When I was a teenager and was in what I thought was love, I would imagine myself tearing my still-beating heart from my chest and offering it to the object of my affections as some sort of sacrificial offering. A way to prove that what I felt was real, was pure, and was all consuming. My feelings were so severe that I couldn’t imagine ever finding the right human words that would encompass everything flowing through me. If only I could offer up my actual heart, between my own two slick, wet hands, then my love couldn’t be denied. And, in turn, they could no longer withhold their love from me.
I haven’t “loved” someone like that for a while now. Multiple decades and a correct mental health diagnosis re-framed my understanding of these strong emotions. It’s not love, it’s desperation. It’s my deification of my favorite person randomly selected as my own personal savior. My lifeline. My heartbeat. My reason for existing on this Earth. The one with whom I could not imagine being without.
None of that was about who they were. It was about who I was. It was about the bottomless pit inside me nicknamed “unflinching yearning to be loved and to be lovable and to be worthy”. I understand this about myself. I can stop myself, when I get wrapped up in intense emotions, and identify this yearning and emptiness, and label it as untrue. As creative fiction. As libel.
The most frightening part of understanding myself better, is when strong emotion happens outside of these patterns. Real emotions. True. Memoir, but non-fiction none-the-less.
And now I find myself somewhere completely unfamiliar. I am mired deeply in my first real, honest, non-illness-speculative, grown adult love.
My head and my heart agree. I have gone down the checklist of Things To Watch For. I have let the feelings simmer over time (ten months thus far) and find they are just as strong and steadfast. I have little desire to force my will upon this person and mold them into a version of them that I’ve created in my head; I accept them as they are and love them all the more for it. I have considered a life lived without the person in question, and find that I could survive (I’d just much rather prefer a life with them).
So, you see, it all checks out.
If we can agree that I’ve come at this from all angles and really been properly adult and responsible about my feelings, I hope you can forgive a little self-indulgence now.
In what world is it fair that I toil for decades, struggling in a dark abyss of my brain’s own making, trying to learn how emotions work, how to deal with them, how to love someone for them instead of for me, and then have those feelings not be reciprocated?
If I believed in God, I would be asking him what in the fuck his problem with me is.
I don’t know how the average human relationship works, as I’ve never been average (and I sometimes question the humanity aspect), but it appears as if first grown, adult love usually culminates in some sort of commitment, legal, religious, or other-wise. My assumption is that this love is so fully-formed and deeply pure that each individual knows there will be no other love. That this is it. This is forever.
It’s not. It rarely is. Perhaps because not both individuals were experiencing their grown, adult love simultaneously and they fudged the details on the paperwork. Perhaps because someone needed to flee a desperate situation (of country, of family, or religion) and called their desperation “love”. (I can relate, in a way.) Perhaps because they folded under the societal expectations of what their life should look like, and followed the step-by-step instructions they were handed and commitment was just another duty to check off the list. Or perhaps because first grown, adult love doesn’t necessarily mean the only grown, adult love.
I wouldn’t know. Like I said, this is my first. And I’m up by my waist in the stuff.
But because it’s my first, and I’m quite wedged in here, it still feels like this is it. This is forever. Unrequited or not, this is all I have in me. So if it’s not going to work out, where do I go from here? And how did I come to be here? Have I subconsciously chosen someone unavailable as a way to continue punishing myself because that’s what I’m used to? I’m quite certain by now there is a moratorium on calling one’s love life a “cosmic joke”, but what other phrase packs quite the same punch?
My heart tells me this is my one and only shot to have a real chance at happiness with a person who understands me on a level I have never before experienced; whom I feel unequivocally comfortable with in all aspects; who accepts me and cares for me even with all of my quirks and flaws as I do them; who makes me want to be a better person just to make them proud; whom I trust not only with my life but would trust with my cat’s life. High praise, that.
While I haven’t felt the desire to carve out my heart and offer it literally, I may be doing it metaphorically. Despite being told more than once that my feelings are not reciprocated equally, I push on. I perform acts of love. I say things and do things to let them know they are loved and cared for. I show up. I provide support. I offer assistance. I intermingle. I let them know I’m thinking about them. I offer up smiles that should make their heart melt. I do all these things unselfishly. It wouldn’t be possible to do these things with half a mind that I should be getting something in return – grown, adult love doesn’t work like that. That’s how “love” worked for me. This is different. And…yet I can’t help but question it.
After all, when you water a plant and place it in the sunshine, does it not grow?