Why True Love Is Having These Two Opposing Feelings At Once

by Zara Barrie

I've had endless conversations over endless glasses of wine over endless joints over endless cigarettes over endless cups of tea in England over endless cups of coffee in Manhattan over endless disgusting liquid kale juices in Los Angeles. All about one subject -- love.

Love. It's such a loaded word, isn't it? We're either blinded by it, confusing it for lust, madly resisting it, screwed up and destroyed by it or in therapy and healing from it. It takes up so much space in our lives.

I'm a passionate person who live for the big feels so it's safe to say I'm pretty into the whole love thing. But in recent years something shifted in me. I stopped caring. I left it alone for a while and learned to fill the empty spaces myself. It all started after I let a person take up so much space, there was no room for me to exist in my own life anymore.

I was in a relationship with a woman for a little over a year who I thought I loved. She was a no-nonsense silky brunette with intense, pale gray eyes, oversized lips and a lithe frame. She was the kind of abrasive person who possessed a heavy energy so palpable it swallowed up all the air in the room. She was beautiful, but in a razor-sharp way. She was more striking than pretty. We were physical and energetic opposites. I was fascinated by her because she functioned so vastly different than me.

Our first date she told me I was "too skinny for her" but she was "intrigued." No one had ever commented on my body on a first date. The girl alarms inside my head screamed, "get out, get out, get out." I almost got up and walked away. I wish I had gotten up and walked away. But I did what I always do when trouble finds me. I flip off the proverbial switch and stay against my better judgement.

And I stayed for an entire year. An entire year where I only remember feeling one thing: anxiety. Only I confused the anxiety with the most sacred, holy feeling of all. Love.

I thought incessant critiquing was part of fiery passion. I mixed up unpredictability with excitement. I confused "butterflies" with nerves and pain. I was afraid the whole time we were together because I never knew what she was going to do next.

Every time I saw her number make its way on to my cracked phone's caller ID a tidal wave of fear washed over me. Was she going to tell me how much she loved me or how much she hated me? Was I pretty or ugly today? Was I a bad person or a good person? I never knew and the worst part was, I had the answers all along. I just put someone else's haphazard opinions of me before my own. I doubted what I knew to be true.

In my life I've been through things, just like everyone else. I've had an eating disorder. I'm a trauma survivor. I've held some pretty brutal things in because I was embarrassed and wanted to seem perfect. I've waged some pretty screwed-up wars against myself, because people who swallow secrets because they're full of ashamed end up hurting themselves (if they don't hurt others).

But through it all, I've always had this oddly strong sense of self. Like I've always been authentically Zara, for better or for worse. I've evolved and grown and broken down and regained my strength and broken down again and been on the meds and off the meds, but I've remained the same. I've always been creative, bizarre, nonsensical Zara, the weirdo in the sky-high platforms strutting around the city with her heavily mascara-adorned eyes wide open.

But in this relationship I lost myself because I was afraid of the person I was with. My eyes suddenly closed, because I was scared of my reality and the darkness felt easier. Dear God, I don't ever want to go back to that place, again. I'm not the girl who shuts out the beautiful world because she's afraid of what's lurking in the shadows. It breaks my heart to think the thing I was afraid of was a person. A person I thought I loved.

One day I was out on the town with my best friend, when he saw a particularly abusive text message she had sent me, out of nowhere. I had taken to hiding my phone, but I had a few drinks swishing through my system and silly me, I left my phone out in plain view.

"Why are you in this relationship?" he asked me, his piercing blue eyes sharpening with concern.

I looked at my phone, which was held by shaky hands with chipped red polish. I realized I was the girl with shaky hands and chipped red polish. I was a shell of myself. I had lost weight. My style was dumbed down. My bright personality had become blurry and vague. I felt blurry and vague. I felt like my identity was disintegrating into the concrete of the shitty bar we were at. I could smell beer and cigarettes on my hair. Even my natural smell was lost in the thick of this new toxic life. I felt stripped of my essence. Like I was just a thing sifting through the world with no weight to root me to the earth.

"Because it's exciting. I prefer excitement more than just a safe boring love," I answered. Had my voice become quieter?

As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew I was fucked up. I knew how dumb it sounded. How had I let myself become a victim to "love?" I knew this wasn't who I was. I knew I had to get out and find myself again.

But for a long time after that I was convinced that love was either exciting and unpredictable, butterfly-filled but toxic or that it was predictable and safe, wonderfully warm but dull and boring. I wrote the whole thing off. Nah, this isn't for me. I couldn't risk losing my identity again and I hate boredom more than I hate watching paint dry. The guard came up.

But the guards are always up until they're not, right? Recently I've learned that you don't have to chose between a fiery, exciting relationship and your sense of safety and stability anymore. I know, I know, I'm a late bloomer, but I've always been a little late to the game.

Maybe it's all the drugs I did as a teen. Maybe it's because I have to learn things for myself and just don't learn from other people's mistakes. Maybe it's because when I do learn things, they're deeply ingrained into my core for life and I never forget them. Maybe it's because I dropped out of college.

I don't know. I don't care. Because my entire life has changed now that I've learned that true love is all about feelings safe in the arms of another person, because you know they don't want to hurt you. But also feeling wildly excited and nervous but the excitement and the nerves are because the weight of your feelings are so beautiful and expansive and so you're so turned on and attracted to them that's thrilling.

So, kittens, the moral of the story is: You can have it all. Don't think you ever have to choose one or the other. It just might take a second for the right pieces to fall into place. And while you're waiting, keep cultivating that sacred relationship with yourself. Because you won't find the whole thing, until you're the whole thing.