I can clearly remember the first time I realized I might be in trouble when it came to my partner Justin.
We’d been talking back and forth in a group chat where we had mutual friends. I’d just lost over 100 lbs, and he was actively trying to lose weight. We both recounted our difficulties with the process. And dealing with social influences regarding food: For me, this was typically the interference of friends and relatives who often acted as saboteurs, obstacles that I had to dodge like bullets in an 8-bit game.
For him, it was the odd attitudes of folks in a support group he’d recently joined. They were preachy about the strangest things.
Somewhere along the line of commiserating and swapping stories, we’d traded handles on Livejournal (all the rage at that time). And without giving any indication to Justin I was doing so (since I’m that friend), I dove deep into the archives of his, out of curiosity.
And what I discovered there shocked me: His entries from early college were so fucking emo. Like ridiculously so. His heart bled into every entry. He felt things and deeply. It was wrenching to read about his struggles with his then-girlfriend, who had initiated a non-monogamous relationship without informing him she’d done so. Claiming they were polyamorous after the fact, without his input. And then growing angry when he even flirted with another girl (without taking it any further), in spite of the fact that they were ostensibly open. And she’d slept with her own new lover.
I felt his pain deeply.
And as I read those words, it reminded me of myself. Of the things I’d written when I was in my darkest hours, feeling depressed, alone, hopeless. Some of these writings I’d shared with the folks closest to me. But each of them had turned away, some out of pain. But others had ridiculed me, including Seth, my husband at the time.
“You’re so melodramatic. This is ridiculous,” Seth would say whenever I’d show him my emotional writing.
And even though I’d actually go on to win awards for some of the poetry he dismissed and be published in prestigious literary magazines, I’d feel empty inside. Because while strangers seemed to love my work, I could never get those ideas across to the person I longed to connect with the most.
Now here I was, reading journal entries that were arguably even more emo than anything I wrote, written by this other man. This giant man. Strong, with an intimidating presence and a lightning quick intellect. A person who could see with his hands and repair practically anything.
A few days later, I was having a rough emotional patch. I casually mentioned this to Justin. A few hours later, he sent me a photo of a hand holding a scrap of paper that said the following on it: People cry, not because they’re weak. It’s because they’ve been strong for too long.
It was over then. There was no turning back. Whether I wanted to or not, I’d fallen in love.
Sometimes I Tell People That I Love Them the Moment I Feel It… But Usually Not
But it wasn’t until several months later that I told Justin that I loved him. And not until he said it first. I was cheeky in response and only reciprocated a few hours later.
I’ve found that to be the case. The moment when I know I’m in love with someone and the moment that I tell that person that I love them can be the same moment, but normally it’s not. A lot of times I hold the glow inside of me, nursing that one ember, proceeding ever so carefully, making no sudden movements, not sure if that one ember will ultimately end up warming me or burning me.
And not knowing if it’s an ember that only I carry. If it’s one that would horrify them and cause them to flee from me if they only knew how much I cared about.
Besides, there’s always been something beautiful about that moment you know you’re in love and the time before you say it. Where you’re carrying something beautiful inside of you and no one else knows.