It is hard to choose love sometimes.
There are moments- like when you’re having dinner alone with your young sister in an Italian restaurant in Prague while your mum is in a hospital room- when choosing love is easy. Saying, ‘I’m here for you’ and ‘you are not alone’ and ‘finish your soup, love’; that’s an easy way to choose love, to put the needs of someone else before your own and selflessly give comfort, warmth, and affection.
It’s easy to choose love when your sister is throwing up for the third time in ten minutes and clutching at you like you are a lifeline while you desperately try to call the doctor and wishing you could take away all the pain she must be in.
When you share your bed with your mum after watching a horror movie and you take her hand under the covers to let her know she’s not alone; it’s easy to choose love.
Seeing your sister bouncing around the M&M world in NYC and following her lead as she happily munches on chocolate at 1 in the morning; it’s almost too easy, really, to choose love.
When your mum is happily reading the newspaper in the morning and the smell of coffee permeates the air. When your sister is engrossed in a Harry Potter book in the living room, bathed in the morning light. When your mum picks up one of the cats and speaks lovingly to it. When your sister pets the dog. It’s easy then to choose love.
It’s harder to choose love when your sister is yelling at you and slamming the door. Or when your mother has trouble understanding you. It’s frustrating and those situations make it very easy- way too easy- to choose anger or betrayal, or any emotion that is not love. We fight, sometimes. The words twisting and turning into sharpened blades that leave an emptiness in our own hearts as we plunge them deep into each other’s flesh. We don’t fight often, but when we do, we fight more bitterly because our closeness makes us all the more susceptible to each other. It’s hard to choose love then.
We feel anger rising and the words unspoken are the ones we ought to be letting out from the prison of our chests, but we don’t. We hang the phones and go silent, lick our wounds in darkened rooms and snarl at any form of comfort or proximity offered to us by those whom we have already hurt a thousand times. It’s hard to choose love.
There are moments of confusion in the whirlwind of anger. Throats tighten and tears appear at the corner of our eyes almost like magic. Voices break and the rhythm of words becomes frantic, almost unintelligible. In the midst of chaos, it’s hard to choose love.
Sometimes we shout. ‘It’s hurting you but it’s killing me!’ ‘I was doing the goddamn best I could!’ ‘I can’t do this anymore!’ ‘Leave me alone!’ ‘You are not my mother!’ ‘It’s your fault!’ ‘I told you a thousand times but you didn’t listen!’ ‘You think this is fine?!’ ‘Help me!’ ‘You are insufferable!’ ‘Listen to me!’ ‘I’m dying here!’ In those moments it’s nearly impossible to choose love.
When the anger is gone, an empty coldness settles on our chests and makes its way to our bones. We reach out, tentatively at first, afraid that this time we have gone too far, afraid that this time we won’t be forgiven, won’t be loved again. We stumble over our own words, blindly reaching out for a morsel of warmth that will bring some feeling back into our frostbitten souls. We sometimes try to explain, knowing full well that there is no explanation that could suffice to heal us. Other times, we cry and let the salty drops wash our injuries as we shake and mumble incoherent apologies. It takes courage to choose love then.
There are topics that cause pain, and memories that leave a gaping, bleeding hole in our hearts when they are brought back into the light. There are old wounds, half-healed and never forgotten. There are new wounds, weeping and sore. There are memories that leave dark bruises in our souls and others that bring a bittersweet taste to our tongues. We swallow our tears and clench our jaws at some distant thought of lost love and betrayal. We examine our injuries in the privacy of our own hearts and poke at them with ruthless efficiency in what could only be considered self-flagellation; oftentimes it’s more like self-disgust, sometimes hate. Choosing self-love in those instances is a heroic undertaking, sprinkled with disgust and doubt.
Love, in the end, is the only choice we make. We come back and choose love time and time again, tirelessly, and unceremoniously. We look deep into each other’s eyes, feel their tears like our own, and we choose love.
We choose love, and we go on.
“Some people survive and talk about it. Some people survive and go silent. Some people survive and create. Everyone deals with unimaginable pain in their own way, and everyone is entitled to that, without judgment. So, the next time you look at someone’s life covetously, remember…you may not want to endure what they are enduring right now, at this moment, whilst they sit so quietly before you, looking like a calm ocean on a sunny day. Remember how vast the ocean’s boundaries are. Whilst somewhere the water is calm, in another place in the very same ocean, there is a colossal storm.” -Nikita Gill