This month I focused on love, a topic near to my broken heart. With a heart in that condition it was inevitable that this would be a dark month. So I thought, why not celebrate that? Most of the people I know are going around at the moment with a broken heart, bruised heart or […]
Raising the Dead: The Dark Side of Love
Raising the Dead … a peculiar title for an essay on love I suppose. Obviously it’s not a literal death I’m talking about, that would be necrophilia and that’s almost never okay – but a death of the soul.
It doesn’t refer to bringing back a dead relationship either. That’s fraught with peril. Necromancy in any form is dangerous business, remember Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery? I may want my love back, but not foaming at the mouth and tearing me and the neighbors to shreds.
When we find that one love, we hang on with both hands, both feet and our teeth, because we know in our hearts to let go is the wrong thing to do. And perhaps because we like a bit of torture now and then. As Morticia Addams said to her husband, “Don’t torture yourself. That’s my job.”
I grew up with the Addams Family, both the old TV series and the one panel cartoons. They were the role model not just for a family, but how two people behave when they’re madly in love. .
The end of my love is still fresh in my mouth and that should be a sad place to begin this tale. This was no small relationship, but for both of us, the love of our lives.
It ended like a lot of relationships end. You feel it strained, you’re the one holding on and you know it. You feel her tugging on the other end of the thread that binds you together. Then one day you realize there’s no tension in the rope, it’s gone slack. What you were holding onto is already gone.
So you save the thread, have it gilded and turn it into a shrine. You become a metaphoric necrophiliac. In continuing to love your love, you find you love a dead thing. For love to live it needs oxygen. With no connection, there is no oxygen and love suffocates.
Our oxygen was knowledge, learning about and finding ourselves in each other. The more we knew, the closer we grew. I never was a believer in soul mates till there was her.
Madly in love ... it’s a curious choice for an adjective to describe love Love is a form of madness, and like any madness, it has its dark side. Some of us travel down dark roads by choice, because we’ve found not only is the ride more interesting, but what lies waiting at the end is worth the perils of the journey. Even if at the end, you find yourself alone.
Some go mad from grief. Poe explored that in Annabel Lee:
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
Often the madness is on the inside. Sometimes a breakdown is manifested on the outside by nothing more than sitting quietly.
When all that is left is the pain, the pain is appealing so we bathe in it. It’s not the love we once felt, but at least we can feel something. For some of us, that’s better than being numb. We don’t want to face the inevitable truth, that they didn’t love us the same way.
Think of it this way, you’re in the bottom of a canyon after a fall. Your shoulder is separated and you know you have to pop it back in the socket. You know how much that’s going to hurt. But eventually you have to do it. You go through that moment of agony, because you know there’s relief on the other side. So you finally bite down on the bit and do it.
That’s what happens when you stop bullshitting yourself and face reality. To her, you’re already in the past. You’re already dead.
For me it started with the Beatles. They came over here when I was almost four, and for the next few years they were everywhere.
It’s also where my love for Britain began.
I wasn’t quite two when we moved to this house. I live here again now, trapped by circumstances that she and I created together. It’s the only place she believed she could ever truly be happy. And the only place she’s convinced she could never live. A question of logistics and immigration policy.
My oldest memory would have been when my family came and first looked at it. There was a kid in a striped shirt sitting on the back porch, just a couple years older than me, eating a big bowl of beans with his fingers. Had it all over his shirt. It was a striped shirt, not at all unlike the one wore by Pugsly Addams.
My next memory was my mother crying and rocking me over there by the window the day Kennedy was shot. My third memory was watching the Beatles on a black and white tv set.
I love music, always have. As a child the Beatles were everywhere, and they kept singing about love.
My Granny Bert had some Sinatra, Dean Martin, swing era folks. They sang about love too. It seems love was all anyone sang about, except at Christmas. I got it in my head from an early age that it was really important.
So from the time I was quite small, the only thing I ever knew I wanted was to be in love. Because that’s what inspired the songwriters, the poets, the writers, the painters. The book, Lennon Remembers where John Lennon talks about Yoko - I read that when I was ten and this stuck with me …
“There is no reason on earth why I should be without her. There is nothing more important than our relationship, nothing. We dig being together all the time, and both of us could survive apart, but what for? … Like I said in the song, I’ve been through it all, and nothing works better than to have somebody you love hold you.”
John and Yoko had their problems, including a lengthy separation. During their separation, John never found another Yoko. After his death, Yoko never found another John. That’s the way that kind of love works.
If you can give it up for something easier, then you never really felt it to begin with.
Fast forward a few decades, and several failed relationships later. The romantic ideal hard wires us to believe that there is one person out there for everyone. Experience usually proves that wrong. That left me disillusioned by the time I met Her.
That’s Her with a capital H, not because of any dominant/submissive trip. But like Irene Adler was to Sherlock Holmes, she’ll always be The Woman.
I’d given up on love but sometimes late at night I’d find myself remembering being a kid and thinking this great love was out there waiting for me.
Then she popped up out of the blue. I had met her six years earlier, online, and the closeness which existed from the beginning, and only grew, was eerie. Within a few weeks this woman who had never met me, who knew very little about me, was convinced we were to spend our lives together. I thought her mad, yet she was steadfast in her belief.
It takes confidence to love with your whole heart. To let go that way requires an unshakable faith that you’re doing the right thing, that you’ll always be there for each other, and that even if grew too hard to carry on, that bond that ties you together will hold tight.
She twirled too quickly and I was out of my depth. I worried that if she could fall in love that quickly, she could fall out of it just as fast. I was nobody, from a little town in the middle of nowhere, trying to make my way in a new life on Long Island, an hour from New York City. A town I rarely found the nerve to visit.
She was an archaeologist, had traveled the world, had lived in London and now lived in a beautiful, mist shrouded town in England. She was an artist, her writing was brilliant, her words so moving it broke my heart to read them and realize they were directed at me.
I might get her, but I could never keep her. And I knew losing her would be the greatest tragedy of my life.
So I ran, and kept running for six years.
She later wrote “I’ve thought about my heart burning those years ago when you ran from me, but that was the last time really, that I felt alive. Knowing you illuminated me and the pain was like the flash of a supernova that became a black hole. I’d run the risk of that a thousand times over rather that the emptiness of my life without you... not just the risk, I’d choose the burning.”
Reading that, I was certain I’d found someone who loved the way I knew I could love.
And now, there she was again.
All she said was a handful of words, tossed lightly to the breeze in hopes they’d find me. They did and I roared back to life.
She wanted a love that transcended human nature, and she created it for us. This time I found that same love inside me, waiting to be lit. She put sparks to the tinder and by god it blazed. I knew this was where my path led me and though it wasn’t my nature, I followed it.
I’ve always suspected there was magic in this world, some unseen force that can move people into place like pieces on a chess board. The synchronicities were amazing. It was though we had lived parallel lives on separate continents and those two lives were converging. All we had to do was sit back and let it happen.
She and I were born together in magic, serendipity and chance. The first breath we took together was enchanted. We closed the last remaining steps between us with a hug. Before we had spoken a paragraph to each other’s face we were locked in a kiss. And before the night was out we had exchanged vows.
She told me that my home was there with her now, and when I joined her there I saw it was true. It was the only place I’ve ever felt at home, since I was a kid. She visited me here and we both felt the same way. It wasn’t the location, it was being together. We always shared that feeling, up to the end.
She was my dream, from the time I was old enough to dream. When she found me again I had no defenses against her, and I wanted none. Destiny led me here, and I was right where I needed to be when our stars collided. She was the only answer I ever had to a prayer. The answer to my wishes on a star. Every time I tossed a coin into a fountain I had wished for her.
And now, a little over three months since she’d come back into my life, as I looked out the window and saw Britain below me, I realized somewhere down there she was wending her way to the airport, to meet me for our appointment with destiny.
+ + +
When your love dies, a part of you dies as well. You can’t go on being the person you were, because the center of your world was the love you shared with someone else. The more that love touches your life, the more of you there is to die.
There is nothing as easy as loving the woman I knew. Everything I had ever experienced in life, all I wanted to be in life, led me to her. When she left, she not only took my future, but my past as well. There is nothing in my life that doesn’t bear her mark now.
For what it’s worth, she always said the same about me, right up till the end.
Together it was the most amazing gothic love story I ever heard. Apart, we were toxic. Together we took a leap into the unknown and against all odds, landed safely on the other side. But her feet were stuck where she landed, and she never could move from that spot. No matter how much she wanted to.
It ended, once more this past Christmas eve. In the month before she had told me she only wanted us to be together at Christmas, as a family. She wanted to live here, in this house, the only place she could ever be happy. She said she’d never been happy in her life, except for when we were together. When it snowed and she came back from walk sad because she had no one’s hand to hold, it was still mine that she wanted to be holding.
I knew her well enough to know what she was feeling. It wasn’t me she ran from that Christmas eve. It was from herself.
In the end, her reason for giving up was simple. The explanation I had to content myself with, from the woman who had poured out the depths of her soul, was she changed her mind. Just like that. Her daughter, who was once my step daughter backed her in this … advice on love from a teenager who herself changes like the wind.
A month later her daughter told my kid, the relationship between her and me no longer existed. Once again, I lost the woman I loved, and the child I loved as my own. Once more they disappeared from my life, ghosting is what the cool kids call it. How to break someone's heart without having to watch.
You don’t survive having your heart ripped out like that. That person dies, so to go on as you were, you must raise the dead.
+ + +
I can do what people tell me, let it go. But those are the same people who told me it would never work to start with. The people she listened to when she was afraid and wanted to give up. That’s not who we were, and those people could never understand our love. It never happened to them.
I can forget the vows I made to her, to myself, I can chalk it up as a delusion and adjust my moral center to make it alright. But that would be becoming the person she feared I was, someone who was full of shit when I made all those promises, when we spoke of undying love. The person she became when she gave up on us, and on herself.
It’s simple. Everything I was went into becoming who I became, her husband. If I could break that, it would mean every belief I ever had that led to her, that conviction that those beliefs culminated in her, were all mistaken. If they had been, there’s literally nothing I could say is true about me. I’d have to rebuild myself from the ground up, and that wasn’t happening.
Because I saw what she saw. Together it worked.
So I asked myself, what would Gomez Addams do? That’s easy, he’d be reborn loving his Cara mia, and go on loving her, to the moon and beyond.
She told me to be myself, to stop pretending, to stop hiding. When I do, that’s the person I am. Not the person defined by a moment of agony, but a person defined by joy. A man in love.
Loving the woman I knew isn’t hard. It’s fucking easy. It’s the role I was born to play. It’s who I was as a child dreaming about who I would be when I grew up. I didn’t tell people I wanted to be president, a football player, an accountant. I wanted to be in love. I found my love of love again, in the person I was destined to love.
I live for her laughter ... for god’s sakes you have to laugh. If you don’t laugh with your lover, they won’t be your lover for very long.
I melt under her smile, whose hand when it held hers felt as though it was holding a precious flower.
Today I’m in the most exquisite agony because a short while ago we were living the most exquisite love.
She has accused me of being a romantic. Yes, guilty.
But if I had said to her what I’d said when I was fifteen, it would have been bullshit, even though I would have believed it. At forty five? Still bullshit. It took being with her to understand what those words mean.
She said we was giving up because it was too hard, but shouldn’t our motto be sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc or “we gladly feast on those who would subdue us?” Is it easier to give up loving the person you know you’re born to love, to settle for less, than it is to let go of your fears and be the person you always wanted to be?
What can be harder to live with than regret?
We didn’t get up that mountain doing the pathetic things we did afterwards, when we came down. We got up there feeling tremblingly alive, unwilling to let anyone or anything to stand in our way. As long as she was willing to try, I was at her side. That was my role to play, and as a reward I got that day on that mountain.
Consider me paid in full.
+ + +
The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!
Elizabeth Barrett, who became his wife wrote of her love for him …
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Isn’t that how we want to love? Isn’t that how we want to live? Don’t we want our spiritual selves “dazzling each other in the burnt grey ashes of our daily lives?” Why not live like it matters? Why not live this up to the eyes?
For love to survive, it has to grow. Without the romance, you starve love of its energy and it begins to die. Perhaps you can be content with what’s left, but fuck you. That’s not me.
She held onto a love for a man she had never met for six years. She saw us making a family and we made it happen. We married the night we met. The last time we looked into each other’s eyes and kissed each other’s lips, we loved each other, and wanted to be together more than ever.
The wedge that split us apart was hammered in by other’s hands. She just didn’t have the strength to block the blows. It cleaved us apart and the two halves died. By the end, there was nothing but black, an obsidian finale to the only real color that ever reached my soul.
Once we exchanged vows in a stone circle thousands of years old. We called it a wedding. She called me husband and I called her wife. What we learned over the next few years, was it was real.
Weddings today are done by rote, without thought. You’re pledging yourself to another, in front of someone with the authority to hold you to those vows, be it legal, moral or spiritual. For the legal there is divorce. For the Christians there is annulment.
The trouble is, I never took into consideration that whatever gods or entities that stone circle was created for, might still be lurking about. Turns out they were, and they kept me bound to those vows. That it didn’t for her doesn’t matter. We had that night and that will never be equalled.
There is no divorce mechanism for rituals held in ancient megalithic landscapes. You make the vow, you stick to it. It takes a sacrifice to be released. You have to give up who you became with her, your dreams, your hopes, the most deeply held belief you ever had. That this person held the other half of your heart and soul.
You give up on that, and every love song ever written becomes a lie. Every love story a farce.
After living the most amazing love of your life, you can’t content yourself with anything less, or at least I can’t. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life comparing my new life to the one I had, and always coming up short.
If there is magic in this world, you lose it when you turn away from it. I lost it when I lost her. But in the end, I never lost her. She lost herself, and the woman she was is still mine, and I’m still hers. The moments may lie in the past, but haven’t we proven conclusively by now there is no linear time?
In the end, the ability to raise the dead comes from within. To raise the dead, you must be dead yourself. The one part of us that lives on after death is love.
And that’s the only way to raise the dead, with love. Anything else is doomed before you start.
And so I go on loving, the woman I knew, not the woman she became. I never knew that woman, for she doesn’t exist when we’re together. I hear her described, but I never could see her. Because that’s not her.
I can’t help but love that woman, and I always will. As long as I am this man. Each time she brought me back to life, I always came back as the same man, because each time was brought back with love.
And so as I bring myself back to life, I find once more that what I was certain lived inside me, love, never died.
My heart and soul was given away on the ring stone at Avebury. Now that there is no one to receive it, that’s where it remains. Whistling through the stones on dark windy nights, along with the other ghosts that can be found there.
And once more I’m home.
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