“I am a lover and have not found my thing to love.” – Sherwood Anderson
This line, like so much of the story “Tandy,” resonates with me in such a deep-felt way, I am almost out of words. This line has haunted me for many reasons in the 4 years since I first read it. It is almost as if the line came out of me, whether I was the drunken stranger saying it in the story or the writer who first penned the sentiment. It hits me at my core.
Traveling from town to town, looking to fulfill his life’s mission, the drunkard stranger possesses enough self-awareness to recognize who he is and yet lacks a vital part to complete his purpose. Very shortly after stating that he has not found his thing to love, the stranger in the story says that this will be responsible for his future destruction. He also omits the word “who,” an important distinction if you can recognize it. The stranger doesn’t say he hasn’t found someone to love him back or anything about a specific person and reciprocation. In this heart-wrenching line, he intrinsically knows that love is inherently one-sided. To truly love someone is to give yourself freely and vulnerably, without condition or expectation.
This belief follows me in my own Lover’s Life, a bittersweet journey towards loving something and, yet, not fully reaching it.
You see, I am surrounded by love. I have the love of a beautiful family, a multitude of friends from all walks of life, and an artistic community that truly supports whatever creative endeavor I focus on next. I have loved each of these people completely, from the five best friends I refuse to rank higher than one another, to the one guy on Twitter who always says something inspirational just when I need it, to the countless pages of literature and drama I have had the privilege of studying, my love has been well-spent and well-met. A good investment all around.
One such investment of love is in one of those five best friends I mentioned. His name is Nick, a crazy-talented performer who I am honored to call my friend and former roommate. This past weekend was his wedding to his partner of five years, a man I deeply admire and love. (Mostly because he has the patience to deal with Nick on a daily basis.)
Nick’s and my friendship took a while to warm up – our social circles at college intersected frequently, but never long enough for us to realize the innate connection we bore each other. It was a mutual friend who really drove us together, suggesting a living situation that would forever change my life. There were countless nights of laughter and adventure and one drunken night in particular on our building’s rooftop that fused us in an indescribable way. He was the Jerry Lewis to my Dean Martin, without all of the cigarettes and womanizing.
Watching my best friend get married was an incredible experience, especially because they had asked me to officiate the wedding. (Yeah… I know!) Not only was I part of the wedding, I was given the weighty responsibility of molding these two lives together into one family, a responsibility and an honor that rendered me speechless.
No, seriously. I had no words. What was I supposed to say? How was I worthy enough to guide these two beautiful men into the next phase of their relationship?
And, then, the answer came quite simply.
Amid the boisterous and creative friends they share, the unwavering support of their families, and the little black dog that sleeps between them, Nick and Brad had found their thing to love. Full stop. To love. No conditions. No exceptions. Just love. They had found it, their thing, and I see no better reason than that to celebrate.
You see, there are all these rules and regulations and guidelines when it comes to love. We place all of these terms and conditions on something that should be given so freely, without a demand for reciprocation or explanation. Enter into any relationship and you are faced with an unreadable document explaining how to love and not love someone that leaves you blindly clicking AGREE faster than an iPhone policy update. Exactly one month prior from when I said, “I now pronounce you…” I had a job asking me to say, “I now denounce you…” My other best friend deals with the racism and subtle bigotry of having a black boyfriend. I had fallen in love with a much older man, who, if we had allowed things to continue, would have had to deal with the judgments on our 15-year age gap.
We say, “I love you,” but do we really mean it? Do we actually mean, “I love you, until you do X, Y, or Z?” “I love you, but don’t hurt me?” “I love you until we break up?”
And why? Because we fear being hurt? We fear the shame of vulnerability? We want to keep our ego in tact by saying, “You were mistaken, I always loved you less?”
And here I am, like the stranger in the story (albeit, not drunk or wandering), surrounded by all of this love, loving quite freely those who love me and even some who don’t, and yet, I am filled with bittersweet melancholy that I have not found my one thing to love.
Enter Best Friends #3 and #4, the two, beautiful spirit-sisters who stand by me on my journey towards enlightenment and a book deal. (Whichever comes first.) Their well-meaning advice frustrating me more and more. The choruses of “patience” and “put yourself out there” that may help some, but currently not me.
It wasn’t until Doshanna and I had a conversation about a string of dreams I have been having about a hometown boy when
everything clicked into place. Doshanna, in all of her wisdom, called me out on my attitude, that the two things in my life that matter most to me, love and my art, I never have spoken about with confidence. I am the first to make fun of my unsuccessful and slightly awkward flirting habits, my new weight gain, and my future life as a hairless cat lady. (The cats are hairless, I’m not.) I also consistently use modifiers to explain away my writing, saying things like, “I’m trying to write a novel…I dunno…maybe.”
To be quite truthful, I have a pretty awesome track record when it comes to achieving things I set my mind to, whether it was scholarships to attend the university of my choice or a 2 hour half-marathon time, I’ve worked and earned those things because I believed that I could achieve them. And yet, when it comes to the two most vital parts of my being, the two things I wish to define myself by, I laugh off, I apologize for, I doubt, attack, and sabotage myself over and over again.
And why? Because I fear hurt or failure? Maybe even success?
Maybe the thing I’m so scared of is that my “thing to love” needs to be me and I’ve spent the majority of my life denying myself health and wealth. From going to the doctor when I need it to taking a day of rest – I’ve religiously denied myself healing and acceptance. How can your life’s fruit grow when you refuse to tend to the soil? Perhaps it’s time that my search for my thing to love turns inward and looks a little closer to home.
I feel hopeful knowing that this lover has found her thing to love, and though it looks nothing like Michael Fassbender or the Brawny paper towel guy, I will love it, without condition, without expectation. Pretty soon, I think I will find that I will start loving me back.