Is Love a Choice?

So, my ex-boyfriend and I had a long text conversation today about the end of our relationship.  It’s been close to four months, I think, since he broke it off rather abruptly. He told me he ended it because he gave up on our long-distance relationship – of course, there was another woman involved so I’m sure that was part of it, but whatever – and I told him it’s all good and people’s feelings change and it was for the best. Blah, blah, blah.

And that got me thinking about what I actually believe about love and commitment.

Thing is, I do believe everything I told Jon. But I also believe love is a commitment. You date to see if you want to make that commitment. We did and he didn’t. Fine.

But, after that, after you make the choice that you love that person and want to be with them forever. At that point, it’s not an option for your feelings to change. What I mean by that is this. You fall in love. You make a choice to commit. Then you keep committing every day.

You commit to love that person.

You commit to be honest with that person about what you need.

You commit to do whatever it takes to keep that love alive.

You commit to make sacrifices for their happiness and, because they love you the same way, they will also make sacrifices for yours.

I don’t know at what point in the relationship you make this commitment, but I think you both know when it happens. And it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s a big deal.

Because that commitment means it’s the two of you against the world. You’re no longer flying solo. You no longer have the option to only do what you want. You have to consider another person. And you made a commitment to love and be with that person forever. Anything less is a betrayal.

For some people, for some couples, that seems pretty easy. I think, in some ways, it’s how far you open your heart. Once a person is in there deeply, embedded, they become a part of you. It makes it easier to make that daily commitment because to hurt them, you hurt yourself. But, even then, you can’t forget. You can’t take it for granted.

I’ve seen so many couples who thought they were safe, that things were good. Then, a few years later, one of them cheats. The excuse of the cheater is always that they didn’t feel that their partner listened to their needs. It’s imperative to check in with each other. To talk and to listen to each other.

I’ve never been married.

But I’ve seen a lot of marriages – both good and bad.

I’ve listened to a lot of people with broken hearts tell me what went wrong on their side. I’ve had friends who have been cheated on and friends who cheated. I try not to judge because I know marriage is hard and that it takes two people for it to work. And that’s my point. It’s work.

The couples I know whose marriages are currently good all say that it’s work and that they work at it. They talk. They check in with each other. They compromise. They BOTH compromise. They make deals: you do this one night for me and I’ll do that one night for you. You figure out what’s important to each other, and you make it happen.

And I’ve never heard a couple who works on their relationship say that it wasn’t worth it. Love always is. It’s worth sacrifice and pain and hard work because…well…love.

For now, I’m flying solo again and that’s okay. I am living the life I want, learning to love myself the way I deserve to be loved, and opening my heart up to the Universe to be more generous and caring and vulnerable and daring. I’m learning not to be afraid of physical or emotional pain on my path to get what I want. And, hopefully, I’ll find someone to share in my crazy adventures along the way.

Of course, the steps required to get my Z Visa may kill me but, if I get through that, I am psyched about what the future holds.

What are your thoughts about love? Can you make a choice to love one person forever or are you at the mercy of whimsical emotions? Is the notion of loving one person forever a social construct or is it a desirable and attainable goal?

I think that choosing to love one person forever is a desirable and attainable goal. And, the older I get, the more I think that love is a choice. You can choose to love someone forever. I am, however, an idealist and a romantic so I believe the impossible is possible if you want it badly enough!

But whatever you believe and however you believe, I also know that you must be true to yourself. Think about this. Take the time to love yourself and decide how you want love to exist in your life. There are no wrong answers as long as you’re honest with yourself and the people you allow into your heart.

Peace.

Fiction: He Loves Me Not

Moolight cast a romantic glow across the sand, the water, the man.

“Adam, where are we going?” I was half-walking, half-running beside him, carrying a pair of gold sandals in one hand. There was nowhere special on this stretch of beach, but he seemed to have a goal in mind. His gaze was serious and focused ahead.

I was a little out of breath as the humidity and awkward pace strangled the romance of the night and made it hard to breathe. It frizzed my hair as well, but I was trying not to think about that. No matter how great I may look at the beginning, it never lasted long: my make-up somehow disappeared; my hair flattened or frizzed; I’d get something on my clothes. Adam, on the other hand, always looked impeccable.

I had tried so hard tonight. My make-up had been perfect, dramatic eyes since they were my best feature; my hair straightened since I hadn’t known we were coming to the beach; my favorite jeans and fitted, turquoise sweater. But nature didn’t care how hard I’d tried; I only hoped Adam did.

He abruptly stopped walking, face me and took both my hands in his.  “I have to talk to you about something.”

I ignored the alarm bells going off in my head and allowed my heart to leap with hope. Finally, after three years of waiting, this was it.

“Yes?” I asked.

He cleared his throat, looking at the sand. I waited for him to get down on one knee.

“I’m in love with Maggie.”

The smile froze. The crashing of the waves amplified in my ears. I pulled away from him, backed up a few steps, tripped and fell. I started laughing.  “Right. Very funny.”

“I’m serious.”

He reached down to help me up, but I scuttled backward like a crab.

“But you don’t even like Maggie.” I stood on my own, backing even further away from him. Maggie, I thought, fucking Maggie.

“Well, I didn’t.” He looked away and put his hands in his pockets. The moonlight reflected brightly off his hair and chiseled jawline. “But we’ve been talking, going to lunch, and I’ve gotten to know her better. We actually have a lot in common.”

I felt nauseated and swiped at the sand on my butt to distract myself, focusing on my task as if getting every grain of sand off my hands was a matter of life and death. “You have a lot in common.”

“Yeah.”

“And you’re in love with her.” He’d never said those words to me, but I had been confident he felt them.

“Yes, I’m in love with her.”

“Okay.” I had nothing to say.  What could I say?

I turned away from him and started walking in the direction we had come from.

Lightning suddenly split the sky, and it started to rain. Perfect.

“Kallie, wait.”

I kept walking. Blocking him out. Blocking his voice out. Pain roared through me as his words sank in, making me want to double over to keep it from tearing me apart.

“Wait.” He grabbed my arm, the rain making it slick, easy to pull away and keep walking.

I wanted to stab him in the heart and push him into the ocean, make my pain disappear with his body.

“Wait.” He stood in front of me. I walked around him, staring straight ahead.

No, I wanted to kill her, make her disappear so he’d have to turn to me.

God, that was so pathetic.

“Kallie.” He was behind me now and hooked his arm around my waist, holding me in place.

I stopped, the tears unstoppable now and mingling with the rain on my face.

He held me close to his body, and I savored the feeling, hating myself, hating him, hating her, hurting so badly that I didn’t know what to do, wanting to get away from the pain.

“Kallie,” he whispered.

I slid through his arms to fall on my hands and knees, burying my fingers in the wet sand, looking for comfort.

He kneeled by my side. “I’m sorry.”

I snorted out a laugh and tipped my head up toward the rain, the cool water falling harder, soaking me, soaking him. I felt weak and tired and sad and hurt and angry. The emotion built on years of friendship, of loving him, of doing everything for him that he ever asked, of dreaming of a future, surged through my body; the hope I’d lived on washed away by his words, his pitying tone of voice, and replaced with shame.

I cut off my emotional circus and faced him, looking him in the eyes. “Really? You’re sorry? For what?”

“For hurting you.”

“Gotcha.” I looked away and pushed myself up.

“I want to love you, but I don’t. I’m sorry.”

“Thanks.”

I walked blindly in the direction we had come from, or at least I hoped I was.

“I care about you, Kallie. I don’t want it to end this way.”

Why did he keep talking? I needed him to stop talking.

“I want to go home,” I stated.

He trailed behind me, now blessedly silent.

I kept walking and hoped frantically that his car would come into view. I didn’t think we’d walked that far. I finally spotted it – standing alone in the parking lot under a light, looking like salvation. I hurried up the hill, not going all the way to the steps but taking the more expedient hill, stumbling and falling, getting up and moving, dirt now plastering my wet pants and hands. I didn’t care.

He hesitated to let me in the car as I stood facing the passenger door, focused on it as if I could will it open. Why wasn’t he unlocking the car? Why was he just standing there? I couldn’t ask because my throat was tight with emotion, and I did not want to break down.

Maybe he didn’t want me to get his car because I was plastered with mud and dripping water. Tough. The lock clicked open. I glared at the hand that reached out to open the door for me and practically tore the door off the hinges opening it myself.

The beginnings of guilt-ridden explanations choked off and angry words held back hovered and swam in the car between us, but nothing was said.

An eternity passed and then my apartment building came into view.

I walked majestically, at least in my own mind, to the building, but, once out of sight, I leaned against the first wall I reached and sobbed, my body trying to shake itself apart. When the tsunami stopped, I stumbled to my own apartment, my own door, and privacy. I stripped off my clothes, curled into a ball, and held myself tightly in the dark.

Cold, shivering, holding every cell together with my arms and sheer willpower, I stayed that way through the dark hours. I was brittle with the pain which was too deep now to even cry. My head pounded, my throat was tight, and time became meaningless.

My swollen, tired, burning eyes noticed light filtering in the bedroom window. I forced myself up and into a warm shower. The warm water thawed everything, and I melted to the floor.

Crying.

Crushed.

He loves me.

Not.

Falling in Love

Yesterday my co-worker and I started talking about our move abroad. We discussed the challenges of renting our homes out, getting rid of our furniture, storing items we wanted to keep, saying good-bye to friends, selling our cars, getting to the airport to leave the U.S. and move to another country for an indeterminate amount of time. We both said that had we not wanted it badly enough, we would’ve quit because the preparation is complicated and hard and scary. But we both wanted it very badly.

As we talked, I remembered the excitement I felt when I got on the plane. I was practically vibrating with happiness yet there was a sense of peace in my core that I can’t explain. The idea that I was moving to another country, that I was going to get to live in Asia, in Taiwan, was beyond exciting to me. It was a dream come true.

People would ask about my plans as I was preparing, and I had a nervous excitement about answering, as if I were bragging. But I had a layover in Tokyo on my way to Taipei, and, every time I said, “I have a layover in Tokyo,” I would feel a smile beam from my face. I couldn’t control it. It sounded so exotic and wonderful – “a layover in Tokyo.”

The excitement is different now, not as all-encompassing. Blair likened it to falling in love – and she’s right. We fell in love with travel, and we’re still in love. It’s no longer a new love, but a long-term relationship. So the rush and the giddy excitement is no longer there. Like any long-term relationship, it gradually became the new normal. I am still happy and still in love, but the feelings are the not the same as they were in the beginning.

I’ll never get back that feeling that comes from the newness of love. Even though I am considering moving to another country next year, I don’t have that same out-of-control, full body happiness. You can only fall in love once, and, even though I miss that feeling, I wouldn’t trade the past two years for anything. This is one relationship that isn’t going to end!

Valentine’s Day: A Hallmark Moment

ImageValentine’s Day this year was rough.  I’m 40 and single with no romantic possibilities in sight.  Valentine’s Day comes around every year as a stark reminder that I haven’t met a man whom I want and who wants me to be his one and only.  That’s okay, but it’s sometimes a lonely feeling.  I allowed myself to feel sad and hurt this year, and it wasn’t good.

I hate Valentine’s Day because it’s a day that makes anyone not “in love” feel incredibly left out and unwanted.  It puts pressure on people to publicly express their love, and they feel judged on how well they do.  But Valentine’s Day can be a day to celebrate love.  Period.

There was a beautiful, bright spot in the day when my father brought me flowers and a balloon to work to tell me he loved me.  I didn’t need the flowers and balloons because he shows me he loves me in so many other ways throughout the year, but I feel blessed to have such a wonderful man in my life who wanted me to know on Valentine’s Day that he was thinking of me.  (I think he really just felt bad because I’m single, but that’s another blog post for another day.  Ha, ha!)

But this is what Valentine’s Day should be.  It’s a reminder of how we should live every day – showing people how much we care.  It’s a reminder to say, “I love you” and to do something that shows that love.  I have love in my life.  I have a supportive family and a circle of fantastic friends whom I love and who remind me all the time that I am loved.

For this, I am truly one lucky lady.

Remembering that romantic love isn’t the end all and be all of what makes life satisfying and fulfilling is important.  Having romance is a huge bonus, but life is bright and joyous and full of wonder without that.  Loving yourself, loving the people who choose to be your friends, loving your family who is there through the good and the bad – that is what matters.

Embracing the love life brings you in all its forms opens you up to the positive things in the Universe.

A Hallmark card on Valentine’s Day is all good and well, but I value the love I am shown in a million ways on a day-to-day basis so much more:  my mom’s email asking about something happening in my life; my friend’s text just to say “hi”’; my dad stopping by my house to set a mouse trap in the attic (because I just can’t); my brother mowing my lawn when I’m feeling overwhelmed; and so many others.  This is love.  Flowers and cards one day out of the year is simply a reminder that love is present in our lives.

My journey has been paved with many people who have given me the love and encouragement I need to become the best me.  I look forward to seeing what else life has to offer – and I plan to keep the people who love me close and hope they know how much I appreciate everything they bring to my life.

I love you all – and thank you.

Happy Valentine’s Day