I’ve been single for almost 7 years. I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure that’s a kind of a long time. It feels like an eternity when I think about how much has changed between then and now and how many lives I’ve lived in between. At least they feel like other lives — those temporary, fast-moving chunks of history you can never quite grab ahold of long enough to show and explain to everyone who didn’t live them with you.
I fell in love 7 years ago, and somehow, despite my best efforts, I’ve never really managed to fall out. He was one of those other lives — one filled with nerves and terror and wonder and all the things that simultaneously light up your eyes and break your heart into tiny pieces. The kind of story told with the words to every Taylor Swift song rolled into a giant emotional pop music rollercoaster. We loved hard and fast and burned up bright before we could stop it.
Do you know about supernovas?* They start out as thriving stars that are both exerting and receiving pressure to and and from the universe in this delicate balancing act. They don’t know it, but that balancing act has an expiration date. Eventually the inward pressure causes the star’s core to collapse and its temperature to skyrocket. The core becomes so dense that there’s nowhere else for it to go, at which point a huge shock wave is triggered and blasts open the entire star in a fiery blaze. (Just so you know, I’m officially incorporating “fiery blaze” into all of my future blog posts. You’re welcome.)
It was kind of like that.
Our balancing act was the push and pull between forces that seemed out of our control at the time. Insecurity, immaturity, walls no one would let down, selfishness, resentment. But it wasn’t always that way. We were a thriving star for a while.
Isn’t it funny how things can escalate so quickly in relationships — from spark to explosion when you’re not even looking? I’ve dwelled on the explosion part for years. I’ve been every degree of angry, sad, hopeful, confused, spiteful, and all of the above mixed into one piping hot batch of crazy. It’s taken more time than I could have ever thought possible to move my focus away from the explosion, but I’m finally starting (better late than never) to weed out some of the shitty stuff and remember the spark.
This summer I met someone really great. We talked for a while before actually meeting, and by “talking” I mean “texting” which is not actually “talking” at all. But, hey, it’s 2015. By the time we met, I had gathered the following: He was nice, funny, and smart, and loved Jesus and music and cute animals. I was slightly reluctant to meet him because I knew I should like him. I knew I should give him a chance. I mean, did you read that list? He’s great. But I couldn’t stop myself from expecting the spark. I needed it. I needed it to validate 7 years of loneliness and prove that love, even in my 30s, can be exciting and whimsical and make me so nervous I want to puke.
I hoped for the spark, but it didn’t happen. I spent the whole time thinking about that supernova and wondering if lightning could strike twice. I was distracted, asking myself whether I’ll ever really move on and let myself fall in love with someone else. If that’s not some intense pressure to put on a guy, I don’t know what is. Yikes!
The next day I texted my sister something like “Is it too much to ask for a spark?” That undefinable, indescribable, little bit of nothing that makes your heart beat fast like a sweaty middle-school-style crush? Does it still exist? Can it still exist?
But why would I compare this new person who has never hurt me to someone I associate with pain that has haunted me for years? It makes me kind of crazy just thinking about it. (If you know the answer, please write a book for the strugglers.)
One of my new favorite movies is This Is Where I Leave You, a quirky dramedy about a super dysfunctional family, a mother and her adult children & their spouses, sitting shiva after their father’s death. In one scene, Wendy (Tina Fey) sits on the roof with her brother, Judd (Jason Bateman), discussing the complications and hardships of love, marriage, and relationships. She says, “Love causes cancer. But like everything else, it has its moments.”
I’ve pondered that line a lot, and I think I know what she’s talking about. Love has the potential to destroy a person — to get inside and take over and never ever leave so you’re in constant fear of what it might do to you in the future. It can be terrifying. But it can also be beautiful, and a lot of the time, it is. I don’t know why I make the comparisons I do or why I maintain illogical expectations. But my theory is that it has something to do with those moments — the sparks — the ones that burn in my memory, constantly reminding me that they’re the only way to start a fire. (Thank you, Bruce Springsteen.)
I think 7 years is way too long to be in love with someone you will never be with. And now feels like the perfect time to attempt to let go. The last time I saw him he told me to find a nice boy who would treat me right. Ugh. If only it were that easy.
Of all the Taylor Swift songs I’d like to sing into my hairbrush right now, this one is the most fitting. She knows a thing or two about the sucky parts of love, like when you can’t fall out of it. But I also think she knows how to stop dwelling on the explosion and remember the spark. Love has its moments, after all.
Say you’ll remember me
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset, babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks,
Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams
*I didn’t do great in my college astronomy class. Sorry for any scientific inaccuracies.