It’s been nearly a year since I met the person I love—and what a year it’s been!
I soared to dizzying heights, an unexpected occurrence when I no longer believed that I would ever soar again. It was terrifying and exhilarating, and so short-lived it could have been a dream—-the kind where we wake up dazed, tears dripping like faucets left on overnight.
Isn’t it strange how we can fall in love and feel like we’re flying, yet when we lose it all feel like we’re falling? Falling down. Falling apart.
But we don’t lose it all, do we? We take it with us. We button up that love inside our coats to protect it against the chill. We carry it everywhere, but so often hide it from others.
It’s been nearly a year, and I can see the people I know watching me, waiting for me to get over it.
They want me to move on, or at least get so angry that I never look back. It can be hard for them to understand that a heart like mine cannot love this much and then act like it never happened.
I cannot pretend the love away, even if it has nowhere to go. I can’t take back the memories or rewrite the past. I can’t rewind time and stop myself from having loved.
I don’t know if it’s possible to get over the experiences that shape us.
How can we get over something that changed us into something other than what we were?
I took a moment recently to look at the picture I took on the day I met him. I was nervous about the date, and I wanted my best friend’s take on how I looked. I look at the picture, and I remember exactly how I felt at that moment.
In fact, I remember every single moment of that day from start to finish, and I could take out each one and study it in my mind.
I wasn’t in love with him then, but I would be soon. It wouldn’t take long.
Both loving and losing him changed me.
I found clarity in my grief, and I found my strength. I began to be brave—but not in the “reckless abandon” sort of way that comes from anger.
I began to be brave, because I found that circumstances required it.
I felt broken beyond words, where tears fell unchecked throughout the day. It’s the kind of broken place where I seemed fine and went through the motions, but a spark was missing behind my eyes.
I spent my nights looking for purchase on the corner of a bed too big for only me. I held on through the storm and prepared myself for a lifetime of days without the love I needed and the ache of a love with nowhere to go.
In that time, I discovered there were so many more layers in me than I knew, and I vowed to plumb the depths of each one.
When we find ourselves buried in our grief, we can choose to stay there, or we can begin to rise up.
Sure, we may feel like the walking dead for a while. We may go through the motions with little joy, but it’s important that we still go on.
No, we don’t get over it. Maybe we never will.
Instead, we grow through it.
It becomes a part of us, and it shapes who we are. And as inconvenient as it is for our family and friends to watch, it is infinitely harder to be the one holding on. We want to let go on some level, but at the same time, when we still feel all of that love, it’s hard to let go of its object.
Sometimes, I trace my finger around the curvature of my home state, mapping the borders. I think if he would just leave it, perhaps the connection would break. 59,425 square miles, and it’s not big enough for the both of us. I wonder how our hearts can contain all of this love.
Sometimes, I wonder what the point is of a love that’s not returned.
But then I remember that love is rarely a happily-ever-after affair. Most of the loves of our lives are family and friends, some who are always there and some who stay only a while.
Our lives are crafted by relationships filled with love, so it’s funny how falling in love with someone shrinks the world down to only two. When our love isn’t returned, it can seem like the world itself is simultaneously empty of love and too small to contain all the love we feel. Or all of the hurt.
Sometimes, the love we feel is simply meant to teach us. It is meant to guide us on journeys so much more magnificent than the ones we have planned—if only we’ll keep the faith.
Because I believe this, and because I believe in the strength and beauty of my own fragile heart, I have been diving headfirst into the depths of my self and all the feelings that have risen up in the last year.
It’s painful, but also staggeringly beautiful to open up and feel everything.
We can choose to accept that everything we feel is valid—that there’s no shame in feeling love. We can learn to keep opening our hearts, because we know we have so much more love to give. We can embrace the joy of our transformation, and also the struggle that transforms us.
No, we can’t just get over it.
Love isn’t the common cold or a roadblock in our life path.
We’re changed by it, made different. We fall in love and break in our loss, but we find our strength hidden inside all of that pain—if we look closely. We find our courage, if we choose it.
And the love? It’s not actually lost. It’s ours to keep, and it’s up to us whether we allow it to guide us or destroy us.
Either way, the love belongs to us now.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Used with permission from @gypsieraleigh on Instagram
Editor: Toby Israel