In the moment it's really hard to keep perspective. Everything is so now, so urgent. Or not, if you're one of the lucky people who can detach and calm themselves internally, not letting too much of the moment into their psyche.
I just, in my nesting craze, went through a box of old mementos. I'm obsessed with relics of the past. I was pretty ruthless this time though -casting aside anything that no longer 'sparks joy' as Marie Kondo would put it. I found so many things, letters, cards, a print out of an icq conversation… from past loves, crushes, heartache-causers and people I invariably caused pain to in some capacity when it all ended. It made me think about something I already know: I am lucky. I have had – from the time I first fell in love, so wholly and naively, right into the deep end of feelings – been so fortunate to experience the scope of love that I have. Reading through those letters, before second year university I had already had what, at the time, felt like epic loves and losses. I had thrown my heart into the hands of another and been so brave. I was never cautious and reading back through all that old stuff, I find it charming, sweet and really fucking pure how much I was able to feel and how giving I was of myself.
I want that back. I've become a person who has deep cuts and fissures that seem to never heal. I've become a fool-me-once type of person and I am ruthless in my self-protection now. Back then, when I first came out in high school, tenderly and with all the gumption of a wholesome, quirky, confident and plucky 16-year-old – I dared the world to challenge the love I felt. I was ready for a fight and none came. Not really. I think my own conviction shut up most of the nay-sayers and I was friendly and feisty enough that people didn't mess with me (for the most part).
I am lucky. I was shameless. I threw myself into closeness – not for the reasons some people might – self-doubt, need for validation, loneliness – I was passionate and curious. I heaped life onto life and had a wild time. It was awesome. Partly, I have my parents to thank – for letting me have enough range and confidence to navigate, and for supporting me without questioning whether putting all my heart in one basket was wise.
I found letters of apology, post-breakup, that I never sent – trying not to throw an old relationship out with the bathwater. I found cards promising to love me forever, from more than one woman. I found post-it notes, saved for eternity, telling me that she'd be right back after breakfast and didn't want to wake me. A letter from an ex-girlfriend who had stayed at my family's house while we went to Italy (she had looked after my cat and my brother who had refused to attend our family vacation). I found mix tapes, lovingly inscribed. Phone numbers written on match books. Ticket stubs.
Most bizarre, I found a letter – a printout from my first year university computer screen, from a person I no longer remember. It was so intimate, starting with: 'Reflections on lying at the foot of Alison's bed…' and went on to describe her thoughts at two am, after I'd fallen asleep as she continued to massage my feet. It's such a specific thing NOT to remember. She had left two pages of messages on my computer for me to find when I woke up. The things written there were clever, beautiful… how could I forget this person? Did I just have so many awesome, intimate and clandestine moments that I've lost track? Maybe I'm trusting too much in a memory that is almost always SO accurate. I remember everything, as long as it happened a long time ago, to the point that people often find it strange how much I still remember. So why does this person elude me? I really wish I could go back and ask: what didn't I know about you then that I should have? How did someone so eloquent and brazen escape my notice? Why didn't I snap you up? All I have left is a printout, which obviously struck me at the time, or why would I have saved it? There must have been a reason.
All this excavation of the past reminds me of how far I've come. The feelings then felt real, because they were, but now with new highs and lows, it seems amazing that we can possibly survive our own emotions – and contain so much of them in our lifetime. How do our hearts – in all that angsty, intensity not kill us? Sometimes they do, obviously.
Recently, I participated in a friends' book: Portraits. My participation, the specifics of it, is anonymous – but I'm one of the women who shared stories of unresolved feelings about past relationships. It's a beautiful book and right up my alley: mining the past and turning real, specific memories into micro-fictions that are so universal and telling about the shared experiences we all go through. Unlike the author, who claims to find her feelings 'embarrassing' I love the anguish and awkwardness of feelings. My favourite way to laugh at myself is to take stock and perspective on the humiliations of my past, and to check-in with myself – because how I feel about my feelings is important. It tells me who I am. And how much I have changed, or haven't.
All the feels. I'm still open to it. I've just become harder. Because life has.
But I was refreshed today, in revisiting a simpler self. I literally loved like no one was watching. And damn it was adorable.
How do you feel about your past loves? Do you hold them close? Push them away? Forget all about them? What do they mean for you?
At the end of the letter I found it reads: "I wish I could have this night all over again". And so do I. I wish I could remember it. Remember everything. I bet it was epic.
Jordan Claire, if you're out there… holler back.