The ache in my chest reminds me what is happening even when my mind drifts to happy things.
Memories of us and our secret place, hidden in the mountains amongst the towering pines. Just a short hike up, up, up from the small turnout filled with gravel. Always empty because of the faded yellow caution sign, which we ignore.
Above the smog of the city, at the cliff’s edge, the biting wind dries my mouth as I let out a wild howl and you, standing beside me, with your hands cupped around your mouth and elbows raised high, do the same. And then we stand there a moment, breathing deeply and taking in the view.
And then we catch each other’s eyes.
And we smile.
And you scoop me into your arms, in a gentle but not so gentle way, and look down at me with my long tangled hair, in my flowy white dress covered in pale orange flowers and dirt from dragging on the ground as I climbed. And I look up at you in your worn leather hat that reminds me of Indiana Jones and we share a knowing look. And you lean down to kiss me, softly. And I feel like a roasted marshmallow, all warm and gooey, and I wish we could stay there in those feelings forever.
I am wearing that same dress now, a week into my new reality, without you. The spunky, short-haired flight attendant called me a flower child as I passed her, on the way to my seat, and I smiled but my chest throbbed.
As I sit here, thinking of you, traveling faster than any person really should, above the birds and clouds, on my way to a place I’ve never been before, contemplating a life I’ve never contemplated before, staring out across the endless green and brown plains unfolding before me, I do not want the sadness that has draped itself over these memories, because they are not sad. They are beautiful. Full of love and happiness, and I am so lucky to have experienced them, with you. For a while. And I would like to appreciate them for what they were and what they are. Not like this.
And so, I will soften into this heartbreak and cling to the tenderness that arises.
And I will go on this trip and contemplate my new life. And I will sit in this stiff blue seat and stare out the double pane window at the endless nothing until I am jostled and bounded as the wheels touch ground.
And I will take a bus from the airport to where I’m going. And I will be present and mindful. And I will watch the gray-haired woman in Crocs sitting one aisle up from me feeding little brown treats to the fluffy head sticking out of the green backpack resting on her lap.
And I will love her.
And I will breathe.
And I will rent a red bicycle once I am where I’m supposed to be and I will ride it to a big grassy field, where I will take off my tan, worn Birkenstocks and lay down and let the earth cradle me. And I will stare up at the blue sky and hope for clouds. And if there aren’t any, that will be okay because it isn’t about the clouds.
Most importantly, I will allow a tear to roll out of the corner of my eye.
Just one at first.
And then another.
Until I am only tears.
And I grieve what was, and what is, and what will never be.
And I will love you, just as I love the woman on the bus and the clouds in the sky and the soft earth below me.
And I will be grateful for this opportunity to soften into what is, because:
“In the end, only three things matter: How much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.” ~ (not) Buddha