Everyone worth knowing will break your heart.
They won’t mean to. Anything worth having is worth keeping, and you will someday give up your dearest friends, your parents, compatriots… even your children.
That’s gonna leave a mark.
There’s only one way around it: cut yourself off right now. Don’t go to that party with the people you care about; don’t share adventures with anyone; don’t hug your kids; don’t pass down family stories or date or even get a dog. People will tell you that you should live so you have no regrets and they’ll secretly congratulate themselves on their savvy, cut ‘n’ paste wisdom, but what are regrets except the extrapolation of what might have been if you’d just had more time to dance with the colorful pieces of your life?
Once you lose the capacity for regrets, you stop caring. Once you stop caring, you’re eight-tenths dead. May as well take the grey pill and slip into a warm bath where nobody can hurt you, ever again.
Some of our most painfully paid-for decisions, we make unconsciously.
Whoa, that’s cool — gonna git me one o’ those.
Because I love her, that’s why!
Congratulations. It’s a GIRL!
Then the motorcycle takes your leg or ends up at the breaker yard. The girlfriend slices a thick slab from your heart and hands it off to her new girlfriend. Your daughter comes to your bedside to forgive you before you die, and you try to look past the tattoo on her face to the baby whom you remember as filled with light and painless promise.
If you were aware of the costs in advance, would you have chosen differently? Had you chosen differently, would that have enhanced your life, or only secured it into a lukewarm, flannel predictability?
Counselors will tell you to own your mistakes, as though you have a choice. So funny! Acknowledge them or deny them as you please, but you can’t own your actions. Like bullets from a gun, once you choose them, they own you. They describe the hopefully lumpy and imperfect detours from the arc of your life; shutting off huge swathes of options, opening others.
There are no go-backs, no do-overs, no Mulligans. You never get a second chance. You may have a different chance, but you pay the ferryman for every crossing, right up until the day you drown.
A few years ago, I met the wrong girl. She wasn’t my social, political, sexual or religious flavor, and we both knew that instantly enough that neither of us made — for the first time in either of our lives — an unconscious romantic choice. She is my intentional undoing. She will hurt me as mortally as only a best-beloved can.
Some day in my increasingly foreseeable future, I’ll lose that girl when one of us leaves the stage. That loss will cost me more than I could possibly afford, tear away the biggest part of my remaining soul, and I will have regrets. She will likely be my last thought, no matter which of us first goes over the cliff, and I will fiercely regret every minute we spent on the administrative overhead of our lives, every adventure we passed up in pursuit of responsible adulthood.
That pain I vow to embrace, not regret. This woman, who wants to be mine and is, will have been worth every tear. That decision owns me. It owns us both. The mortgages that matter are owed to loved ones, not to banks.
What’s your next heartbreak? Let it be something you did, someone you knew that owns you. Let it not be a cringe, a whine, a survival mechanism that trades messy humanity for orderly security. Better to end the night with a pillowcase full of love — at any cost — than to be the kid who was too afraid to ever ring the doorbell and yell, “Trick or treat!”