3 min

The importance of leaping for love

And other things I learned from my dead fish

Last week I had toflush Shane, the blue Japanese fighting fish I’d adopted some months ago. One morning he’d been swimming around and I’d thought how happy I was to have him in my life. Then, hours later, he was dead.

It was just like how I went to bed one night, thinking I was loved, and woke up dumped. “I don’t think this deal is working out between us,” read the message in my inbox.

I think Shane understood the importance of leaping for love. I adopted him from my neighbour, whose daughter had been dating a boy named Shane. One month, as an anniversary gift, Shane gave her the blue Japanese fighting fish. Devout with love as any new mother, she named the fish after her boyfriend and fish father, Shane.

Then, just as naturally as the sun had risen on their love, it set. I guess the memory of Shane was just too painful and the daughter no longer wanted the fish; care-taking duties fell to the mother.

When I heard this I knew I was meant to adopt Shane. I think that he too understood that love – despite the gamble, despite the pain – is always worth it.

So this morning I’m pulling up my proverbial bootstraps of love and preparing for another day. No guts, no glory. There is something to that.

The first time I walked out on a limb for love it was Valentine’s Day, grade five. We’ll call him Arval, which means “wept over.” He had a beehive that was a high-top gone astray. He wore sweatpants most days. I thought he was wonderful.

I baked him a cake in the shape of a heart, I iced it in pink and wrote on it “Arval + Me.” I decorated it with silver balls and cinnamon hearts. The next day at school, I presented him with my cake, my heart, my love, which he looked at and threw on the floor. Them’s the knocks.

The important thing is it was the first, not the last, time I leaped for love.

The Sufi poet Rumi wrote, “Stay in the spiritual fire, let it cook you.” I am the Joan Of Arc of love, lust and libido. I am always sitting in the flames, dying for my belief that love is everything, that love gives life. To reap that harvest, you must be willing to work, you must be willing to lose, you must be willing to have your heart broken and, season after season, drought after drought, you must always be willing to go back to the fields.

I once dated a funny, smart, kind Jewish lawyer who I met one day on the subway. I saw her and thought she had a beautiful smile. I told her so in a note with my e-mail address on it. She wrote and we had Chinese food, white wine and watched lesbian B-movies together.

I once flew across the country for a blind date. It was a woman I had been e-mailing for a few weeks. We had exchanged passionate letters; I was sure love was there. I spent several hundred dollars and bought a ticket to meet her, this woman I had never met. It was the best date of my life. It lasted a week and I didn’t once use the hotel room I had booked.

Another time, I moved across the country to be with my girlfriend. We’d had a long-distance relationship going for about a year and I finally made the leap to move, leave my apartment, friends and Vancouver’s mountains, to be with the woman I loved.

I’d met her in a hiking goods store. I saw her face, I saw her joy and I was in love. I wrote her a card with a photograph I had taken and we fell in love soon after. We had a wonderful relationship and I was happy to get on a plane to be with her.

The night I arrived at the airport, she broke up with me. That weekend she’d met another woman.

It seems there’s no rhythm or reason to it. People fall in love. Fish die. You sob and soon your heart is blushing again. It is the mystery and magic of life, the blessing of the broken heart.

Kahlil Gibran, the poet and prophet, said that if you must have desires they should be “to know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.”

From pain and struggle come growth and new life. The garbage is the compost that makes the garden grow. Every breakup brings you one step closer to your next love.