Two years ago, I was just starting my master's program. Two years ago I moved into a new house in a new neighborhood with new roommates. Two years ago I was still in love with somebody that I used to know. And two years ago, I was forcing myself not to be.
Let me tell you how that went: horribly.
I knew that the feelings I had were "ridiculous," that "it'd been a year for Pete's sake" since we'd broken up, and that any rational, mature person would have moved on by now. I knew the feelings I had were getting in the way of happiness and in the way of enjoying other relationships. I knew they were keeping me from moving on. And so I dealt with them the best I knew how: I pretended like they weren't there.
I threw myself into other relationships; I covered up my feelings with other emotions like frustration, anger, bitterness, ambivalence, pride, exasperation, exhaustion; I told myself all kinds of lies about how I was better off without him and blahblahblah.
And of course deep-down I believed none of it.
And worse yet, forcing myself to not be in love with him was a kind of self-betrayal. Not only was I not dealing with the fact that I was heartbroken enough about the situation, but I was adding to the heartbreak by lying to myself, by treating myself like I wasn't mature enough to take the truth (that I was still in love with him), by treating myself like my feelings didn't matter, by pretending my dreams for our future together were meaningless and silly. Because they weren't. They weren't meaningless and they weren't silly, and all this prattle about how weak I was for not being able to just let them all go at the drop of a hat was insulting the quality of my commitments, the promise I mean when I say "I love you."
See, the sneaky and horrible thing about forcing yourself not to love someone anymore is that love is one of the most pure, unselfish, beautiful things a human being can feel. And to tell myself I was weak for feeling that? To think less of myself because I had love in my heart for someone, especially when it was for someone who didn't love me back? I should have been celebrating my capacity to love, but instead I was rejecting it and abusing myself for feeling it.
So finally I gave up. I said, "You know what, I love him, alright? And right now, that may be a dead-end, but it is what it is and I'm tired of lying to myself."
And then, interestingly enough, my sadness morphed into something different. It became beautiful sadness, it became productive sadness, it became sadness that was enlarging my heart and adding to my sympathy and bringing me closer to people instead of dividing me from them.
So I let myself love him. For years. I let myself be okay with that.
And you know what I learned? I learned that it's okay to love someone who doesn't love you back. It's okay to let yourself feel that, it's okay to be heartbroken,
But your heart, it is a sacred place, a place where you should be safe, a place where you can be honest, a place where you can find truth. Of all people, don't lie to yourself. Your heart is too good to you to treat it that way. It’s fine to put on a front for the sake of social niceties and your dignity and such, but in the quiet moments, when you’re alone with your heart and your fears and your dreams, you need to be honest. You need know that that is a place you can always rely on and return to to get your bearings, to muster courage, to heal. Let it be a refuge, where you alone can look your feelings squarely in the face, accept them, and make peace with them. Then you will have the tools you need to overcome.
And always listen to your deep-down. You cannot slay the dragons in your life by pretending they don't exist. Face the dragon. Accept the facts. The way to cross an ocean isn't to climb on the first log or hunk of flotsam you can find and push off. You will only drown. The way to cross an ocean is to look it squarely in the face--to know its deceptions and its dangers and its Bermuda triangles and its benevolences--to know all of it--to study the stars, learn the maps, memorize the tide charts, accept it for what it is, love it for what it is, and then one bright morning, when it has become part of you, the sea will call and you can finally shove off the shore into the brave and open waters.
And so here I am, two years later, peacefully, gratefully, and happily on the other side of that ocean. Finally. Finally.
And you know what was the final piece to my healing? It was this:
I remembered who I am. I remembered that my dreams were beautiful, that the courage I'd mustered to love him was incredible, and that whatever else was lost when we broke up, those things--the beauty and the courage and the love--were not lost. I remembered that those are things inside me and they are things I will carry with me wherever I go,
and best of all, those are things I will carry with me to whoever I go.