Sometimes love is letting go. Sometimes love is standing on the edge of a cliff. Here I am, standing on that edge.
From a fearless friend and contributor, Bethany Toews.
Sometimes love is letting go. Sometimes love is standing on the edge of a cliff. Here I am, standing on that edge. Suspended. Below is what I do not know. Where I stand is all the truth that is pushing me forward. I feel love so completely as I look over the ledge of losing it. The end bringing with it the intense rush of everything that led up to it. Whoosh! Your love flashes before your eyes.
We all die. The inescapable demand we might also call the feeling of aliveness. The forever feeling of free falling we do an impressive job of ignoring most days. Sometimes I wonder if anyone else feels like they’re just one inch away from exploding? I FEEL SO MUCH! That I remain in human form continues to astonish me. My brazen willingness to go on living even as I feel the perpetual threat of turning into space dust.
Every living ending is just a dress rehearsal for the grand goodbye. Every breakup a death without the funeral.
How long will my world be made a graveyard in the wake of your departure? How long will I balance on the brink of coming undone? When will I become something that doesn’t hurt so much? These were harder questions to hold when I was younger because I hadn’t yet learned that every ending is also a beginning. And still, I am paralyzed in this pregnant moment waiting to be delivered or dumped in a dumpster and set on fire. If I jump will I fall or will I fly?
Losing you feels like losing love.
Of course we never lose love. But when the package that once held its promise is ripped apart or returned to sender, we are well convinced it is lost and gone forever. And that, that is the closest I’ve ever come to understanding that hell is just a place where we forget that love never leaves us.
I have known that hell. I have crawled in the dirt thinking that standing was only something I could do if the person that left returned to pick me up. Sometimes love is a humbling. Sometimes love is lying on the floor counting dead flies and naming dust bunnies. Sometimes love is waiting to find the will to pick yourself up.
Enough time down low taught me that there is love down there too. It’s all love. Me stuck to the ground. Or me wrapped up in the electrical potential of a kiss. It’s all love. Whether its love lost or love found. It’s still love. As soon as you can feel that, it doesn’t matter if you’re falling or flying. Because love doesn’t care as long as you let it deliver you. On your knees or with wings. Or in flames.
I am on fire and I long for the relief of your touch. Who will hold me when you’re gone? Who will you hold when I’m gone? A question I know enough burning hours will allow me to hold less like a molten blade and more like a Rubik’s cube or a rough stone I make smooth in time.
Sometimes love is letting someone else love you.
I keep dreaming you don’t care. The details are different each night. But the pierce of indifference is consistent. I bought a book about dreams at the thrift store hoping it might help me understand the waking state of my heart. Last night I read that nightmares are the messages we need to hear most. A benevolent attempt to get our attention. The terror it takes to shock us awake. Abandoned in my sleep, I am waking to confront that I no longer feel your care. I think your care. I even know it’s there. But knowing it isn’t the same as feeling it. You could tell me it’s summer somewhere, but the warmth of your embrace is what stops my shivering.
There are countless ways you show me that you care. And a mountain of those wouldn’t undue the chasm that grows each time you won’t kiss me.
In a few days we’ll be in the same airport boarding different planes. One to London. The other to Lima. Separate continents. Opposite hemispheres. A full-body poem. I’ve been in the practice of placing myself there. A visceral evisceration. Feeling my willingness to die to the world we’ve known and grown for three years and seven months. 1,298 days of you and me. A flash. An eternity. One entire universe. A world without you in it is a world I have known. But that world doesn’t exist anymore. All that exists now is the me that is forever changed by repeatedly rearranging my heart to try and love you better.
Have I failed? Do you at least know I tried? Is that all we are ever doing, trying? Learning to accept and live with the failing. Perhaps failing is just another way of saying I cared enough to muster the courage to try.
Bless us for trying.
I tried to learn how to love you that you might feel loved. I tried to know you that I might feel I wasn’t in love with a stranger. Instead I became a stranger to myself. A weary cheerleader. Trying to convince you there was cause for enthusiasm. Hoping my short skirt and exposed teeth might inspire you to want me. You tried to want me. But trying to want something is the same as more honestly acknowledging that you don’t. And my awareness of that strain made me start to question my own splendor. Until I became something undesirable. A collaboration that left us both resentful.
What changes first, the subject or the gaze? We are such cooperative creatures. It’s hard to say who started our slow decay away from shameless worship. Answering the question of whether it’s the chicken or the egg that came first doesn’t answer the question of how either came to exist in the first place. Do you ever wonder why any of this, any of us, are even here at all? And so we learn to live with the unanswerable questions…
The only honest answer is to fall on our knees in awe.
We love that we might know how beautiful we are. I remember the night I met you. We were beautiful. You ordered a cappuccino and a lemonade. I ordered a Negroni. You drank yours quickly. I sipped mine slowly. We didn’t order anything else, feeding entirely on the food of each other’s faces. You kissed me that night like you had nothing to lose. I was just foolish enough to assume you would always kiss me that way.
Eventually we weave our cells together. We breathe life into the relationship until it’s a living thing. Until one morning you wake up and realize you have something tremendous to lose. That day when you realize, Ooooof. Losing this would destroy me. That day when your bowels take stock of the parts of yourself you have offered up to the altar of love. Oh the alterations of love. Love’s endless invitation to grow shining its unrelenting light on the resistance of our trembling egos. A relationship is the dance between our highest hopes and our most crippling limitations. The willingness to exist in the tension created by the perpetual confrontation of choosing between expansion or contraction. Comfort or change. Fear or love.
Our lives are the expression of every choice we make. Every victory. Every regret. Every truth. And every omission.
You can only know someone as much as they are willing to be known. As much as they are willing to know themselves. And I wonder, how much can we know anyone if we’re still learning how to meet ourselves? I think all relating is an attempt to make us less a mystery to ourselves. To make a bajillion vibrating atoms tangible, even if just for a moment. An act that reminds us we have hearts at all. Eyes outside our own that render us visible. Hands beyond our own that affirm our own pulsing existence. I once went months in Las Vegas without hearing anyone say my name. I started to wonder if I existed at all. Sometimes we need someone else to say, “Hey! I see you! You are here!”
How can I know I am here unless you touch me? Reflected in your distance, I felt myself starting to disappear. Falling out of love with myself so I might stay in love with you. Rendering myself a specter to make sense of your absence. Until we became two ghosts haunted by each other.
We love that we may forget. That we may vanish so completely the only solution left is to give birth to ourselves. Again. Another chance to try again. To remember and then forget. To think we’re finally getting it right only to realize we did the thing we told all our friends we would never do again. It takes a lot of courage to love past what social media psychologists say you shouldn’t. The only red flag is thinking someone else isn’t deserving of love because they have wounds. Human’s aren’t hazards. We’re potential portals for healing, and for pain. We link up hoping to heal, and hurt each other all the same.
Just because someone didn’t care about you as much as you might have wanted, doesn’t mean they’re a sociopath. Taking responsibility for your needs that you might recognize when someone else isn’t up for the task of meeting them is a great way of reclaiming the power of your choices versus removing yourself from the equation. Labeling your ex’s for their shortcomings instead of relating deeply to the parts of yourself that attract and are attracted to your ex’s will only equal more of the same suffering. You are the common denominator. You are the origin point for understanding all the ways the world disappoints you.
I am still learning how not to disappoint myself.
I don’t regret one single day I spent with you, even though some of those made me question if I deserved to be loved at all. Even though in many ways you were the confrontation I feared most. Here I am, on the other side, less afraid. Thank you. I know it took a new kind of courage offered up in proportion to our mutual respect. Thank you for respecting me enough to say what you knew I didn’t want to hear. Thank you for being brave enough to choose yourself. You healed me every time you fought the urge to lie, no matter how much it hurt to face the truth. All I have ever wanted is an end to the pretending.
All love is pretend until I am deeply in love with myself.
I understand why people hide from love. Love is the wrecking crew that tears down our careful shelters. I don’t know a more devastating blow than being exposed by love. Love allows us into the places we have kept hidden, whether or not we think we’re ready. Choosing love means you have given permission. All that follows is what your better angels know your heart is wanting. Whether or not the rest of you manages to get on board with the mission.
I’m still making peace with the outcome of our best efforts. Confronted yet again by the helpless feeling of being dropped off on Orphanage Earth. Sweet creatures operating without a manual. Navigating dread that we might remember who we are. Such marvelous beings. The miraculous alchemy of light and time. When I met you I knew we could do anything, or die trying. Damn. We forgot who we remembered we were in the force of our first meeting. Until we became an expression of what we didn’t want, by feeding our fear of becoming that very thing.
All the things we hope won’t happen will happen if that’s what we give our attention to. I’m still learning how to aim my heart. To give myself over to what I hope will happen when that means I might finally have the thing I am terrified of losing. When having means holding and holding means letting go.
My heart is a piggy bank. I collect its riches every time it breaks.
I don’t have a car, or a home, or a savings account. And I’ve never felt more fortunate. Thank you. I am proud of us for loving past what was logical or practical. Past what made sense to people who aren’t us. I’m proud of myself for ignoring reductive online dating advice. Like a meme could ever sum up the magnitude of my heart. I will love even if it doesn’t look cute on Instagram. I am here to learn what I didn’t know how to do. I am here to remember that I am capable of loving beyond what feels safe or easy. There are no seatbelts in the convertible of love and I will always ride it until the wheels fall off. Or I Thelma and Louisa it off a cliff…
The wheels fell off. And all I can think is how beautiful the journey. As I add up all the nights you were by my side. As I prepare myself for mornings without your face. It feels impossible and we’ll do it anyway. May we say goodbye grateful for the obliteration.
I am closer to the end, but no closer to knowing the ending.
Sometimes love is doing what scares you most.