One of my favorite poems is called Hide and Seek. The line goes, “It’s hard not to jump out instead of waiting to be found.”
The memory is me, a kid, wedged beneath a chair. I want to climb out and announce to my seeker what a good hiding place I’ve found.
I want to talk giddily about how I have tricked them — how I have accomplished the feat of successfully hiding in the very same room they are searching. I am anxious to get my gold star and I can’t wait the extra seconds it may take for them to find me on their own.
When you love someone, it’s like this. It’s hard to wait for someone to discover you. It’s hard to watch them stumble around, looking in the wrong places, taking too much time. It’s hard to remember this is the point of the game and it does you no good to interfere.
Like offering a jogger a ride to their destination — that’s not the point.
We have to watch them struggle and stumble and we become martyrs in our own minds because of it. We think, “I’m right here and you can’t see. How silly of you. How dumb.”
When I feel that way, I wonder if I will ever be able to feel loved, if my idea of love is someone handing me gold stars all day. I think, if someone could constantly “find” me I would be happy. If I wasn’t always wanting to jump out and say, “I’m here! I’m a good person! I called you three more times than you called me and I made you breakfast Thursday and I sent your mom a card when she was sick!” If someone saw each and every good thing I did and praised me for it, I would finally get to feel completely happy and loved.
It’s sad because this desire is so far divorced from what love is. What I think would make me happy, what I am telling myself would make me happy is to receive (at least) every time I give. But how cheap would my acts of generosity feel then, how cheap would my love feel. My love would just be a quarter put in a gumball machine so I can receive my prize. It would be robotic, nothing special, or romantic, or human.
What I want to do is get rid of this notion I am holding onto and love people and say that their love for me is none of my business. Who cares if someone loves me slightly less than I love them? I can’t let myself care. I am terrified of becoming the kind of person who measures love in inches.
One of my favorite descriptions of a relationship is from an unlikely book. Dennis Lehane wrote in Mystic River
The person you love is rarely worthy of how big your love is. Because no one is worthy of that and maybe no one deserves that burden of it, either. You’ll be let down. You’ll be disappointed and have your trust broken and have a lot of real sucky days. You lose more than you win. You hate the person you love as much as you love him. But you roll up your sleeves and work – at everything – because that’s what growing older is.
If you are capable of doing something like that, of loving someone without them deserving it, why bother with anything else? If it’s worth loving someone, it’s worth loving them in such a large amount that it cannot be given with hooks, that it cannot be contingent on burdening the person you love with living up to how much you love them. That’s what I want.