The other day I spoke with a man who confided that he still carried a torch for a woman he’d once dated who had broken up with him seven years earlier and was now married with children. “Sometimes I think I’m crazy!” he said. “I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m not stalking her online or contacting her or acting out in other ways, though I’d sometimes like to. But I can’t get her out of my heart! I don’t know where to put all that emotion! I can’t contain it! And it’s a kind of anguish.”
I understood completely. Dorothy Day felt that way about Forster Batterham, the love of her life who she left in her twenties in order to serve the poor and the Church. Margot Fonteyn, the prima ballerina, remained faithful to the Panamanian playboy she married, nursing him even after he was shot and paralyzed by the husband of one of his mistresses.
At the height of his career, Pavese was found dead in a hotel room. Distraught over a failed love affair, he’d taken a fatal dose of sleeping pills. I understand that completely, too. Only Christ, I’ve learned, can contain my full heart; my desire, longing, aching, and yearning; my hunger and thirst; my love. Otherwise, life can become SO dramatic, SO extraordinary, that we crack beneath the intensity of our feelings.
Although to die for love, whatever the reason, is perhaps recisely why religion can never disappear from the face of the earth.
Heather Kingis a Catholic convert, sober alcoholic, and writer whose most recent book is STRIPPED: Cancer, Culture and The Cloud of Unknowing. She speaks nationwide and blogs at Heather King: Mystery, Smarts, Laughs. For more, see her new About page.