I counted the months out loud in my head.
January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and we are now in November.
Dear God, has it really been almost a year since I’ve had sex with someone? Almost a year without body heat pressed against my mine?
An empty bank account of intimate nights bleeding into “we just woke up” messy-haired mornings.
The closest I’ve come to bedroom cuddling is hugging a body pillow.
I’ve been clean and sober from the intoxication of infatuation.
My last serious relationship ended with ego-crushing heartbreak, which birthed my unintentional vow of celibacy.
Hands crossed over my chest creating an invisible fortress, to vex anyone who may steal energy from my aggressive pursuit of inner healing.
Since my mid 20s, I had been steeped in “long-term relationship” camp. I was ready to break my habitual patterns. No longer would I seek a knight in shining armor to save me from myself.
I would pull the straight razor from my own black boot and handle this sh*t, once and for all.
I would learn to keep eyes wide open on the rollercoaster called “this is my everyday life.”
Channeling my sensual, passionate spirit into other projects such as writing, women’s empowerment, teaching, training, friendship, and volunteering, I seduced life like all the other strong men, batting wild eyes, until the hook sunk into precious cheeks of, “this chick is nuts, but strangely enchanting.”
I wrapped my fierce feminine arms around the world, threw my head back in maniacal laughter, an untamed pony splatter painting, “L-O-V-E and F-R-E-E-D-O-M” on all the faces orbiting my bleeding heart.
And then one day I woke up. I reached for a Hi-C from the Costco supply of juice boxes, but they were all gone.
I looked around.
Where were my built in saviors who wrapped protective arms around me when I had nothing left to give? Carrying me to bed when I fell asleep on the couch from exhaustion or too much wine.
Where was my hero at closing time, when I lost my keys again?
The keys only he could find buried somewhere on the floor, because he knew my reckless spirit sometimes forgot to zip up coat pockets.
Where were my five o’clock shadowed faces who could always fix my problems while simultaneously whispering in my terrified ears, “It’s gonna be okay.”
I turned around and no longer had “my person” who listened to all my circular stories, cooked me bacon, and kissed my forehead as I fell asleep on a cozy blanket of bare chest love.
My head turned left and right, but I was the only one home.
I frantically searched my phone for familiar names written into the past, a non-responsive choir, too savvy for my siren calls.
Did I even know how to take care of myself?
This 40-year-old entrepreneur steeped in years of therapy, reading, writing, and pursuit of healing arts? A respected teacher many sought out for guidance?
She thought she conquered all the checkpoints.
She pinky swore to herself and others, “I have arrived.”
Champion hands raised, waving at anyone who would listen, “I am here. We are here. We won the fight.”
And then, one weepy morning, in the middle of November rain, her dark and stormy heart blew through the door of haunting yellow leaves,
F*ck! You again?
I thought I beat you down to a bloody pulp of, “I healed myself.”
I thought all the voices inside my head learned how to pass through the eye of emotional hurricanes, even when my fingers hung on by a thread.
Is it true, what the last one said? That I am too intense? Too much to handle? That girls like me are dangerous?
Another one bites the dust on the quest to save me from myself.
To be fair, I always warned them, “I’m stubborn, but kind, and when I love you, you will never have to question that you are loved.
I hope you like adventure.
Does your sea captain boat come with lifesavers? We may need them when the waves are crashing in from all sides.
Can you read maps, because I can’t?”
But maybe that’s bullsh*t, because I can. Perhaps the protests in my head are just lies.
Old lines from an outdated play insisting, “Your character is too much—too hard to love.”
What if I auditioned for another role? I could be a cuddly barnyard cat.
Even though my best friend said that’s not a good analogy because his cornea was scratched by a barnyard cat and he couldn’t see out of his right eye for a week.
Hasn’t life scratched us all to death? Courageous tattoos of “I face-planted, but I got back up.”
What if we believed we were more like nature? Seasons change, despite the fact we may hate winter?
What if kindred “rollercoaster spirits” are onto something? Maybe we can’t control the chaos, but we can become expert wave riders.
And so I say “Yes” again to the task, as I lay alone on my couch with the November rain pouring outside my open windows.
I cry freely, and feel a strange connection to the ordinary storm that pours down until the sun is ready to come back out.
I look in the mirror at her “water-worked” face. The laugh lines around her eyes have deepened. Her skin is lived into and somehow more beautiful with wrinkled time.
“I’ve got you she says. We’ve got you.”
The little girl inside shakes her head in tantrum fear.
“No, you are not strong enough. You have too many unresolved issues. You are a mess. How in the world can you take care of me?”
Through wisdom tears of her own, the older woman can’t help but turn up the corners of her mouth.
“You are right, my dear, I don’t have the answers. I wish I could conquer all the tornado winds in your soul, assure you you won’t feel pain, keep you safe from the closet monsters that creep in your head.
But I can’t. No one can.”
I shoot from the hip and often miss the target, but we are relentless.
We are fighters. We are lovers. We are human. We will continue to feel it all, and some days may “trust fall” off the balcony of a burning house.
But our cat eyes have learned to land softly.
We will apologize when we miss the mark, but not for our own existence. We will take responsibility for our actions, without carrying the world on our shoulders. We will laugh, cry, and love fiercely because life is short and how we choose to live matters.
Not to mention, exponentially more fun with a sense of humor, curiosity, childlike wonder, and gratitude.
We will continue to share our raw, imperfectly perfect humanity, so that we all know we are okay.
We are all doing the best we can. Taking risks, learning from mistakes, and re-writing stories filled with new shapes, faces, and people to love…especially the one wrapped in our own brave skin.