Two Past Notes on Love
I'm a Pisces. Deal with it.
*Author’s Note: I’ve been thinking about how every love poem and letter are really embodiments of grace. The joy of living is that we don’t always know the ways we’re helping, revealing, and changing others - or the unexpected gifts we might receive in return. Even in what some might consider to be failed [romantic] relationships. I believe that when we love unabashedly, it will always find its way back to us. I hope these two notes from the past can help bridge that which separates us today.
All the light that we cannot see at first
[October, 8th 2017]
I saw an ex at a funeral yesterday, of course - she’s much more than that, she was the first woman I ever loved, I spent nearly a decade of my life with her. There’s always this “gap” that exists between us, filled with everything that we cannot say. Not just because she’s married, or has a kid - and we both understand and respect that boundary. I would never dream of compromising her or her husband’s trust. A love like that changes, but it doesn’t go away either. Given the chance, I would lay down my life for her and/or her son, without hesitation. If bullets started flying, it would be instinctual. I know that’s not my duty or responsibility, it’s just one of those things inside of me that is, has been, and will continue to be. And while those things remain(ed) unsaid (until I wrote this post), nearly anyone can see them. I can see it in how she looks at me - and how I look at her, a million words in a glance, that implicit - yet distinct understanding.
I am truly happy for her, I love to cheer her on from a distance. I get along with her husband amicably when our paths do cross. Part of that is because I’m not pining for her, or wishing that things “ended differently,” and never once have I hoped that I could take her husband’s place.
#1 That’s not how love works (wanting to swap places). That’s selfish, possessive, and entitled bullshit masquerading as love.
#2 While I am a man of conviction, integrity, and action - her husband is a much better partner for her because they share the same/similar goals, values, and spiritual beliefs. He is a man of principle, and I respect that and him. This is also the *actual* underlying reason why the love she and I had for each other was not enough - partners have to align, and in those last 3 years of our relationship - I clashed with everything. It wasn’t a reflection on her or her value. I was struggling to figure out who I was, and if I only believed certain things because I was raised/indoctrinated that way. Breaking out of that mold was a challenge - and excruciating at times, and I was bullheaded, to say the least. But I didn’t hide my doubts or struggle to find myself from her either. There came a time when we both knew we had to let go. And she’s one of the few things I’ve (entirely) let go of without claw marks. Perhaps it’s because I believed she deserved better. But it’s also because I knew I wasn’t capable of being the (spiritual) partner she needed because it would mean compromising my own conviction, identity, and journey. Of course, had I compromised my belief structure to be with her - then I wouldn’t be the partner she deserved either, the whole thing was a catch 22.
Loving her was so much more than a defining point in my life, and while there was heartache, confusion, and pain - there was more than a significant amount of growth, connection, and intimacy. She was my introduction to nearly everything, and I’m glad it was her for all of it. Some things we only learn by doing - and we rarely get it right the first time. I consider myself blessed to have learned with her - and other times, by her example. She’s one of, if not the most graceful and authentic soul(s) I’ve ever known.
She taught me about boundaries, trust, and respect. She taught me how to dance, to kiss, and caress. How to enjoy banal platitudes (grocery shopping, standing in line, cooking a dinner for two). How to laugh and cry. How to stand in the rain and pour my heart out. How to be gentle, how to be strong, and how to be (emotionally) intimate. She taught me the importance of just showing up and being present. I taught her how to question things for herself, act by herself, and push/challenge the norms and limits of what she thought she knew. Young love is a hell of a thing, but it doesn’t make it less real or true. I know that we loved each other to the extent that we both were capable - her more than me, at the time. But nevertheless, I loved her with my whole heart. I loved her family, her younger siblings especially. Still, I carried a lot of shame into our relationship, specifically - the inherent belief that deep down, there was something wrong with me. And as we grew older - my struggle with that feeling - which manifested in depression, nihilism, moderate narcissistic behavior (I always was trying to prove how “clever” I was), and in those final months, a closeted addiction to (prescribed) synthetic opiates drove an inseparable wedge between us.
Shame is a straightjacket that doesn’t just restrict our ability to love, but also our ability to be loved in return. When we let our feelings of unworthiness dictate our behavior - we perpetuate that cycle, which compounds those feelings even more. It’s nearly impossible to escape, and no-one can save us from it except ourselves. I refused to let anyone see it, especially those who loved me the most, because I was terrified if they saw that side of me - they wouldn’t love me anymore. Deep down - I believed I was never going to be enough. (I don’t feel or believe that about myself today, and I haven’t for a long time, but that’s a whole different series of posts altogether).
Having had that belief (of inherent brokenness) doesn’t excuse my behavior either - and I’ve done my best not only to make amends - but live a changed life (I’ll be 7 years sober in 2 days). I know she forgave me a long time ago - just because of who she is.
And while I know I’ll never be able to hold her hand, cry or laugh with, or embrace her the same way again - a part of me will always love her. I want what’s best for her. I am deeply invested in her well-being and happiness. I want her to flourish. I want her marriage to thrive, I want her son (and if she decides to have more - her children) to prosper. I am proud of her - I am proud to have known her, to have been loved, shaped, and challenged by her. She didn’t just know, she always believed in who I was capable of being. She equipped me to become that man - and I have.
The things that we let go of (see: “surrender”) have a way of returning to us, just not in the same format or packaging that we desire or want, and I’m learning how to embrace that.
Whenever I see Christina, I know that unspoken gap will exist between us - I know that we will do our best to bridge it with sincerity and tenderness. I know that we will both look at each other on the edge of tears. And it’s not because it hurts to see the other because it brings up old wounds or doubts, we both have healed, forgiven each other, are secure in who we are, and our separate paths. I look at her on the edge of tears because it hurts to look at her the same way the light hurts your eyes when someone flips a switch in the middle of the night. But I have to see - because her light changed me. It revealed me, it still does.
I know I reflect her light and my own today. And I know she can see that. I know that she’s proud of the man I’ve become - of the man she knew I was meant to be. Just as I’m proud of the woman she’s become. I can look at her, and in that mirror without shame - and that’s more than enough.
That’s just another form of love. Which exudes.
On what matters
[November, 9th 2013]
I’m one of those people who believes that miracles happen every time we inhale. Oxygen is metabolized in our lungs sending life-giving blood to our hearts. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, ‘Nothing is insignificant.’ I may not think about every breath, but I do try to take into account that every moment is an opportunity. No moment, or act, is insignificant.
We all have experienced things that are incalculable, moments that are unfathomable. We have experienced wonders in the last place anyone would expect. Call it fate, coincidence, random - I don’t care. We are colliding with others, time, places, circumstances and it affects us more than we could ever realize. Actions that may seem insignificant to us may be monumental to the fate of another. I believe that words have the ability to save someone just as much as they have to ability to destroy them.
I can’t tell you the number of times that a kind word or an embrace has saved my life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the edge of ending it all only to find the strength at the last moment to keep going because I knew someone out there cared; because someone loved me when I was incapable of loving myself.
Maybe I’m just a romantic, but I believe that positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time. I believe that deep down we all are yearning for reconciliation, for catharsis. That’s why I believe love is so powerful, it always has the ability to save us.
When we were children Love was as clear and simplistic as breathing. As we got older, however, the idea of Love morphed into different things for each of us. For some, Love turned into a lust for power, sex, substances, control…etc. We allowed our passions to be twisted into something sick, something rabid. Even so, there are remnants of our childlike innocence, we still recognize Love when we see it. But this post isn’t about your personal definition or (contorted) view of Love. It’s about the word Love. The idea of Love.
When you consider how much art has been created with the idea of Love as its core concept, we can all agree that this one word has a huge impact on us. On all of us. Across cultures.
As the digital age speeds news and information around the globe at rates we can’t even wrap our minds around, it often seems as though the negative stories get the lion’s share of the attention. War. Deceit. Politics. Disasters. Genocide. We gravitate to these negative themes. And that might not ever change. However, in an age of accelerated connectivity, it’s pretty cool that we have the opportunity to give positive ideas a fighting chance, too. At least for one day. At least for one moment. Nothing is insignificant
Mostly, I’m writing this because I believe in the power of words to move and change people. If I didn’t, I’d probably get into banking or retail instead of wasting my time blogging. And even though a word like Love is too big to put a fence around, from what I can tell, no matter where you live, no matter what your ethnicity, sexual preference, or religion – Love has a universally positive connotation for most human beings. The thinking behind this post is that if someone (anywhere) happens to see ‘I Love You,’ then there is a chance that this person will feel something good – if only for a moment – and that this positive momentum might parlay into more good. An avalanche contains stones of all sizes.
What I hope most of all is that you understand that even though I may not know you, and I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or run through an airport to tackle you with all of the holy light in my body: I love you.
I love you.