How many times now have we said goodbye without knowing when, exactly, we would meet again?
With each leave-taking, my throat tightens a bit more than the last time—that nagging voice in my head wondering if we will, indeed, meet again.
The voice is ridiculous, and I tell it as much, but even so, the not knowing—When? Where? What? How? And when, goddammit?—gnaws at my heart strings, and they threaten to snap.
Our future is an enchanted forest, offering just a few too many trails to choose. No way of knowing if the path home—to you—will lead where it promises. Our choices—my choices—are wooden staffs, straight and true, which turn to writhing snakes without warning.
The choices I grasp for the wrong reasons twist around and bite my hand.
I am learning to follow my path—always—trusting that there is no other path I could choose. Trusting, too, that this enchanted forest looks kindly on our desire to mold fate.
Of all the trails—endlessly varied and each so temptingly green—I can only walk the one I am on.
And so I remind myself—and you, though I do not think you need reminding half as much as I—and anyone else tortured by the gaping jaws of the unknown (be it in love, in sickness or in life). I remind myself of this:
The not knowing is the hardest part—
Harder than heartbreak.
Harder than truth.
Harder than joy—and the sweat and tears beneath joy’s smiling face.
Harder than betrayal, and harder than loss.
Harder than happily-ever-after (elusive Shangri-La it may be, but its pursuit is still better than not knowing).
Harder than the daily, upward journey of togetherness.
Harder than reunion, and harder than parting.
Harder than love and hate—bliss and sorrow—and everything in between.
So listen. Whatever you find at the edge of the dark fields of not knowing, it will not be worse than this.
Grief trades in tears; joy in laughter; love in whispers; and anger in screams.
But not knowing—not knowing is voiceless.
It is waking up underwater. It is looking at a dark sky empty of answers. Everything, in love, is better than voicelessness. Anything is better, in love, than not knowing.
Remember, the not knowing is the hardest part.
So go; wander the pathways of your life’s forest and choose the staff that is straight and true to you. Walk firmly through these dark fields beneath the dark sky, and do not fear the not knowing.
For when the answer is easier than the question, we need not fear the answer.
There is no choice but the one you are making; no path but the one you are on; no answer but the one waiting for you. Go to it in love, and trust love to be there waiting.
How many times have we said goodbye, without knowing when, exactly, we would meet again?
No, my love, how many times have we faced the not knowing, and found love at its end?
How many times have I feared the question more than the answer?
I remind myself again and again, until I know it to be true:
The not knowing is the hardest part. Anything that follows, I am strong enough to carry—and so, I am strong enough to carry not knowing, too.
Author: Toby Israel
Photo: Zac Cannon/Flickr