September 6, 2018

Why I am Scared to Love Again at 40.

If I could morph my spirit back into my seven-year-old body…

My 40-year-old self would ask her,

“Do you ever dream of falling in love?”

At the age of seven, “love” was playing with her dachshund, Chew Chew.

Love was her mama having snacks ready after second grade, or the strong arm of her dad, middle of the night, when the monsters appeared.

Love was the freedom of brown pigtails touching the grass, as she leaned back on the swing.

Love was a house on the corner of Civil Drive, where she performed barefoot cartwheels in the front yard.

Love was Grandma Huntress, rubbing her back with lullabies as she fell asleep.

“Sweet girl, do you ever dream of falling in love?”

I imagine her innocent eyes would stare, confused, into mine.

Piercing through the lines of laughter and years of sun squinting. The dark circles from tears, too much wine, or sleepless nights.

She would ask me with a question-marked face,

“Isn’t this love?”

She lives with a heart wide-open because it has not yet been painfully broken.

In her world, my 40-year-old exterior looks like a “Pleasantville Mom.”

A “grown-up adult” who has all the answers. The ones who are never afraid, always in control, and have their sh*t together.

If she only knew the truth that would one day be her reality.

The truth is: I am terrified to fall in love again.

To start from scratch—risking my trembling trust into the hands of another human, who wields the power to crush me with one, “I don’t love you anymore.”

I have never been the “dating” type. It always felt fake, awkward, and a waste of time.

As a passionate woman, I stay knee-deep in new projects, adventures, and angsty heart destructions.

I experimented with a brief “dating phase” in my early 20s.

It ended quickly, after my nerves drank a few too many tequila shots, leading me to prop a foot up on a bar table, and ask my date, “The Podiatrist,” for free bunion advice.

After that incident, I decided “dating” may not be my jam. Instead of dating, I became a serial “relationship” woman.

For the past 15 years, I have been entrenched in the camp of monogamy.

I met my first long-term love through volunteer and social justice work.

He had a heart of gold, was the life of the party, was 12 years older than me, and could make even a dog laugh.

We stayed together for six years, until I fled to New York City to study Buddhist Chaplaincy, heal a relationship with my dad, teach yoga, and search for “intimacy.”

When I moved back to D.C., I fell madly in love with one of my Martial Arts coaches and we lived together for four years.

He was my rock. My inhale and my exhale.

We were the scene from the “Twilight” movie, when Bella’s mom says, “he moves, you move, like magnets.”

I became so enmeshed that I lost The Girl with Wild Eyes.

He encouraged my liberation, but this fragile heart no longer felt safe in a world without him.

My gut-wrenching, gypsy bones trembled with existential ache as I walked out the door, a tearstained goodbye to the love of my life, in search of the seven-year-old freedom fighter.

In this transitional grief, there stood another strong man.

As our gravity collided into a wrecking ball of ecstasy and turmoil, we held hands tight. I reached out for my new protector, even though I was on a journey to save myself.

After two years of breathtaking ups and tragic downs, we parted ways.

The weight of “wrong timing” could not be gritted out in third round wars. We loved courageously, and still lost the fight.

I have spent the last eight months aggressively pursuing my own healing.

I’ve locked myself in an internal cave—writing, crying, praying, unearthing the new Bambi legs of aloneness.

My best friends, mentors, family, and community reached out to fill my “boyfriend void,” but Sleeping Beauty only awoke when I kissed myself on the cheek and whispered gently, “I am here.”

I morphed into the hero I was waiting for—but it is still a daily process.

In my new season of “I’ve got this,” I tremble in terror.

How will I love again without getting lost?

How do I stoke my passionate spirit and still set boundaries?

How does a “girl like me” lead with an open heart and not drown in a voracious ocean of feelings?

How do I care for another person’s fragility without hurting them?

How do I protect myself, while simultaneously embodying kindness, tenderness, and a sense of humor?

The answer is: I don’t know.

Every experience and risk we take teaches us something. Our greatest challenge is to integrate our newfound wisdom and create new stories.

Yes, I may be terrified to love again at 40. Rolling my eyes at naked discomfort—every inch of my body known by another human, a primed heart steak, bleeding out with incisions of rejection.

Why is love so complicated as we get older?

Our aging skin layered in jealousy, fear, shame, resentment, skepticism, and exhaustion?

If I were to ask the seven-year-old girl, “Will you ever fall in love again?”

She’d probably say:

“Chill out, lady. Have fun. Life is short. Face-plant often. Get back up. Laugh out loud. Especially at yourself.

Imagine. Create. Rewrite your own story. Every day.

I know you are scared.

Take the time you need. Become your own best friend.

Pay attention to your bone rhythms that move with the underflow.

When the bass drops or the melody feels in tune, you are ready to love again.

Follow your internal compass. It is trustworthy and circular.

It will never be painless, but it will always be worth it.”


“Oh break my heart; oh, break it again, so I can learn to love even more again.” ~ Sufi saying


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