Some loves are too big for the container they’re supposed to fill.
I had a big love like that once, not too long ago. It came to me like an unexpected package that I thought was delivered to the wrong address—and yet, my name was right there as the recipient. So, I opened it up, and I thought at the time that it fit just right, even if I hadn’t anticipated it or even imagined it was out there for me. I wore it comfortably for a matter of months, proud and blessed, ecstatic that it was delivered to me when I least expected it.
I was so happy to have it that I didn’t notice how it dragged a bit around my feet or hung a little loosely at my wrists. I wanted it to be mine, so I rolled it up at the bottom and pinned back the sleeves. I tried to ignore that the fit wasn’t quite as comfortable as I’d imagined, because I wanted it more than anything I’d ever wanted before. Yes, even more than the one I had before that fit far too snugly and was gone so much sooner than I’d liked. I wanted it so badly that I let it hang there, tripping me up.
And then, one day, I fell—and I couldn’t stop seeing that the love that should have fit just right was simply too big. As much as I wanted to keep it, it became obvious that I couldn’t. So, of course, as we so often do, I held on tightly to it. I curled my whole body around it, weeping, trying to protect the thing I didn’t want to lose. I tried to pull it toward me, even as it began to slip away. I began to unwind it, pulling at a loose string and holding on to whatever little bit I could, even though I was unraveling the very fabric of that love. Still, I could not keep it.
And that is what it felt like to have a real love—and to know it was real—and still have to let it go. I won’t pour out the messy details of my particular love affair, but I will say this: it doesn’t matter why we have to end it. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking timing, or broken trust, or any number of legitimate reasons for relationships going sideways.
All that matters is that there are loves that we genuinely feel for other people—and that they feel for us—that we still have to let go. Just because the love is real doesn’t mean the relationship will last or that it’s even meant to. It’s not a guarantee of forever or a promise that it will never break down. In fact, all the love is—is love. It’s nothing more than that; and yet, when we love someone we can’t keep, it feels like ever so much more.
It feels like a death—a bitter end. It feels like darkness and an ache. It feels like loneliness and desire. It feels like too much and not ever enough. When we want to keep that love and know we can’t, it’s a brutal truth that we wake up to first thing in the morning, our chests aching from all the love we feel. It’s the knowledge we lie down with at night, that haunts us even as we sleep. We feel like true love, real love, is something that we shouldn’t walk away from; and yet, we know in our hearts that the best thing for us to do is to let go.
And we don’t want to let go.
I used to have this idea of love. I thought that if I loved someone, it would be forever. I thought if I loved someone and they loved me, it would simply last. I don’t know where I got this idea, unless we’re counting the endless amount of happily-ever-after tales shoved down my throat throughout my life.
But, the truth is that not all loves are meant to stay. They can be reciprocated. They can be real. They may even, for a while, feel right—but that doesn’t mean we get to keep them. That doesn’t even mean we should. Sometimes, the very best thing we can do is to say, “I love you, but I have to let you go.” Sometimes, that’s the best thing for us—and for the ones we love.
But, it’s a terrible thing to experience, and I’m holding space for all the hearts right now sitting in that struggle to try to hold on to something that they know they need to quit. I know that it’s tough. I know that we want to keep it for just a little while longer. But, it’s time to let go—to say “I love you” and to acknowledge that the love won’t go away, even when we do let go of the relationship we’ve been trying so hard to keep close. And to forgive ourselves for both the love and letting go. To gift to ourselves acceptance that loving and letting go can share the same space. To acknowledge it and find peace with it. And to know that the love we feel for another person stays with us, even when they don’t. It’s this beautiful thing that we get to hold close when we can’t hold them anymore.
So we hold on to that love. We trace its shape. We keep it close and feel it. We hold it tight. And, at the same time, we release the object of the love. We let go, knowing that the love itself isn’t going to leave us. We can send all of that love out toward the person and still retain it in our hearts—a holding and a letting go all at once. And, we can learn to be free of it. Because sometimes, the only thing left is to acknowledge the love and still let them go.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Cat Monkman