Within two laps, the chlorinated water had numbed my lips the way thousands of kisses all in a row would, but I barely noticed. The bilateral pulse of arms was hypnotizing my mind into a blank space, where recent events were able to unfold without judgment or emotion.
Like a free-style zombie, I replayed a bizarre misunderstanding between me and an ex-boyfriend. He and I weren’t friends. We were not not friends. But despite huge amounts of respect and enthusiasm for one another, that wasn’t possible for the time being.
Our being in the same place at the same time felt like the universe responding to my last good-hearted ask, the one I wasn’t supposed to think about but asked anyway. Along with a peculiar use of pronouns and the fact that a person who didn’t know us started trying to hook us up, I misread the story being told in front of me.
The real tale, the one I should have read between the lines, unfolded like notes passed between two middle school girls in History class. Line by line. As I made sense of the actual book, the themes, and made note margins for myself, I felt as though my chest skin had been ripped open and pinned down, exposing my heart thumping away jackrabbit style.
In an effort to be kind, to protect my heart and smile, he’d kept a key component of his life under wraps. Like so many times before, I felt, in a word, foolish.
I paused in my swimming to stretch, my feet pressed flat against the wall and my arms pulling on the lipped edge. As I walked my feet, like a drenched downward dog, I remembered something I’d learned in Kimber’s yoga class about inhaling difficulties, swirling them into goodness in our heart, and exhaling them back into the world.
While I stretched, in came the difficulties. out went love. While I swam, too.
The blank mind-space returned as my arms churned like a windmill trying to fight Don Quixote. I saw the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge on a blue skied day on that canvas, then they lyrics of a Regina Spektor song. Then I saw the universe – not as stars and supernova, all final frontier style – but instead as the entity in which we ask for what we want (whether it’s what we want or what we’re putting out there).
And I realized something pretty huge.
The recent confusing exchange, subsequent internal thought process, moments with my best friend because of unnamed reeling inside of me, and even swimming now hadn’t been about what I put out in the universe recently. It had to do with something I’d asked long before this blog existed. Before there was a boy with a pony that broke my heart. Before the first time I had sex. Before my first sixth grade dance. Before Kindergarten. Maybe even, though I don’t always buy into pre-birth life, before I was born.
I’d always wanted to love someone whole heartedly and unconditionally, though I didn’t know what that meant (and even though since perhaps before I was born, I haven’t believed this sort of love could be reflected upon me). I wanted to know what it meant. What it felt like. I wanted a definition of unconditional love, of how I’d know it when it was present. I wanted something far beyond what the media presents to us, what we were told to feel, and even what the epitome of love – marriage ceremonies – said.
I now knew.
I don’t want to love someone to death. I want to love them to happiness.
I realize now this is the base sentiment of my love. It’s the reason I love so relentlessly. And why kindness and niceness have the reigns on my life (and why I’m willing to take Sean Allen’s advice and not ever change). I also realize now what unconditional love looks like when it’s reflected on me. And that I do indeed have it – just not how I thought it might look.
*Two asides, related to the above yet separate on their own:
1. Awhile back, I wrote: Maybe when it comes to dating and love, I’ll always be foolish….maybe I’m okay with that. It means I lived, I learned, I felt, and I loved in some sort of organized chaos sort of way. If all that is true, maybe being foolish is the best part. Based on what I know now, I’d like to amend that statement:
Maybe I’ll always be hopeful and foolish. Maybe that is the best part.
2. After the story above unraveled, I asked my ex why key information and pronouns had been omitted. Paraphrased, his answer was to protect me.
We live in a world of Chandlers, so many of us afraid of eliciting an emotional reaction, so we duck and cover without ever dropping a bomb.
Man, lord knows I get that. I’m at fault for trying to protect people’s feelings and getting things mucked up maybe more than any other person on the planet. Which is fundamentally a jackalope thing to do. Instead of protection, if leads to other feelings, like “crazy” or foolish.
I recently read Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun and toward the end, years-long lies were revealed to multiple people who had been struggling to make sense of a tragic event. The lies were woven to protect those people, and instead had caused them grief of a high magnitude. When the truth came out, there wasn’t screaming or crying or anger. Instead, rather, there was simply the line, “That makes sense.”
Perhaps when it comes to feelings, truth leads to understanding.