This has been a weird week. Awkward. I don’t like it, but I’m sure it is what it is for some reason or another. Lessons learned or some bullshit like that. I don’t know.
Life is hard! Relationships are messy. Sometimes I just run out of things to say. Feelings. All that. I usually have a lot of feelings, which is why I cry at stupid things like yogurt commercials and that documentary about the Great Wall of China. But this week I find my feelings have gone missing. I don’t really feel much of anything and it has left me empty. Gross. This is awful. I should lock myself in the closet and write poetry and practice Opus Dei rituals or something. Did you know that Pope John Paul II used to whip himself with a belt and sleep on the hard floor to remind him of the suffering of Jesus Christ? Amen.
Here’s a question I sometimes find myself waking up to in the morning: DO I LOVE HER?
Maybe it seems like an ugly question, but it isn’t. I’ve asked this question of myself for all the time we’ve been together. Do I love her. YOU BET I DO! Do I love her? FUCK YEAH! Do I love her? SIGNS POINT TO YES! Then sometimes it’s not hard to answer, but it’s complicated by other things – relationshipy things. Do I love her? Yeah, but… Do I love her? I do, but I wish… Do I love her? Yes, even though… There hasn’t ever been a time where the first thought afterward wasn’t an easy affirmation. Yes, what a dumb question after all these years together. Relationships change, people change, we sometimes want things we might not have wanted before and we have to make adjustments, we have to find a new balance. That’s the work we put in, that’s the hard part that people neglect and why, in part, things fall apart. You forget that there’s work because yeah, you do still love her so things must be okay, it’ll all come out in the wash. But then sometimes, after you have neglected the work and it’s not that easy and it’s not always fun, you start to waver. Do I love her? I think so. Do I love her? I’m pretty sure I do. Do I love her? Maybe, I don’t know. This is where things get murky, dark and they start to look unpleasant. There are more fights. Things aren’t as pretty as they used to be. Relationships become tarnished and unkempt and you don’t know if it’s all still there, that feeling you used to have in the core of your soul, the one you you felt as soon as you woke up and that comforted you when you drifted off to sleep. That feeling you took for granted. But if you look hard, underneath the muck, you see those old moments that you built your relationship upon and you can feel it again. You have to look harder – you have to do the work – but it’s still there. It’s just covered by neglect and anger and pride and sloth and indifference. But if you start to scrape that off, you see those old things, like that quiet walk in the park before there ever was a relationship to speak of, that picnic in front of the museum one sunny afternoon when that asshole at the deli put mayonnaise on your sandwich, all those times you shared uncontrollable laughter over things that wouldn’t be funny to anyone else and especially that time you stood in front of the people you love and gave her your heart and soul and made a promise to love her forever.
And you sit with your face in your hands and cry because how could you have let so much beauty get covered up by so much shit? How could you forget that the loveliest thing you have in your life is starting to wither because you’ve neglected it. It looked fine a few months ago, how did it get so dirty so fast? But it happens and that’s when you have to make the decision to clean it up or let it go. That’s when the question becomes most important. Do I love her? Do I love her enough to try harder? Do I love her enough to change? Do I love her enough to clean up the mess? Do I love her enough to work past my anger and fear? Do I love her enough to tell her how I feel? Do I love her?
The truth is that sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes you look at the big picture and you are just too tired. Tired of the same fights, the same outcomes, the same words and broken promises. You stare at all of it heaped in a pile and it seems larger than you; insurmountable. You can’t see the beauty anymore and you are too tired to keep looking. You’ve given up. What now? How do you unravel a relationship and extricate yourself from years worth of living as a couple. Slowly, delicately, you start to pull at the things that were yours alone; the easy stuff. Those are my clothes, that is my book, this is my cat. Then it gets more complicated because when two people have been so immersed in one another, when a relationship is so intertwined, there are knots and struggles and pulling. This is my bed, those are my chairs, that is my dog. The pain cuts deeper until it eats up all the love you had built your relationship upon and the two of you can no longer stand to be in the same room together. So many years as that couple, as the ones no one ever thought would be the ones to split apart, that identity you cultivated together is gone; a victim of neglect and disrepair and fear. Who are you now? You start your life all over again.
The real mark of a strong relationship, of the staying power, is the fight. Not the fight over things and bills and money, but the fight to keep it alive. It is the passion for one another, the desire to work things out, the willingness to get our hands dirty and weather the worst of times. We dedicate ourselves to making it through to the other side despite the odds. We refuse to give up, even when the problems seem like a mountain between us, so we start that climb and we wade through the hurt, the jealousy, the misunderstandings, the selfishness, the anger, the pieces of our past that we let hold us back and we look it in the eye and we acknowledge it, we see it for what it is and we let it fall away. We keep going. We fight because this thing we have is too beautiful to give up on. So we scratch and claw our way to the top because we made a promise that we would take on that fight no matter the odds. We will never give up on us. We will never be that broken.
Do I love her?
You could never imagine how much.