Last month, a reader reached out to ask me a few questions about love. Do you believe that love comes at the perfect time? What if it's not the perfect time for you? Do you continue with it anyway, or do you close off your heart to focus on the things you want to do? I heard myself in her questions. I've been there, I said, then I promised her that I'd answer in a post. And so, my response:
It was the spring semester of my junior year. After spending several months abroad in England, San Diego seemed sunnier than ever: light and bright, the sky and water so incredibly blue.
I missed the gray; I craved the cozy feeling of rain. Soon after returning from Oxford, I went through a painful, unexpected breakup that left me heartbroken. I was shocked, crestfallen, and something that felt an awful lot like angry, although I couldn't name it at the time. There was grief, too — I remember the achy, crippling grief most clearly. In the wake of it all, I felt paralyzed by the realization of an ending. Paralyzed by the realization of loss.
As I sunk into love's absence, the last thing I wanted was to find it again.
And then, of course — days later — I met Radley.
I recognized Radley as if we'd known each other for years, as if I was returning to him or to myself or maybe both. Things felt easy and airy between us, and in my diary I wrote: I think there might just be something incredible here. There was, and he did everything he could to help it along. Bouquets of red roses, beautiful dinners, long nights spent wide awake as we talked like forever friends. Radley did everything he could to show love and share love and create a love between us. He was certain.
I was, too — certain, I mean. I felt tethered to someone I'd only just met. And yet.
Fear, it turns out, can be devastating. Immobilizing, even. Fear and possibility can force you to turn away from the right path in favor of something easier — something that's more familiar, even if it's something that leaves you feeling hopeless.
For months I pushed Radley away, and for months he held on. Until he didn't. Because that's how it goes, isn't it? We turn someone away, beg them to let go, and then the moment they do, we're struck with the sudden awareness of what we'd always known: Love. Or faith. Or maybe both.
It wasn't the perfect time for us. Truth is, it never has been. Again and again we've wrestled between cities and jobs and dreams only to realize that being together means being okay with the fact that things won't always be easy. When are things ever really easy, anyway?
I grew up envisioning a New York life. I saw myself onstage, or maybe writing, but definitely in New York. And definitely alone. Picturing myself at 25, 30, I saw only me. But then I fell in love with a boy from the opposite coast — a boy who made me want to shift the shape of my dreams. And since we've been together, they have shifted. Not better, not worse. Just different.
At the end of her email, the reader added: Do you believe that you have to be happy with yourself before you get involved with someone? Or do you believe that maybe you don't have to have it all figured out — that maybe this person has entered your life to help you?
Yes, of course. And yes. I believe both of those things — neither feels less true than the other.
I think you need to be happy enough with yourself to let someone else help you.
And I think it's the opening up — the welcoming in of love and ease and trust — that leads you to look back and feel like the timing was perfect. Even when it wasn't.
(Photo: My Flickr)