First love

1. I found myself in a closet with my first love when we were both 10 or so. It was a rigged game of 7 minutes in heaven and our time was still ticking. I remember feeling very cramped between the vacuum cleaner and his body. He asked, “Do you really want to do this?” I shook my head and he mumbled, “Me neither.” So we just stood close enough that I could feel his goose bumps touch my own.

I was in love with my best friend. My biggest scar on my face resulted from proving to him I could be like one of the boys. We vandalized the neighborhood together, constructed made-up games together, philosophized in the way that kids do about anything from school to sex together. Loving him was a rush in many ways, but it was also masked and stifled from our perpetual infantile feigned dislike of each other. Even after we kissed “just for fun” behind a bush outside my childhood home I was still “just like a brother” to him, but I knew a brother wouldn’t touch my face like that.

We couldn’t possibly get past a platonic relationship because we knew too much about each other, and were not at all what we pictured in a potential romantic partner. We missed it. We missed each other. The last thing he said to me, when I returned to pick up something I’d left at his house a few months after I abruptly moved: “I didn’t even miss you” and I tried to believe the same.

2. My second love grew out of admiration and a hint of jealousy of his talents.

I was a parched valley and somehow he knew exactly how to fill up all the jagged cracks and spaces. I fell hard for his silver prose that dripped out his fingertips and laced our nightly chats. Our fondness for one another went back and forth for an extended amount of time, and my infatuation swelled with every split moment of eye contact, chat notification, flash of wit. He knew I had a penchant for stories and he happened to have a knack for telling them, so I thought for sure this was an indicator that this was meant to be. Loving him felt like blooming over and over and over again.

It was a picture-perfect courtship. He knew all the right things to say. He told everyone I was beautiful every chance he had to, whether or not I was listening. I was infatuated, maybe even obsessed with him, but I was also very well infatuated with the concept of being in love. It was partly selfish too, because I loved the kind of light, airy person I was when I was glowing from being in love. I did genuinely love him for his genuineness and his soft-heartedness, though I guess I we did not know or understand each other as well as we thought we did until perhaps the very end.

“I love yous” turned quickly into “I miss yous” and it was soon evident enough that this could not have a place in reality given the outside circumstances. It needed to be cut off, too, because perhaps our relationship didn’t have roots deep enough for us to withstand everything that threatened us.

One of the last things he’s said to me, when miles and lifestyles away we check up on each other: “You realize how people change and thus can better understand them.”

3. I ran into my third love in the library, and when that happened I genuinely felt like time had stopped, that something important was happening.

I fell in love with a wonderful collection of brillances and imperfections. It began this time out of a strange curiosity which became a fascination and attraction I couldn’t bring myself to pull away from. I fell in love with all the little habits, all the awe-inspiring pieces I gleaned about him from every interaction. It was affection, then connection. Loving him feels electric and stimulating, something that continually feeds itself.  At some point we had a mutual understanding that we were both committed to taking this relationship seriously and have overcome so many obstacles to prove it. Our faults and shortcomings seem to mesh neatly with each other as do our respective assets. We support and encourage each other in big decisions and in our passions. We talk about our future together. We carry each other through our weakest moments and bask in each other’s success.

We take the time to work through our inevitable conflicts, however messy and aggravating.  I know it is love because he accepts the nitty gritty details of my past. He is not afraid of my demons nor of the culture I come from that does not welcome him. It’s love because all my shortcomings to him are opportunities for growth. When I walked away and told him to leave to protect him from all my sharp edges, he came running after me to tell me he wanted all of me. Somehow where I see smudges and insecurities and crooked lines, he sees something close to beautiful. He has the patience of mountains and the gentle presence of rain clouds coaxing out the buried spring inside me.

Making me happy genuinely makes him happy. Loving him doesn’t make me feel at his mercy or totally dependent on his affection for my livelihood. Instead, we thrive on each other’s joy but also make each other feel entirely secure. I fell in love with someone who makes me feel more me. I don’t even quite feel like I fall in love with him more and more, but rather rise in it.

It’s everything I could ever want, and everything I didn’t know I needed.

The last thing he said to me: “See you soon.”

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What it means

I do not say “I love you” very often.

1. When I say I love you, I mean that you are literally the primary reason I live and my entire existence consists of trying to thank you. It means you’re the only person I would die for, and that you form the better half of me. It means that no matter how many times, or how deeply, we hurt each other, I will always be there for you. It means I will call you out, and I will encourage you. I will lift you up the best I can even if it means my arms will shatter. It means I value your opinion above anyone else’s. My heart bruises when yours does and my entire body sings when you accomplish what you set out to do. I am constantly torn between wrapping you up in affection and strangling your throat in fury. When I say I love you it means that I can’t even think of not ever being able to hold you either way. I love you because it’s not even about the thickness of blood at this point. Instead it’s about the choices we check each other on. It’s about clasped hands in most absolute senseless situations, and navigating the insanity together. It means I am forever grateful to you for saving my life, even though you never had to do a thing. It means everything I do, I do for you.

2. When I say I love you, I mean that I flourish in your light. It means I will always defend you, even if, and especially if, the assailant is your own self. It means I’ll share anything and everything with you. It means you inspire me to challenge myself and be better. It means I’ll send you dumb questions just to have an excuse to bask in the brilliance of your perspectives and experiences. It means I’m moved by your stories. It means you’re who I trust most in times of crises, and it means you’re who I trust most in times of joy. It means that even if I do not understand what you say, I will wholeheartedly listen. It means I am secure in knowing you would do the same.

3. When I say I love you, it means I will do the little things. I will pick up the details and weave them into the best design of understanding and periodically hold it up to show you. This is because when I love you, I love all of you. I will persist in futile attempts to know you better than you know yourself. It means I thrive on the electricity you trigger in the space behind my eyes. It means I will bloom and bloom for you like a drop of dye in a cup of water. It means I will be the first to offer you water when it’s hot out, and offer water again and again as if I hope to be the source that fills all the empty parts of you. It means I will try to be everything for you: nagging, indulgent, adventurous, trustworthy. It means I feel like the jagged pieces of you fit so nicely into the jagged pieces of me. It means I’ll put your needs before my own, and it means I’ll be the biggest fan of your life.

I would like to think

I would like to think that my mom thinks of me from time to time. I would like to think she still talks about me to all her friends. I would like to think everything would be okay if I could just fall into her arms.

I would like to think that someday I would drive up to her apartment and she’d ask me to make myself comfortable. I would smile and look at the porcelain knick-knacks she would still collect. I would like to think she would tell me, “You are everything I hoped you would become.” She would say, “I’m proud of you,” and, “You did the right thing.” She would brush my hair and tell me not to worry about what the boys and girls think. She would tell me what she’s learned, loved, and lost. She’d move through the room like a planet in orbit, with grace and purpose, as she shows me how to make my favorite dishes. I would like to think I would forgive her, and in turn lay down my burden for her to examine. She’d pick through my pieces and nod to herself. I would like to think that her heart would bruise a little every time mine took a blow. Then she’d look at me and give me the sort of loving advice you remember forever. I would like to think that she would believe in my half-baked ambitions.

But I know none of this could be real. She would avert her gaze and tell me she’s sorry. She would tell me not to ever bring myself to hate anyone, if I can help it. She would thank me for looking out for my brother. She’d then ask if I smoked, and I would say no as she takes a long drag on her own cigarette. In the bittersweet cloud she’d breathe, “A lot of times, we have to make sacrifices for the ones we love.” She’d tell me not to cry, tell me everything is going to be okay. She’d pull my hand into hers and tell me, “Don’t ever get yourself into a situation where you must depend entirely on someone else.”

She’d be amused at the person I’ve become, I think. I think she’d be a little afraid. She’d ask without accusation, “Do you think you’re too good for me now?” And no matter my reply, she would understand, because we are the same in that neither of us have ever believed we were deserving of much love. Her eyes would be wistful because she’d realize we were now poles apart. She would not make the same mistake my dad made and try to draw me into her like a child. No, she’d ask why I was so sad, I’d tell her, and she’d hold me without saying a word.

I would like to think that the last thing we told each other was, “I love you.” I would like to think I remember her well.

I would like to think I am a normal sassy teenager with normal problems, or that I have recovered well. In all honesty, this is a gaping, aching hole I have so desperately tried to fill. Emptiness cannot satisfy emptiness.

I would like to think whenever I told friends to tell their moms they loved them, they heeded my advice.

I would like to think I could honor my mom in ways other than long-winded scribblings transcribed and drafted at odd hours. I would like to think I had reasons to honor my mom, other than the fact that she’s my mom.

I do know that she respected that I wrote a lot, even as a child, about fleeting nothings, and I do know that today’s her birthday. This is the only way I knew how to link these two things I know for sure.

I love you (restrictions may apply)

Unconditional love is looking more like a burden that eternally ties you to others, a love that cannot set you free because it is a heavy weight. You stride when they stride, but if they fall you cannot walk away. So you fall, too. Unconditional love is the hacking old man you keep tending to with washcloths and steady spoonfuls of soup. You can’t kill him, but he won’t die. He is immortal, so he keeps existing instead. He sticks around but he is too decrepit to lift anything, not even his own head; he’s too senile to tell you stories like he used to. He just exists.

Unconditional love is: “I will love you no matter what. If you murder my family I will still love you. If you rob a bank I will shake my head but I  will still love you. If you are mean to me when you have a bad day I will not be happy, but I will still love you. If you stab me in the back, even if I don’t understand why, I will still love you. If you choose the path of destruction and return unrecognizable, I will still love you.”

Unconditional love is forgiveness, forever. It is the perpetual gamble, even when you run out of all you had to bring to the table. Eventually you’re playing with nothing at all. You want so much to stop, but this is their game so you cannot leave.

With unconditional love there is the certainty of soaring together and crumbling together.

Conditional love is: “I love you, but if you do that I cannot love you any longer. If you break these promises, I won’t love you. If you turn into someone I do not know, I won’t love you. If you smash me to pieces too may times, I won’t love you. If you lie to me, if you dishonor me, if you betray your friends, if you go too far, I won’t love you. If you do not love me, I won’t love you. If you give up, I won’t love you. If you refuse to change, I won’t love you.”

Conditional love has standards and boundaries. Conditional love doesn’t mean ephemeral, or fickle. It means there is a threshold at which, once reached, you will choose your own heart before someone else’s.

Message

Last Wednesday evening I received a Facebook event invitation to an Audrie Potts’ Remembrance Day at Saratoga High. I glanced briefly at the description of the event and read the words “passed away.” No one ever really likes to use the word “suicide.”

I wore teal last Friday but said nothing about it to anyone. I didn’t even have class that day. I won’t pretend to have been touched by Audrie’s death or claim that she had potential or that she was a beautiful girl. I won’t use this post as a rant against bullying or to demand that people stop committing suicide already. I’m not going to claim that life is worth living and would you just look at that blue sky and that green grass, etc, etc.

This is for you, in particular.

Life sucks a lot. People tend to suck a lot, too. The universe is a bit kooky as well. You and I could sit on a park bench and list all the things that are wrong with all the world we live in and we would be sitting there for a long, long while.

Know, first, that you have choice. Life or death is a basic one; I know that it’s a decision that some people have to make at every moment of every day. Yes or no is another. There are so many things within your control. There is such a thing as free will. Do not put yourself in a situation that you do not want to be in. Do not dig yourself in a hole if you can use that same shovel to prop yourself out or hit someone else with.

Now, some things are truly out of our control. I know this well. The key, then, is not to worry about the things that are out of your control. Why would you do that? Your life can be spinning out of whack or someone might be making your life hell or you’ll find that the universe just feels like fucking around with you. If you can’t do anything about it, let go. Please. This can be one of the hardest things in the world to do ever. This wrestle with life’s natural course is what causes much grief. Don’t be stubborn about it. This, too, shall pass. Forward now. When you find that you’re headed toward a cliff and the gears are stuck and everything is moving too fast and you know you’re going to hit rock bottom anyways, don’t jump out. Keep your seat belt on and check the map to see what’s next.

Rid yourself of guilt. You do not have to please anyone. You do not have to be good. You don’t even have to be happy.  Dole out the appropriate forgiveness and/or apologies then be done with it. The person who you should be most concerned with gaining forgiveness from is yourself. That sounds cheesy, but some people spend their lives trying to extend their love to whoever will receive. They fight for all these causes without realizing that their own selves are the worthiest causes there are. They leave nothing for themselves. Don’t do that. You are your own top priority. If you are cast out of the community that you are a part of, if you are homeless and unemployed and sleeping in the gutter but you have a healthy sense of self-love, you have more riches than the grandest treasures. You have to make this confrontation with yourself.

Do not put yourself in a box. People talk a lot about YOLO and being infinite and existentialism, but these are the same people who tell me, “What if this is the best person I can be? What if I can’t be any better than this? What more can they expect of me?” The answers, respectively, are: “That’s bullshit. You can. A whole lot.” Stop with the excuses. You are you, but you can be more. If you really don’t want to contribute anything to this world, if you really don’t care for anyone on this planet, if you really don’t care for leaving anything behind, then at the very least seek something for yourself. You can keep this a secret if you want to.

Sadness is addictive and it is romanticized. Some people, myself included, will genuinely enjoy that comfortable rut, indulging in the self-importance. I am feeling so much sorrow. I am going to consume innumerable amounts of fat and sugar to make myself feel worse and better at the same time. No one understands me. Heck, I don’t understand me. I am going to read and write and post self-pitying things and cry myself to sleep. Don’t do this to yourself. Allot a few hours or a few days for moping then get on with it.

Do not judge pain. Oftentimes someone or something will hurt us in horrid ways. We think: I don’t deserve this. This person shouldn’t have done that or they shouldn’t have said that to me. They are hurting me. I cannot function properly thinking about this. Now I can’t do anything right. This is unfair. I hate this. Sometimes we will hurt someone and feel horrid afterward. They don’t deserve this. I don’t know what to do. They would be better off without me. I am only causing hurt.

No. Let the pain come and go. Recognize this pain for what it is, use it as fuel for the journey, watch the scar form and remember why it’s there, then let it pass on through.

This isn’t about self-confidence. It’s about humility and recognizing self-worth.

It’s not easy. It’s not necessarily worth it. I’m not good at this whole hope thing. I make no guarantees for anything, but I do believe that there’s no point living life half-asleep.

 

 

*note: I know that I’m not the cuddliest, most approachable person in the world (whether because you know me well, don’t know me at all, or you can just tell by my writing style. Do not waste your time by trying to contradict me with this point). BUT even if I have ever told you I hated your guts (or you can just tell), or if we haven’t talked in years, or if you don’t even know me please do not hesitate to call me, Facebook me, send me your anonymous messages, leave letters at my door if you just need someone to listen or to have knock some sense into you or even if you feel like letting me know that this blog is a load of crap. That is all. Take care.