One of the best parts of my (already pretty awesome) job is that usually after I write something that’s a more of a personal narrative, I receive emails from readers who come asking questions… about me, about them, and about what I think they should do about something or other in their lives. Now, that’s a) hysterical because about a year and a half ago I was the last person that should be answering anybody’s life questions, and b) unbelievably flattering that someone would think I could. But the point of telling you this is that there is one commonality among the problems they tell me they have, and it usually revolves around how they stop hurting and learn to choose/find love again. And God isn’t that the saga of all of our lives? We’re either battling our inner demons before they completely eat us away or we’re struggling with them in the form of other people.
I think it may have something to do with vulnerability, actually. I don’t think there is anything as universally humanizing as seeing someone right after they’ve really had their heart broken. They aren’t the prideful, strong people they always said they’d be. They’re desperate. They’re exhausted because every option has been exhausted and there’s nothing left for them to do than to get on their metaphorical knees with someone and just lay it on the line. Because we think this will change their minds. We think showing them how we care about them enough to let them bring us to rock bottom will make them love us again. It won’t. They won’t. But we always think so anyway.
So in the days, weeks, months and years after that you spend putting yourself back together, almost using the idea of revenge as fuel for your proverbial fire to find great things for yourself, you realize that there’s still something missing. You’ll have all you ever wanted and nobody to call at the end of the day and tell it to. No warm hand to hold when you’re a little unsure and nobody to tell you that no matter what happens, they’ll stay. You realize that you didn’t choose yourself, you chose anger to combat lost love. And that won’t ever work out in your favor.
And so I think this is where the work of choosing comes in. Love will sprinkle itself into your life in little opportune tid bits that are most often completely inopportune and you’ll have to choose whether or not you’re willing to sacrifice that pride wall you spent all this time building.
I don’t think love is always a huge, cataclysmal emotional event. I think sometimes it sits in front of you for a very long time until you glance over and say, oh, there you are. I don’t think it’s your saving grace. I think it’s the hand that you hold while you save yourself. I don’t think it’s someone who sweeps you off your feet. I think it’s someone who stays right beside you and lets you walk on your own. I don’t think it’s always a blazing but temporary insanity of racing hearts and hormones. I think that’s the love that changes us. The love that should stay with us is the calm, deep, thorough knowing that you want to be with someone despite logical objections. And what may be even more important than anything is that I think you find your own love at the very edges of where other people’s love pushes you.
And the problem is thinking it all has to happen at once. We just place so much expectation on what love has to mean that we run away from it before it even has the chance to blossom. Change happens at the level of gesture and love is often not a fire inside us but a warmth that grows. This kind of love means intimately someone. It may take time to build. It will take real commitment. It always requires that first gesture. It takes one phone call, one little tiny 10 second bit of courage and risk that you’ll be completely shut down. It requires you taking one step even when you’re uncertain.
So when the question is how do I find and choose love again, I think the answer is that it’s nothing to be found, it’s there, and choosing it is just very gently reaching out and holding its hand. It’s the most unexpected place and it’s the most overlooked. It requires you to understand that love is far more, far greater and far more poignant than a failed relationship or two, if not romance as a whole. And it requires you to not force it, not lament the certainty of it’s existence and not complain that it isn’t grandeur enough. It’s letting the very small whispers inside you become full fledge symphonies and never worrying that your song isn’t what someone else wants to hear. That’s what the real gesture is, and I hope you do choose to make it.