Understanding Love, Regret and Hope

Love Recognizes No Barriers quote Maya Angelou
Today is the birthday of my former roommate and college friend.

I have no delusions that she will read this post, and anyway, it isn’t about her. It’s about the experience I had with her, and what it taught me about myself.

“Trisha” and I were roommates when I lived in Kansas City. I had a 2-bed apartment I loved but could not afford. A mutual friend mentioned Trisha was moving to the area and what synchronicity!

She and I had been friends in college, but not really. We’d worked together in college and our social circles overlapped. But there was no reason not to assume we’d get along. She had similar belief systems; I liked her cat. Plus I worked odd hours. And we DID get along, for while.

Boundary WatersNothing Logical in your mind

Until I got involved with a guy. He dumped me– most likely because I was wanting more than he was. He happened to be a neighbor and my roommate’s life evolved such that she started spending a great deal of time with this guy —  our our sofa, on our porch and at his place — immediately after he broke it off.

You know how you try to be “cool” about something but it doesn’t work? You know how when you watch something unfold and nothing in your logical mind can comprehend what you are seeing?

The outcome? After a few “I don’t understand why you are hanging out with him… it’s hurting me” convos that were shrugged off, I TOTALLY LOST IT.

I mean, yelling, hollering, going “totally ballistic.”

Another Maya Angelou quote is:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I doubt that Trisha will ever “forgive” me. Her eyes draped and her guard went up. This look in her face? It repeated itself when I saw her again years later. If you make people “feel” outside their comfort zone, you are left responsible for the feelings.

Tangled up in normals

Trisha’s growing up life had been a mire of passive aggressive avoidance of talk and emotions. She once told me: If my parents disagreed on something, one of them left the house and drove around awhile. When they came back, everything was “cleared up.

My growing up life was the opposite: Loud, shouting “conversations” in which Mom (mostly) made sure that feelings were expressed … and sometimes belittled. But not ignored.

Love is an idea that seems easy. Yet acting on it takes us apart. Each of us is tangled up in our past, which is our “normal.” And we are tangled up in our fears. I fear abandonment more than I fear the risk of being hurt. For some, abandonment is the cure.

The reality is: in our culture, it’s much more fine to bully people with abandonment. It’s the more preferred experience to subject emotional desertion on our kids, friends, lovers than to subject them to noisy, emotional uncertainty.

If things get hard, just walk away. Understanding love means having to leave it behind.

In my life, I have never felt good about leaving love awkwardly. It’s not about “solving” an emotional situation. In fact, the opposite. Walking away is a “solve.” Staying in the messy middle I find more useful.

Bill Murray Broken Flowers Understanding Love and HopeRegret as a way of Explaining

In the case of the story of the guy and my friend Trisha, I eventually cared nothing about the guy. The regret was losing my friend. And the regret was seeing myself in fear: entering in a space outside of love for each other.

I feared it led to creating stories about each other that weren’t real. I imagined that she and the guy enjoyed sitting around together developing their own “crazy” trope for who I was, shared it with laughs over coffee and cigarettes. I imagined her sharing that idea like smoke signals to my world.

Talking to my husband, I realized suddenly: Love is amazing. I imagine love is like a filter over the lens of experience.

When I love a person, their beauty becomes inherent. You pass through the love before anything else they do affects you.

When the love is stripped away… for me, that’s pretty yucky. What will a person do if they look at you and see the worst? Or if they see some construction of who they believe you are– and it ISN’T filtered in love?

Of course, we all do this.

Understanding love, Investing in hope

I have not had much of an opinion of the idea of “hope” in life. But in the case of understanding love, I do. Love comes down to HOPE.

People give me hope. Not in a generic way, but in a indivdual-person-every-time-I-meet-them-I-know-it’s-possible-they-are-beautiful way. That’s become my own personal battle with LOVE– I am not rational in my approach to seeing people. I get hurt in the cause of loving. I don’t tend to “walk away” and abandon.

I “jump hurdles, leap fences, penetrate walls” to see the good in them, to lift love up. I don’t do it “the right way.” I fail often. I have had so many hurts and regrets. I’ve made many apologies. (I still secretly cheer for Duke for a friend I loved and lost.)

Sometimes I drive my car down the street shouting “So-and-so is such a SHITHEAD!!!”

That’s not because I hate them.

That’s a parcel of the investment I am making in being driven bonkers by hope. By looking for the good and love, and not walking away.

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Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home. 

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