Why You Can Never Love Someone As Much As You Can Miss Them

Photo: Serge Bielanko

"'You can love someone so much,' he thought. 'But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.'" —John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

I ran across that quote the other day when I was playing one of my Google games. I type in a word and then see where it takes me. It all depends on my mood, what I search for. Sometimes pictures of London in the summertime (happy mood). Sometimes recipes for hot wings (hungry). Sometimes I type in dirty words (frisky!). Sometimes I type in stuff like "Sriracha Tits." I don't even know what that means, either. I just type stuff.

I'm not really heading in there looking for trouble or anything but you know how it is: these search engines, they suck you up into their spaceships.​

Sometimes I'll find myself Googling the word "love." I like that word because it can lead to anything from sad/bad poetry to chicken recipes that will make very sexual women fall for you. It's all there. 

You can pitch yourself down a rabbit hole that will sh*t you out way off in cyberspace never to be seen or heard from again, if you seriously want it to. But at the same time, there's also a lot of sage beauty to be found when you go looking for love stuff on the net.

John Green's quote hit me like that. It felt wise; it felt heavy like a bag of wet sand: "'You can love someone so much,' he thought. 'But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.'" 

With love comes this slow dawning realization that, no matter who you are or how in love you might think you are, other people often love you more — and even better — when you're not standing right in front of them.

It's the damndest thing: I've felt the heaviest sincerity of my affection for someone else more when I was way out of their reach than I ever did when we were together. 

That's the street corner epiphany: People love me more when I'm gone, or vice versa.

And that might be the most important thing I've picked up about love, to tell you the truth. It's the tsunami power that keeps us interested. It's all that 'never knowing' that keeps us guessing. Science makes the world a better place because we get to understand exactly why something is true or real. But with love, it's the opposite: The more we know, or think we know, only serves to make us crazier

But then again, maybe not.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

You know that quote. We all do. It's fridge magnet territory, cliched to death because enough people can read it and instantly identify with the sentiment. No one officially knows who first coined that phrase either...probably a cave person. And as far as quotes go, that one's profoundly more well-known than Green's, of course, but it drags the same kind of message into the room. 

There's something almost mystical about how we tend to think of the one we love when we're apart from them.  Walking along some mountain trout stream or staring out the window of my band's van 5,000 miles from home, I'd think of my girlfriend, or later my wife, and it all seemed so clear to me then.

There's a sheen of invincibility that settles down on a relationship when you step outside of it, even if you're just at the office or out for the evening with friends. Most of us have this ability to imagine our partner's face in our mind and to feel really emotional about that person in that particular moment.

Why do we become overwhelmed by the thought or idea of a person but never seem able to capitalize on that fleeting moment? What would any of our love lives be like if we could somehow manage to carry that deep respect and longing we have for a person back into real time, back into the kitchen when we waltz back through the screen door? 

And since we seldom ever seem able to maintain that higher level of love, what does that say about any of us? Are humans doomed to sentimental feelings that lead to nothing? Or do those scattered daydreams ever unconsciously, or even consciously, carry over into our own behavior and actions toward the one we love?

There are no real answers for any of that.

But deep down, I have to believe that most of us only ever begin to be scratch the surface of our potential when it comes to love.

We could probably love harder. We could probably play fairer. We could more than likely change our f*cking world if we ever had the guts to say or act upon the things we feel when we're missing someone who means everything to us.

We hardly ever do that, though. 

And so it goes.

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