193. I suppose
So I was hanging out with some friends the other night after playing a show with my band and somehow my blog got mentioned and then someone made a comment that my blogs aren’t as bitter as they used to be.
See, I don’t know exactly what happened or why or how, but sometime in January I stopped worrying about getting into a relationship. And this might not sound like a big deal, but anyone who knew me before January would tell you that this is a miracle of Biblical proportions.
It’s hard to convey how deep the longing for relationship used to be. Hard for two reasons: one, because it was a very desperate, needy, aching-void kind of longing that’s hard to express without appearing as if I’m using hyperbole and two, because I don’t feel it anymore and I don’t really want to use my imagination to put myself back there just so I can describe how awful it was.
Suffice it to say that I used to be a very bitter, lonely guy and I wasn’t afraid to rant about it in my blogs (see blog 73 for an example). And I wasn’t afraid to rant about it to my friends either. More than one friend made the comment, “sheesh, would you do us all a favor and just get a girlfriend already?” And I can understand their frustrations because I must’ve sounded like a squeaky wheel that just didn’t know when to quit.
However, now that I’ve found this contentment, I wonder if there’s something I’ve lost as well. I mean, most of the stories I used to write were about finding or losing love. I find it’s harder to put myself in that imaginary space – to imagine what it’s like to be in love and to use that as the raw material out of which to carve a story.
And maybe it’s odd that my stories were about love because I’ve always had a kind of hyper-cynical view of love as portrayed in movies and television (and I’m not talking about cheesy, soapy love stories). My favorite part of any movie that involved relationships was the bit where things fell apart and people were heartbroken, because that’s the only part of the story that I could relate to. I don’t understand courtship or wooing, I don’t understand the giddy butterflies that accompany the early stages of a relationship, I don’t understand the warm, buttery language of touch. I am, however, rather well versed in love purloined, spurned, unrequited, and so (and this is messed up, I know) the breakup scene was always a kind of private joy for me because that was something I could recognize.
So why would I write stories about the very thing that I don’t understand? I can think of two reasons. First of all, the way I try to understand things is by writing about them. Secondly (and this is a bit embarrassing to admit) the stories were a kind of acting out in imagination what I couldn’t find in life. They were a kind of wishful thinking. It was a substitute for what I wasn’t experiencing in my life. But because they weren’t informed by actual, real life experience, some of them had surreal elements about them (see Tired of Talking and The Birds and the Bag Lady).
And here’s the other thing. That longing for relationship was the one thing that I really wanted out of life. It was the one thing that could drive me to elation when it seemed like something might work out or drive me to despair when it didn’t. I’m a pretty laid back kind of guy, I take things in stride and it’s generally very hard to get me worked up. But this love thing was the one constant agitator, the one sense of longing that made my heart burn, the one thing that I could count on to stir my passions.
And now that it’s gone, my life feels clinical, rote, benign. I don’t miss feeling lonely, but I do miss feeling…something. And what does this mean for me, this contentment? Does it mean that I’ll be single and celibate for the rest of my life? That thought used to repulse me but now as I’m writing it, it doesn’t faze me in the least. And I know some say that it’s when you stop looking for it that love finds you, but even if I were to bump into the woman of my dreams walking down the street or in the new fiction section of a bookstore, I wonder if I could turn it all on again because honestly, the thought of getting into the whole business of making a relationship work just exhausts me. If it were to work, I think she would have to do the initiating, and that’s pathetic and unmanly but that’s just where I’m at right now. Because I’m content with where I’m at and why would I want to disturb that?
But if I were to find her (or she to find me) and if the cards on the table looked right and I had a hand to play, I think I’d still be willing to push my luck and go all in. I think.
And I’ll end with this amazing song by Loudon Wainwright III called, “I Suppose.”
I suppose that I could love you
though my mind tells me, “no way.”
it says, “screw it, you’ve been through it,
it’s not worth the price you pay”
then it reminds me of the last time
each gory detail
“it’s a drag,” it tells me, “bag it.”
no my memory doesn’t fail
and I suppose that I could love you
if my heart were still intact
it keeps ticking but not tricking me
like it used to, that’s a fact
I’ve been burned and I have learned
to let the muscle do its job
I let it beat, it’s no mean feat
no, it doesn’t need to throb
and I suppose that I could love you
if I wasn’t so afraid
I might go berserk if it did work
and I didn’t feel betrayed
I’ve been writing off love for so long now
it’s all I know to do
but if it’s real this thing we feel
well then, yes, I could love you