For the past five years, I didn’t like anyone. I used to not believe myself when I said that. I wondered if I was lying—had I forgotten someone, or was I repressing something? Then last fall I met someone. I experienced a month of dates, snuggles, hand holding, and whispering secrets I don’t even share with best friends. The contrast in feelings proved to me I hadn’t been lying: I hadn’t liked anyone for half a decade.
And suddenly I did.
Due to a host of reasons, some inevitable and some that I will save for future blogpost rants, things ended. The fracture came abruptly. It took my breath away. We briefly rekindled what may be called a sequel or a spinoff, but like most sequels, it flopped.
In the days following The End (such big words for such a short episode in my life), I reflected on the mortality I came to regain.
As is no secret on this blog, I have long heralded single life and spoken of it as the best there is and can be. Many friends have challenged me and said my opinion would change if and when I found love. I distinctly remember years ago an anonymous reader commented on a post that I would “come undone” when I found the right person.
Well, it’s true, folks. It happened.
No, my opinion did not change. But I came undone.
Admittedly, it was never love. I was ill with something much more straightforward: infatuation. But that’s the first stage of the disease.
I’ve always agreed humans aren’t meant to be alone. I’ve also always seen evolutionary advantage to being alone and content (minus not reproducing). I value independence. I think independence is possible in romance, but it’s increasingly hard and may be compromised because compromise is the root of successful love. People become things they never intended to be in love.
To all my friends who ever challenged me, you lost. One taste confirmed all my cynicism. Love, or its variants, transforms you into something you aren’t, and you’re willing to toss away everything you hold dear, at least for a short time, even when you recognize your derangement. But it feels okay then. And maybe it feels okay forever. That’s what worried me.
I worry no longer. I don’t have to.
Everything I feared and judged I became. I held up my calendar, my ambitions, and my focus and offered to burn them alive. In fact, I might have started the pyre even while recognizing how absurd it was.
I think that was the most frightening—not that I so voluntarily offered up these things, but that I recognized the insanity and continued to roll up metaphorical papers and promises and lob them into a fire. Ultimately, I didn’t make any earth-shattering concessions, but I’m still aghast at how I deleted schedules and hangouts and how I reconsidered future decisions. Even as I write this, I actually am thinking, “No, I wasn’t serious about actually doing or saying that,” but then I remember I was in those deluded moments. (Editor's note: Rereading this weeks later, I am indeed still thinking, "No, I never was going to give up my career ambitions - BUT I CONSIDERED IT, WTF!")
Sara and I got dinner a couple of days after I “rediscovered” I had a heart. (It should have been brunch given this blog, but it was dinner.) Sitting across from her, I admitted that while I was both hurt by the woman I fell for, I also felt pain because, as I put it, “I’ve become one of you. I liked someone. I hate it.”
This is possibly the snobbiest stance I’ve ever taken (which is saying a lot), but it was true. Most of my friends have dated over the years, and quite possibly I thought I was better because I resisted. And now I’ve returned to being mortal.
For years, I aspired to be a robot. I used to think that was a joke. My friends have pointed it out before, and I always cackled, but last year showed me I truly wanted to be a robot that could unplug from disorder that cannot be ordered, like emotions and fate and, most especially, attachment. Emotions are ancillary. They rarely cooperate with logic and plans. But you cannot cut them out. You may put up your drywall and cinderblocks, but eventually mold grows. All your walls come hurdling down to confront the leak.
In the fallout, I found it exceedingly difficult to disentangle my feelings for who I liked and how I felt about them versus how I felt about my sudden fall from a pedestal I placed myself on. I’m curious when I even built the pedestal. Until this split, I remembered the last couple of people I liked more as scientific anecdotes than emotional histories. In the days and nights following the more recent breakup, however, I drew parallels between contemporary emotions and past buried feelings, like the last time I had butterflies or the moments I wanted to cry, but actually had no tears. (For what it matters, I never cried, so maybe I was somewhat successful in becoming a robot. Do robots cry?) Were these past loves so pivotal that I ascended Mount Olympus to avoid feeling the way I did post-breakup? Gosh, was that a bit melodramatic? But then there I was, distracted by disappointment, annoyance, anger, and injustices that couldn’t be rectified by person or nature—and it’s much better on Mount Olympus, let me tell you. It’s much better when you feel nothing.
I wrote once that I missed liking someone because love songs would feel much more enjoyable if I could attach them to someone, but I take it back. It’s almost impossible to find songs that capture your exact heartache minus the occasional Mumford & Sons or Adele lyrics—and even then, the keys are off or the tempo too slow.
In the lunar cycles following The End, I contemplated going on a few hate dates (and maybe did), but I fast realized I was not seeking to give my heart away again (if that’s what I even gave away; cerebral me doesn’t really think so) or even to have my heart back. I simply wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted to give it away to no one, to not have it, to return it to Olympus.
Thankfully, while you may not be able to return your heart (there’s a limited time warranty, so I’m told), perspective does return. Hate dates help. Friends help more. Travel helps most. (Though I assure you there are dark, taunting hours between the help and self-help that challenge recovery, including staring at rolled-up toothpaste tubes and ChapSticks on a nightstand.) And even a few songs eventually help. I used to belt “Somebody That I Used To Know” in 2012, but now it recalls more than a summer road trip to Baltimore.
Maybe I can’t be a robot again, and I can never belong to Olympus, but I can be a callused soul and I can still value robotic tendencies. And maybe next time I’ll remember not to bleed so much or so fast. But I know I will bleed. Because we’re all mortal.