Love + Conflict. That combination makes for a messy, complicated equation.
I’ll start by saying that there are a handful of people in this world that I would throw myself in front of a bus for. Some literally, some figuratively. I’m sure most of you feel the same way about your assorted family and friends. Throwing yourself in front of a bus in the literal way is self-explanatory. Throwing yourself in front of a bus in the figurative way can mean a variety of things. To me, it basically suggests that you’d put them first in a “me versus you” showdown: Packing a bag and heading to someone’s side without hesitation when the worst thing imaginable happens; setting aside your own plans in order to help someone reach for their dreams first; rearranging your life and home to welcome someone in need of shelter and a fresh start; not saying that hurtful thing in that moment because you know you really can’t take it back later. Sometimes figurative bus throwing can be even more difficult than literal bus throwing, I suspect. Although far less lethal.
Recently, I lost a friend that fit into that former category, the literal kind of friend. Someone I would have jumped in front of a bus for. When I say I lost her, I’m not being entirely honest. I know her phone number and her home address and I know exactly where she is most hours of the working day. But, due to conflict, she’s lost to me just the same and when I really think about it — especially when I think about how essential that friendship was to me when we were in the very thick of it, how glorious it was — it makes me profoundly sad. But I also don’t think about it as much today as I did yesterday. The thing about our love + conflict equation, this friend’s and mine, is that while we probably thought at the time that the conflict was so so big that there was no getting around it, I think we both know now that maybe the love was just too small. How strange to wake up one day and realize that we’d turned our backs during the journey and gotten sloppy and neglectful and that love had shrunken along the way.
I think I was once the type of person who spent way too much time thinking about the people I felt certain would be willing to jump in front of a bus for me; tallying and re-tallying, arranging everyone meaningful in my life into those two categories (jump vs. no jump) and then adjusting the columns accordingly when called for. Trust me, that math can take a lot out of you. Now I prefer to focus on the people I’d jump for and not the other way around. And when those people — those literal and figurative bus jumping people — drive me bananas and make me want to pull my hair out and leave me feeling frustrated and like I’m always giving, giving, giving (truth be told, I’m pretty lucky because my people rarely do any of this), then I do what I have to do to divert my attention back to that first part of the equation, the love part. I focus on that in the hopes that it doesn’t shrink and that it stays strong and resilient and flexible so that it can weather any sort of conflict, any sort of storm. If there’s one thing that losing someone close to you — someone you couldn’t have imagined ever leaving your life — makes you sure of it’s that you’re not going to let it happen again. Lesson learned.