On (in) Love

I have been thinking about this post for weeks now. Amidst fevered sickness and echoing despondence and nearly equal resonating Happy Moments, because if you capitalize words they become more than just fleeting things but an actual class of Things, and, with life and all feeling so schizo-frenetic recently, I can’t say from whence this comes; the wistful or the joyful. Or, as I am sure others might suspect, perhaps there is no separation of the two for me but rather some interwoven strands of emotional DNA that make up the code of me. Though that’s a silly analogy. But I do find my brain living right in the middle of nostalgia sometimes; even present-sense nostalgia; nostalgia for a Thing as it’s happening; nostalgia from the recognition of a moment as it is momenting, which isn’t a word at all, but when you start to talk about Living in the Moment, you get into the kinda of huggy lovey bullshitty pseudo-psychological phrasing of the Western Yogi, so I’m actually going to be proud of inventing the word “momenting” in this exact moment.

Personally, I like what I did there.

Sometimes it feels like giving up on a thing. Other times it feels like letting go of a thing. Its the same Thing. Its always about perspective. But there’s a resonating idea right now, backed up by conversations with Cam, about love. Changing perspectives on love. Evolving ideas of what love is. Bear with me here …

Love was a thing that had a definite shape and smell and taste. And it happened. Christ, but it happened. And it looked and it tasted and it smelled exactly like love was supposed to in every imagined, hopeful, longing moment of my oft-misspent youth (misspent on pining for love above all else). I spent a long time in love, and trying (and failing) to cultivate and perpetuate that love. And it is sad, though perhaps not as Personal Failure as I can attribute on my worse days, that love was, indeed, difficult and fleeting and that thing that I imagined, some idealized version of it … it didn’t really stick. It didn’t keep.

It looked like this: Man and Woman, preferably the Man being me, like each other, spend time together, then grow to love each other and then end up together and get a dog and buy a house and have children and lean on each other and grow old together and, on some desperate, saddest day of all, one leaves the other behind to depart this life, leaving the other with a lifetime of memories and a remainder of longing and mourning and that type of sadness that always feels to me like the good kind of sadness. This is what we want. The movies told me so.

Except it wasn’t. It wasn’t what either person really wanted and, after the mess, life looked incredibly different. That thing right there, that ideal, that goal I’d had in mind for years. That wasn’t what I wanted.

Or maybe this is all some hindsight rationale. Because sometimes, on those worse days, sometimes it feels more like I don’t get to be that, that I am incapable of that.

It goes like this: I visit my college town, and I head to my favorite bar, and I pass a specific house. I was just describing the Ghosts to a friend this past week – they haunt the places I’ve lived. I pass a specific house, and I think “This is where one of my best friend lived. One morning she swore she saw a morning dove, and I kept teasing her it was a pigeon, and then she graduated, and I’ve only seen her twice since. One night, one year later, in the exact same room, this is where I had sex with someone for the first time, and then it got weird and emotional and we didn’t speak to each other for 2 years.” And I cannot, without fail, I cannot pass that house without thinking of both of those people, and how much I miss them, and how differently I would handle things if given the chance. There are ghosts everywhere I have lived. They aren’t the regrets of the past, but just deep engravings; permanent fixtures; tattoos rather than scars.

I think I’ve been stuck on it recently because, after 3 years of dating, I’m beginning to see Ghosts here in DC. Which is where the connection really began – these Ghosts, the reddit user whose name appears in orange because we’re ostensibly reddit friends because one time we had sex and then it didn’t work out but we definitely proved we were both mature adults by maintaining our reddit friendship. Or the Facebook profile I hide from my feed because I don’t want her to know that seeing pictures of her life, the choice she made to live that life without me, is too much for me to see in my feed. The young woman I tried dating and it didn’t stick and then I saw her on the metro and I was too chicken shit to say hello because I felt like such a failure. The myriad young women who I never called back, or never called me back, which is a passive but joint decision that We’re Not Right for Each Other. Which is fine, its just a grain of sand, and those don’t tend to pile up into something larger, right? This is where I had dinner with the nuclear physicist, and there was no chemistry. This is where I got cocktails with the non-profit lobbyist, and there was no chemistry. This is the picture I took and sent to the NIH doctor who was in Africa when we first started talking, because she didn’t believe I was real, and so I asked her to name a number, and I sent her a pic of me holding up that number, and we laughed a lot, and we talked every day for 3 weeks, until suddenly we just didn’t, and she just disappeared.

This is where and this is where and this is where and suddenly there’s a pattern emerging, a pattern full of absolutely nothing at all, which ends up having a surprising amount of weight to it. Some people get to fall in love. And the truth is, I already did, right? And so you end up wondering if this is something you deserve, or if this is something else.

But then there is Love. And I think I first thought of this not in terms of the evolution of Love in my mind, but rather in simpler terms of the flipside to those Ghosts. And that part goes like this:

I love life. Perhaps the thing I am mostly playfully/lovingly mocked for is how over-excited I get when I am in one of those moments. So how is it that I consider myself this version of incapable of love? What is it I am missing?

It is exactly those moments. Its the times when I love other people so richly and so deeply that it, too, imprints upon my heart. And I think about times in these last 4 years when things have been so exciting or so profoundly felt. I think about all of the love that I have seen and I have experienced.

And this is where it feels more like letting go than giving up. Because maybe love doesn’t work that way for me. Maybe I don’t end up paired off and raising children and living in the suburbs and getting old with someone else. But that doesn’t mean I am not in love. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t experienced moments of being in love with other human beings in these last 4 years. Quite the opposite.

I loved you when you left your shoes behind at my place, because you needed more room in your luggage and you planned on coming back. I loved you when you agonized over the dinner you cooked for me, thinking I was going to judge you, and then we sat and you read poetry to me. I loved you when you left your plans early just to show up and have one drink with me and my friends, because you were so interested in being part of my life. I loved you when you invited me to Thanksgiving with your family. I loved you when you help me find a job. I loved you when you found me a place to live. I loved you when you set up a network of checking in on me, because I had just lost Love and you all knew how to take care of me, because you Loved me. I loved that you didn’t let me know that was happening when it was. I love that you and you and you and you all text me to ask about my health or just to let me know about yours; I love knowing the mundane details of your life and I love that you ask about mine, because that makes me feel like I am a part of your life. I love you for sticking around. I love that, after all of these years, you still aren’t gettin’ tired of my shit, and you still have an uncanny ability to recommend books and music and movies to me. I loved that day when we went to Eastern Market. That day we went to Union Market. That day you took me to the greatest meatball sub in the city. I loved you on that day when we were the only people at Hogo, and the bartender put on a sad Fugees song, and the whole place either shut the fuck up or sang along. I loved that you invited me to your wedding; you didn’t even know me that well. I loved you when you invited me to Halloween, to Thanksgiving, to New Years Eve. I loved you when we were very similar people. I loved you when you started our first gchat of the day by using my name in all caps. I loved you when I walked into your house and your children knew me by name, and were actually excited that I was there. I loved you when you insisted we were going out for my birthday, even though I considered it just another Saturday night dance party, because secretly I wanted it to be for my birthday but I was sad because my friend had just died and I didn’t want to ask to be the center of attention. I loved you when I didn’t think I was going to get through something, and then I did, and I never told you that it was because of you.

That’s the thing; the concept of love that I had just doesn’t fit my life anymore. Maybe I am broken and incapable of that particular thing. Maybe looking at love in those terms is something outdated, or perhaps I have simply grown away from that, not as a punishment for being me, but as a reward. Or maybe I am in the wrong place and time to find it right now.

But Christ! I am so in love right now. And it turns out I was the whole time.

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7 thoughts on “On (in) Love

    • Thanks for the love man. I always appreciate when people comment. I mean, I know people read this, I just can’t tend to figure out who or what they actually thought.

      We should get together.

  1. And I fell in love with you a little for writing this. Perfection. Ironically, I stumbled upon this site looking for a mushroom soup recipe. Took a bit of Google investigative work to confirm that this is the same Jon Novak I went to Loch Raven High School with. Hit me up if you ever want to catch up. In the meantime, keep writing poignant harangues and take care. – Margaret (Sheldon) Fabian

  2. Earlier today I was thinking about love and wondering if I was ever really in love. (It seems that when you’re thinking too much on whether you’re in love it means you’re not). Then the universe magically made me think of your blog, and I remembered how I can always find comfort here. Comfort to know that I am not the only one who’s sometimes completely lost trying to figure out this maze called life.

    With love,
    Your loyal cyber-stalker.

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