“I love you (SHIT!!!!), I mean I really like you,” gushes from your mouth like bad Indian food erupting from your sphincter. In it’s infancy, the phrase “I love you” is like verbal diarrhea: it bursts out at inopportune times.
So then you start thinking: do I tell them? For real? What if they don’t say it back? But let’s be honest: if you’re in a relationship, it’s near-impossible to not say it back. I still believe this even though I said it first.
There they are, staring at you…intently: “I love you.” If you even flinch, you didn’t return their love quickly enough, and your relationship is now FUBARed. Then, one of two things happens: your partner magically and quickly falls in love with you within a matter of days; or, more likely, they start lying.
There’s a difference between saying “I love you” and genuinely loving someone. Sometimes you utter the words, and you think you mean them. But I wonder sometimes: did I really? Was the love real love?
As there are faux and authentic categories of amore, there are also varieties of heartbreak.
There’s the type of breakup that’s like a boxing match. Before the bell even rings, you can’t pick out one thing you like about the other person. Happy days together and good feelings burn away so quickly, it’s like all of it was collected and burned in some sort of horrific emotional bonfire. Will Smith flashy thing-ed you into not knowing this person anymore; and with each second that passes, your hearts grow harder towards each other. These are the people you don’t recognize when you run into them years later. You see them, but where is the person you dated? Where did the love go? Well, it’s dust. It’s worse than dust. Because, inside, he never liked you for what you really were. And the truth is, you never liked him either.
Then there’s the breed of heartache that only destroys you. You’re a sobbing, sniveling, snotty pile propped up in a corner of a dark hotel room. On a family vacation, your parents coax you to emerge from your cave, to “enjoy the weather,” but you’re not capable of enjoying shit. You dial that number thousands of times, destroying your dignity a little more with each press of that now-evil green button. While the other person… well, they scheduled a 20 minute time slot for “the call.” You’re the crazy one. Because you cared more than they did.
Strike that, and reverse it. They don’t say anything, but you can tell in the way they look at you. You love them, but not the way they want you to. But you let the pain fester like gangrene, watching it destroy them, because you want to see them, you want to be with them – just not as their significant other. So you torture them. It’s the kind of behavior that makes you wonder if you’ve brought bad karma upon yourself.
So the rapturous ballads of love are answered with the soul-wrenching dirges of breakups. But my current brand of heartbreak is also my “I love you.” And that seems unfair.
“I could say ‘I love you,’ but what would be the point?”
The phrase “I love you” abounds with possibilities, joys, and hopeful scenarios. When you first say the words, you’re practically pooping rainbows and burping butterflies. But what about this “I love you”? My boyfriend has “Best if used by mid-November” stamped across his forehead. And he does all the things I forgot I’d missed. He tells me look great when I look in the mirror and see Kim Kardashian in her third trimester (P.S. North West? What is this world coming to…) He seems to accept me for me. The whole kit and caboodle.
So there’s an expiration date on my relationship, and yes, today, I’m a little pissed off about it. My heart is wounded. But when you find yourself in a place where you just can’t get happy, doing the things love will redeem your day. Plan A flew out the window today: tears, fighting, and anxiety saw to that. But, by leap frogging from joy to joy, you soothe your spirit. You salvage a Plan B, and give your soul what it craves.
Our days stretch before us in want of our design. We are the painters, our moments are our canvasses. But, oftentimes, we act as if our lives are moving sidewalks: we passively ride through them. We don’t do things we love to do, because we just don’t have the kind of time or energy. It’s just not a priority. But, today, for me, is not a moving sidewalk kind of day.
My kitten pushes her feet against me as she sleeps; and a forest green cookbook, a recent gift from my ailing grandmother, is welcome company in my hands. I place post-its on cakes from my confectionary dreams; a perfect sangria for summer days; and comfort foods potent enough to alleviate the deepest of human troubles. I settle into my nirvana and grant my imagination permission to wander deep into fields of culinary delight.
Today, I am only doing things I love to do. An exchange of doomed “I love you’s” and one panic attack wrapped their fingers around my neck and squeezed. But home-made lime margaritas and a movie marathons loosen that suffocating grip.
A morning hike at Mt. Woodson coats my soul with a thick layer of endorphin-induced happy, for, deserted dusty trails and my feet pounding against earth are two of my favorite things. My mother’s elegant white marble bath tub, deep and free-standing, beckons me. In a few minutes, I’ll heed it’s call, as I do on days when life gets too hard to handle. Filled to the brim, the hot water blooms with bright blue and the scent of jasmine.
We tend to think that berating ourselves, working harder, and changing our behaviors are the keys to ironing out the wrinkles of our lives. But often what we really need is the complete opposite: radical self-care. Everyone should have days of nothing. 24, 48, 72 hours of no-“should’s.” No errands, no “musts”… just pleasure. Long walks. A comfy blanket and movies. Sunsets and wine. Cooking something new.
Since the dawn of my freelance writing career, there’s been a voice, ever-present in the back of mind saying, “What’s next?” “What’s the next idea?” “Go out and do this.” But my heart hurts today. The books of my summer reading list are covered with dust, and I haven’t surfed in over a month. I can’t remember the last pedicure I had (gross, I know) or one really indulgent thing I did for myself.
But, it’s 3:30 p.m. on a Friday, and in my former life, I’d be fielding phone calls, swallowing panic, and watching the clock click away towards the oasis of 5:00 p.m. But today, I’m rested, rejuvenated, and grateful for my new life. And though my heart hurts, I am not homeless, my car still runs, and I am finding my way. And I’m grateful for my boyfriend now, regardless of what lies in store for us. So today, yes, I do feel lucky. Today, yes, I am grateful. And tomorrow, you do three things you love to do. Doctor’s orders.