On learning to love when you’ve lost, and how it’s only kind of like riding a bike
I’m scared of a lot of things.
See: spiders, vest-less roller-coasters and falling out of cars mid-turn (to name a few).
But, for some odd reason, I’ve never been scared of relationships, even when both history and bad television say I should be. I’ve never been afraid to give my all to another person — be it a friend, a family member or a shiny new significant other with whom I’ve barely unpacked all of my emotional baggage. It’s how I’m wired. It’s what I do, and I do it well (depending on your definition of well and, of course, your threshold for personal space).
Sure, with that instinct to give often comes the need to expect; to desire just as much, if not more, from a partner than I feel I am shelling out so effortlessly to them. But, in the years since my last relationship (yes, I did say years), I’ve worked on that. I like to think that, by now, I’ve grasped the idea of balance and subdued my crazy* (at least well enough not to startle suiters and — perhaps above all else — well enough to actually enjoy the everyday thrills of being with somebody you love and adore). In other words, I’ve gotten my shit together — or so I hope.
After all, dating is like riding a bike, right?
Only the bike has a cute face and a full beard and tells you you’re beautiful and texts you good morning.
Though, this time last last year, I found myself head over both heels and at least a little nervous that the chain was going to snap. And it was only semi margarita-drunk that I was able to come to terms with why.
It was a Tuesday. I was stuffed to the brim with burrito and sobbing at the thought of how happy I was. For the first time in my life, I have found a boy who makes me smile in the morning, even when I haven’t heard from him in a bit because he occasionally works while I sleep and vice versa. One whose touch turns my mind to pudding, my body to jello and my thoughts to some foreign language I’ve only heard in movies. One who came from so far out of left field that I’m still convinced he isn’t real and one who, for the first time in my life, I cannot ever bring home to at least one of my parents.
There’d been a peach-sized pit in my stomach since our first date that I couldn’t quite shake until that Tuesday (and I couldn’t put into the proper words ’til now). Turns out, that pit was not a food baby, nor a kidney stone, but worry. It just took a little tequila to present itself.
Letting others in when you’ve known the gravity of grief is tricky because, point blank, learning to love when you’ve lost is hard as all hell.
There is a constant trepidation that, at any given moment, the rug will be ripped out from underneath you, because it has been before; That tomorrow he might be gone, not because he isn’t the real deal, but because those who at one time meant the most to you have left without warning before.
And this is not a reflection of this new person, because, heaven knows you don’t think he’s an asshole. Quite the opposite, actually. You know damn well that he would never leave you for dead (pun entirely unintended), no matter how many gin-provoked fights you pick. But still, there remains the ever-present, gnawing reminder that nothing gold can stay.
Though, on the other, only-half-as-morbid hand, if death teaches us anything at all, it’s that life is short. Way too short to be scared. Especially of what is real and what is wonderful and what is actually fucking good.
Alas, instead of meeting my father (who died when I was seventeen and only ever got to thoroughly question two of my high school sweethearts), my new beau found himself up against ten or so guy friends with just as high — if not higher — expectations. And, instead of my mother (who died just over three years ago, but somehow lived through the fiery hell-on-earth that was my mid-college breakup), he was welcomed with open arms — and chilled shots of Patron — by my Swift-esque girl gang.
Moral of the story, he was baptized by fire and hard liquor at the hands of my family of friends and that’s alright, too. Even my cousin’s five-year-old gave her seal of approval.
A friend of mine once advised me to think of this thing called love less like riding a bike, and more like something I would never in a million years agree to do unless drugged or paid an astronomical amount of money.
“Think of it like people think of skydiving. A thrill. Feeling very alive for a moment in time. Maybe forever. Maybe until you splat on the ground because you wound up with one of those parachutes that was actually a backpack with a comical list of items inside, i.e. anvil, pots and pans, rubber chicken, etc. But dig it until you can’t.”
One year later, I can safely say: No anvils here. And I can definitely still dig it.
* I once berated a college boyfriend for showing up to a house party in the same shirt as another girl. No, I am not kidding. Yes, publicly. (If you’re reading this, I am still sorry.)