Love Won’t Let Go of You
Years ago, I abandoned an old blog largely due to exhaustion and a desire for more creative freedom. It felt somehow liberating to start on Medium at 0 followers: nobody knew me. Nobody had expectations. Not like my old blog where reader engagement and buzz had steered me towards the topic of love, firmly and consistently, even though I’d begun with the intention and hope of writing about my life in general.
I never really figured out whether the reason people started coming to me for the love was because love is simply what everyone wants most, because maybe I was good(?) at writing about it, or because I was supposed to be writing about it. Whatever the case, I was inspired by all the deep-heart explorations that my readers prompted… but my pigeonhole got stifling.
After all, love does not exist in a vacuum. Just as there’s no life without love, there’s no love without life. We’re better off when we reflect on and celebrate the wonder in ALL of it.
And I missed feeling like I could do that.
Medium has been the clean-slate opportunity I was hoping for. I’ve written about a wide range of topics (yay, creative freedom!), including: sex, wild coincidences (here and here), the hidden virtues of food porn/social media, the internal conflict of being both academic and woo-woo, and the ways in which I don’t measure up to the grit of my blue-collar dad. I love that I can do all of this. (And thank you to the publications who let me share! — P.S. I Love You, The Ascent, and The Writing Cooperative.)
While writing is my true love, though, it’s freelance copyediting that pays the bills… and this week, I burnt out.
Earlier this week, I found myself unable to focus on my editing work for any longer than a few minutes at a time — sometimes just 3 minutes and I was ready to bang my head against the wall.The work wasn’t even that hard, but it took me all day to summon the cumulative mental focus required for completing what was ultimately just an hour and a half of work.
How will I be able to feed myself if I can’t do this??? I kept wondering.
And the other protest-refrain in my head, over and over:
I just want to write!
I felt desperate. And scared. I couldn’t stop thinking about how writing is the passion I left grad school for seven years ago, it’s the reason I’ve sacrificed so much to build a freelance life. Yet copyediting immerses me so much in other people’s writing (and in their urgent deadlines) that it disconnects me from my own feelings and voice.
I can’t “skip” work to write — I can’t not work… but I can’t write if I’m working.
When I FINALLY finished my editing that day around midnight, I had no energy left — not even for the writing I’d wanted to do—so I just sat there on my couch, staring blankly at the wall in the lamplight. I put on a peaceful-sounding tune to unwind: a Taylor Swift song called “This Love” (stuck in my head lately because it randomly keeps queuing when I’m walking down a particular block in Berlin. Weird.).
I put the song on loop. I fell asleep.
And the next morning, I woke up — “This Love” still playing — to an email from Medium, informing me that I’d achieved Top Writer status in…
I was shocked. Given that this was the day before my birthday, it felt like a cool gift from the universe to round out a year. A little pat on the back. Keep writing, girl. And keep the love coming.
Surprising as it was, though, something about the whole situation didn’t feel like a complete cosmic accident. It felt like a cosmic on-purpose. I mean, yes, there was the timing — just when I’d burned out and wondered if my writing would ever take off. But it also felt non-random because of the love element.
Hadn’t I turned away from writing about love once upon a time?
Years ago, I heard the following in my head while I reflected on a love that wouldn’t leave me:
It’s not you that won’t let go of love; it’s love that won’t let go of you.
There are some things you can’t get away from. Love(s), especially. And that’s actually one of the messages of the song I’d fallen asleep to that night: it’s about a powerful love that leaves “a permanent mark” on the person who experiences it, it lights the way, and it finds its way back into your world, even well after you think it has died.
Perhaps I should give true and serious consideration to whether this, love, has been part of my purpose — whether I should have been writing about it — all along.
We tend to think of love as a feeling we chase, but love is more than that. Love is a force.
Love knits everything together, at the same time as it composes the “everything.” It is more than the fiber of the web; it is also the spaces in-between. The fabric both of the before and the yet-to-come. Love unlocks the door to memory, shines light on the past and the present, and opens up new paths for the future. Love heals, love fortifies, love liberates, and love holds — only as tightly as we truly need.
But above all, love — the force — is unconditional. And this means that there is no limit to where it can reach or whom it can touch, regardless of how long we’ve been running away or neglecting it; it finds us, again and again, because it never left. Nothing can shut it off. Nothing can make us lose it. And it will always be there when we turn our attention back to it, because it never actually went away.
We just forgot.
My work’s busiest season of the year is about to start. I’m already feeling its weight. How much will I be able to write? How long can this badge last? I’m just deeply thankful that it’s happened to me at all, and when it did. I needed the cosmic encouragement.
Even though I withdrew from my old blog — about love — I don’t feel the same pressure to hide from it now that “love” has found me again on Medium. I guess perhaps the intervening years have taught me, “Yeah, um, this is kind of what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Ironically, the thing I wrote that got the most traction was all about being single, so that’s pretty funny in itself. I haven’t been in a serious, committed relationship in over ten years, but love is an enormous part of my life, all the same. I feel it in the trees and in the twilight; I sense it in the strangers on the train; I look back and see it in my hardest, hungriest moments; I hear it whenever a song reminds me of an old friend or a former life (or both); I find it in the little things I do to take care of myself each day. Love is more than romantic. Love is… more than any word I could attempt to capture it with, so I won’t even try.
What is it that you love? Have you been running from it? Stop.
It will be there.
I’ll close here: a few days before the head-banging frustration and the yearning to write more, before waking up to “This Love” and a “Love” badge from Medium — there was a tiny ripple of encouragement from the universe: a stranger on Instagram (somehow) discovered a months-old poem I’d written. It’s a poem that speaks to the mystical nature of love, and to our inability to excise ourselves from it, or it from within. What we love is what we’re made of.
I’ll share it here with you. Thanks for reading.