Sometimes it's a personal breakthrough just to know you can fall in love.You see, I’ve figured out some needed stuff about myself recently. I have a crush to thank for that.
I think that, when I finally have more than a crush on someone, I'll be able to tell. And that I'll be able to act on it.
During the last several months, I’d realized that I had strong feelings about a friend of mine. At least two people reading this know whom I’m talking about, but knowing who she is isn’t required to get the points I’m about to make. In more ways than one, she is not available, but knowing that intellectually sometimes ain’t enough to accept that and go on. It took some more processing by me.
She and I talked this weekend, thanks to e-mail and me finally being able and willing to admit this to her. We’re still cool. We’re still friends. I’d finally reached the point where not telling her seemed dishonest, and I want to be honest with her. She deserves that.
Still, it’s a vulnerable thing, to admit feeling this. And guess what? I have very little experience being vulnerable like that – or, to be more exact, letting myself be vulnerable like that. It explains some of why I’ve dated so little. (Or how with some women, I’d only reach the “hanging out with her a lot without actually asking her on a date” thing. That happened a time or two in college.) It’s that terrifying hurdle of saying I feel this about you, and I don’t know if you feel anything like this for me but I hope you feel that feeling and I hope we can find if we share that. Obviously many people pass that hurdle – I got thinking of Peter David’s story of how he finally admitted to his future wife Kathleen O’Shea how he felt about her – and obviously most of us know how terrifying it can be. Often makes for hilariously awkward stories later, but it happens, dammit, and I haven’t been open enough to the possibility of it happening to me. The standard reason applies: fear of getting hurt. That simple. The feeling’s strong enough that one worries about it boomeranging into your face if you let it out. But connecting with others is more important than not connecting because of that fear. Simple, but true. Maddeningly simple sometimes, but still true.
I’ve had another realization while working through this: I haven’t been in love before. I once thought I was, but as fond as I am of Alicia, a fondness that goes back to 1996, it wasn’t love. We tried; we did what we could to be good to each other; it didn’t work; we spent a year-and-a-half apart; and Alicia, bless her, reached out to me and said We did have fun together. I hope we can have fun together as friends. And we did, and we have. And it’s worked so much better with us as friends than it worked with us as a couple.
But no love yet. Not that kind of love, at least; not that partner love. I do love my family: a different love. I do love my friends: another different love.
But – and this is the key thing – I have the strong, deep feeling that I’m more ready now to recognize love when it actually happens. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking Okay, this thing I’m feeling about this person: WHAT am I feeling about her? What level of feeling does it reach? I need to figure this out, or I’ll risk staying stuck in this self-imposed emotional limbo. Eventually, I knew: It’s a crush. A strong one (maybe even stronger than the one I had for Lori back in college, and that was a strong one, as anyone who knew me my first year in college could tell), but it doesn’t cross that threshold into what sometimes lies beyond a crush. Love can start as a crush. I’ve seen it happen. But there’s the risk of a crush being self-centered. There’s the risk that you’re crushing not on the person, but on the ideal of that person, or the idea of that person. And that’s not fair to that person.
I’ll put it simply: I know I can be in love. And that brings such a feeling of possibility, of potential. I can connect that way with someone, with their strengths and weaknesses meshing with my strengths and weaknesses as we (I hope) become stronger as a pair than we’d be apart. People have told me before that love can happen, that often it hits you when you weren’t expecting to feel anything like it. “Struck by the thunderbolt,” to borrow one of Mario Puzo’s better lines. But you have to be open to the possibility. And I haven’t.
I think I can be now.