I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
When she called and said that she wanted to break up with me I simply responded with “Okay,” and then hanging up the phone. I rushed out the door, grabbing my skateboard to go do board slides on the bench at the local high school. I remember thinking that it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I was more embarrassed that I would now have to tell the other kids that I wasn’t the one who ultimately made the decision. And for a bunch of pre-teen boys, there were few things less “manly” than getting dumped by some chick. But I saw the movies where men and women would cry and hold their heart and long for what was. They would write songs and go to desperate lengths to get that person back in their lives… and I felt none of that. I began to believe that it was displayed on the screen for added effect. And it only took six months to find out just how wrong I was.
I started a new relationship at the beginning of the summer. She was different in that I was actually allowed to come over to her house and that she wanted to kiss me. We spent hours just staring at each other and asking questions. I genuinely wanted to get to know her like I had never done with anyone before. My family was annoying and my dudes, well, we just wanted to go skate and steal and smash things. But she was gentile, almost motherly. And I couldn’t get enough of her. But at the end of the summer, she broke up with me as well and I fell apart. I was irrational. I couldn’t understand how she could simply toss me aside. Didn’t she feel the hole? Wasn’t she rotting away on the inside? I knew that if I called her enough that I could talk some sense into her. Maybe I didn’t say the right thing in the right way. I just needed an opportunity, just a few minutes to say my piece and she would realize what a mistake it was to throw away the greatest love that had ever existed. Eventually I got through, and after she humored me for a good hour she dismissed my pleas and said goodbye forever.
There it was. The sullen dark depression I saw on my television. Only now I knew the movies didn’t get it right. It was all consuming. The kind of sadness that makes you question whether it is worth moving on in life and that ending the pain forever seemed like a legitimately appealing decision. I cried for days and nights and told no one. I kept it quiet and would hide in my room on sunny afternoons telling everyone I felt sick while I cried until I could no longer force the tears from my face. And in those dark days of my first heart break, I was absolutely certain that no one would be able to fix me so I prayed out loud begging god to make the pain go away. Because how could a pain so immense and dark be relatable to anyone?
Eventually I learned to put one foot in front of the other and go back outside to skateboard with my friends in the street and laugh at each other’s misfortunes in a way that only 13 year old boys find fulfilling. And as I grew older and went through more break ups I found that, while the pain varied from person to person depending upon just how much I was invested and how much of a future I saw behind their eyes, that pain never dulled. It hurt just as badly at 23 as it did at 13. And with each doomed relationship, I came to accept the fact that there is nothing we can do to shield our hearts from the pain. Well, outside of never truly allowing ourselves to invest in a real love but come on, there’s no fun or true happiness in that.
I think one of the most defining moments we have as an adult is when we realize we can’t figure everything out. I think it’s the arrogance of youth that makes us believe that if we play our cards right that we can come out of anything unscathed. As if some 16 year old kid can outmaneuver this raging love juggernaut of hurricane proportions. That if we tell ourselves “I don’t give a fuck” enough times we can somehow convince ourselves not to care. Or if we repost snarky passive aggressive memes showing how strong and more evolved we are than everyone else that the damage of the storm will miss us. But that is not only naive but highly detrimental. You can’t fight the storm, all you can do is learn to live in it until it passes. But make no mistake – your shit will absolutely get fucked up. You just have to learn to be a good carpenter and know how to rebuild things and stand your ground the next time shit rolls through.
The only way to avoid the storm is to move somewhere else where love doesn’t live. Sure, it’s safe but dear lord is it boring. You can date and have sex with people and “play the field” and play it safe – but at the end of the night, when you wash off the glitter and sex and lie down in bed alone wondering how perfect it would feel if someone who loved you exactly the way you are got in next to you and wrapped their arms around you until fell asleep, you will wish you put yourself in the eye of the storm. Because sometimes the destruction is worth the view. Even if we know the storm is going to wreck everything we built, doesn’t mean that it ruins the memory of the countless days and nights sitting with someone on the porch feeling completely content and happy.
So no, I don’t know how to make the pain go away. But I do know that just because it’s going to hurt shouldn’t prevent us from building a home in someone’s heart.