Recently, I came across a diary that I wrote when I was 19, and I read it for the first time since I wrote it. That summer was the high point of my life. (So far, at least. Who knows what the future holds.)
I was traveling through Europe, and I was falling in love. Those were heady, intense, joyful days full of exploration and adventure. Love, with a backdrop of Holland and Belgium and France and Germany and Luxembourg and Switzerland… it just doesn’t get any better than that. It really doesn’t.
Reading about the events as they unfolded, with the benefit of hindsight, has been quite a unique experience. It’s kind of left me in a weird head space, if I’m honest. That summer shaped the rest of my life.
I don’t know if I’m the exception or the rule, but when I fall in love, I am all in. T was the one for me. I was convinced of it then, and I’m convinced of it now. That summer was full of laughter and endless conversations and making sweet, sweet love in strange places. I recount those things in my diary in intimate detail. I would have done anything for him. I would have sacrificed anything to make it work.
Unfortunately, he was of a more practical mindset. I truly believe that he loved me, but love was not his priority. I’ll never understand or relate to that, because in the end, love is all that matters, in my opinion. So the summer came and it went and he moved on — fairly quickly, I’m told, but I didn’t know that at the time. I kind of wish I had, because it might have made things easier for me.
I, on the other hand, went for, oh, decades, feeling like I wasn’t living the life I was supposed to be living. My life was one big detour down a really messed up side street in which I tried to settle for a happiness which always eluded me. I even trapped myself in a 16 year loveless, sexless, extremely safe relationship. What a waste.
I did fall in love a second time, with another California guy who also didn’t have the staying power or the confidence in our love to make a go of it. That’s a shame, because it could have been an incredible life. (I should probably run screaming whenever California guys cross my path.)
Meanwhile, T got married, and then divorced. But by that time I had fallen in love for a third time, with Chuck, who was amazing. For the first time since I was 19, I felt like life was “right”. I finally felt like I was over T. Chuck was passionate and intense and devoted and hilarious. And best of all, he loved me back in equal measure. He was all in. He was a gift. And then 4 years later, he went and died on me. Well, shit. That wasn’t the plan.
So now, on a whole lot of levels and for a whole lot of reasons, I’m even more convinced that I’m living a life that I’m not supposed to be living. Grief will do that to you. It changes you. But I’m sort of getting used to loving people who aren’t there to reciprocate.
After I read the final page of that old diary, I did something stupid. I went snooping on Facebook, only to find that T is once again in a relationship. He seems quite content. They travel to exotic places. They cuddle on the couch. They have family dinners. He managed to land on his feet, but then I always knew he would. He’s a land on your feet type of guy. I even saw a video clip in which he talks, and sure enough, my heart started pounding the second I heard his voice.
T once told me I wasn’t the kind you marry. Apparently not. Because the ones I wanted to marry didn’t want to marry me, and the ones who wanted to marry me, I didn’t want to marry. Things shouldn’t have turned out that way.
But I’m finally in a place where I think T got it wrong. I’m exactly who someone should marry, because when I love someone, that feeling never ever dies. (It’s the liking that comes and goes, and takes work to maintain.)
I have come to know that that never-ending kind of love is a rare, precious, priceless gift that should never be discounted, never be passed over. Because you may not ever see it again. Cherish it, nurture it, if you are lucky enough to have it.
It’s a strange feeling, having so much love to give and nowhere to put it. If I could go back and talk to that 19 year old, would I tell her to do anything differently? No, not really. The feelings she had were authentic and pure and undeniable. I might tell her to savor it even more. Devour that love, because you’re going to be on short rations the rest of your life, honey. When you’re young, you think there will be always be more opportunities, and that the possibilities are endless, that good luck will come to visit you over and over again, but that’s bullshit.
Before my comment section fills up with platitudes such as, “Before someone can love you, you must first love yourself,” or “You’ll find love when you stop looking for it,” or “There’s someone out there for you,” let me be practical for a minute and say that the older I get, the longer my odds become. It is equally possible that I’ll be living the rest of my life completely and utterly alone. I need to come to grips with that possibility. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still hold out a certain amount of hope, but it would be much healthier to live the life I have and try to make the most of it rather than hold out for some fantasy. I’m working on it.
That diary, after that glorious summer, is full of so much pain and confusion and struggle that the re-reading often reduced me to tears. “Why is my love not enough?” “What did I do wrong?” “Why is this happening? I don’t understand.” I wish I could go back and hug that girl. But I couldn’t really offer her that much comfort. I’m still asking myself those same damned questions 33 years later.
Here’s a secret that no one tells you: Life just isn’t like a Hollywood movie. Hollywood is in California, too.
Suddenly I feel the need to go home and hug my dog.