I was talking on the phone last night, but the conversation was distracted, as there was a car on fire about three hundred yards in front of me.
“Oh no!” Mom exclaimed when I clued her in.
“Yeah,” I breathed.
“Are there people in there?”
Although she couldn’t see, I still shook my head quickly. “No way. There are like four cop cars scattered around the place. They wouldn’t have left somebody in there.”
“Well that’s good… I think I hear an ambulance?” she asked hopefully.
“Yep — it’s on its way now,” I said, looking for it as it came.
For years now, I’ve been training myself to climb out of love. Cause you fall into it, right? Easily. Too easily. And things are really, really great for a while. But then, one very sad day, figuring out how to un-love that person suddenly becomes your all-consuming problem. If you’re there right now, my heart is with you, because I’m still there, and I’ve got some half-good news for both of us, because I believe that – to a certain extent – I have finally figured it out: How to ditch love. And the approach might surprise you.
First of all, here’s what I imagined love to look like this morning, driving to work again, my vision blurry with those stupid tears again:
Love is like a gift.
Your love for someone (romantic or platonic) essentially crafts a gift that is entirely unique to the person you want to give your love to. Right? And you’re excited to give it to them. You can’t wait to see the delight on their face and get a nice, big hug or a smooch on the lips from them afterwards.
But sometimes, that person doesn’t want your gift. Or they did before and now they don’t. And you’re suddenly standing in front of a closed door, a perfectly wonderful gift in your eager hands, and can hear them laughing with and loving someone else on the other side. And hearing this possibly makes you vomit.
You feel so bad that your body can’t even contain the sadness of it; it leaks right out of your eyes, nearly pulling you off the road, where you’d honestly like to just bury yourself underneath a crumpled car in a tragically smelly ditch.
But if you don’t end up wrecking your car, what DO you do? How do you bear the burden that love becomes when it is unrequited and doubles its weight with sadness? How do you move on — enjoy life, meet people, and all of that other, nice bullshit?
Here’s my brand new (and now undergoing testing) theory: You simply store it away, like a gift that can’t be given yet.
You take the gift and place it in a closet, or on a dresser, or some other safe place. If the person ever comes around, you’ve still got their gift. If they don’t, you’ll die with it in your closet or on your dresser. That’s okay, right? Better than just throwing it away (because unfortunately, in the case of love, returning it for a refund isn’t possible).
You might be thinking: Can’t I just give the gift to someone else? If only. It’s like a jacket perfectly tailored to the height, weight, and style of the guy or gal you loved before — the one you made it for. It wouldn’t fit the next one right. It wouldn’t look right, or feel right, and you’d hate seeing it on them.
And while love isn’t transferable, it is indestructible… so if the person you want to want it doesn’t want it, store it away, and then look away.
The firefighters showed up quickly. Soon, I was watching tall flames transform into thick billows of smoke, and I thought to myself, when and how will my inner chaos die down? Because unlike the car, no firefighters are heading my way.
And I received my answer this morning, foregoing – once again – listening to tunes on the way to work for some more “talking out loud” self-therapy. I navigated through – not around – all of the grief and guilt and jealousy and false hope and finally arrived at my answer.
And I can already hear it… a week, a month or so from now, another friend asking: “Soooooooo, it’s been a while. Are you over it now? Are you finally okay?”
And I’ve got my answer ready for them. For you, too, if you’d like to hear it (I really hope it helps… at least a little):
“I’m not over it, but the good news is: I’m no longer waiting to be. I’ve discovered that love – real love – isn’t something you can get over, ditch, or toss away. It’s something that sits peacefully and quietly, hands folded neatly in its lap, and waits. Daringly hopefully, at times, and then desperately and bitterly at others… but it waits. And not just for a while, sorry… for always. And I’ve reconciled myself to this: Always waiting.”
“And that’s okay! While I’m waiting, look at what I’m doing… working, writing, furthering my education, learning another language, going on all sorts of adventures and enjoying the company of people who do love me… now, I won’t lie to you; I sometimes reach my right hand over in the car and pretend that an invisible person – that person – is holding it; I laugh when a song they liked comes on, wishing we were dancing to it, and I tense up nervously slash excitedly slash angrily when someone who looks like them passes by me, here and there, as I’m ambling along… but I just keep telling myself that their gift is still out there, and that it isn’t going away. It’s reassuring to remember this, and simply surrendering to the forever-ness of this love – of all real love – INSTEAD of continuing to resist it has taken the edge off of my pain. Where sadness and missing him and wondering about “our” could-be future used to preoccupy my mind, I’m now free to think about other stuff, like lunches that consist of more than just coffee and pistachios. I feel free, and happy, to plan new adventures and to look at other people and to wonder about them… because I’m no longer trying to put out old fires. Now, I’m just watching them burn.”
And the longer that gift stays there in its box, catching dust and dog hair on its fancy wrapping, the less I remember or think about it. So I’m doing okay. Very well, actually.