Answer 1: On Crushes
So, you have a crush on a friend.* But everything is terrible/uncertain/stressful.
Send the love poem. Say the thing that’s in your heart. If not now, when?
What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t love you back, i.e. the status quo?
What’s the best thing that happens? They do!
The thing you’re torturing yourself about – “Do I do it in a phone call? Do I send a text? Do I yell it from 6-10 feet away?” – You know this person best and you know you best. Your way is going to be the right way if they feel that way about you. If they don’t love you back, they don’t love you back. It’s not because you said it wrong. (Read this poem). If your instincts are telling you now is not the time, then you are probably right about that and having just the right words won’t change it.
Practice Round: Tell the people you don’t want to smooch how much you love and care about them, too. Yell “thank you” to the trash removal people from the window. Tell the grocery delivery person and the pharmacist what a good job they are doing. You’ve got excess love so give it away.
Answer 2: On Closure
Hey remember that friendship/relationship that ended very badly and they told you not to contact them again and to stay away?
You were doing okay, you were taking your feelings to the gym or the bike trail or the knitting project or the social circle.
But now the world feels like it’s ending and you’re suddenly obsessed. What if you could talk to them just one more time and make yourself understood and focus on “what’s really important?”
“Fix this,” your jerk of a brain whispers, “And maybe you’ll fix the world.”
“You can’t fix the world,” your absolute dillweed of a brain reminds you. “But what if you could fix this one tiny thing?”
Beloved, write the letter where you get to say everything you want to say. Get it all out on the page. Do not send this letter, but do write it.
Now, write yourself the letter you wish they’d write back. Imagine them saying everything you most want to hear, imagine them telling you “I am sorry” and “I miss you, too,” and “I love you” and “I forgive you.” Spare no emotional expense. Include every good and kind and loving thing remember this person ever saying to you, every compliment, every private joke, every happy memory you can think of. Write the happy ending to the story that you wish you had.
Burn the first letter.**
When you feel obsessed and lonely read the second one back to yourself.
The good times you and this person shared were real. They still happened to you. What shone then shines now. The things they loved about you are still in you. That’s all still yours, even if this one person is no longer in your life. They are not the boss of how you get to be loved or whether you deserve love, just as you are not the boss of whether you get to keep trying to demand it specifically from them. We can wish people well and send love in their direction and still follow separate paths.
After you re-read the good letter, channel the feelings into action that doesn’t harm anybody or further obsess you. Do something that is physical, mundane, and and an act of care for yourself and the others in your home environment: Scrub the bathroom down, clean out the bottom drawer of the fridge, dust the baseboards. Call your elected officials. Find something you’ve been putting off and do it.
Finally (do not skip this step), get in touch with someone who always does want to hear from you, someone who is always glad to let you in, somebody you don’t have to work at. The absent person isn’t the only love or friendship you will ever have in your life. You have excess love right now, so give some away.
*Advice does not apply to crushes on an employee/assistant/student/a roommate you are quarantined with/somebody you have power over, or any person who has to be nice to you because of where they work or because they can’t get away from you. Leave your barista/pharmacist/grocery worker alone.
**Safety first! Shredding it into tiny pieces or making elaborate paper snowflakes is also a dramatic and symbolic act of destruction.