The day I decided to let myself love you, I prepared myself for the unraveling. I had tried love before, and I’d lost it, because I’d been too afraid to show up. I’d been too afraid to stand, walls and weapons down, and let myself be seen. With you, I resolved to pull at those threads, to stop bundling them around me and calling that courage. I told you, on that night, that there was a chance we might fail, that this leap might end in a tumble. I prepared myself to run anyway, to love in capital letters, to see what might happen if only I didn’t hesitate.
The day you said ‘yes,’ that you’d join me for this journey, that your hand was in mine for the leap ahead, I prepared myself for the hard parts. Love isn’t all laughing together on couches, discovering one another in new cities, and slow, passionate kisses that freeze time while birthing thunder in our veins. Sometimes, I told myself, love is working through the knots we discover together.
Some days, love is about working through the baggage, the monotony, the broken pieces of one another. Love is figuring out how to talk about one another’s exes. Love is trying to explain ourselves, the emotional buttons we’ve accidentally pressed in one another, and hoping the other person can understand. Love is Skype conversations on weekday nights that find us both exhausted. Love is listening to one another’s stories more than once. Love is deciding, once the infatuation subsides and we’re just two humans after all, to search for light in one another anyway.
I prepared myself for the difficulties of loving another person, for the transition between moments of passionate embrace and moments of wondering if the person next to us has a clue who we really are.
I prepared myself for the process of finding love, a story lived and shared a billion times, yet still impossible to boil down to a science. I prepared myself to show up on the good days, to paint my love in watercolors, to send flowers on days of celebration, and always to help you stand tall in who you are. I prepared myself, also, to show up on the hard days, to be the one to apologize first if it meant going to bed in one another’s arms, to be your champion when your legs felt heavy, and to open my ears and heart amidst the worst of our fights. This is it, I told myself, this is how we’ll make it over.
What I didn’t prepare for, looking back, is the idea that you’d leave before I did. If we fell, I’d imagined at the start, it would be together. We would land, hearts broken, having tried everything we could to make the journey, and we’d sadly acknowledge together that our journey was done. I didn’t prepare to look back, mid-leap, and find that you’d let go of my hand a few miles back, that you’d found your footing before falling, that my heart would break by itself.
I didn’t prepare for the process of undoing. I didn’t prepare to scour my home, the place we’d called home together, and take down all remnants of you. I didn’t prepare to throw away your toothbrush, to remove you from my Netflix account, to remove you from my social media. I didn’t prepare for the pitiful journey of letting our friends know that you’d gone, and the thousands of times I’d have to promise I’m okay.
I didn’t prepare for the ups and downs of grieving love.
I didn’t prepare to set out, the morning after you left, for a run, only to hear a song we’d loved and pause to cry on the pavement. I didn’t prepare for the mess of ‘trying again,’ of meaningless dates and empty kisses in the dim lighting of bars. I didn’t prepare for the glowing familiarity of your name on my cell phone to become the twisting of my intestines.
I didn’t prepare for the stubbornly slow process of healing. When I feel better, I’d imagined, I’ll know I’m better. What I did not know, then, is that healing from heartbreak is akin to shedding our skin, time after time, only to find the wound still remains. When, at last, we find scar tissue in place of the wound, we are truly healing. I didn’t prepare, however, for the scar tissue to ache every time we saw one another again.
I didn’t prepare to look back on our time together without the lenses of love. I didn’t prepare to find warning signs, clear examples of our not making sense, and to feel like such a fool. I didn’t prepare for the humiliation of being the one who loved more, nor for the process of replacing that shame with pride.
I didn’t prepare to find so much of myself in the aftermath. Sitting on my couch, my pieces shattered on the floor around me, I hadn’t prepared for the act of piecing a self back together. I hadn’t discovered the art of building myself back better than I’d been before. I didn’t prepare myself to find myself standing so tall, acting with the grace and love I’d always hoped I could summon, turning my scars into stars.