The Next Time I Find Love
What Love is Not
I remember what felt like love.
Stolen moments alone, hoping not to get caught.
Driving away from the city and sitting side by side, watching sunlight glisten on the lake, our arms barely touching.
Strolling around the City of Light (and love), enjoying the fresh spring air.
Climbing the peak of Mount Kinabalu in darkness to watch the sun rise and see the world beneath our feet.
Flying across continents to meet in the middle, foregoing sleep to wander through market halls and gaze upon ancient, beautiful buildings.
And the moonlit moments. The walks in the park, on the beach, back to the car after dinner.
It’s easy to be a lover in the moonlight. It’s easy to be a poet in the moonlight. It’s easy to find the words to write when you’re chasing new sunsets, and looking at a different horizon every day.
It’s easy to confuse love with the thrill of the new and unfamiliar.
They should call falling in love falling in excitement, because that’s what it is. Butterflies in your stomach, giddiness, clammy palms. It sounds like the human equivalent of my cat when he’s overstimulated — ears pricked forward, tail raised high and tensed up, twitching nose. Fully aware that what he’s getting into is probably a bad idea, but too curious to stay away.
And what about staying in love? It’s a lot harder to do when the house is messy, the laundry needs to be done, and you’re both exhausted from a long week.
We are drawn to people in ways we don’t always understand. But after awhile, the fog boils away and the mystery softens. We are left with another human being standing entirely before us, with all of their fears, imperfections, and aspirations.
At that point, love is a choice. To stay is a choice.
Perhaps the love that stays during the ordinary days is the truer and deeper love. There are no illusions left, no more secrets that the moonlight can hide.
Perhaps love is like writing. The words I bang out when I’m feeling uninspired are words that hold more truth and more “lived experience” than the ones I type in a fleeting moment of inspiration, on an airplane or in a new country I’m visiting for the first time, free from the worries or cares of everyday life.
The words I type when I’m feeling zero inspiration represent truths that have made their way deep into my soul. That’s why, even when I may not feel it, I can still write it.
Maybe that’s what real love is about. Maybe it’s the things we’re able to do and the words we’re able to say when there’s nothing particularly new or exciting or attention-grabbing going on.
What Love Could Be
The next time I find love, I won’t fall into it.
Because anything you can simply “fall into” is not love, but a mere fantasy at best, an addictive high, at worst. A shadow of something true and real and far more weighty.
The next time I find love, I will walk into it.
Sober. Eyes wide open, arms outstretched, heart tender yet strong and open and willing and ready to say:
Here I am, and there you are. I am me, and I am complete, and you are you, and you are complete. We don’t complete each other — but what a thrill it is to dance together!
The next time I find love, I won’t need it. I won’t spend sleepless nights thinking or anxious minutes waiting for the phone to ring, desperate, grasping on to any small shred of validation to soothe my lack of self-appreciation.
The next time I find love, I will want it. I will choose it. Not just because it chose me or because I have no other option or because I’m afraid to end up alone.
I will want it because how could I not want something I know is good for me, and I for it, just like the ocean is for the sand and the sun is for the sky, and the other way around.
We do not complete each other. But we make music together, your waves crashing on my shore, my warmth lighting up your sky.
The next time I find love, there will be no more wondering. Not because you are “The One”, but because we’ve lingered with all the questions in our heads and done the work of putting our fears to bed, choosing to believe that love is a choice, not a lottery — something you can only do when you’re brave.
Because it takes braveness to go all in. It takes braveness to choose. It takes braveness to leave the what ifs, shoulds, and coulds behind — and to really listen to what’s inside.
It’s always been inside. This ability to love and be loved. I had been waiting for love to find me. I now know love is always waiting to be found. I had been looking for someone who would love me right — I now know the love I find is a mirror reflecting back the love I give.
The next time I find love, it will be solid. Steady, like the ground beneath my feet. Not infatuation or loneliness or novelty masquerading as love, dazzling and shiny at first, but tarnishing quickly like fake gold.
It won’t feel like getting tossed about by the currents, hot one moment, cold the next. It won’t feel like going from zero to a hundred or a cheap thrill, satisfying at the first hit, but leaving you empty after coming down from the high.
Instead, it will feel like a slow, clean burn.
The next time I find love, it will be certain. Because I will be certain it’s something I’m ready for.
“Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for.” — Erica Jong