Another airport this morning. I sit in an anonymous wooden chair, the girl in grey with the cinnamon raisin bagel and the pile of hair escaping in all directions from its elastic. The sun rises slowly this morning, pausing as clouds sweep over the tips of the plane tails, and Eric Church sings into my ear as flipflops clack against the floor. Next to me, a woman checks her iPhone. Something in her face looks worried, and she checks her watch every minute. I am suddenly desperate to know – what is your story? Who are you waiting for?
But I just nudge my suitcase closer to my feet and turn away. When I look up again, she’s walking towards her gate, and her seat is taken by an officer with a wrist brace drinking a diet Pepsi.
My mind wanders to fearlessness, the strange dream I had last night, and then I remember what Dear Sugar wrote about love to her twenty-something self:
Real love moves freely in both directions.
You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.
When I first read this I was sitting in my single room in the middle of February. I was in the gap between exhilarated and exhausted. The joy of school, of learning history and tracing stories through time was also the aching, tired eyes of being up too late and doing too much. I was blogging without really knowing why. And I read Sugar’s words as dazzlingly true. You can’t convince people to love you. There isn’t an argument in the world that will coax love from one person’s heart into another’s.
This was protection for my weary heart when I read it more than a year ago. It was relief, courage to walk away, courage to tell the truth about what was unrequited, what should be let go. Then, real love moving freely in both directions meant keeping my heart a bit more guarded. I didn’t give as much away.
I read it again in this early morning, watching the officer and the woman with her worried face, watch the people sip their coffee and polish their glasses. And I think about how we only have a little bit of time to be with each other. And I think about how I named this blog The Wild Love, because I wanted to remind myself that we should give more than we think we can, and we should love wild.
Sugar’s right: you can’t make someone love you. You can send your love towards them and they may not be there. You can sit at the table, ready to offer your extraordinary self, and they may not come to the other side of the table.
But if I have any encouragement, from the very beginning: unrequited love is not wasted.
The learning to care for someone, the hope, the teaching yourself to pay attention to how your heart works, the glimpse you get of their glorious self (even in the most agonizing moment when you realize that it will never be more than a glimpse) is not wasted.
We should protect our hearts. But maybe some of what we call protection is a lack of trust. A lack of trust that love is good work, that in this divine economy, all things have purpose, all things work together for good. I built a fence, thinking that the most important thing was to be safe, at any cost.
I see the woman sitting three tables away, her quiet elegance the kind that only comes with years. She crosses her ankles and chews on a blueberry muffin. Trusting begins here, smiling over at her, risking her early morning displeasure or her pointed ignoring. Wild love begins in the belief that love offered, even if not always taken, is not wasted.
I smile at her as she gets up, and she frowns slightly and walks away. I smile at her retreating figure.
Real love moves freely – and it trusts.