I fell in love, despite my best efforts not to, with someone I knew could never be with me the way I want, no matter how much he wanted to. I feel like an idiot when I admit it, when I hear myself say out loud.
We fell in love. It’s so stupid. I am so stupid. Why would I allow my heart to find the deepest most gravitational love I’ve ever felt in a person so wildly unable to be what we both wanted him to be?
Right now, before I say anything more – before I offer my pretty words or wrapped up wisdom – I want to tell you a story. Not an easy story, or one with a fairly tale happy ending. No white horse. No sunset. Just the story of a girl with a broken heart who finally learned to cry.
It is also the story of how my bones came to know the truth that I share here.
The story of my own break, and my own deliverance.
The story of a love that changed things – and how what came next may prove, in the end, to be the most important story of all.
Once upon a time I stopped believing in love, at least the version of love I once held as absolute. My heart had settled into a sort of resigned cynicism and I began learning was it was to walk my own path.
Right then, only minutes before the night was to end, I met her. Ocean eyes and gravel voice and arms that felt like home.
As love affairs go, it as impossibly brief. But in those few months – in the midst of lucky pennies and inexplicable serendipity and lyrical language, I learned that I could once again see past the present and into a future.
Into even, it seemed, a forever.
The end? That was coldness and confusion. Words of love and promises of protection and daydreams of walking side by side by the sea. And then a swift and brutal cut.
And that end – I will not lie – it drove me to the ground, gutted me to the root of self.
It was a fetal position on hard floor sort of grief. It was whiskey and cigarettes and the saddest sort of music in the deepest and darkest nights. It was throwing myself on the bed and crying and clawing at the sheets as if I was a primal, wild thing.
It was the break that opened me enough, finally, to grieve all that long demanded grieving.
It was one loss that stacked all the losses on top of each other until they staggered over me and fell around me and formed the ground and the air and everything there was – black hole of empty – all of it my own.
Because in that love I did not only find a hope, I found a knowing, a faith, a lack of the questioning that had followed me as long as I could remember. And if that knowing was not real – was anything?
How stupid could I be? How naïve?
I called myself all these things, just as you have today.
It is tempting, in the loss of love, to also lose all the rest.
It was tempting to pass blame on myself for trusting that promises made were promises kept. For allowing the belief that I could have another forever – when for years I had told myself that my own karma precluded such grace.
But you see, there was also something born in me during those days that I did not yet know.
What I could not have known, those nights spend crying on the hard wood floor of my apartment, was hope rekindled is a most stubborn sort of hope.
And on the other side of all the blame and feeling foolish and wanting to change it all was this – if I could be wrong not just about this love (and oh, I was so very wrong) I might also be wrong about all that I had believed about love for so very long.
I might be wrong about the boxes I had put around it. I might be wrong about the way my guilt made me feel unworthy of having it again. I might be wrong to think that walking away from one forever meant there could never be another.
I might, possibly, be wrong about everything.
And inside of this came the deepest paradox. In the empty that followed – the vast and unchained freedom of unknowing – all things were made possible again.
“But I knew, I should have known, but I didn’t want to know, stupidly I clung to a sliver of hope, and now look what’s happened. It has wrought only pain for us both.”
No. Enough. Stop right now. You are not stupid. You are human.
And us humans, we can be remarkably sensible about very many things. Making it to yoga class and eating our kale and looking both ways before we cross the street and paying our bills on time. Sensible and pragmatic and careful.
But rarely, dearheart, does sensible extend to love.
And it shouldn't. Because insensible is exactly what something as impossible and reckless and foolhardy as love demands.
And as much as you are hurting now, you and I and all the rest of the foolish humans we share this earth with, we are here to love.
We are here to love hard and true. Here to give ourselves over to the rush and bliss of it all. Here to offer our patchwork hearts over and over again. Here to feel and fall and hurt and bleed. Here to say yes and to choose wholeness and to break anyway and to do it all again.
We have to. It is, for most of us, a biological and physiological imperative much like food and shelter.
Oh, we try to sensible. We try to build walls and put rules around who and how and when we will allow someone to cross. We try to create these complex structures around the chaos of human emotion.
And oh, how we fail. How we crumble and soften and yield. How we offer ourselves over and over again.
Oh – how we fall.
And isn’t it beautiful? And isn’t it painful?
And isn’t it everything?
And so you fell in love and he wasn't really available and you are sitting there now in the murky deep of it. And it hurts and it sucks and if I could take it all away I would.
In a heartbeat.
I’d take it away because I know that space. I know the hard ground and the taste of the salt water I’m made of and the way even getting out of bed feels impossible some days. I know how some moments there’s not even enough air.
I know the desperate and the bargains you want to make with the universe and every last prayer you’ve prayed to gods you don’t even believe in.
But stupid? No, love.
Not stupid. Not you. You are infinitely, impossibly, beautifully human.
And here is one other thing I know – I know it in a deeply visceral way – is that a love like this. The inevitability of it. The gravitational pull of it. The certainty and bliss and coming home of it.
This sort of love delivers something important. Even when it does not last.
Because when you have come through the ragged open wound of it. When you've picked yourself up off the ground and you've cried rivers of tears, hard and true and honest and good. When you have taken the first steps out of the fog, and you bring air all the way deep into your lungs for the first time in months, you will have something you did not have before.
You will have a knowing. You will have been loved in a way that made all things possible. You will have known a love that will forever be your measuring stick for the ways you are capable of loving and of being loved.
This love – its importance is not measured in longevity or solidity or delivery to some mythical happy ever after.
This love matters because it cleared a path through your heart and made you see.
And this does not for a second take away the ache. And it will not fill in the space that he claimed in your heart, nor remove the gaping hole his loss carved in you. It does not negate the grasping, the relentless hope, the way you’d have him back in a breath if only you could.
“Let us not forget, that we never stop loving silently those we once loved out loud.” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer
All that, my dear, all that part is so impossibly and painfully hard. It hurts and it's awful and I hope you have friends who will come and bring wine and sleep over night and hold you when you need the warmth of a body next to you just to keep breathing.
Because on some dark nights, it is just loving arms that you will long for – no matter who they belong to. And because honoring that part of the longing is valid too.
And so, as you walk through this. As you stumble and trip. As you make the calls you think you shouldn’t make and write the letters you’ll never send and make desperate promises to the wild full moon – I hope that you are held. I hope that you honor your own needs, and just as equally that you honor this love, and this grief.
Without platitudes or promises, I would guess – because I feel it deep in my bones – that whatever happens with this love or the next or the next – you will forever walk through this world differently. Because you now know the sort of love that lives in this world. The extent of what you can feel and the ways you can be met.
And you will know, from now on, that this is the kind of love worth waiting for.
And with a knowing like this, nothing can ever be the same again.
Uncommon Sense is an ongoing series where I respond to comments and questions that stir my heart. They arrive by email, by text, by comment. They speak to something universal in me, and my response comes quick and sure. If you have something stirring in your heart and would like me to respond – please send me your message. I cannot respond publicly to all messages, but I do promise – with everything that I have – that I will honor it and keep it safe.