By John Pendall
I’m terrified of love.
It’s raised me higher than any philosophy, religious experience or drug. It’s pulled me into the deepest pits of despair, where even suicide sounds pointless. How can something have such power? How can it inspire such phenomenal acts of creation and destruction?
I’m skeptical that something so earth shattering is simply the result of neurons firing. That theory seems even more ridiculous than the most far fetched New Age gibberish. It makes sense on paper, but it doesn’t hold up in real life. It doesn’t hold up when we see the things that love has inspired, it doesn’t hold up when we feel love—in all of its warmth and wrath.
I’m a man who’s been broken by unrequited love. There’s a chapter of my life that will forever remain unfinished, and the possibilities forever unactualized—for better or worse.
Truth is, I loved her the moment we met. I loved her in silence, hanging on her every laugh, word and smile; unable and unwilling to speak my idiot heart. Immobilized by honor and loyalty and certain that my love was pointless.
And it was a delusion, perpetuated by me thinking that she felt something for me as well—the result of misinterpreting friendliness and Platonic love as something more. Love seems to have the habit of seeing only itself and ignoring everything else. But no matter what she felt, I definitely loved her. It wasn’t an idea of her or an idealized image, but the real her in all of her beauty and ugliness, her darkness and her light.
I even loved the things I didn’t like about her.
I found myself unable to move forward, and unable to step back—that purgatory is still where I dwell to this day. This frozenness preceded my love, but it was also intensified by it. Every day I stand here waiting for something to happen, for a gust of wind to finally knock me over.
The man sitting here now is the heir of an implosion, a living remnant of carefree days now far behind—the best days of my life. Even the winters felt like summer, yet they were also the worst days of my life because they were accompanied by a bitter yearning. At its peak, toward the end, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t focus. I didn’t want to leave my midnight room. I just wanted to smoke weed and forget that I was in love. Then she found out, and it was over… but it wasn’t, it just changed.
Then I not only lost all hope, but also a great friend. The connectedness that kept me going withered into nothing. And so I withered with it. I stopped caring and I stopped taking care of myself. “What’s the point?”
I eventually climbed out of the deepest dark but I still find myself, from time to time, re-grieving over the neverwas.
All of this shows me something that’s close to my core: that I’m a coward. My biggest flaw is that I’m afraid of making mistakes. I regret not making more mistakes. I regret avoiding the “wrong” choices. Sometimes doing the “right” thing turns out to be the worst thing we could possibly do. They sure don’t teach you that one in school.
I’m not asking for sympathy or encouraging words, I’m just sharing and I’m not sure why. Why does a vein bleed? Even though I’m in pain, as the tears flow while listening to Adele, I’m “happy.” There’s a beauty in all of this, an impossible gratitude.
As I open myself to unknowing—letting life live itself through me—there’s a glorious mystery in which everything is, “Just right.” All the hurt, the pain, the sorrow, the joy, the longing… all of it is just right. If I could go back and do things differently, I wouldn’t. Because even the regret is part of This.
Day-to-day life itself is a testament to the fallibility of logic and reason. This cannot be measured or quantified, it can’t be isolated in a controlled environment and still retain its naturalness. For decades, psychology rejected the entire subjective realm of existence. They said it was because it can’t be observed, really it’s because it marginalizes all of their theories.
The world of the poet, the painter, the musician, the romantic—that’s reality. Its rationale will forever elude us, and that’s just as it should be.
Editor: Dana Gornall