Once, I dated someone I struggled to have a simple, 3-sentence conversation with.
Given my ambition to fix the world’s problems and my affinity for real talk, it was bizarre that I’d chosen to spend time with this man: someone whose conversation stopped after the first question. Someone who revolved his world solely around me. Someone who, unlike myself & everyone else I’d selected as a friend, strove for only simple endeavors: cuddling during a movie, raising a child, cooking good food.
Despite all this, this man swore his undying devotion to me in a million ways.
“How do I know I love you?” he said through tears at the end of our relationship. “I imagine what I’d do if someone ever aimed a gun at you.”
“I’d take the bullet for you each and every time.”
And at the same time, it wasn’t bizarre.
In the hurricane of the world I wrestle with each day, this man’s simple, unwavering love was a center of calm.
“I will never be anyone’s second choice,” I told my friend recently. “Including me. I will always be my own first choice.”
The statement is part truth, part intention, part hyperbole. Hyperbole is my concrete handhold in a complex, confusing world in which school children come to class starving, people applaud police officers who kill innocent young black men, and my beloveds intimately know sexual violence.
But hyperbole is also my fierce grip on my self-worth when pop culture tells me that my value as a woman lies in my willingness to spread my legs, or lay myself on the ground for others to trample on, at any cost.
And so this statement is also part truth and intention.
In the face of all this chaos, I work to be my own first choice. (Ironically, it is only when I am confident that I am my first choice, that I do not need to be. It is then that the sacrifices I make for others become fully conscious, true commitments — not resentful obligations.)
But I still question my statement in the moments where I am confronted with a choice between myself and others — Am I driven solely by ego? Am I unfailingly selfish?
I wonder: Am I “too complex” to give well? Are my emotions “too complicated”?
Am I incapable of loving anyone as simply and purely as the way that I have been loved?
Is a simple love simply better?
My hypothesis to “Is a simple love a better love?”
I am hypothesizing that perhaps all love is simple.
What makes love complex is that we wrap it in the paper of our fragile egos and dangle it from a thousand strings.
What makes love complex is that we hit impasses, and are forced to decide to cross them, or turn around and give up.
What makes love complex is the fear that moves us to flee, just as the universe is about to unfold.
But, at its own heart, love is love is love.
When I first started drafting this post about “simple love,” I was high and mighty. I thought “simple love” came only from people with “simple dreams.” In fact, my first draft may have included a sentence like, “I have pure ambition, not simple love.”
Three drafts in, self-doubt hit me: my ambition to change the world was condemning me to live in a complex prison of knowledge that was warping my ability to feel. My ambition was fucking me up! I’d never be able to truly care for any one person enough.
Seven drafts in, I saw the light while I wrote the section just above this one: All love is simple. I was okay. And so were my emotions. I could care for one person, though that might never surpass my desire to care for the world. I, too, could love simply…… But wait: why did I think “simple love” came only with “simple dreams”?
In this final draft, I “get” this: When I endeavor only to live in the confines of my own home, all is clear. All is concrete. All is simple. It is easy for me to give simply when my vision is simple.
Whereas the more I endeavor to walk this great, big, beautiful, terrible world — to challenge its atrocities, or doubt its news articles and popular sentiments — the more cause I have to challenge and doubt everything. The more fearful I grow of giving a piece of myself away.
So perhaps the real question is, “How do we engage in the complexities of the world, and offer each other our simple love?”
As someone who will not give up engaging in one for the other……
…….that is what I really want to know the answer to.
……..Oh, did you think I would have the answer to that last question?
I don’t have answers, but I have this:
I’ve pulled it from my hard shell of pride and disentangled it from the voices that warn me to keep it hidden. I hold it carefully because it is very soft and tender.
When you reach for it, I want to yank it away, but I will try very, very, very, very hard not to.
Can you see it? Even if you think you know what it looks like, sounds like, or feels like, there will be differences between this and that which is in your imagination that you will have to discover.
Over time, I hope you will grow familiar with its rough edges, cup it in your own hands, and sense it gently breathing.
Will you ignore it? Will you crush it? Will you treasure it always? What will I do now that you have it and I can’t take it back?
I don’t know. But it is yours.
This simple love, I offer you.
w/ a shout out to BL for the inspiration