You don’t get to choose who you love.
And, yes, you can tell me that’s a bullshit excuse from someone who doesn’t have enough confidence to walk away. But, no. I’ve walked away from plenty of people that I will love until I die. People I love enough that I will randomly lose my shit when I’m in public doing something completely unrelated. Something will happen: my dog will stop to sniff a flower patch, I’ll remember that one time we first took him on the Terraces trail together and he did that cute little thing where he stopped to smell the sage brush and we both paused to watch him because it was so cute—you thought it was sweet that time (but years later were super annoyed anytime he stopped) and we laughed and maybe hugged at the sweetness of all of it, and there I am, ready to go to work in the morning, but I’m holding back a sob, choking back tears, unable to breathe, etc., etc., fuckitwhatever.
Well, here’s the thing. You can love people who are broken. People who break. Here are a few examples of what happens when you do…with a little help from my one of my favorite movies of all time: The Neverending Story
What happens when you love [someone who’s grieving]
When a spouse passes, the grief of the bereaved is unbearable, surely. Imagine what Bastian’s father must have been feeling. Yet, we see almost no emotion in his only scene early in the film. Bastian’s dad scolds him for drawing horses in his math book (unicorns…they were unicorns, dad!) and tells him that he’s “old enough to keep his head out of the clouds.” I mean, WTF?! I know this was the 80’s, but Damn! Couldn’t he let the kid engage in some fantasy? Well, think on it: maybe he was doing whatever he could to hold it all together. Maybe showing a little sadness or compassion would’ve shown a crack in the armor. So here’s what happens when you love someone who’s grieving…take note:
- They won’t have the capacity to see your magic
- They will be broken and cold
- It might make you feel very, very alone
- Maybe that’s how they feel
Seth Godin recently blogged, What have we become? In it, he states, “People don’t become selfish, hateful and afraid all at once. They do it gradually.” So, what he may be saying is, you didn’t choose to become this hard, awful person. How did you end up this way? What made you this cold? Did you realize the same things that broke you could have rebuilt you in another manner?
What happens when you love [an addict]
This. It can happen to anyone: smart people, strong people, healthy people. And, contrary to what you may think, it can be all sorts of substances. I don’t really give a great-white-fuck what people think about certain recreational drugs. If you’re doing them 10 times a day, or you can’t get out of bed without them, or you leave the house after your wife goes to bed, or you have to do them in secret and keep them a lie, illegally, in the basement at the risk of your family (with no consideration for their safety), or you risk everything for it, you are probably addicted. Yes, even to things that are legal in certain states. Here’s the thing: there’s a reason you’re checking out. And you could point to dangerous things that are already legal, like alcohol, but I’ not drinking whiskey in the morning, or sneaking it at work, or distilling it under my desk even though the feds could raid it and shoot my dog for it. Don’t fucking start…
The thing about prescription med addiction, pot, porn, meth, anything…you’re not stronger than it. No one is. Not even love. Hard truths for people who love someone in this state:
- you won’t be able to pull them out from it
- you can’t save them
- they will sink
- nothing you can do to save them will work
- they’ll choose it over you
- you’ll be left alone, with nothing, and you will feel as if you’ve failed them
What happens when you love [someone who’s given up]
Apathy. Like boiling the frog, it will comfortablly numb your loved ones until they just can’t be bothered to improve, or try, or fucking care. It sucks the passion out of their once starry eyes and makes them wary and annoyed at your effervesance and energy. They won’t support your endeavores. In fact, they may even sabotage them, encouraging you to give up. No one will care, and no one really likes you. You’ll never be happy and everything is stupid anyway. Just go back to bed, take some mood stabilizers and be quiet already—we’re trying to sleep. Your constant quest for meaning is sooooo annoying. And, besides, you’re never gonna be happy anyway. Here’s the thing about loving someone who’s given up on themselves:
- It’s scary
- It’s infectious
- …like a cold
- They won’t like you
- They won’t know exactly why
- You’ll only bother them
Sometimes you get lucky and a friend will come along...
Hey, if you’re lucky, you may have a friend, or two, that shows up when you’re down. These won’t replace your loved ones, but they’ll be there to help you cover a few daunting miles. The good thing about loving these people:
- They’ll believe in you
- They’ll help you find your way
- But you still have to go it alone in the end
What happens when you love [the person who’s been there the whole time]
Spoiler alert: It’s you. Yes, yes…let’s talk about this. You keep fucking up and fucking up—big time. You made some mistakes and hurt some people who cared about you. In your mad-grieving state, you burned some bridges (and I mean burned some bridges). You feel like you’re destroying everything and everyone you’ve ever loved (see stage 3 of the grieving process: ANGER) and you can’t fucking help it. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!?!
Shhhhhhhh…it’s OK. The problem with taking an unfiltered look at yourself is that you often find you’re less attractive than you’d pictured. You’re not super tough or sexy. You might be weak and sad. You’re pretty lonely and empty, maybe you act like a total child and you’re super insecure. Shit!
There’s a great blogger who put’s it this way, “Live your life as if you are the love of it.” Heidi Priebe suggests that the one person who’s always been there when you’ve royally fucked up? It’s you. The person who’s stood by you to see how you’ve gotten out of every mess? Bingo:
- The real love of your life (hint: it’s probably you)
- It’s terrifying
- You may not like this person when you really see them the first time
- You will run and hide
- The sooner you face them, the better
So, yes, The Neverending Story was probably wildly depressing for many children when we watched it as kids. I still tear up at it. And it’d be hard to sit through again with a small child if I had kids. Dammit, I’m 35 and these lessons suck now! Grief, disassociation, apathy…you can’t build a relationship with these things in the way. They will devour you. Be careful.