Someone once told me that you have to choose
What you win or lose, you can’t have everything
Don’t you take chances, you might feel the pain
Don’t you love in vain…
So what if it hurts me?
So what if I break down?
I’m just trying to be happy…
Leona Lewis, “Happy”
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about love lately, thanks to Elisa Doucette’s All You Need guest series. I’ve been looking back on my own life and my own insecurities and the reason for why, though I’ve dated on and off, I haven’t been in a real relationship since that first love.
It’s not about an inability to open up a part of myself and be vulnerable with others — I do that with almost every posted entry here on the blog. And it doesn’t have anything to do with not being able to commit or love someone fully — I tend to be loyal to a fault and love too much.
Rather, I think it’s about a familiar fear, and no matter how many times I face it, it still lingers in a quiet corner of my heart. It’s about a tiny voice in the back of my mind saying, “hold on to this, love now, because sooner or later it will all disappear.”
I’m desperately afraid of losing the people I care about most. And though I am able to open up and commit and get close, there’s that wall standing strong, ready and prepared to guard against the pain that will come when they decide to walk away.
Or when they pass away.
I never really experienced loss when I was growing up, though that fear made itself at home early in my adolescence. When I was a teenager, it manifested itself into an anxiety disorder that every morning whispered, “be ready, be prepared.” I was afraid of leaving the people I cared about, afraid of what would happen the second I walked away. I somehow thought I could prevent life from happening.
Instead of guarding myself against love as a means of protection, I fell further into it. I opened up my heart even more, growing closer with my already tight-knit family, finding close friends, and falling in love for the first time. Though that fear persisted, with the help of these loved ones I began to understand that life happens and you can’t control it.
But then things changed again: Best friends and I grew apart. A first love became a memory as a relationship ended abruptly after four and a half years together. My grandmother and grandfather slipped away from illnesses only a few years apart. I was with each of my three beloved dogs when they all died within a year and a half.
I saw my grandmother with my mom the day before she passed away. I visited hospice with my family to tell my grandfather I loved him. I talked to my dogs as they lowered their heads and fell asleep, feeling their fur beneath my fingertips as I told them how much happiness they brought me, how much they meant to me. I told them how much I loved them.
The past eight years have seen love and loss, and though I‘ve always been able to say goodbye — though life, in some way or another, offered me the blessing of being prepared — I‘m afraid for the day when I won‘t be.
Though I’ve tried, time and again, I don’t know how to let go of loss, to reconcile this sadness that invades my heart, to rid myself of the fear and ignore the thoughts that say, “yeah, you loved them, but that wasn’t enough.”
It’s why, though I desperately long to get close to people, there’s always some invisible defense. It’s why, though I’ve been tearing the wall down bit by bit, most of that structure still remains, guarding my heart from future hurt.
It’s why there’s still a voice saying:
Don’t get too close.
Sooner or later, they’ll leave you, too.
For years this voice has haunted me, clinging to me like a shadow, fear burying its way into the deepest corner of my heart. And yet, there’s something new now, letting light into that dark space and breaking through that wall. It’s another voice — speaking more clearly, stronger than the one marked by fear, saying,
Hold on. Love now. Love always.
Because it does matter; it is enough.
And that love that you feel? That will never, ever leave you.