This is a treatise on love. It begins with a younger version of me.
When I was 15 and struck dumb by infatuation I was accused by condescending non-believers of puppy love, and told I didn’t know what love was.
I’d like to propose that I loved better then, when I was younger. Blindly unconditional, cautious disbelief absent. Brave, stupid, overzealous heart a-flutterin’.
The nature of my love at 15 was all-consuming; it was dizziness, like falling backwards in a chair. So extravagant that it informed every part of my life. I acknowledge now, a bit regretfully, that that sort of love is perhaps unsustainable. Which maybe explains why we eventually grow out of it, abandon it for fewer fireworks and choose instead date nights and doing laundry.
The way I love now that I’m older isn’t what I’d call restrained. It isn’t a love held back or tempered with logic. Rather, it just sits beside the other threads of my life, a strand in a tapestry, rather than being the entire sky.
I began this essay with the thought to defend the younger version of me. That it was more pure, and the total abandon with which I loved equaled some deeper experience. I’d like to rather adjust my stance and claim that the experience of love that devours you is necessary, at least once, in life. In that, it can’t help but break your heart. The heights are so dizzyingly high there is no way to descend gradually, and one is sure to end up at least partially wrecked, destroyed. Although this is by no means a bad thing. Everyone worth knowing is broken-hearted. I don’t trust anyone who hasn’t been wrecked by love at least once. Its evidence of a willingness to live fully and believe, even though it cannot possibly end well.
When I met my current love, who was suitably broken-hearted, I remember at first being alarmed, because there was less dizziness, less terror, than before. I thought this meant it wasn’t real, or I didn’t love him well enough. After some time I realised that my love for him may not be the catastrophic love that makes me feel like I’m falling backwards or about to throw up, but that doesn’t make it less valid or worthwhile. It is a slower, steady, more grounded thing that feels less out of control than some other loves I’ve had. But I’ve found that the more I surrender to it, and just let myself become close to him, the more honest and authentic and safe and genuine it feels. I’ve slowly come to believe that rather than being insubstantial, it is a grown up, emotionally intelligent love. Childlike in belief, rather than childish in hope. I realize there is an honesty there, about who he is and who I am, that has nothing to do with the blind faith and starstruck illusion of the love I practiced at the awkward age of 14. I realize that there is value in proceeding with open, rather than closed eyes, as it trades the illusion of perfection for authenticity. And authenticity, even if it reveals the parts of us that are flawed and rusted, is valuable in its honesty. There is room for growth in authenticity and none in perfection.
Thus, catastrophic love, although a totally worthwhile experience, is surely not meant to last, but must be replaced with emotional intelligence, which has the potential to lead us somewhere new.