Somewhere deep inside
My memories of you claw
Their way to the top.
You said, ‘Why do I frighten you?’
Frighten me? Yes you do frighten me. You act as though we will be together forever. You act as though there is infinite pleasure and time without end. How can I know that? My experience has been that time always ends. In theory you are right, the quantum physicists are right, the romantics and the religious are right. In practice we both wear a watch. If I rush at this relationship it’s because I fear for it. I fear you have a door I cannot see and that any minute now the door will open and you’ll be gone. Then what? Then what as I bang the walls like the Inquisition searching for a saint? Where will I find the secret passage? For me it will be just the same four walls.”
I spend my nights in
How you’d see my life.
Sometimes I can feel
You slipping away. And that
Burns holes in my heart.
What began as a pleasant buffer period between coming home and re entering the workforce has twisted and turned and perverted itself into a demoralizing, somewhat agonizing, daily battle. I find myself in the middle of a nearly constant internal battle between the part of me that swears that I’ll never be successful and the part of me that should have been a Division 1 football cheerleader. It’s exhausting.
I planned on returning home, calling in a few favors, updating and sending off my resume to a few companies, and then accepting an offer to work before the end of August. Well, it’s the second day of September and all I’ve encountered have been dead ends, faint leads, and wishy-washy employment agencies. At this point I’ve not received more than a “thank you for applying but….” email on three or four occasions- out of about a million. It’s as if I’ve managed to make myself so unqualified for any desirable position that even the “we didn’t like you enough” robots are behind on getting back to me. Sigh.
And that’s not even the scariest part. The scariest part is that I secretly resent myself for the life choices I’ve made. My degree is pretty useless looking to employers. I had an absolute blast during the four years it took for me to receive it but, it is ultimately worth nothing without a masters degree to back if up. My trip, while eye opening, motivating, and educational, can be (in the most negative of times) boiled down to 2.5 months being criticized and beaten down by the world’s most unhappy citizen. Like I said, in the most negative times I feel that way. But I still feel it.
I’m also terrified of being trapped again. I’m scared of entering into a job that bores me to tears, causes me endless amounts of stress, and doesn’t allow me the freedom to go on the adventures I want to plan. And that’s what my prospective job market looks like- boring. stressful. restrictive.
So, what do I do? I can feel sorry for myself and break down each aspect of my life, destroy every minute choice I’ve made in the last decade, and try to see where I managed to initially go wrong, or, I can keep feeding that little cheerleader, run her through gymnastic drills, and encourage her to scream her little heart out in as many languages as she can.
At least I have some hope. For now.
Now I have the time
To reflect and gain insight
But I’d rather dream.
Crisp air fills my chest
As I climb higher than I
Once was able to.
I spent much of my childhood, teenage years, and, the wee hours of my adulthood, falling in love with love. As a teen, I watched every romantic comedy I could get my hands on, read every love story over and over again until the pages were worn out and earmarked around my favorite love scenes, listened to every country album released, memorizing the agonizing choruses and bridges of musicians professing their undying love for the person they dream about each night. I dreamt with growing frequency and intensity of the first time the words “I love you” would echo in my ears, rehearsed my responses to hearing them, and then practiced saying them back, “I love you, too.” I was, to the absolute strictest sense, a hopeless romantic.
And then, when I was 19, I had my first chance to live out my dream, to hear those words, tear up dramatically, and say them back, before flinging my arms around the love of my life and being swept off of my feet.
Instead? I heard “I love you” for the first time at the tail end of our first real fight. Looking back, I can see now that although he may have loved me, those words being uttered in such circumstances were likely his way of ending the feud and getting his girlfriend back on a more mellow emotional level. At the time, however, I didn’t care. My dream hadn’t come true and I certainly forgot what I’d rehearsed, but I was in love, at least for a while.
Then came boyfriend #2. I saw a new opportunity to have my grand scene take place and I began dreaming about the moment it would occur, too scared to say it first, of course, but about 6 months in, I was sure I was in love with him. But … the “I love you” that began as a mere blip on my radar soon grew into a fiery, stormy beacon that loomed over our relationship. Over a year in and the scene still hadn’t played out, even in the loosest, “let’s just end this fight with a bandaid” sense. So, I sat him down and chatted with him. Asked him if he loved me and, if not, why we were even still together; asked him what ‘love’ meant to him; asked him if he was scared. A discussion about the meaning of love ensued and by the end of it, we half heartedly uttered the three words to each other.
We broke up 3 months later. As in the first instance, hindsight is 20/20 and I can see now that I could have been the first person to tell him how I felt, but, hopelessly romantic, 22 year old me, wasn’t going to budge from her “love conquers all” pedestal and accept that in the twenty-first century, women should be empowered enough to dictate their love life.
Finally, boyfriend #3 strolled in. This time, I was wary. This time, I was pretty shaky whenever I thought I felt flickers of the L-word inside of my chest. This time, I beat them down. I stopped dreaming so much about my big love scene. Stopped pressuring myself to have something grand happen, and hoped that, this time, things would happen the way they do for everyone else, no frills, no bangs, no big emotional fireworks. Just the right scene and a few words. I was sure that “New relationship milestone achieved!” would flash across the scene somewhere but I didn’t care. I just wanted to be told I was loved in the purest sense.
After a year of being together and nearly 6 months of living together, there was still nothing. zip. zilch. nada. bubkiss. I had started to build up walls around my heart this time, measures to protect myself should I have to proactively ‘persuade’ another person to love me. And I had to. Not just have the conversation I’d had with boyfriend #2, but I actually had to sit down and drag the words out of his mouth, his heart. His protests that my “idea of love was different” from his own, and that “saying ‘I love you’ would mean something different to me” than what he meant. That was a slap in the face. But, desperate to hear those words from the man I’d been idealizing for a year, I acquiesced to his definition of my fantasy, pounding more cement into the foundation I thought I could finally break down. This should have been a sign from the gods that our relationship was doomed.
Being told ‘I love you’ is the purest way of expressing your desire to be with someone, to have a future with them, to ingrain them in your life, to tell them that they are yours and that they would like, no LOVE, for you to be theirs. ’I love you’ shouldn’t be painful. It shouldn’t hurt. It should release something inside of you that has been building up over time until it reaches a point of bursting out of your chest, filling your lungs with air, and painting your soul on every surface surrounding you and your beloved.
It shouldn’t be a conversation. It should be a moment. One marked by silliness, epicness, accomplishment, tears, laughter, beautiful views, dark nights, intense vulnerability….
This is how I think of love. This is what my experience has been. Now, today, the thought of having that conversation again makes my insides squirm and my heart scream in fear. It shouldn’t be a bandaid. It shouldn’t be a persuasion. It shouldn’t be held over your head like a ransom note until you’ve fooled yourself into believing someone else’s idea of what love is. I have conversations about love with friends and family and can feel something moving around inside of me, an empty void that has been wanting its fill since I watched my first Disney film. I can also feel panic set in and I do my best to beat it down. The difficulty is that after craving something for so long, the very idea of it starts to seem like a mirage, an unachievable ideal…
-or poem- contains the words
to define your heart.
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
I’ve found myself drawn
To you like no other. But,
Your pull is magic.
Okay, go ahead
Push onward up to the sky;
Find the horizon.