Here’s the truth: Love terrifies me.
As much as I long for it, dream of it, yearn for it, and want it in my life, it terrifies me in a way nothing else can. It leaves me at once trembling with both fear and desire. I ache to know what it is to be swept away by love’s unyielding force, yet I fear the torrent, so I cling to what I have known up to this point in order to keep myself safe on solid, if lonely, ground, as if I could fight the current if I just tried hard enough.
The problem rests in the fact that I do not know how to love someone only a little bit. I don’t know how to have feelings for someone that go only so far and no further. Maybe some people have that ability, but it’s not a power I have ever possessed. I go all in. When I fall, I fall hard. It’s all or nothing. The one my heart loves will never have to wonder if I care for him, because he will be shown that I do, in many different ways, all the time. I couldn’t help that even if I wanted to. It is something that becomes instinctive. “How can I make him smile right now, in this moment?” My driving force would be imagining his smile.
Love means losing all sense. The brain says, “You’re falling fast!”. The heart says, “I know, and what a thrill!”. Falling in love is an exhilarating ride. It is terrifying. It is intoxicating. It’s mesmerizing and captivating. It somehow stops all reason. Otherwise well-grounded, intelligent people become fools, forgetting their names, dropping their books, smiling dopey smiles every time a thought of their beloved drifts through their mind, which is about every ten seconds. Falling in love at once makes a person the strongest person in the world, because the force of love makes them believe they can conquer anything, and the most vulnerable person in the world, because their heart is in another’s hands. Falling in love is at once a glorious and terrifying experience, a free fall into wonderment.
If you’ve ever read Alice in Wonderland, you know that wonder can be exquisite in its beauty, and awful in its terror. I think falling in love feels a lot like that. It’s beautiful. It’s terrifying.
Yet, for all its inherent danger, for all the vulnerability it entails, I wouldn’t harden my heart to it. I welcome the thrill of the free fall. I welcome the stumbling into beautiful and paralyzing wonderment. I welcome the yearning to spoil the one I love, day in and day out, if only to see him smile and feel his happiness. I welcome the way seeing that smile would lift my spirit to even greater heights, giving momentum to my falling, building a safe place for both of us to land as our hearts join in the fall together.
I welcome it.
It scares the hell outta me, and I ache for it.
Falling in love is easy, and really can’t be helped. Whatever you might have felt for others before, when you find that one person that was meant for you, the one your soul knew even before you met them, it knocks you flat and makes no apologies. Everything from that moment on is different. When you meet that person who turns your world upside down, changing everything about your life to such a degree that there is a marked “before” and “after” you met them, you have little control over what your heart will do. Your heart is carried away, you fall, and keep falling, and it feels amazing. It’s a natural high. Everything becomes more beautiful. Colors become more vibrant. The song the birds sing becomes more melodic. The people you meet become more interesting and lovely. Everything about this world of ours and her inhabitants becomes dappled in sunlight even on rainy days, and breathtaking joy is found everywhere. It’s an amazing feeling.
The time comes, though, when love is a choice. Conflicts arise. Arguments happen. Life can become difficult. Life can become infinitely worse than difficult. In those moments, you find out what this love you have is made of. If it isn’t more than sweet notions and happy feelings, it isn’t love that lasts. If it is sweet notions, happy feelings, and the understanding that sharing life with someone comes with its share of complications, even under the best of circumstances, and you bounce back to normal quickly after said complications arise, it’s love that can stay the course for the long haul. Falling in love is the easiest thing in the world. Staying in love is where the challenge comes in.
I heard once, “You marry someone because you love them. Then, you love that someone because you married them.” In my experience and observations, there is so much truth in this. Love is more than a feeling. Love is messy. Love in the real world means that the happily ever after we are promised in fairytales comes as a conscious choice and concentrated effort by the lover and the beloved. Love isn’t always a smooth road. Love means facing the bumps in the road, the unexpected twists and hairpin turns, the unforeseen obstacles that could easily thwart a less formidable couple, and facing them together with the commitment and the knowing that you will come out on the other side of the struggle together. This is where all the tokens of love and affection used to build a safe haven for each other gets put to work, and this is where you learn what you really mean to each other.
And this is perhaps where the fear comes in. Falling in love is frightening, though perhaps not for the reason we often read about or see in movies. Perhaps the underlying fear isn’t that the beloved will reject the lover at first glance, but will accept the lover at first glance and reject them when the road gets bumpy and the way ahead is unclear. Perhaps the fear is acknowledged that out of the billions of people in the world, the two of you happened to meet. At some point, you chose each other to share the journey with. Perhaps the fear is that, at some point, the beloved will no longer choose the lover. Love is a choice sometimes, and what if the choice is to walk away when life happens?
For me, my heart’s message to my beloved, with every token of affection I would give him, with every smile I work to see light his face, with every touch, kiss, embrace…my heart would be saying, “I choose you. Again and again, I choose you. Choose me. Again and again, choose me.” I have a lot of experience with proclamations of love that arrive with poetry and romance. I do not have experience with love that stays after the flowers die and poetry doesn’t come easily.
And this is the ultimate terror of falling in love…that it won’t lead to staying in love. Falling in love is a brilliant free fall. Staying in love is a hike on sometimes rough terrain. It takes commitment, step by step choices, diligence, and a “want to.” Falling in love is not a choice. Staying in love is a million little choices, all for the desire for very best for the one the heart loves. I yearn to have someone to make such choices for. I yearn to be the reason someone makes such choices. And it scares the hell outta me.
And now, a song. Remember this one?