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I used to think that love was volatile, precarious, dainty.
It was something that could be knocked down with a feather and lost with one wrong word, one wrong move, or one wrong look. I thought that love was irredeemable and that it lacked the capacity for grace.
I didn’t believe in second chances—only loss, grief, and regret.
I had the pleasure of being raised by anxious-avoidant parents. I grew up knowing smothering, boundary-less love, as well as angry, distant, and punishing love. I knew well what it was like to be love’s victim.
When I say it was a pleasure, it’s because it has made me an expert on what real love is not. The pain became so great that it broke me open to the fact that I did not know what love was. To my shock, it was a relief.
It took me being brought to me knees to realize that I didn’t have to fight for love—I only had to allow it.
If I clung to love or chased it or became compliant, it would slip through my fingers. I could not control or cajole, pretend I didn’t care, or play games to get it. I’d done it all already, and nothing ever worked.
I thought I needed a plan, a strategy. I needed the map to find where love was buried. I thought if I just knew what to do, I would have done it. I would have done anything to get love. Inside me for so long had been this sad, confused, scared little girl who was raised to carefully study the faces of others. To bend instead of break, to hide behind furniture and in closets, to blend in, shape-shift, and acquiesce.
Wouldn’t someone just please tell me what I was missing?
What did these deeply loved people know that I didn’t?
Couldn’t he just tell me how to be enough?
Couldn’t he just tell me what chasm I had to leap over?
I would have done it.
I’ve learned that the only thing that truly works with love is to surrender to it. I arrived at the doorstep of surrender by finally being honest with myself; I had to stop making excuses. I had to stop looking at what was being offered and contorting myself around it.
I had to be gently led by my heart’s truth.
Surrender can look like openness and receiving, or it can look like running downhill after years of climbing, realizing that what you want is at the bottom of that mountain. It’s effortless, yet energized. It was in that space of surrender that I could finally see love more clearly.
Love is not terrified, it’s not threatening, and it’s not anxious. Love is safe. Love is steadfast. Love is letting go. Love is setting someone free, completely free. It’s not holding someone at emotional gunpoint threatening them with your departure. It’s not power plays or manipulation. It’s not making someone your servant or relishing in their panic. Love does not crave power, but is power. And love truly never dies.
Perhaps, because we have forgotten what love is, we don’t know how to interact with it. We treat it as if it is frail and delicate and paper-thin. When we don’t know what real love is, we’ll stay in stale situations looking for love’s potential to arrive, and yet, it never does. Love must be welcome. We must be open enough and bold enough to receive it, to believe that we deserve it—that our wants do not out-scale our innate worthiness.
When we know what love is, we can courageously confront life. We don’t tiptoe or slink past our truth. We need not fear being abandoned, for love is abundant. Love is right around the corner—love is on every corner and love is every corner.
It can be hard to not feel like a failure in love. The love songs never cease to find our reluctant ears. We are incessantly inundated with images of love so blissful and secure, it can feel like we’re missing out—that we’re the defective egg that just won’t hatch.
As my own relationship ends, grief speaks, and she has much to tell me. But she also whispers over the distance that silences us. She says:
“All those moments of love, they were real. You were there and so was I.
I’m sorry for the things I did when I was triggered—when I was seeing you through the eyes of fear instead of through the eyes of love. The past is gone and it’s too late to play it differently. Anything else is fiction and we cannot exist in non-reality. I cannot expect you to be someone you’re not, just as I cannot be anyone else other than who I am right now. I’m all I’ll ever be in this moment.
I’m sorry I couldn’t love you as you deserved to be loved—I’m human. And I’m sorry you couldn’t love me as I deserved to be loved, because you’re human too. I surrender. I’m done fighting, I’m done clinging, and I’m done apologizing. This is the least and the most I can do.”
I will wait patiently here until grief stops visiting me. The best thing I can do now is see that our love got lost in the translation—it was unknown and undefined. We were speaking different languages, but yearning for the same things: connection, intimacy, acceptance, acknowledgment, and trust.
But we’re human. We made mistakes. We weren’t perfect. We hurt each other. But we also healed each other. Knowing this offers life new hope and a new promise—that something beautiful will rise from the ashes of a space and time that’s dead and gone.
And now I know love is not a dainty thing. It never was.