This is a question I've tried to answer since I was a teenager.
On the one hand, feeling your heart on fire with passion is being alive; wishing for calm tranquility is like wishing for death. As an atheist, I suppose I should know that emotions are in your head, but I believe in the metaphor, at least, of feeling it in your heart.
On the other hand, is there anything more crushing, more utterly humiliating, than unrequited love?
To look forward to that one moment per day (or so) when you know you'll see him; to replay your brief exchange over and over in your mind, not wanting to do anything else but remember it; planning, rehearsing the clever things you'll say next time; knowing all the while that he doesn't care in the slightest and hasn't given you conversation a second thought.
I remember studying Dante in High School, and learning how noble his unrequited love for Beatrice was. I didn't buy it. Sure, I thought, maybe it seems cool if you're that one-in-a-billion who can turn it into a fantastic epic poem, but for the other nine-hundred ninety-nine million, etc., it just means you're the loser that someone else didn't want.
So I spent many years trying to rid myself of this emotion at all costs, trying to convince myself not live and not pine. The memory came back to me recently when by chance I heard a familiar chorus:
It's too late baby, now it's too late
Though we really did try to make it
Something inside has died and I can't hide
And I just can't fake it...
And suddenly I was transported back to a moment many years ago:
Myself, sitting in an airplane on the tarmac, waiting to take off, with this song blaring from the plane's interior speakers as the passengers took their seats. The words seem trite, yet the deepest emotions are somehow the simplest.
There I was, setting off on my fantastic adventure that I'd built for myself, willing myself to believe the words. It's too late, yes, yes, it's too late. Yes, that painful ember in my heart is dead, though I knew that it wasn't.
Unrequited love, the humiliation of it, has become my favorite topic for a sort of cynical humor (see Youth Conference). It's so horrifyingly absurd not to be able to let go of that razor-sharp shard of hope -- sometimes for years -- that there's nothing to do but try to make light of yourself. Add a little distance in hopes of turning tragedy into comedy.
That and pour a glass of wine and listen to sad songs, and feel it; get it out.
Ah, it's hard to love.
Ah, it's hard not to love...