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.

If You Leave a Lover Alone

If you leave a lover alone with her thoughts for twenty-four hours, here is what will happen: 

She will start by pining, consumed by her own sighs, and lost in the memory of her beloved. He occupies her thoughts day and night. She is in love to the point of distraction. Nothing holds her attention. She won’t take food or water. She will starve before she ever sees her beloved again. Her thoughts take a turn.

Her beloved is dead. His horse and carriage have turned over. He was killed in a duel. The victim of a political assassination. He jumped off the side of a cliff. The thought destroys her. There is no life after him. She goes through a list of things she has to live for, and nothing comes to mind. She doesn’t have time to mourn him. Her imagination is running away. She is coming up with fifty ways to die. She can live no more. Her life is already over. She throws herself into the abyss of despair. 

All feeling is gone. She is cold and calculating. All she needs is a plan. She thinks about flinging herself off a cliff, too. Maybe she’ll drown or drink cyanide. The possibilities are endless. She’s enraptured by her own imagination. How else could she do away with herself? A knife to the femoral arteries. Her father’s revolver he keeps in a drawer in the study. There’s some rope laying around. She could make a noose and tie herself to the willow tree outside. 

The willow tree. This is where her beloved first touched her hand. She wasn’t wearing any gloves, and he touched her! A reason for living springs to mind. Maybe he’s not dead. She has no proof. She has been locked in this room for far too long. Despair metamorphoses back into hope. Her heart begins to thaw. She decides to eat the first morsel of food she’s had in days. Clarity returns. Love reigns in her heart once more. 

Now she is flying. She takes no notice of the time. The sun rises and the sun sets. This is all she notices. She is optimistic. She finishes the duties she’s left neglected for the last fortnight. There is a tray of letters in the hall she hasn’t read yet. There is one from her beloved, and she really knows now that he is not dead. The letter is short. Her optimism fades to mortification.

He hates her. She has never been so absolutely certain of anything in her entire life. She couldn’t be sure he was dead. She’d rather him dead than hate her. She won’t give him the satisfaction of killing herself. He will have to hold on to his own hatred for her. She turns red. Her anger flares up. She has done nothing to deserve this. The burning inferno inside her turns cold. Her stomach drops.

What if she has done something to deserve his ill favor? She reads the letter over and over again. He has not said what she has done wrong. She makes a new list. The new list makes her want to die, too. It is everything she has done wrong ever in his presence.

She was too cold. She was too capricious. She was too bold. She was too honest. She had the audacity to approach him. Her manners were too affected. He hated her gowns. Her coiffure was too gaudy. Her curls too tight. She had no accomplishments. She was undomesticated. She showed her concern too soon. She preferred the tender charms of Petrarch to Baffo’s sonnets. Everything is wrong.

The willow tree. She should hang herself there. She has the memory all wrong. She has blown things wildly out of proportion. He didn’t touch her. He merely stumbled and grazed her arm. Her imagination has magnified the smallest detail. She has lost all sense. She can’t think straight. 

The next morning she doesn’t get out of bed. The maid comes and wakes her up. There is a gentleman caller in the drawing room. It all comes back to her. It is the fifteenth of the month. Her beloved is downstairs waiting for her. She wants to fall to pieces when she sees him.

She swoons. 

The Madness of Love

I went mad for a summer as if the pandemic wasn’t enough to drive anyone mad. Love hit me with all the force of a train and struck me dumb. My brains fell out. I lost my keys in the woods. The power lines went down and I lived without electricity for a week. I wrote notes on the mirror reminding me to eat. 

There’s a certain mad quality about love once the mysticism fades away. Love is mysterious and makes us curious before pulling us into its mad grip. The madness of love descends like clouds in a storm, making us act crazy and do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. We are conditioned to accept acts of madness when love is involved. Crimes of passion carry a lighter sentence than crimes committed in cold blood. Madness can mean insanity, or it can mean getting carried away by enthusiasm. Love exists at both ends of the spectrum. Madness rules when desire cannot be controlled. There is a tendency to underestimate the power of love. 

I couldn’t stop writing. I couldn’t stop moving. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t hold a thought for more than a few seconds. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t breathe. There were a million needles stabbing my body all the time, like I was electrified. My heart was constantly racing. My hands were constantly shaking. The journal I kept is mostly just scribbles, fragments of a lost mind. There were a lot of fragments, pieces that have reappeared in later notebooks in a more legible hand. I jumped from one thought to the next without any clear connection. It is the diary of a mad woman with song lyrics copied down for good measure. None of this mattered to me in the moment. I was happy, I was writing, and I also thought I was dying.

There were a lot of times I thought I was dying and my doctor just didn’t tell me, and I thought I would go right on living up until that point. Nothing else mattered. It was madness. I walked around life like a visiting tourist. There was no sense of reality, none whatsoever. Looking back, it all looks a lot more simple to figure out than the experience had been. I had fallen in love and didn’t yet know it. Turns out you don’t have to allow yourself to fall in love, but you do have to accept it before reason returns.

It’s a really big pill to swallow. Or maybe it’s not, I don’t know. This has never happened to me before. I had to claw myself out of the madness. Madness is not necessarily a good thing, but some of the greatest blessings come from madness. It has taken me this long to make some kind of sense out of the experience. Love has no concept of time. It was like I had woken up for the first time in a long time only to go back to sleep and wake up again to realize I had woken up the first time. Every day I literally woke up, it was like the previous day had been entirely blacked out from my mind. My memories returned, but my memory at the time wasn’t working at all. I was Dory from Finding Nemo. 

I was Lucy Whitemore in 50 First Dates.

Madness is a constant state of uncertainty. The only source of uncertainty for me was in writing. This is where I’ve found most of my blessings. I’ve left traces everywhere. I couldn’t stop writing, even though I didn’t always know what or why I was writing. There was a part of me that could recognize what was happening without being fully able to acknowledge it. I had seen something I hadn’t yet experienced. I didn’t have the language I needed to properly describe what I was experiencing. It came to me in fragments and almost completely lost among so many other mundane topics. 

I dropped out of time and space altogether. The days blurred together, and there were two times in the day: awake when the sun was up, and asleep when the sun was down. There were so many other things going on in my life that needed my attention that fell neglected by the wayside. There was this constant pressure of something that needed to be done, but I had no deadlines. Ecstasy is a hard feeling to describe, but easily recognized. It’s a trance-like state. There was an intense longing for I didn’t know what. The only word on my mind was more. More of whatever it was I had been feeling. It felt like something irretrievable had been lost to me. I called it my “voice” in writing over and over again.

Voice is connected to identity; my identity collapsed in on itself. I had fallen fast, and I had fallen hard. I was madly in love. I had surrendered myself into the madness and gave no thought to anything in my life. Madness rules when desire cannot be controlled. You can never trust someone in love to act sane. There’s an ingrained idea that the heart, not the mind, should be followed in matters of love.

This should never be done. Madness will ensue. 

Love also has to have an object. When all of this madness started, I had no fixed object in mind. In retrospect, I can re-read my mad diary and see how the points connect, but I couldn’t in the moment. I had lost all sense. There was a continuous cycle of falling in love and not wanting to be in that state of mind. The sweet side of love is standing on top of a mountain. The dark side is standing at the edge of a precipice. You are living your best life and dying at the same time. I also have to point out that this is from the perspective of a woman and never I had experienced lust to such an astonishing degree. Once I had a fixed object in mind, there was nothing that was going to stop me from possessing him.

Nothing.

That’s right, I knew him by lust first. Moderation was not in my vocabulary. Like I said, love has no concept of time. I started at the wrong end and traveled backwards. And actually, I hated him more first, too. These things never make sense. Only time ever tells.

I harassed him endlessly. Picked fights for no reason.  Stalked him online shamelessly. Stole all of his stuff. Read all the books beside his bed. All of them.  There was no stopping me. Desire is an irresistible force.

Love is not madness, though. Love is temperate. Someone in love also has to be someone in control. It took a long time for me to cool down. I had completely lost it for him the way I lost control over this essay. Love has driven strong women mad.

I went mad for a summer.

All Things Love

This blog is about love. I mean that in the strictest sense of the word, but maybe not anymore. I started this blog in pursuit of learning more about love, about its nature and its essence.

I always come back to the same thing. The more I read about love, the less there is for me to say anything else on the topic, even though I’m more certain than ever I know what love is because it keeps manifesting itself for me in the same ways over again.

A blog is one of them. It’s the writing part I love, which I can’t do without an insane amount of reading. I still haven’t decided whether reading or writing is my true first love. What I have decided is that a blog is the best medium for my thoughts.

I never thought about what purpose my blog would serve. It was never a means to an end. Then I realized that’s what I meant when I chose love as the singular focus of everything I write. Love as a philosophy, love as a way of life, and love as something I find worth investing my time in.

I haven’t come close to exhausting love as a topic, yet I’m feeling stifled by the invisible constraints I’ve imposed on myself with this blog. I promised to only write on the subject of love, or poetry about love, when it’s far easier to show my work by pointing to the things I love.

This isn’t the first blog I’ve started. It is the most different. Poetry is not something I ever intended to write, and all the leftover white space makes me sad, no matter how much I like, love, or hate what I’ve written. I’m used to taking up a whole page and letting my thoughts take shape, preferably in a coherent manner.

No matter how many times I remind or reassure myself that writing is first and foremost for myself, there’s still an external pressure telling me to write differently, talk about something else, be someone else, and I usually end up getting myself stuck. I think a lot of writers end up in a familiar place.

One of the reason I chose a specific subject for my blog is because I didn’t want to fall into the trap of writing what anyone else likes more than I like something myself. I really love writing about love. I really miss writing about the things I love, the things that remind me that love is real, that it exists, and that love is a daily presence in my life because of what I do and how I choose to do it. Love is the motivating force for me behind ever word I write.

I don’t endorse purposelessness. I don’t want to wander through life aimlessly and I don’t want to scream words into empty air. There’s no escaping or denying the fact that humans respond to emotion in writing. I’ve done everything in my power to write about love detached from feeling and I can congratulate myself for being successful, or I can consider how pointless it is to write about love without the passion it requires. Words can make writers transparent or they can be constructed to obscure the truth. Writers keep a lot of tricks up their sleeves.

Love is confession and confession means telling the truth, and the truth is that love shouldn’t be separated from feelings because it’s feelings that make us human, that show our humanity from a place of total vulnerability. If there’s any purpose to this blog, it’s to show love by the work I do. I have a day job; this blog occupies a separate place in my life, the most special kind of place I call my private life, the one I don’t share with anyone else, except for the ones who are reading, who are virtually strangers and will only ever know me by the words I write.

So they have to mean something. If all things love means all things love, then love for me comes right here when I’m at the page, and what comes out is an extension of that, it’s an extension of me and who I am. Writing has never meant anything else to me. At best, this is me giving myself permission to write about the things I love fearlessly.

Writers have to do that a lot, give themselves permission, otherwise it becomes a practice in how to please, instead of how to pursue pleasure. What it is is writing for my own sake.

Because I like it.