I chased the girl I love across the country. Here's what I learned.
As you may remember from the first part of this story, I fell in love with a close friend, told her, blew it, spent a few days feeling like crap, and then canceled my flights and jumped on a train to follow her from Boston to New York.
I offer it partly as a cautionary tale, but also as a way to illustrate some of the truths I learned about love, loving and being loved.
Loving someone means knowing yourself, first and foremost.
If you're going to get on a train to try to convince someone that you love them — that they are more to you than they could really ever understand — you'd better have your head straight by the time you get there.
For me, that meant admitting the fears that color my life and influence the way I think and, therefore, the way I act and the way I love.
One of the things people — including myself — tend to say is "I never lose." It's a defensive way of dealing with the world, of preemptively dealing with the threat of loss. In some respects, it may be true, but it's true for the wrong reasons.
But it's somehow easier than saying 'I don't want to lose you,' 'I need you' or 'I miss you.'
"I never lose" is impervious. It is a declaration. It is defiant. "I don't want to lose you" is vulnerable, trusting, hoping... And most people aren't very good at vulnerability, trust, or hope.
We all carry experiences of trust and hope where the results have scarred us with the foundations of new stories we tell ourselves about how the world is.
But here's the thing: if you want to love fully — if you want to love and be loved back — you have to risk being hurt.
Telling the truth means being vulnerable, but vulnerability is important in relationships.
Sometimes, you have to be the guy (or girl) standing in the rain in the middle of a storm while the person you're pouring your heart out to looks at you like you've lost your mind.
It can be really hard when it comes to talking about what you feel as opposed to what you would like to feel.
It's hard to be honest about what you feel.
For me, honesty meant having to admit my vulnerability, meant having to tell her the truth.
I did. I had to.
I told her I didn't want to lose her.
I sat down and I did what I do best: I wrote, taking the chance that she wouldn't believe me because, well, I write for a living.
She believed me.
Loving someone means finding a way to tell the truth.
But when I got off the train, I found that I had nothing to say.
Like a lot of guys, I'm not much of a talker. Ernest Hemingway once said that "a writer should write what he has to say and not speak it." I have lived by that edict as a matter of temperament and not just ethos.
However, that's a pretty crappy excuse for not being able to hold a conversation with someone you love, with someone with whom it is vital to communicate, with someone who, like most people, actually speaks when they want to say something.
We need to learn to communicate in the way that the people we care about do.
I'm not saying you need to say everything that you think or that you need to turn every conversation into a heart to heart or that you need to spill a gallon of ink if your significant other isn't much of a talker, but you do need to learn to navigate other people's communication styles.
For me, that meant focusing my attention when she spoke, rather than space out on the wall behind her, and carefully listening to her and hearing what she was actually saying rather than what I thought she was saying.
It meant trying to not sound like a writer: To not script things in my head first, but rather to respond to her spontaneously and honestly.
When I finally saw her, I immediately knew I had done the right thing.
Sometimes you need to trust your heart, trust love, and take a blind leap of faith.
The philosopher William James once posited that some choices must be acted upon without any evidence: that sometimes "faith creates facts," and that the evidence of the truth of something may sometimes only be revealed if you act as if it already exists, even though you haven't seen it.
In "The Will To Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy," James writes,
"It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all. And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true."
I said what I needed to say, as clearly and plainly as I could.
And it was enough.
"Be not afraid of life," James wrote. "Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact."
I spent a week with her in the city. When I left, we decided on one thing: that not having a relationship was not ever going to be an option.
I decided on another thing.
I decided that I was going to live every single day as a leap of faith, as a reason to hope, as a reason to find awe and marvel and joy.
You can choose that. You can choose to stop and marvel at the fact that out of millions of people in the world, someone chooses to spend their time with you.
That's no minor miracle.
Every day is an opportunity to renew yourself, to rediscover love, to create something lasting, to be glad.
If you find someone you love and who fearlessly and honestly loves you back, show your gratitude every single day. Whether it's a friend or a significant other or a family member, be grateful for that love.
Make the days count. Love who and what you love.
Marvel in it, delight in it, inhale it until it is in every cell. You may not hold onto it forever, but you can appreciate it now: you can be glad that you have it today.
"Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact."
And if you love someone? Don't just tell them.
Today. Tomorrow. Every day. If you're going to love, love hard. Love until it exhausts you, until it keeps you up at night, until it drags you onto a train and forces you to take a long hard look at yourself.
Love fearlessly and hopefully and unreasonably and stupidly, but love with your entirety.
That's what I learned from chasing a girl I love across the United States.
For the first part of this article, click here.
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