I used to think I loved him because I needed him because I would have rather died than walk anywhere without him at my side. And then he left. He didn’t just leave; he left thunderously, with big deep footprints in vast, deep snow banks as he stalked off leaving me with my high five-slapped hand and a half-finished mug of hot chocolate I never wanted to drink again. I never wanted to go there again. I never wanted to be in love again. Because love walks out.

And afterwards, I wished; I wished for misfortune for myself so he’d feel sorry for me and stay; or I’d wish for misfortunes for him so that he would need me to see him through those; I would wish failure upon him so those failures would somehow bring him closer to me. He was unemployed. And I wished for him to not find a job, because I was afraid of losing him to a new job.

Imagine.

Imagine your identity being so tied up in another person that you wish for them to be as sad and pathetic as you are so that you realize you desperately have to hang onto one another. Imagine someone else’s failures being more crucially important than you own successes. That was love to me. That was love to me the whole time, and I was worried after the fact that my 21-22-23 year old versions of love would follow me around forever and there wouldn’t be a way for me to return to being a whole person and pushing through the pain of seeing someone slip away until you are a stranger from them and you realize from that moment on, you always will be. Imagine you think that’s love.

And then.

And then you meet someone and you just want them to be happy. And you want them to be comfortable. And you want them to be successful, even if it means that they are successful without you. You are alone on a Friday night while they are out and instead of obsessing over who they’re with and what they’re doing and concerning yourself that they will meet someone better than you because they could do so much damn better than you any day of the Goddamn week, you’re happy about it. Because they’re happy and comfortable and you’ll be there for them warming their spot until they return from their adventures and tell you all about them. Suddenly, you have a renewed sense of calmness and groundedness and you know that it comes from a place deeper than that place you were drowning in; it comes from a coveted, private, deeply welcoming and yet sober place that is not complicated and wired for failure and fear and nervousness and jealousy like the brain: the heart.

And then you know what love is. What real love is. And that you weren’t in it before, and that you’re in it at that moment. And that you know this is more comforting than walking two steps behind someone to make sure they’re still looking over their shoulder at you.

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