Sometimes you think you have it all figured out. Then, something happens and you remember that love isn't just what you're feeling; it's not a solitary emotion. At its least powerful it still requires two parties, even if one of them is completely oblivious. You can love someone dearly, but it doesn't feel complete (it's not powerful enough to break a hole in the universe) until you know they feel the same way. And sometimes, no matter how much you wish you could love someone, you simply can't. Not the way you want to love them. Or maybe not the way they need to be loved.
It would be easy to become jaded, to give in and become cynically resigned to the fact that, more often than not, love lets us down. Only that would be unfair to love. For all the pain it can cause (and you don't know pain until you lose the person you love more than anyone else in the world), it's not fair to expect it to be easy. To get the most out of love, you have to buy in completely. You only get 100% out of life if you never hold back. How is love any different? Love's hard work, like training a voice to hit that high C or perfecting a back-hand wrist-shot or studying your ass off for the MCAT. Love, real love, the kind worth doing pretty much anything for, is hard work. Maybe that's why it's so elusive.
Hard work is unappealing. (Unless you know how it can pay off.) It's easier when it's all laid out for you, when someone hands it all to you on a silver platter, like a nicely arranged breakfast in bed, but, honestly, how often does that happen? Perhaps it will happen to a lucky few, but for most of us, we're going to have to fight for what we want in life, for what we love, for love itself.
You can settle. You can settle for something that's good enough. You can settle for something that complies with some predetermined checklist. You can settle for something that seems to be as good as it's going to get. Or you can wait.
You can hold out for something that makes you dizzy with joy. You can hold out for the kind of best friend who compels you do crazy things like fly across the country on a whim to spend your birthday with someone you've never met face to face. You can hold out for the kind of friends who are (bank-balance-dependent) always up for adventure. You can hold out for the kind of lover who makes your heart race and your mind spin and your hands ache.
If you hold out for those things, if you refuse to compromise and you follow your heart, you will find those people. They are out there, waiting for you to come along and change their lives the way you've been waiting for them to change yours.
Recently, someone told me that she was praying for me. Coming from her, it was the most incredible gift, not because I'm a religious person who puts much stock in that sort of thing (I'm not at all religious, but I do believe in prayer), but because of how much it means to me that she prays for me, because of what it means to her. Prayer is something powerful to her, and the fact that she prays for me made my heart ache and wish there was some way for me to explain that I would pray for her, too, if I believed in the kind of God who would listen to a wretch like me. Only, she wasn't just praying for me now, she explained, she'd been praying for me for five years, for four years longer than she'd known me; she'd been praying to meet me and a few of our mutual friends. She'd prayed to her God that she would meet people who were different from her, who didn't share her beliefs. She meant religious beliefs. And it's true, we have very different beliefs, but it's shocking how similar some of our values are. Perhaps we don't share a God, but we share something; she and I discovered that months ago when she told me:
I'm not perfect, nor will I ever be. I struggle with stuff everyone else in the world struggles with. I'm human, and I'll never be able to change that. But, as a Christian who truly has a relationship with Christ I try my best to emulate Him, and He never discriminated, and never treated people differently because of who their families were, or where they were from. Christ didn't discriminate against other beliefs, plain as that. He loved the people, not what they did. That's how I want to be.And that's how *I* want to be too, even if I'll never be convinced that the world was created for humans alone, or that Jesus Christ was the son of God. It doesn't mean I don't have respect for who he was. In fact, sometimes the fact that I believe he was just a man makes me all the more in awe of what he did and what he believed. I don't need God to pray. Or to believe in miracles.
I believe in miracles because I need to believe in miracles. I believe that anything is possible, because if I don't believe in that, I feel empty inside. That's why I have never been willing to settle, and why I never considered compromising, and why I'll never resign myself to a mediocre life. Even I never achieve anything monumental, I'll never stop trying to change the world in little ways.
I spent years imagining the kinds of friends I wanted. I've had incredible friends over the years, but I never had that one friend to whom I felt I could tell anything and everything without ever being judged. I have a friend like that now. (She laughs at me endlessly, she teases me mercilessly, she calls me names constantly, but she will never judge me. Ever.) I'm convinced I have her because I never stopped believing that someday, if I held out, if I kept looking, I'd find someone like that. We found each other in a most unconventional way, but I love her with my whole, unconventional, uncompromising heart. The same way I love everyone, oddly enough. But she loves me back. That's what makes it incredible. That's what makes my heart ache; because I wish I'd found her sooner, and that she lived closer, and that we could hang out every other night and watch hockey and bad Rom-Coms or go out dancing and drink ourselves fearless and belt out bad 80s rock songs in karaoke bars.
Then, I remind myself that not everyone finds someone like that, let alone a whole group of friends like that. Then again, not everyone keeps looking. But I kept looking, and I always will. Why settle for half a dozen of the best girl-friends a girl could ask for when you might have a dozen or two dozen? Sure, that makes me greedy, but I love loving people. It makes me feel good. In fact, there isn't anything I love more than spoiling the people I love.
The emptiest times of my life have been those times when I had no one to love with all my heart. It was like part of me was dying inside. In a couple cases, something (or rather, two important someones) had actually died, and that was contributing to the big black whole in my chest, but it was exacerbated by my lack of having anyone to love the way I knew I could love. The kind of crazy love that makes more sense in foreign languages. The kind of love that people tend to fear, because of how vulnerable it makes them.
Maybe that's what makes loving my friends so easy: there isn't the same kind of stigma in loving your friends as there is in loving a lover.
Lovers complicate things, even when they don't intend to, even when you promise yourselves and each other that you'll stay away from the drama, and never play games, and you'll always be honest. I've been alone for a while now. After years of jumping from one long-term relationship to the next, I decided to take a break from it all. It was a semi-conscious decision and advice from a trusted voice of reason: I needed time to myself. I need to figure myself out. I needed time to sort out stuff on my own. No one was going to save me. (Not that I'd ever expected anyone to save me, but I also didn't think that saving myself would end up being such an active undertaking.)
Being alone is challenging, even when you like yourself; when you dislike the person you've become, it's almost unbearable. You decide to start from scratch, to do yourself over, to let go of many of the things that have come to define you. You return to your roots as a person, a person you'd almost lost in the desperate shuffle to salvage your life. In doing so, you rediscover who you are and what you love, and why you love, and how you love. And that's what saves you. Love. Maybe it's not there, where and when you need it. But you know what kind of love it is, and so you imagine it. You hold onto it. You write it down. You create it in a fictional town, between fictional people you wish were real so you could love them, despite their faults, the way you would love friends, if you had any who needed your love the way you need love like that.
You hold all this inside. You're feeling better about things, happier, but there's still something missing. You want to share this story you've written, this world you've created, these characters who love the way you only wish you still could. And so you put it out there. And it terrifies you, the way asking someone out terrified you when you were fifteen. You did it anyways back then, and you do it now. That's just how you are. You've always been like that. You always will be.
You put this love out there, fictional though it may be, but it resonates with a few people. Maybe they weren't looking for this. Maybe they thought you were like all the others. Maybe they didn't realize anything was missing. Then, something funny happens. You all realize that the story may be fiction, but what you have is very real. You have something in common: you all love the way those characters love. Maybe that's why you all feel oddly connected, before you've ever met. Maybe that's why you all decide that you want to be friends, real friends, even though you never thought you'd be that person who met someone in such an unconventional manner.
And it all seems to come together so fast, and you can't quite explain it to anyone, the way people in whirlwind romances can't quite explain why they're engaged after knowing someone for only three weeks. You understand it now. You understand love, something you thought you had down, something you thought you knew the limits of. You were wrong. You're going to be wrong again, too. You can joke about loving Kris Letang or Mike Green or Brooks Laich or Finn on 'Glee' (or any number of fictional characters), but really, you don't love them. Love is more complicated than mere adoration; love is that feeling like your heart is going to burst from joy. Love is knowing that the people you would willingly die for will willingly return the favour.
I've been single, for two years now. Until recently, I hadn't really thought much of it. I needed it. I liked it. It was good to be selfish, to figure myself out, to take time to rediscover who I am and what I value and why I value the things I do. Then, in August, I spent a month in Ontario and Quebec visiting old friends and my extended family, and I had a series of small epiphanies, each as significant and fleeting as the next. But they were all reinforcing one thing: I miss being in love.
I haven't dated much since the end of my last relationship. I don't tend to date much, anyways, and, truth be told, I was actively pursued by my last couple of boyfriends. I didn't have to do much to snag them, and that was kind of nice. Don't get me wrong: I most likely would have pursued them had they not showed enough interest for me to be entirely convinced that it was totally unnecessary. I loved them, as best as I was able.
I wanted to love them the way I love my friends now. I think I forgot how to love like that, though, because loving with abandon means risking getting hurt, and additional heartbreak was not on my agenda. I was playing it safe, and that's not really me. So I wasn't really me, even though I was trying to be. I just wasn't able to be me.
Now, things are different. There is a sense of security borne in the knowledge that the friends I have now aren't going anywhere (except on crazy adventures with each other and me), and from having something resembling the self-confidence I had as a fearless, terrified fifteen-year-old when I ganged up on a boy in my music class with his best friend and fell madly in love for the first time in my life. I was too young to recognize it, and my life was already becoming too screwed up for me to capitalize on it, but I know what it's like, and I'm not afraid of it this time around. I'm terrified. But that's the way it's supposed to be, right?
I have something like a family again. I have the most incredible, ridiculous friends I could never have done justice to had I even tried to imagine them, and I have the best friend I have ever known: the type of girl who tells me "Had you said you killed someone, I would've asked where the body was and if we needed to flee." And means it. It makes me believe that anything is possible. They all make me certain that I can never settle, that I will never compromise, because if they exist, why can't a boy exist who will make me as happy?
After two years of nearly complete disinterest in the opposite gender (with a few obvious hockey-related exceptions), I've spent the past month developing crushes on a ton of people. It's a bit ridiculous, actually. It's not that I seriously think any of these crushes will come to anything, but I'd forgotten what it's like, giggling over someone cute and sweet and awkward. Like the boy I've taken to calling King Doofy of Awkward. He's adorable. He's got a devastating smile that makes me kind of go to mush inside. And, yet, the likelihood of me doing anything about this can be directly correlated to pure chance and how much tequila I drink. And then there's #2, who I love to tease, and Vinny, whose company I logically think ought to be awkward and never is. Maybe one of them is it, but I doubt it.
What I don't doubt is that there is someone out there for me, someone who is it for me, the way my friends and I are the answer to a prayer I didn't know someone was making, and the way my best friend has renewed my faith in non-denominational faith. No matter how naive I seem, I think he is out there, somewhere, and wherever he is, he's waiting for me to show up and turn his life upside down, because he's the type of person who won't settle either. He'll hold out. He wants the kind of crazy love that makes you question your sanity, the kind of knowing that makes you wonder why nothing else makes as much sense, the kind of security that results from finding someone who cares more about what you need than what you want, even when it means telling you off. And he, whoever he is, knows, like I do, that it'll be worth the wait. Somewhere out there, there's somebody for me to love. Another someone, for me to add to the growing list of people for whom I would lay down my life.
If this doesn't make your heart burst, see your doctor: your heart is malfunctioning.