The general definition of ‘love’ is “an intense feeling of deep affection.” Sounds simple enough, but is all love created equal? Scaling back some layers, there’s a noticeable complexity surrounding the meaning of love. Much of the time we throw it around loosely to describe an overzealous emotion about someone or something. I do it almost daily. I am a proud Cleveland, Ohio native, who passionately defends this city. I love Cleveland. I am a devoted, oftentimes rabid, fan of Cleveland professional sports, especially the Browns. I love my Cleveland Browns. I have shared my home with dogs all throughout my life. They are an integral piece of my household and family. I love my dogs. Speaking of family, I’m lucky enough to have an older sibling. We may not always have had a great relationship, but we are close nevertheless. I love my sister. I am also fortunate to have been raised in a home with both parents, who have done an admirable job guiding my sister and I into adulthood. I love my mother and father. I have some great friends. Terrific and irreplaceable friends. Some old, some new. Even if we don’t talk as often as we should, I would place a bet on them being there for me (or vice versa), when the time is needed. I love my friends. These are all invaluable components of my life with a varying degree or two of love separated between each. But there is an obvious missing one to this list – intimate love. The kind of love you share with someone who makes your heart tremble and flat line briefly. The kind of love that makes you forget to breathe. The kind of love you shout off the rooftops confessing you can’t go another day without thinking about them. I’ve experienced this before. Real, undeniable love.There was a period in my life when expressing affection towards another was nearly unheard of. I have never publicly said this before, but as a child it felt awkward saying or hearing “I love you”, even to and from family, including the immediate members. It was just understood and assumed mostly that we did. Like many, I was taught showing emotion was to show weakness. One example of this is tattooed in my memory bank forever of me standing beside my father at the casket of his father’s funeral looking up to see not a teardrop in his eyes. People grieve in different ways, and we are influenced by those we look up to. I don’t doubt for a second my father’s love for his parents, even if he didn’t physically show it publicly in the form of tears. When times get tough, I would often think back to those recollections to get by the troubling time.
From elementary through high school, I was a mostly quiet and reserved kid, which means I didn’t necessarily fare well with the ladies. In all honesty, I didn’t have my first serious girlfriend until I was well into my teens, immediately followed up by another, with both ending before I turned 22. I didn’t take either breakup well. It was my first time discovering mutual attraction, and I felt emotionally robbed at the conclusion of it. I developed trust issues partially because of those experiences, if I didn’t already possess them prior. My solution was to denounce feelings altogether, vowing to never allow someone to affect or hurt me again. In hindsight, I question whether I was mature enough to handle intimacy, and if the feelings I felt were real or just me wanting them to be real. Nevertheless, in an effort to mask the pain, I resorted to drinking nightly, and consuming other drugs, with a close knit group of friends. This became problematic as I drank most of my early 20’s away, barely remembering a day I was sober while single-handedly spiraling my life out of control, all in the name of showing no feelings. I was a social drinker who was addicted more to the scene than the actual vice itself, but in this world the two went hand in hand. I began to enjoy this new way of living, which is a problem in and of itself. I got completely messed up every night, which gave me the courage to do things I never thought I was capable of, like picking up random women for detached one night stands. I solved one dilemma only to create another. Even though the happiness was mostly artificial, I found the utter absence of love was no way to live.
What does it mean to love somebody? And when is it alright to declare you do? In my mid-to-late 20’s, I found myself reacquainting with an old high school crush. She was my dream girl at the time – tall, blonde, attractive, great personality…she had it all. It felt she was out of my league back in school, and since I was so shy I was never able to gain enough courage to talk to her and face what I thought would be inevitable rejection anyway. Generally, I just sat and stared like an idiot, like the circuits that controlled my brain and mouth completely malfunctioned. But things changed this time around, as I was becoming more social and found the benefits of liquid courage. I didn’t have to think anymore, I just relied on what felt natural. One night while at a bar, I found myself alone with her and came clean, telling her about my decade old crush. Seeing her again brought it all back, realizing it never really went away. We bashfully giggled like little kids meeting on the playground for the first time. She asked me why I never said anything before, and how she just assumed I was gay because I was rarely seen with women back then – a sentiment shared later on by others to me as well. Rest assured, I am not, but to quote the famous ‘Seinfeld’ episode, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” either. Sometimes I feel as if I am just different. I’ve seen so many friends settle for the first person who showed any interest, and just never believed in compromising my values when it comes to something as powerful as what love is supposed to mean between two people. Closing time grew near, we found ourselves alone outside on that cold February night with snowflakes lazily falling to the ground, looking into each other’s eyes and simultaneously kiss in the moonlight. No word can effectively describe the moment or the state it left me in. I was paralyzed. The kiss seemed to make life move in slow motion, and the best part was the feeling was mutual.
It seems no good thing lasts, and my time with her was no exception. I was destroyed when it was over. This year’s love was my first real love, and I lost her. Adding to this was intensified by my ability to make more bad life decisions. I received a D.U.I after one of these nights of binge drinking…both a blessing and a curse. A curse because financially it was not an ideal time to be in trouble with the law, if there ever is a good time. But a blessing because it forced me to take a step back from my life and view it through sober lenses. I became a recluse, leaving the house only to go to work, and started writing my first screenplay titled “kArmA: a story about friendship, love and addiction.” It was based off this period in my life, looking at how my previous behavior of overindulging on alcohol, drugs and women influenced how my life came crumbling down topped off by losing my first true love. I was back to being numb, and never wanted to feel again.
“Everybody has their addictions. When you think about the word addiction, it makes you think about alcoholics, drugees and gamblers. Nobody ever mentions the greatest addiction of them all – Love.”
a quote from the screenplay “kArmA”
After two years of writing “kArmA,” I attempted a couple times to produce the completed script into an independent film. I was unsuccessful in forming and keeping a cast and crew together, so I turned all my attention to a project I could control from start to finish – a documentary. I am the epitome of a Leo. I need to be in control of my work and life. I am also a creative person, who depends on art to distract me from the thoughts and moments that weigh on my heart, mind and soul. In a special way, it provides therapy to overcome life’s challenges. It is as essential to me as the air I breathe. But, just when you least expect it, lightning can strike again…A couple years into production of my new documentary, Guilty Til Proven Innocent, I began casually talking to a woman on the west coast through the Facebook page set up for the film. The page gave me a platform where I interacted with people all across the country and around the world who shared the same passion about the issue. It wasn’t something planned, but the unexpected benefit was my “pond became bigger to fish in”, so to speak. We both had a vested interest in the topic of dog rescue and welfare, and the friendship quickly escalated, possibly too fast. I never would have imagined I’d be in a predicament of being in a long distance relationship, but here I was knee deep in one. I don’t think any training could have helped to set us up for what would become. The very idea of this arrangement is a recipe for failure. They just can’t survive long term with that much distance. The plan was for me to be the one to move, which was mostly motivated by our career flexibilities, or lack thereof in her case. As much as I love living in Cleveland, being in a committed relationship means to compromise, and in a lot of ways sacrifice lesser important things for her. But you do it without blinking when you find someone special, who lights up the world around you with their very presence, and when the thought of it being absent just makes you feel ill. We continued on by any means necessary to keep it together, using any form of communication available, while taking a few trips to each other as well. Maybe we were naive to think it would work, because relationships are hard enough when there are not state lines in between. Unfortunately, this short lived love ultimately couldn’t stand the test of time, other variables proved to be too much to overcome.
I write these blog posts mostly for myself. They allow me to collect my thoughts and say what I need to say. I used to be very private, and still am in some ways, but I’m also not afraid anymore of the consequences of throwing myself out there for all to see my vulnerabilities. I believe it may also help others who have stories similar and need someone to relate to, to know they are not alone. It’s hard not to become jaded. I don’t think there is a more devastating feeling in the world than missing someone you love. I’ve never been the type to have several options for my heart to selfishly choose from. It has always beat for one, eliminating any other prospects until the day it tells me to cut your losses and move on…you’ve done all you can. I’m also not a fool to think there’s only one woman out there for me. I may not be the most qualified person to speak about love, but I can only live, observe, and learn from my experiences.
A couple years ago, I was introduced to a woman also involved in animal rescue and welfare regarding a screening of my film in the PNW. I think it’s safe to say, we became fairly good friends over the time we’ve known each other. We would occasionally set up these cute TV or movie date nights, where she and I would watch the same thing at the same time only 2,000 plus miles away from each other, and talk via text as the way to interact while on this “date.” It’s silly, I know, but strangely it was felt good inside. I would tell her if the time ever presents itself, I want a real date, and she agreed to it if by chance it came. In the beginning, deep down I knew nothing would materialize because I had already been through a long distance relationship with a woman in the same region of the map and the realist told me so. But, as time went on, things somehow changed before I knew what hit me.
I can’t recall a more tiresome year in the past than 2014. I found myself overwhelmed in duties related to the film, and it stopped being worth it. This was capped off by some once important people to me severing friendship ties. I don’t believe I was always the innocent victim in these disputes, I know I have my faults and own up to my part. It’s also a year where I wasn’t able to be creative because all my time was invested in other more menial, administrative tasks, giving me no productive outlet to run to like I had before. It left me emotionally and physically exhausted. I started to get a sense this woman I was getting a fondness for was probably seeing someone. The messages between us started occurring less and less, and all signs pointed to that being a possible reason. I get it though. The world stops for no one. Besides, I asked myself, is it even possible to love someone you’ve only met a couple times in person? It was then that I realized how important she was to me.
I’m a firm believer in friendship is key before crossing the forbidden line of starting an intimate relationship with someone. Once you go there, you cannot go back and start over. If you can’t be friends, and have to rely solely on physical attraction, the odds are not in your favor that it will last the test of time. I started recognizing signs that acted as fate to me. It became apparently clear that my feelings for this girl were real, subsequently answering the question on whether you can love someone you’ve only met once. But, I made the crucial mistake of saying too much at one time, possibly puking out everything I wanted to say over time, but previously scoffed at the idea because of reality. Time wasn’t an issue before, but became one. It was weird because it was the first time I faced rejection that I can remember with someone I already built a foundation with and adoration for. Even though I’ll never regret saying what I said, all conversations between us felt awkward after. Those feelings were raw and pure and straight from the heart.
Love is the single most sought after feeling people pursue. It’s human nature to want to love and be loved. Everybody wants to be loved. Like the message of my screenplay states, the greatest addiction of them all is love. But love can be cruel. Love is pain. Love can be unkind. You have to know when it’s time to say goodbye, even when your heart doesn’t want to. Love can feel hopeless and heartless. But love is also necessary. Locking emotions up inside sounds great, but avoiding hurt to protect yourself from love seems counterproductive, especially when it’s the one thing we all have in common. I’ve been called a dreamer. In the end, I believe that’s all we got is our dreams. You only get one shot at telling someone you’re head over heels for them. And it’s the greatest feeling to have when it’s mutual. Never stop believing in love. It’s a necessity. The only thing connecting us together. You must believe.