I do not know how to love any differently, but I almost wish I could.
First, light linguistics. Then, the way it all falls apart and comes together.
When my friends share their troubles, I am always the first person to offer my fists. “I’ll fight them,” I say, and most laugh but some pause. It doesn’t bother me – I don’t know if I’m joking either. I offer to fight at least three people a day. There’s a clear connection between love and violence, as if the damage I’m willing to dole out is somehow demonstrative of the depths to my love.
I’ve never understood that in myself. I try to wrap my brain around it, try to reframe it, but at the end of the day, I offer my fists as love more often than not.
Recently, life has forced my perception of love to the forefront. I have an urge to tidy my thoughts, tailor them to one of the following statements:
a) I love you so much I would burn this world to the ground for you.
b) I love you so much I would rebuild this entire world for you.
I can’t decide which is a healthier love to give or receive. I just can’t. Every time I lean into one, life pulls me toward the other. And maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe it’s just another jumble stuck in my head, but I can’t escape these thoughts. How do I want to love? How do I want someone to love me?
In quiet moments, I recognize that I don’t respond as well to love that threatens, that punishes, that growls from between clenched teeth. I can’t feel whole that way – and yet that’s the type of love that leaps from my stomach, all fists and knives and wide-eyed panic.
Some days I am soft – I am all slow touches, calming statements, validating conversations. But that course brings vulnerability, closely pursued by anxiety. True vulnerability feels akin to manipulation, as if the expression of my feelings could unfairly sway someone else. I fear the resulting resentment. And so I try to pack away the sweetness, the breadth, the depth of love. I pack it between clenched fists. I push it into combat boots and walk around town with a scowl when I’m alone.
This weekend marks the end of a beautiful journey in terms of love and I’m still afraid that I’ve ruined it somehow. I’m afraid that my emotions are too wild and heavy to hold and that, when I express them, I will drive away the very person I desperately want to keep close. I am petrified by the complexity of my heart, the way it starts and stops. It hurts, to feel everything so deep. It eats away at a person – even when it’s lovely, even when it’s beautiful. It hurts, but it matters and so I try not to wince.
It gnaws on my ribs, hungry, and I can’t beat it away. It echoes in my chest. I don’t know how to love any differently, I don’t know if it’s better to destroy the world for someone or to rebuild it for them, I don’t know, I don’t know. All I know is the dull ache beyond my lungs never stops, not fully, and I don’t know if it ever will.