“I love you,” she said, as a blustery, cold wind blew back her messy hair.
It hung around her shoulders in knots, strung together by sweat, by tears, by the sheen of mud on her face that spoke to the sh*t she’d been through.
But those words, those three powerful words—I and love and you…
First, she said them to—
The time she spent underground.
All that she learned—who she was not.
The tears, oh, the thousands of tears that had rained down her cheeks and made rivers.
The sorrow that twisted in her gut like nothing ever should.
And even there, in the muddy split, in the brokenness of it all—something had fluttered to life. Because even back then, when she felt that she was drowning, she knew it was more than that.
It was becoming—in the messiest, most primal way.
So she could love those tough times, she could love herself at the bottom of it all—but this did not magically make those times pretty. It did not tie them up with a pretty, pink satin bow or make the pain okay.
Nothing will really make that okay—and yet, healing is still possible. That’s the gift of it all.
So in those cool, jagged underground tunnels and spaces, she cried, she learned, she healed.
She fought for her life.
She fought for her voice.
For her spirit to rise up and blossom into the fiery breathlessness of spring.
She fought so hard for so long.
And one day, she realized she did not have to fight anymore.
She knew she could summon that blazing intensity whenever she needed it, sure—but she no longer needed to fight like hell to make it through the day.
Up, up, up
Out of the ground.
“I love you,” she said
To that stunning, first breath of fresh air
To that patch of golden sunlight on the just-sprouting blades of lime-green grass
To the way life can look so different after the ache
In amazing ways—
The people we meet.
The strength and courage we uncover inside of ourselves.
The faith and joy we sustain, we give birth to—in spite of how much we hurt.
The love we cultivate.
The understanding and compassion we are able to offer to others who ache like we once did.
So she stretched those weary muscles and put her feet on the warm, dewy grass, smiling faintly at the droplets of rain that hung heavy on the thin branches of the budding cherry trees. Sweet tears ensconced her. Finally, these were happy tears—the happiest.
She came back to life.
Everything looked different. The world was no longer encased by a lens of anger or fear.
And it wasn’t perfect, no.
But things looked…vibrant. Enchanting. Safe enough.
So she took those tentative, excited first steps
And soon, the walking became dancing.
And soon, she realized how wise she had become
To drum on the beat of her heart
To listen to her body
To know what it is to squeeze the old crystals of pain and make them into beauty. Into art. Into passion and the stretching wings of ever-expanding growth.
She realized how wise she was.
And she stepped into the world with a new sort of confidence.
It was not showy. It was real. It was tender. It was grounded and no-nonsense as f*ck. It was sweet.
And yes, she dared to care. To feel deeply. To be herself. To live out loud. To laugh. To make silly jokes. To follow the thirsty trail of her passions.
And it’s this, when our spirit lights up like a lantern!
It’s this, when we are wildly and weirdly ourselves—this is what attracts the most delicious kind of love into our lives.
And he saw her from afar, she looked like a hummingbird,
buzzing over brilliant flowers, tending to the luscious garden she had created,
sucking nectar and truth with her tongue.
And her heart.
And he was captured.
And she was captured by the kindness that glistened in his eyes.
The tender truth that maybe he, too, had spent some time underground. That he knew what it was to break and put himself back together again.
That he knew what it was to come back to life.
And he took her hand gently.
They danced together.
They flew on currents of air like kites,
ablaze with all the colors of sunset
independent, yet delightfully intertwined,
perfectly restless sometimes,
and soaked, utterly full of joy.
“I love you,” she said to him, as the horizon dripped moonlight so their fingers shone phosphorescent in a glow that matched the tender poetry of their faces.
And she meant it. And it really meant something—substance was neatly carved into the grooves of those words.
I love you.
Because she had dared to say it to herself, first. To her own darkness, first. To life, first.
Because she had cultivated enough space inside, enough love to love him and herself and her passions and the world.
There was no choice, then, like she had once thought.
There was room for everything.
She could have it all, only because she wasn’t trying to have everything.
She was trying to love everything.
To live in a way that is decidedly intimate with her own heart, with his heart, with the pulsating heartbeat of life, the warm hum of the divine.
And so after all the twists and tangles, the frayed threads of heartbreak and fear, this is where the story both ends and begins—
Isn’t that the greatest mystery of all?
It ends and begins with love.
Love was there
The whole time.
Yes, even during the messy, not-so-pretty parts.