such a surprising, quiet strength.

I have always been someone who runs toward something, someone, not away. I rarely engage with anyone who doesn’t, in one way or another, set my soul on fire. Because, truly, who has time for tepid or tame? It’s my belief that the opportunity for love is something to be embraced, even when it scares you, perhaps especially then. It’s hard to risk it, because there’s always a lot to lose. And we’re all vessels for heartache, beyond our control in so many unpredictable ways.

But love—deep, messy, ridiculous love—even when it’s gone, it leaves such beauty behind. The really surprisingly thing from all the best stories is true: finding someone you can be 100% yourself with, no matter how petty or insecure or vulnerable—that’s everything. There are people in this world who will always leave you better than they found you, simply by the gift of who they are. People who have known darkness, but still lean toward the light. People who have fractured their own hearts or had them stolen by careless hands. People who love without expectation or reason.

Because there’s nothing reasonable about it. There’s nothing small or easily managed about it. Love, pure and simple, is extraordinary. And that’s why it’s always worth it, no matter the wolves, no matter the landmines, no matter the heights of that cliff.

*This was, most definitely, a nod to Chekhov

Categories: Uncategorized

Just to Let the Light In

This is what it’s like:
a heartbeat full of knife-sharp
memories, a counting of ribs
to compensate
for when it all goes wrong,
the ravenous promise
that devours
reason in the wake of silence—
we were all ghosts once,
and will be again,
it’s just a matter of time.

I spent years with open hands
and a hungry heart, mouth kissed
until my soul was starving,
and now there is wine
and a steady offering of want,
but what if it’s all feathers
and no bird? What if the song
is just in my head?

Eventually, all the sharp things
start to dull, but only if you speak
softly, only if you understand
that a broken past
can be beautiful too,
that a girl made of miracles
has been too often
taken for granted,
found wanting, measured
by a hundred scars
someone else
disavowed making.

I lit the candles,
but all the darkness
is still playing in the background,
things buried like bones,
no sleep and too much grief,
the wrong mythology
for love, hollowed out,
wearing the wrong names.

Come here,
I want to break everything
just to let the light in—
no matter what happens,
no matter the howling
of a heart,
this is still true.

Categories: Uncategorized

Some words, when none of them are right

May 11, 2020 1 comment

 

My mother was the kind of person everyone talked to, spilled their secrets to, without her really trying. She’d be in the checkout line at the grocery store and the woman behind her would start spilling her guts. She’d talk to a stranger 20 minutes on the phone and come away with half their life story. It was always kind of spooky and definitely kind of hilarious.

She was, among other things, an excellent listener. Nothing you told her would ever reach anyone else’s ears, and she would always offer a mixture of compassion and straight talk. She might tell you that you’re an idiot, but she’d make sure you knew she loved you. Some of us more than others. (It’s me. I’m Some of Us.) We often butted heads, but even when she was high holy mad at me, I knew she’d drop everything even just to listen. And for those of you privy to my chatty weirdness, I can talk. A lot. The certainty there was something I always knew to be true and hopefully appreciated enough. Looking back, it’s hard to know for sure.

I can’t say that she taught me how to listen. I’ve always been a good listener, a safe space. But she did show me how to be completely present in a moment. She has this way of knowing when you had something to talk about, even when you weren’t quite sure you wanted to talk about it–especially when you were trying to keep something important in. Then, she’d nudge it out of you, sometimes prying it out of you with whatever Mom crowbar she had at her disposal. (It’s me. I’m You.) But even if you weren’t her daughter, she always listened in an unhurried manner, as if the only important thing in the world were the words coming out of your mouth and what you were feeling. Truly listening and hearing someone is a gift that not everyone gets. So many people have a conversation simply waiting to respond or get their point across.

That’s always something I’ve aspired to be to and for the people I care about: unhurried, available, and present. Because I know it’s easy to get wrapped in a day or feel like you’ve gotten left behind–or, perhaps worst of all, worry that what’s on your mind is unimportant.

Nothing that matters to you is unimportant to me. This is how I was raised, and this is how I am. You can thank my mother for that.

She was also a human jukebox, who would dance and sing to any song, no matter where you were. I used to roll my eyes at her, perpetually a teenager at heart, but now I do it too. So, I guess the joke’s on me. Sometimes, we are more like our parents than we’d like to admit, certainly never within their hearing. Because the HORROR.

Mom loved Halloween, which is absolutely the shit. If it were possible for adults to trick or treat, I literally would. (I am occasionally a small child at heart, and I regret NOTHING.) Instead, any chance to dress up in some ridiculous costume is one that I seize wholeheartedly, no hesitation. When I was born, I spent months in the hospital. My nurse dressed me up as Tinker Bell, while she was Peter Pan. The first three years of my life, after that, my mom dressed me as Tinker Bell for Halloween, and I remember that sparkly green dress and the particular disappointment of growing out of it. But I was certainly one of the fey folk from the very beginning.

I could sit here and tell you a million stories, although some are better served in person. Possibly over coffee and definitely with homemade crumbcake or box of Entenmann’s. Instead, I’ll leave you with this: she was a woman who once bought three volumes of a relatively difficult-to-find lit journal, so I could finish my research paper properly. She loathed a lot of my decisions in life and often marveled at my ridiculous nature, but she was also an excellent partner in crime (figurative crimes! We were not, sadly, Ocean’s 8). When faced with something far left of the middle, she once told me: “I know you. You will always find a way.” And I believed her. And so, I believed in me. When she was around, you had no choice but to believe in yourself the way she did, which was completely.

If you think I’m strong, I am probably faking it—but also I learned how to be stronger than I think I am, from her. I wonder what she’d think of my life, right now, but then I know what she’d say: “I know you. You will always find a way.”

Thanks for the reminder, momma.

Categories: Uncategorized