Happy Anniversary, Darlings

I don’t eat shrimp. I don’t eat shrimp, and therefore I do not know how to cook shrimp. Why one day I found myself overcome by the urge to learn how to cook shrimp is a mystery I’ll never unravel. It’s remarkable how much you learn about love by first learning what it is not. I had hatched a plan to keep my boyfriend occupied at work longer than he had to be. We worked at a bar together. The whole plan backfired.

I am cooking shrimp at home into a nice sautee while he is, presumably, occupied at work. It was a special occasion. It was our anniversary. Not only was I cooking shrimp, I was grilling some filets. I had a table set. The whole cheesy nine yards, with a tablecloth I didn’t own and had to go out to buy, and some candles. I saw this on some film or another. It seemed like a great idea at the time. Shrimp is disgusting. It feels funny and it smells terrible. Finally I let my person on the inside know to send him home.

“He’s finishing a drink,” they let me know. Okay. So I waited. I waited until the food got cold. And then I waited some more. I waited until he came home too obliterated to even notice there had been a table set in the first place. This was July 17th some time in my very early days of youth.

I’ll admit, men are notorious for forgetting important dates. This has clearly been my experience. So when some other real charmer tells me he asked me out on June 1st so as not to forget the date ever, I took this as a surely good sign. I can’t say I’ve forgotten that day once in my life. His manners now stand in contrast to some more unsavory characters I’ve had the displeasure to encounter. For the first time in my life, I’ve witnessed someone with the audacity to slide into my DM (which is a direct message, if you don’t know), at 4am and ask me if I’m still awake. At four. In the morning. When clearly, this is when people sleep. He had asked to follow me, I said fine. Did he ask for my phone number?

No, no he did not. He may as well have just walked into my back door. If you don’t have my number, what makes you think I am talking to you? It blew my mind. It’s bad enough nobody leaves a calling card with your valet anymore, or writes a freaking letter. This is a whole new level of discourteousness if I’ve ever seen an instance before. No manners whatsoever. Did he stop when I asked him to? Of course not. That’s why they invented a “block” button, and the pleasure to push it was all mine.

Women are notorious for making allowances for men all the time. Which I do. All the time. Like the guy who took me out on something like a first date to pet puppies. Yes, to pet puppies which is, in theory, a great idea. If you like petting puppies. Or if you like animals at all. I’m not saying lock your dog in the car on a hot day. I’m just saying keep that barking contraption away from me. Dogs make me nervous. Yes, even the small ones. That wasn’t even the first date. It might have been. That’s not when he, I mean we, decided to start counting. The whole relationship lasted approximately two months, the time it took me to figure out how to now back out of this relationship that started in yet another situation where I hadn’t yet learned how to say no. 

It was St. Patrick’s Day. Responsible kids that we were, we decided to book a hotel room with a bar downstairs in the lobby. While everyone else was busy jumping into the pool with clothes on, him and I were somewhere upstairs, not jumping into a pool (bummer), and I guess he probably expected something else, but it didn’t happen. Here’s what happened. He asks me out. In a hotel room. Maybe a few beers deep. I don’t drink. I am sober and wishing I was getting kicked out by security downstairs. After he asks, I say yes, obviously because I have to or else leave the party, which wasn’t the plan, he says:

“Do you mind if we tell everyone it’s tomorrow, so they don’t know I asked you out on St. Patrick’s Day?” Truly, I was flattered. Blew me away, this charming rake. Hence why I spent the next two months hatching an escape plan. Red flags and all, you know. To be fair, when I did finally break it off, he showed up at my house, unannounced and uninvited, with some flowers and some candy in a tin lunch box with a picture of Spongebob on the front. I threw away the flowers and took the candy. Saying no is one thing. Getting the point across is a cutthroat endeavor.

Speaking of bad timing, no day is better to propose to someone than a mere nine months after you’ve been dating, at the beginning of a career, on your birthday. No, not my birthday. It was his birthday. I didn’t even see it coming. I had planned a birthday party. I already had a guest list. That he added to. Behind my back. Which, not surprisingly, became a theme planning the wedding. How do you say no in front of 50 people you don’t know? We had just barely moved into our own place. We did not have a conversation about this. There was a cake and everything. Saying no meant dissolving the relationship, and I wasn’t ready to do that just yet, but here was down on one knee. One of the most embarrassing videos on the internet is the whole fiasco. Me in party gear. Him ready to propose. It was nothing like I dreamed or anything I could have imagined.

That’s how I get stuck with this guy. Do I advocate living with your boyfriend before the wedding night? Absolutely not. I get stuck with this thing, with this ring on my finger. That I picked out. That I thought, cutely, he might be saving for to surprise me with one day. “One day” came a lot sooner than I expected, let me tell you. He’s done all kinds of things to the word “forever.” For example, I had been engaged forever. Like all brides, I’m thinking we’ll be married before the year is out. This is exciting. I decide we shall run away, it shall be a beach, nobody will be there (PTSD), and it would be perfect.

No. He had an ever-growing guest list our wallets couldn’t accommodate. The whole thing was a mess, not to mention I had just started a career. I didn’t have time to plan anything, to be honest, and if I’m fair, he met me on the back end of all this other shit, so he already had a train wreck to deal with in the first place. I’m not sure I remembered any of our anniversaries. Most of my thoughts were preoccupied about setting a date, one he had imposed on me, without talking to me first, and this didn’t blow over so well for him.

Here’s how “forever” works. I was with him forever, I was engaged forever, and then, I’m an almost-bride. Forever. We have all these years of history. Seven, to be exact. He verified this for me. And now we are stuck together because in one planned, and yet passionate night, we bore a love child. Since the wedding was stalled, you see. I am now stuck with this amnesiac man forever. Because he doesn’t remember anything past the last week. All of our history, erased. Non-existent. Me? I remember every last detail.

Happy Anniversary, darlings. 

Damsel Undistressed

I’ve been saving myself my whole life. I’ve been a dragon guarding all the treasure I’ve stored up (my work, my books, my writing), incinerating anyone who got too close. When everything went up in smoke, burned to the ground, and turned to ashes between my hands, there was nothing left to protect. There was nothing left for me to do.

I had lost more than a voice. I had lost all sense of purpose. I had left the dragon’s keep and landed in a dungeon. In the dungeon, I had lost all sense of time, all sense of autonomy, all sense of self-dependency. There was no saving myself without outside help. I wasn’t a princess, I was a prisoner locked in a position too tight to get myself out. Up until that point, I had orchestrated every single one of my own rescues, fought every single one of my own battles, pulled myself out from the bottom of a well on my own. I was an island, unconquerable and solitary. Nobody was ever around when I did these things. It made me proud, too proud for my own good.

Too proud to happily accept help ever after.

I don’t feel like the hero in my own story. I don’t feel like the princess in my own fairy tale. I feel like the sole survivor at the end of a horror film, and the experience has been terrifying, has left me haunted, scarred, and tortured. The saddest part is that my story isn’t anywhere near the grim tale other lives have endured. I didn’t audition to be a damsel-in-distress. I was conditioned to be otherwise.

And it exhausted me. I burned out. I fell down without a reason to get back up again. I had no desire, no strength, no will left of my own. Whatever sense of power saving myself had bestowed upon me could no longer sustain me. I had built up a tolerance to the level of adversity and resilience I reached, and I didn’t have the capacity for more.

Enough, I said. I can’t do this anymore.

All those years of playing my own hero and sidekick to someone else depleted me. It was futile and worthless. It inflated my ego, driving more people away than it convinced to stay.

Let them go, I said. I don’t need them. I’m an island. I’m a queen. I’m a warrior. I’m the storm. I’m exhausted. 

I don’t recall ever asking him for help. I think it was all the crying I was doing. He couldn’t concentrate. One day, when he had had enough, he sprung me from my cell, and I didn’t see him for a long time after that. He seemed annoyed by the entire event. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about owing somebody something for the first time in my life. He didn’t need any favors returned. He didn’t need anything or ask for anything in return. The crying must have really bothered him. Silence was repayment enough, if I had stayed silent.

I didn’t know how to say thank you for something I didn’t ask for without sounding ungrateful. He had freed me from a dungeon, but escape hadn’t given me back my voice. Without a purpose or anything to do, I had all the time in the world to practice using all kinds of voices on him.

He never said a word.

There were no boundaries. There were no subjects off limits. There were no expectations. There were no clearly defined parameters after springing me from the cell. We were one big, giant blob of nothing, a vacuum inevitably destined to be filled. For as much as I told him (which is to say, everything), there was one thing I always left out.

The demons chasing me. The stalkers hunting me. The voices assaulting me. I left out the part where I was still, even after being saved from a lifetime imprisonment, a damsel-in-distress. Sometimes he wonders if it wouldn’t have been better to leave me in the cell, crying and all. Noise-canceling headphones would have been a wiser investment.

He eventually found out. He found out through the grapevine. To this day, I’m not sure he knew anything for certain until I told him. He sort of reminds me of how detectives ask questions in a way that makes it seem like they know more than they do, until you finally give something up. He knew I was pulling all-nighters. He knew I would disappear for days at a time. He knew I’d sleep for days at a time. He let me lie to his face over and over again, even though telling the truth wasn’t something I had agreed to do. I had agreed to nothing.

He didn’t save me in any traditional sense of the word. He didn’t say he’d catch me if I fell. He didn’t say he’d always be there. He didn’t say anything. He simply existed. If I fell, he’d just wait for me to get back up. By saying nothing at all, he became the loudest voice I heard.

This is who I am and that is who you are. Misery doesn’t need company.

The realization hit me slowly. Over months. Through near-death experiences. He never wavered. He had become the only constant in my life. The only solid ground through earthquakes. There were no stakes, but he was daylight after a life in the shadows, and I wanted to be near him. He made me uncomfortable.  He made me see myself in a new light, and he didn’t look away, even when I did. He never flinched.

He is the only one who let me know that I was, in fact, a damsel-in-distress, and also that it was okay to be one. He was signing “you need help” to me the same way my family had verbalized it to my face. The only difference is that my family wanted to pass me off to someone else, while he stood his ground. 

I’m giving you help. Take it or leave it.

I had no choice. I was beyond the point of saving myself. Circumstances threw us together, and if anyone else had handed me a rope, I might have used it to hang myself, instead of using it to climb out. If you asked him, he might tell you I saved myself. He’d be lying. If he hadn’t been there, I would have destroyed myself first. There was nothing left to save. He extended grace to an otherwise irredeemable monster.

Changing because of him saved me. By not using his voice, he gave me mine. He will always be the fairy tale in my life because I didn’t turn out to be the queen, or the princess, or the damsel-in-distress.

I get to be the storyteller.

Dating Profile

There are four things people lie about the most in their dating profile: age, height, weight, and marital status.

Age

Let’s start with the basics. I’m 31 years old. Sometimes I still think I’m 29. I know an unfortunate soul who tells stories like she’s still in high school, even though she graduated six years ago. When I worked in a bar, there was a whole group of adults dressed in leather pants and headbands every weekend, forever destined to continue living out the 80s.

Here’s how age works: if you compare the number of years I’ve been on Earth to someone who, say, has been here for 70 years, of course I’ll look like a hatchling next to this dinosaur. If you consider the fact that I moved out at 18, accrued three degrees and 100k in student debt, had a kid, been fake divorced twice, endured a midlife crisis on the verge of 30, walked away from a stable, promising career, and discovered that feminism for me was, in fact, a phase I grew out of, then I’m relatively old, if not experienced.

Also: I only have one payment left before my car is paid off. This makes me an adult.

If you knew I read dystopian young adult fiction until my mid-twenties, I might look younger than I am. Age, truly, is just a number counting the number of years you’ve been alive.

Height

I’m 5′ 9″…on my tip toes…in heels…on stilts. Pretty much I have to climb on the counters to reach anything in the kitchen. I’m about 5′ 7′ in heels, if I wear them, so on a good day, I’m almost always five feet and three inches tall. I’ve never dated anyone shorter than me. This would probably be hard to do. One time I thought I might like this guy still if he was a midget, but no.

Weight

My license at one point said I weighed seven more pounds than I really did at the time. This is something we will probably never talk about. I now weigh fourteen pounds more than my license said, and I am inexplicably three inches wider without looking any thinner. Pictures really are better for this portion of the profile. There is a fat version of me and a skinny version of me. I’m currently in the skinny version, but if I have another life crisis, this could change at any moment.

I’m like a muscular teddy bear. What I mean is what you think are muscles is really extra fluff and stuff. I used to be a gym rat or gym shark, whichever, but not anymore. Muscles freak me out.

Marital Status

Single, never married. This is what I file on my taxes every year. I used to be married to this thing called work, but now I mostly read and write; occasionally, I show up to a night job (I’m a server, not a stripper, don’t worry).

Contrary to what you might think, I want little to nothing to do with anyone who also, likewise, reads, and/or writes. Because that’s what I do. I’m at the point where I need something a little more interesting, maybe an astronaut, zoo keeper, or an archaeologist. Something like that. I wouldn’t necessarily rule out a spiritual mystic or coal miner, though.

I’m afraid I’m a little more complex than a few measurements, but I’m definitely husbandless. For good reason, if I’m honest.

As a side note, no consideration will be given for your yearly salary. We all want to file as Head of Household, now don’t we?

Good Luck!

-Jackie

What to Do with Your Heartbreak

What are you supposed to do with a heartbreak? You can remember forever how you’ve been hurt and use that to propel yourself forward, until the pain recedes, taking with it all the good memories caught in the tide. You can choose to replay all the best moments in your mind over again on shuffle or repeat, until the nostalgia crushes you and you’re struggling to remember why you left, why it didn’t work, what broke in the first place.

There must be a reason it’s all over now because there’s a cold burning sensation holding your heart in a vise grip to remind you. Something about hanging onto anger and pain can make a person feel invincible. Nothing in the world will hold them back. They’ve overcome an obstacle and have come out stronger on the other side. This is a story to tell ourselves that reconciles a heartbreak.

The opposite would be admitting we have been temporarily weak by a world-ending, life-shattering event. Whichever way you take through a heartbreak, the outcome is always the same: you get over it. It’s basic psychology. The mind heals, which is really where heartbreak resides. The unbearable pain reverberating through your entire body is a distress call. It makes us run right back into the arms of the person who broke us in the first place, or into the next pair of arms of someone else waiting for us. The body’s instinct is to recoil from pain.

When there’s no one waiting, some of us might turn to drugs, or alcohol, or live with reckless abandonment for as long as it takes for the pressure of pain to be released. Heartbreak hurts because a good thing has been lost, real or imagined, and hope is extinguished. Hope is all we hold onto before a heartbreak. Hope that the good times will keep coming, or hope that the good times will eventually arrive. Heartbreak means disappointment: with yourself, with another person, with the world and the way things turned out.

There’s no easy way to package heartbreak. The ending of one relationship is setting you up for another. You lower your expectations for the next person to avoid being hurt altogether. You raise your expectations so it’s nearly impossible to find anyone else. You convince yourself you’ve found the one and stop looking at all. You throw yourself into relationship after relationship to keep the last one from ever catching up to you.

When we don’t feel powerful from hanging onto the hurt and pain through a heartbreak, we feel worthless, instead. There’s a middle ground somewhere between powerful and worthless. It’s called acceptance. I guess it takes a number of heartbreaks to reach this halfway point. Closure is never a guarantee and heartbreak stays an open wound. Your mind returns to these same places repeatedly, trying to impose order on chaos, and right the uncertainty.

The only way over a heartbreak is through it. After a few times, it’s like riding a bicycle. Once you learn how to do it, you never forget. The hard part is getting back on after you’ve fallen off.

The Park

There’s a park in the middle of some trees, enclosed by a short, black wrought-iron fence. Every day, a man walks through the only gate carrying a book, sits on a bench shaded by a big tree, and reads until the sun sets. Nothing tears the man’s attention away from his book. Not the children playing hide-and-go-seek between the trees. Not the group of yogis practicing their breathing on plastic mats in the grass. Not the landscapers who come once a week to trim bushes and mow the lawn. The man’s eyes stay fastened to his book, until one day, he looks up.

There’s a girl he’s never seen before in the middle of the park. He immediately goes back to his book. When the sun sets, he closes his book and leaves the park, while the girl stays.

The next day, he goes back to the park to read as usual. The girl is already there. Paying no mind, he opens his book to the last page where he left off. He’s more easily distracted today by the buzzing of the bees and the hot sun, yet still determined to keep reading. Every once in a while, he steals a glance over his book at the girl in the middle of the park.

What is she doing?

He buries himself back into the pages of the book on his lap. When the sun sets, he closes his book and leaves the park, while the girl stays.

The next day, he gets to the park earlier than usual, but the girl is already there. She watches him open the black gate, walk towards his bench, and waits until he’s reading before finally pulling her eyes away from him. He can barely concentrate on the pages in front of him. He’s been watching the girl all day, trying to figure out what she’s doing. The girl doesn’t notice him watching her, but when she laughs, she looks directly at him. He doesn’t look up from his book for the rest of the day. When the sun sets, he closes his book and leaves the park, while the girl stays.

The next day, the man wakes up before the sun, grabs a book from his shelf, and hurries out the door, hoping to get to the park before the girl does. Luck is on his side: he’s barely begun to read when he hears the gate opening and sees the girl with dark hair move to her spot in the middle of the park.

Had her hair always been that dark?

He can’t figure out what she’s doing. He doesn’t remember a time before she was here, but he has no recollection of the day she started showing up. He must have been too absorbed in his book to notice. He always reads at this park. He begins to feel faintly territorial. When the sun sets, he closes his book and leaves the park. The girl smiles at him as he’s closing the gate.

The next day, the man takes his time getting to the park, knowing by now that the girl will be there. He hears her laughing and sees her smiling, but not once does she look over at him reading on his bench. He thinks maybe he imagined it. He closes the book and leaves the park before the sun sets. He doesn’t see the girl staring at his retreating back. That night, he can’t sleep. He wonders when the girl leaves the park, if she leaves at all, if he hadn’t imagined her walking through the gate that morning, or if she hadn’t played a trick on him, instead.

When he wakes up the next day, the sun is already high in the sky. He decides to protest the park today. When the sun starts to set, curiosity finally gets the best of him and he makes his way casually down the street to the park. He opens the black gate, walks over to his bench, and sits down before realizing he has forgotten his book this time. He keeps his eyes fixed on the setting sun. From the middle of the park, the girl is doing the same thing.

When the sky turns black and the moon comes out to take the sun’s place, the girl watches that, too, for hours without moving. When the moon can no longer be seen, she finally gets up and leaves the park. The man debates whether or not he should follow her. She’s gone before he decides.

The next day, the man returns to the park with a book the same as always, but he’s more nervous than usual without knowing why. When the girl finally shows up, albeit late, his nervousness goes away. He wonders if it would have been gallant or creepy if he had asked if she wanted him to walk her home. He laughs at the absurdity of the idea, catching the attention of the girl, who has an unreadable expression on her face.

The summer flows from one day into the next, much the same as ever. The leaves on the trees change color. Every night, the sun sinks down earlier than the day before, and the evenings grow colder. The girl brings a sweater to wear while she waits for the moon to disappear.

One night, something changes. After she puts a sweatshirt over her head, she walks over to the bench where the man is no longer reading, and sits down.

‘The grass is wet,” she says.

When the moon is no longer visible, she gets up, leaves the park, and disappears into the dark. A short while later, the man does the same thing.

She’ll be here tomorrow, he thinks, and she is, only she’s not in the middle of the park where he first saw her.

She is sitting on his bench.

The Fate of Time

Once, very long ago, Time fell in love with Death while the world was still dark.

“I’ve been looking for you,” Time said.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” Death replied.

The longer Time spent with Death, the colder the world grew in the darkness surrounding them. Time and Death memories each other through touch alone, creating an invisible map only the two of them could read.

One day, Patience cried to the Moon for help from the place where she had been frozen by Time. Hearing her cries, the Moon turned her face toward the Sun for the first time to ask him for advice on what to do. Ignited by the passionate desperation in her voice, the Sun set himself afire, scattering stars across the sky in an explosion of light. The Sun and Moon formed an alliance, splitting time in half, each one agreeing to take watch over one side.

When Time and Death saw their story written in the constellations at night, they became enraged by the interference. Time swore to never stop for anyone, and Death promised to come for everyone.

The stars, overlooking everything, watched as Time broke herself into pieces, forever exiled to the present, and doomed to always look back at what had been, certain of only one thing: Death alone remained permanently fixed in the future, always just out of reach. Death could no longer stop Time, and Time could only ever wait for Death to return.

Though separated, Time and Death continued to live together for an eternity, destined to always flow parallel to each other, never touching again, except at the point where Time ends and Death begins.

Hug Me Like You Mean It

Hugging is therapeutic physical contact. You can practice mindful hugging with anyone. It’s probably a good idea to hug someone who knows they’re about to be hugged by you. You shouldn’t hug someone who has a restraining order on you, for example. Hugging is a deep practice that brings feelings of joy, understanding, comfort, and peace.

I practice hugging meditation with my daughter. Sometimes I ask for a hug and she gives me one, and I crush her until she says “ow!.” I absorb all the Oxytocin she has to offer. There’s nothing I love more. Then I usually kiss her face off. Sometimes I come up from behind and bear-hug her because she’s only three and there’s little she can do to stop me. She’s caught on to this deep practice we have. After I’ve yelled at her to go to bed a few times, she will eventually yell back: “GIVE ME A HUG!” in her most forceful, demanding tiny voice. I’m scared not to go back and hug her. Then she crushes me, until my glasses fall off.

Hugging meditation is good for the soul. Hugging is a reminder that you’re glad this person is alive. Hugging meditation is about being present in the moment. It’s not like when you’re forced to give out obligatory “hello” or “goodbye” hugs. You’ve really got to hug this person like you mean it. Just throw your arms around their neck and squeeze until they can’t breathe. This is how you come to appreciate how alive they are in your arms.

Try it. Add hug time to your daily routine. Hug someone you love like you mean it. Feel their arms wrap around you. Inhale their scent. Take him (or her) all in. Feel alive together. Hug them until you don’t want to let them go.

Hopefully they showered.

Love Medicine

I don’t know about you, but even being in love, sometimes I want to throw the whole man away and start over. Or be done altogether. If there’s a cure for love, I haven’t found it. Love has been called the “disease of the soul.” Disease ravages the body, deteriorates the mind, eats away at the flesh and cartilage, rots the brain, bones break, organs malfunction, and the heart fails. Sometimes disease is exactly the way I would explain how he makes me feel.

Nobody goes around talking about how afflicted by love they are, except for maybe me. He is an affliction. He causes me more distress than any other person I know. He’s lucky he’s worth all the pain and suffering I go through to love him.

And remember, I said afflicted, not inflicted. He doesn’t inflict pain on me; he’s not brutal. He is the pain. As an affliction, love becomes the dominating force on the body, mind (and soul) the way disease comes to dominate a person. I don’t think disease is supposed to be a metaphor for love, and if it is, it’s not a very good one. Humanity is the affliction, and disease is a metaphor for the way we treat one another. Five minutes on Twitter will convince you of this. Humanity is a cesspool and we’re all swimming in it. The fact that there are more and more books on how to treat people from other cultures and with different sexual orientations with respect is a case in point. We are failing the bare minimum.

TL;DR: The human race is diseased by hatred. 

What we really need is a little love medicine, a holistic approach to love, if you will, something that considers all the separate parts of having a loving interaction with another person. Love in this sense has a broad definition for how people are treated more generally. Disease, like people, need to be treated and handled with care, and preferably a lot of love. A big dose of it.  If humanity began in love, then it has regressed before fully relapsing, and the prognosis is utter ruin if something isn’t done about this soon.

I’m suggesting love medicine for everyone’s black soul. Medicine doesn’t always cure disease, but it does help to slow it down, alleviate pain, and send people into remission where the disease (hatred) is stalled, instead of progressing. Progress is always good, unless we’re talking about disease. Nobody wants to see a disease progress. 

Good health is taken for granted. Everyone, except for hypochondriacs and WebMD doctors, wait until they’re sick to get a check-up. Most people wait until a relationship is failing before trying to bother doing anything about it. Scheduled date nights don’t count as routine check-ups. Anyone who has spent some amount of time in the hospital for whatever reason knows about the discharge papers detailing a plan of care, or an ongoing treatment plan. These are for chronic conditions that continuously flare up and recur over and over again. 

Love and hatred are both chronic conditions, but very often are found to be comorbid. Either one or the other predominates. Not saying anything at all because you don’t have something nice to say is not showing love. It is demonstrating some superhuman level of self-control. Whatever is left unsaid sits in your heart and will tell you whether you’re afflicted by love or hatred. Hatred sits on you like a malignant tumor that needs to be excised immediately before causing any further brain damage.

Love isn’t a treatment plan. It needs one the way water needs to be treated and free from fluoride before we can drink it. There are certain ways to handle someone with love. Let me tell you that nothing drives my blood pressure up more than the love of my life. He doesn’t even have to say anything, just exist, and suddenly I need magnesium in an IV before I die. I find simply ignoring him works wonders for the both of us, otherwise I will get nothing productive done.

I’m a little wary of health nuts who eat a plant-based diet, drink organic juice, and pop vitamin supplements for dessert. I think they might be onto something, though. Ever since I started taking natural vitamins with Omega-3s (you can’t even taste the fish oil) and extra folate, I haven’t gotten sick again. It’s preventative care.

Preventative care is a little something like symptom-spotting in love. You’re not looking for the red flags dictating someone is just a shitty person in general. Don’t worry, it’s not always you. Anger issues usually carry over from one relationship to the next.

That’s not to say someone with anger issues can’t or shouldn’t be loved (maybe cautiously). Preventative care means spotting the symptoms that tell you there is something wrong with them, not you, and not the relationship overall. It means constantly taking a back seat to observe someone else in their own natural habitat as if you were a doctor.

I should probably put in a disclaimer for the fixer-uppers who chronically date people who are broken as some kind of self-interested project. These people are ticks. Avoid at all costs. Usually your issues obscure theirs, and fixing yours makes them feel better about themselves. It’s an illusion.

A relationship can last a long time on life support. Sometimes pulling the plug is best for everyone involved. I’m no guru or love doctor. If there was a prescription for love, I’m not sure what it would be. Xanax for the angry ones and Adderall for the lazy ones, maybe. Regardless, the question remains the same: do the benefits of the medicine outweigh the side effects? I personally find walking around all day angry and hateful brings me no joy at the end of the day. After a day spent in love, though, I sleep like a baby. Believe it or not, the former is actually easier. I can write three heartbreak poems with the same energy it takes me to write one love poem. When I look back at what I wrote, I am more pleased with the ones that are loving. 

A lot of companies have a “good faith clause” in contracts between two or more parties. It’s the legal equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath doctors take. A good faith clause means acting in the best interests of the other party, while the Hippocratic Oath is a doctor’s pledge to treat a patient to the best of their ability. Imagine if something like this existed between two regular people on the street. Sickness is not always visible. With the exception of physically violent relationships, verbal and emotional trauma, the stuff you can’t prove exists, does the most damage. There’s a lot of truth in the saying about what kindness can do to a stranger.

I’ve been in the serving industry for more than ten years, and most of the people who come in are strangers to me. One woman told me she was depressed and that being around me was giving her energy, “perking” her up. She undid months of mental anguish for me.

Over the years, I’ve hardened to the rude comments and customers I get. The fact that I’ve had to harden should tell you everything you need to know about people. The passive aggressive customers express their displeasure by tipping less. My favorites are the ones who complain about the food as if I’m the one behind the line cooking. The most egregious customers shout your name across the restaurant in faux familiarity or grab your arm when you’re walking past to get your attention.

These are wrong ways to treat people. You cannot touch someone any time you want, customer or not. 

Most doctors don’t hesitate to switch your medicine if the side effects are disrupting your daily life. If someone wants to leave a relationship because they’re unhappy, emotionally drained, or it’s otherwise past resuscitation, everyone waits for a better reason. Emotional wounds grow like cysts in a relationship that need to be surgically operated on. Even when they’re removed, the tissue stays scarred and damaged, not always in a place you can see.

If I had a dime for every time a boyfriend told me I was bringing up the past (red flag, FYI), I could retire right now. A holistic approach to love means taking these sorts of things into consideration when handling another person. A doctor reviews a patient’s medical history before offering a diagnosis and treatment. It doesn’t go ignored. No doctor has ever accused me of bringing up the past when I mention high blood pressure in my history. The fact of the matter is that people come with pre-existing conditions. Some people, like me, are more damaged than most.

Someone who never does the dishes or helps you clean is not a chronic condition. Your human is broken. You do not need a new one. If you ask your human to do the dishes and they refuse every time, you need a new one because now we’re talking about a power struggle. Someone who doesn’t take an interest in your well-being is a chronically deteriorating condition. Gaslighting is a chronic condition. Lying can be a chronic condition if he is opening credit lines without telling you. Laziness is not a chronic condition, unless your house is on the verge of being declared uninhabitable and condemned. Dressing like a hobo is not a chronic condition. Getting DUIs is a chronic condition. Getting drunk is not always a chronic condition. If he buys a dog and you didn’t want one, you’ll have to deal. Breaking down doors is a red flag. Going through your phone is a red flag. Throwing things is a red flag. Never listening is a red flag. Asking you what’s for dinner three times a day is obnoxious, not a red flag.  Boredom is not a chronic condition, no matter how much you hate sports. Compliments don’t cover bullet-holes. Cleaning the house is not a compromise for not coming home the night before. If he throws you outside naked and locks the doors, throw the whole human away, stat. Buying you flowers is always a waste of money, no matter how much you love it. They’re going to die. Both of you are wasting money together. Red flag. Gifts don’t prove the existence of love. Forever is a relative term. It is the long con. Diamonds have real market value. Throwing all his shit out when he messes up beyond the point of return will bring you all the satisfaction you imagine.

Again, I am no love guru. 

Love itself is not a cure. Love itself needs a cure, and in this sense, people become doctors (congratulations on the PhD in humanity) for someone else, monitoring their whole health on an ongoing basis. For people with chronic health conditions, especially major concerns like cancer, there is literature to educate the patient and the caregiver. Most of the pamphlets are dedicated to helping you learn how to support someone emotionally through their health, possibly an end-of-life, crisis. Nothing like this exists for love or even relationships in general. Broken bones might always heal, but they don’t always reset back to the same place twice. 

Love shouldn’t be in hospice before it gets attention.

The Lover

I cannot write when he is staring at me. He does this to me all the time. I have started and not finished two things now. That’s okay. I always figure something out.

I’ve got nothing.

I was writing about this lover business. You’d think being a lover would be the best place to be in the world, that sending nothing but love out into the universe is the easiest thing in the world to do. Who doesn’t want more love? Nothing could be further from the truth. Loving takes an ungodly amount of energy. Love is the only thing that is satisfying in and of itself; that’s why love, even when it’s not returned, is still fulfilling. Reciprocal love is best case scenario. 

If I could just forget him long enough, I could finish writing whatever this is going to turn out to be.

The lover, right. That’s me. I’ve been thinking about what kind of character this lover is supposed to be. Or who this lover has been. I suppose she’s gotten jealous. I’ve known about jealousy for a long time. Jealousy murders love. This is what I have known. I don’t get jealous often. It’s a hard emotion to describe, especially because jealousy can actually be a good thing, if it doesn’t take a hold of you and make you do stupid things that kill the love. Jealousy is when you really really don’t like something. Love is not possessive and jealousy makes possessiveness flare up. This is no good. Love cannot thrive under these conditions. I guess in some ways jealousy can make you feel like you’re inferior in some way, or it can feel like the other person, the beloved is superior in some way. This is how jealousy can be a good thing. 

I’m not really an expert on emotions. 

What I do know is that the beloved is not meant to become some sort of instrument for the lover to use as a means to an end. As a female, I know all about objectification. The lover is not acting towards an inert object. The beloved embodies a lived experience for the lover and the lover’s job is to find a way to fit inside of this lived experience, recognizing that their beloved is a fully formed and functioning human. The lover isn’t supposed to absorb their beloved’s experience like Kirby sucking everything in his path up. There are two worlds here, and the lover lives in their own world with experiences all their own.

The two of these worlds sort of melt together like crayons in a microwave. 

A lover, a person in love, can never be trusted to act sane. Nobody who has written about love has ignored the fact that love can and does sometimes border on madness. When the lover is completely consumed by the beloved, madness inevitably ensues. The lover is walking a finer line than the beloved. The beloved simply exists in the mind of the lover. The lover is the one who has to hold all these strings together without compromising the lived experience of another human or damaging the integrity of their own. It’s a very fine line. The other side of madness is when the beloved does not know they are a beloved, as is the case in the psycho-obsessed thriller You. That’s not how this works. The beloved should at least know they exist somewhere outside of their own plane of existence, that is, in my imagination. There might be a certain level of obsession, but I prefer single-minded focus.

That’s another emotion lovers can experience. She might be uncertain a lot because, well, this other person is living in my mind. That’s not saying anything about the voices which, I am told, are unique to my person. Not everyone hears the voices I do. It’s a feature, not a bug. These voices tell me to love him harder when I’m closest to letting go, and there’s this entire back and forth exchange I am fully aware I am having with myself. 

Until you get to the point where you are asking yourself why am I not letting go of you? Thus, a beloved is born, and you, the lover. External conditions matter very little, even though you’re very much aware of them. For example, I am poor. I have not a penny to my name. No dowry. No goats for sacrifice. Nothing to offer. This keeps the relationship symbiotic. The whole thing is a game of tug-o-war with yourself. Being a lover is a task, to say the least. Sometimes the beloved is not always cooperative. Sometimes they go off ruining the idealized version of them you’ve spent so much time and worked so hard to create.

Maybe the lover gets frustrated. The beloved will not just sit still and look pretty. They’re off living their own lived experience doing God knows what, and you’re holding all these strings together, while they’re busy cutting them away from you.

It’s not all kumbaya. There is never a point, though, where the lover feels like the beloved should be doing anything different. All is as it should be. Maybe it’s a little different when the beloved knows you’re the lover, and they know you’re off building worlds without them, but which they will inevitably become a part of because they have little to no choice.

Perhaps saying “no” would end things sooner. I haven’t heard that word yet, so the lover it is I remain. Nothing kills love faster than jealousy and hearing the word no. 

Mostly being the lover is exhausting because you are refashioning the image of your beloved in as many new ways as possible. It’s hard to say if it’s worth it because it just is. Love has no real clear objective. But a life without purpose has no meaning, and the beloved is there to supply that, the meaning. Everything I do is attached to my beloved in some way. I don’t walk around reminding myself I am the lover and this is what I must do. No. It is the beloved who takes up all of my mental space and energy. It’s second-nature at this point. I have learned how to live with this secondary presence anywhere I go, and the only time it’s really a problem is when I laugh too hard at only something the beloved would understand. People don’t like when you laugh hard without them. They don’t get it.

This happens at the grocery store a lot. A woman was picking out her Texas Toast garlic bread, and she dropped a whole bag of peas all over the floor. It’s not a “you had to be there” moment. It’s more like “you’d just have to be him to get it.” Frozen peas everywhere. Clean up in aisle three, please. 

The lover most certainly does all the work. The beloved just exists. Must be nice. Feelings like these crop up, but you beat them back. That is one place the energy goes. It goes to fighting against all of the bad, ugly things that creep up on you. Nobody has a day of thoughts filled with only rainbows and sunshines. You could though. If you had a beloved. He is blue skies and sunshine, all the time. Because that is how he exists. I made it that way. Love is creation. It is never destruction. 

That’s really not even the half of it. The other half would be where all of this mental work and strain turns into words on a page. It would be wrong to say my beloved is simply writing material, though, because he was good for something before there was ever any writing attached. Good for my mental health.

In conclusion, that is a lover. 

The Beloved

My love life has always been a little unconventional, never more so than it is now. Traditionally, and in all the books on love I’ve read so far, the lover is male and the beloved is female. There’s absolutely no reason to make things more complicated than necessary. In this case, complicated is just the tip, for I, the female, am the lover, and my beloved is a man. I have found the one my heart loves, and he is my beloved because I love, love, love him.

That is my role as the lover: to love.

Love is always a threat to the status quo because lovers always want to build their own secret world nobody else is a part of, speak a language only the two of them know, and do things like swap pronouns when everyone else is happy to keep everything exactly the way it has been forever.

The beloved exists in the lover’s amorous imagination. Love implies a way of valuing someone. Unlike love, which needs to be learned how to do, valuing (or devaluing) someone else is universal among humans. Even the word “beloved” denotes more than a simple term of endearment. There is a value judgment inherent in calling him my beloved. It means he has a special place in my esteem. I regard him more highly than any other individual on the planet.

He is my beloved. He is in the perpetual state of being loved. By me. There is nothing he can do to stop me. I would have to choose to stop loving him, devalue him in some way so that he’s no longer seen as the beloved, or cast someone else in his role as my beloved.

That’s how this works.

The lover puts the beloved on a pedestal, not for worship, but as a way of fully concentrating the imagination on his suggestive being. The beloved becomes valuable through the lover. The lover attaches value to the beloved simply by committing herself to him. The amorous imagination is used to continuously affirm the value of the beloved apart from what the lover already knows to be true. 

Love is an attitude. Love is not merely a means of giving and receiving. Love is never practical and doesn’t have a clear objective. This is how love can come to border on madness. Desire doesn’t play a role in the bare-bones structure between a lover and beloved. Desire is wanting something for personal gratification. The lover attends to the beloved for who he is without the desire to make him any better he is, unless that is what he desires.

When love is an attitude, the amorous imagination steps in to downplay any negative thoughts about the beloved. My beloved is perfect, but this might not always be the situation. The lover might be aware that their beloved is not desirable to anyone else. The beloved is loved unconditionally. My beloved is also an Adonis, but this is not why or how he became my beloved. Whenever someone loves another person because of some reason or another, these become conditions for love. By adopting love as an attitude, love and the beloved are created. Love exists within the lover; it doesn’t come from an external source. The lover responds positively to the beloved, and in valuing him, makes him worthy of her love. This way of using the amorous imagination has been compared to alchemy. 

Without the imagination, it would be impossible for a lover like me to value the beloved as he is, my beloved. While he is real, he exists for me in another dimension just a little outside of reality. Stimulating the imagination is not the same as yielding to self-delusion.

If I’m perfectly honest, he’s pretty much my beloved because I’m obsessed with him.