Is it love…?
If you feel something, it’s love.
If you can’t think of anything else, it’s love.
If you crave her in your bones, all-consuming lust and obsession, it must be love.
Or so I thought.
I felt something for my ex, something very strong. She filled me with hope, she was my validation, she was mine. Beautiful, desirable; someone I admired, someone others admired. She took my love for four long years. Used it and abused it, and I kept giving her more. I always kept loving her. I loved her until the day she broke up with me. I never doubted my love for her. She told me she loved me everyday we were together. She told me she loved me the day she left me.
Somehow, when she broke up with me, instantly I knew it wasn’t love.
This goes against what I thought was a law of human nature. If it’s love, you feel it. She will say it. You will tell each other you love each other, and it will be real. It won’t change. My hopeless romantic-ness has been steadfast. From birth, I have been relentlessly pursuing romance.
I desire love more than air. I search for it everywhere I go. I’m not sure if there is anything I want more than love. I used to think I wanted fame, but fame is essentially one big enormously unrequited love.
I often joke that I’m in love with everyone that laughs at my jokes. This joke is no joke. I am overwhelmed by my desire to connect with others. I am obsessed with validation. I am obsessed with love, being loved, sharing love. I seek genuine connection everywhere, all the time.
As you might imagine, this gets a little frustrating. The internet says “boundary issues”. I resent the notion that loving everyone is a boundary issue. Why can’t more people be like me?
That guy outside the grocery store who talks to you with one hand down his pants ? He loves everybody too. Right. What I was hoping to say before, now sounds like idealistic nonsense. I probably have boundary issues. I should be more responsible, more in control of my emotions. I should have limits! I should be limited in my capacity to love.
It seems to be normal, expected and healthy for people to limit their capacity. Monogamy is a good example; love your partner fully and completely, and if you ever love anyone else, you are BETRAYING THEM. Myself, I am a bit of a serial monogamist, everyone I date ends up being a multi-year relationship. Even my friendships end up being intense, exclusive, passionate platonic affairs that usually end in heartbreak. Its not enough for me to be friends with someone, I need to be their family. What is the distinction between desperation and determination?
I have never been close with my family, so I have always been searching for a new one. I remember staying over a friends house for the first time, and being completely blown away by how much their parents did for them. How they made dinners, how they portioned out the snacks. They were careful, watchful, meticulous and loving. They were all the things my parents weren’t. When I was independent enough to date and pursue women (when I had access to the internet… so about 13yo) I immediately started my search for a new family. There were many girls I tried to date before I finally landed one who didn’t mind being called “girlfriend”. She reciprocated, so I planned our future before we had even kissed. Let’s call her, first girlfriend.
First Girlfriend was the ideal woman. Beautiful, liberal, educated, valedictorian and conventionally attractive by any standard. She kissed me everyday, told me she loved me every single day. My first girlfriend was careful, watchful, meticulous, and a bit cruel. This was the closest I’d come to a disciplinarian in my life, I loved it. I loved her. She was the harsh truth I thought I needed. She always had a suggestion for me to improve, she always saw a flaw that needed fixing. She paid me the attention I never got in my childhood. It wasn’t until years after she left me that I realized she was being abusive. I thought it was helpful commentary, helpful criticism. It was enormously unhelpful, it damaged me. I am stronger now than I was when I was being abused, but I am not stronger because of the abuse.
Those optimistic posters about resilience, overcoming strife and powering through the tough times? Maybe for physical feats, sure. For emotional feats, for emotional abuse; being stronger afterwards seems quite optimistic to me. Resilience is a goal worth pursuing your whole life. We should all be sourcing strength from our traumas, rebranding the experience in the name of resilience.
In my experience, rebranding emotional abuse as a “character building exercise” is like marketing rubbing alcohol as a fine scotch.
We were dating for four or so years, I think four and half. I was competing in a weightlifting competition and I felt a pop in my back. My leg went numb, I couldn’t stand up straight.
She dropped me off at the emergency room, didn’t even walk me in. I had a L4/L5 discectomy because of a herniated disc that was making my whole left leg numb, I couldn’t walk into the hospital. She drove off before I had a chance to shut the door. Two weeks after my surgery, we went on a slow walk together whilst on a myriad of muscle relaxers and pain meds, and she did it. She broke up with me. I guess major bodily trauma was the pluck of courage she needed. Doctors said the recovery would be about 1-2 months, but the recovery took much longer than a few months. Healing from a broken heart is hard enough without trying to heal a broken back. The days inched by, my strength returned, but with it came newfound awareness, an awareness that some might call anxiety. I was filled with shame, guilt, and hopelessness like I have never felt.
When she finally worked up the courage to dump me, I was suddenly hearing things from my friends I had never heard before. “I can’t believe how long you stayed with her, she was horrible to you”, and “I can’t believe you put up with her talking to you like that all the time”, or even better “I thought you were happy so I didn’t say anything, but she was a total asshole to everyone and we all hated her”. These friends were some of the only ones that stuck around after the fact. They helped me as best they could, but it was too little too late. I had four years of emotional baggage to work through, and only one shovel to do it with. I resorted to drugs, sex, and endless tears for about two years.
How could I be so dumb? Who the fuck lets somebody treat them this way!? What kind of idiot, spineless piece of shit lets this happen to them!? I hated myself. She taught me how, I paid attention. How incredibly stupid I must be to have found “the only abusive woman partner on earth”. Abusive relationships are for sucker straight women, right! (I know, I know it’s really offensive. You know what else is offensive? All the awful garbage straight girls did to me in school. STFU)
Life resumed. It was the same life as it was when we were together, except we weren’t. I then found out she had referred to me as her roommate and friend, not her girlfriend. I had previously proposed to her, this was upsetting news. Most of our friends didn’t even know we were dating. Meanwhile, I still lived according to her rules. I still lived according to her standards. I still listened to music she liked. I still ate the food she liked. I gave her four some odd years of my life, for nothing. I was empty. I was broken. Existing was a burden.
Somehow during those two years, I got a masters degree. I also won competitions, earning huge sums of money that I never knew I would be capable of getting. I used this money to fund my art further, and have since reaped the rewards. I immersed myself in my work, I was the cliche that we all know; the heartbroken hard-worker recovering from a bad relationship, transforming into a new person.
I slowly started to see the damage. I recognized the parts of me I had murdered, and refocused my efforts into healing myself. I tried to reanimate my own corpse from the inside out. I tried a lot of things that didn’t work. I crafted a lot of weird bullshit, like leather straps (for literally nothing). I wrote angsty poems at 3am once or twice. I drank until I threw up, drank more and threw up some more. I slowly started to allow myself to listen to the music she said was stupid. I started to eat the foods she thought were unhealthy (but weren’t). I started to exercise the way I liked, instead of the way she insisted. I started to see a few more colors. Oh, I started smoking marijuana. My world went from a black and white hellscape, to black and white with a beige-brown sienna horizon. Flowers bloomed again. Birds sang. I rediscovered my passion for spicy foods.
I’m not sure why I decided to share this with the internet. I’m not sure why I’m doing any of this, but what I do know is that love is not something that should be decided. Love is not a choice. Love is not a snapchat filter. Love is not a facebook post, or an instagram story. Love is not constant. Love is not saying “I love you” everyday. Love is not going to the gym everyday together, working towards a weightlifting meet. Love isn’t sleeping next to someone every night. Love isn’t making meals for them, love isn’t even sharing family with them. I’m not sure what love is, but I know that she showed me “love”, and that it wasn’t it.
I met someone else after she broke me. This person showed me love, as best I’ve known it. I worried for a while that she loved me when I was broken, that she loved fixing me. Time has assuaged this fear. Crisis has knocked on my door a few more times since the back breaking breakup, and this person understood. This person has patience, empathy, and compassion. She uplifted me in my time of need, and she has continued to uplift me during my successful times. She is human, she has flaws, but her flaws help her better empathize with others. Full of love, burdened with sensitivity. Her support is unconditional. She often says she loves me, and means it. I never doubt her.
What is the difference between her proclamation, and past lovers’ proclamations? How can I trust someone again, after the last fiasco?
I’m currently running on pure emotion. I’ve been running on pure emotion for as long as I can remember. I like to think its actually passion? Some might say it is part of what makes me attractive to others. It gets me in trouble, almost exclusively. It makes my music more interesting, and it makes my writing less clear. It also fills me with desire. Endless, fruitless, all-consuming desire. The only thing that quiets my desire is this person. I’m not sure what love is, but I have a hypothesis.
Maybe love is peace? Maybe love is kindness. Maybe love is eye-contact! Maybe love is late-night french fries, with an extra sex-session to burn off the calories. I’ve learned a bit about what love isn’t from my ex. I’m starting to learn what love is from this person. A person who has no expectations. A person who has no conditions. A person who emulates love, instead of describing it.
I’m not sure what love is, but it’s worth trying to find it. Even when all is lost, even when you can’t stand up. Even when you lay there, wishing for your heart to stop, love is going to find you. Stay alive, stay awake, stay alert. It might not be comprehensible, but love exists.
“You’ll know it when you find it!” “You’ll stop looking when you’ve found it.”–randos
I can’t say this. Maybe I’m broken in this way. I’ve found love, I’m fairly certain it is love, but who’s to say what love is? How much love is enough love? What about other varieties of love? What about platonic, non-romantic love? Family love? A sense of community? One person is not enough for these varieties of love. Belonging is not something one person can offer. I feel peace with this person, but I am not completed by a single person. How could anyone be completed by a single person? Why is this an expectation, for a monogamous romantic relationship to be enough? Not just enough, but the meaning of it all!
I don’t expect my girlfriend to be enough, I don’t expect anything from her. She delights me, free from expectations. This is how I trust her. I don’t know what the future holds, I don’t know what next week holds. I cannot be anywhere but here and now. I just hope that she is part of me here, now. I hope that I show the love that I feel, and I hope to share my seemingly endless fountain of love with as many people as I can.
Right, so cheesey. Insanely cheddar. I’m serious, sometimes I feel as if my body is made of love. I explode from the inside out, bursting with love and passion, displaced onto lovers, strangers and ill-willers alike. Boundary issues? Probably. Anger issues? Potentially. Sex addiction? Nope, but wouldn’t that help explain things!
I just want to love and be loved. I used to think I was undeserving of love, and now I realize I am made entirely of it. What else will I learn, in this short time I have?
Ughhhhhhhh……. EXHAUSTING. why do I do this to myself.
Oh BTW, there is going to be a huge update/change/improvement to the podcast coming soon. Its very exciting. There will also be a very cool new series that focuses on music. STAY TUNED, YA’LL.