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On Love*

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
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  1. May 24, 2020 at 12:01 pm

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