I was 17 the first time I fell in love. There had been boys before, mostly over-heated heavy petting, but nothing close to love. I gave everything I had, physically and emotionally, to him and consequently my orbit shifted temporarily.
For the time that we were together, I felt alone unless he was beside me, unusual for a girl who had previously been surrounded by friends. But I became superior, removed, because at the young age of 17 I had found what others spent their whole life looking for.
Predictably, the relationship fell apart. As is the way when one is completely invested, I fell apart with it. My insecurities were masked by jealousy and his inability to ever actually treat me with the respect I deserved resulted is a disastrous break-up. The kind that hangs on for months, through me sobbing on the phone and just when you think that this time it might be over, you end up in bed together only to start the process all over again.
To say that I was heart-broken would be an understatement – I was shaken to my very core. Here I had offered myself so completely only to be rejected again and again and again.
High school ended and we went our separate ways, finally. I spent a lot of that summer alone. Rehashing it all, crying hot tears into my pillow. How could he not love me? How could I not be enough?
Eventually, I concluded that I would never love again (it sounds rash now, but at the time it was the only logical conclusion for an emotionally distraught 18 year old). I decided that if I were to ever settle (and that’s what it would be, settling) with someone, there was no way that they could ever know my whole self. I had been irreparably broken, and no one that met me from that point on would ever fully understand who I had been before. All that was left was a fragment of a picture.
Time passed and wounds healed. There was a sprinkling of flings, one boy who seemed special and a handful of hungover mornings spent wondering just what I had been thinking. And then, one night, there was a house party. Eyes locked across the room and the rest, as they say, is history.
As my relationship with Steve unfolded into more than a fling and then more than a short-term commitment, as we really began to know each other, my deepest fears were assuaged. Here I was, somehow – without me noticing it – completely healed from my previous heartache. And here was Steve, brutally honest and upfront, ready to give me all that I asked and more. I learned, slowly, to let go of the ghosts, to let go of the past.
More than 10 years after my first true heartbreak, I stand here. Strong, proud, loved. I am the woman I used to dream about becoming. And I see that a relationship doesn’t need to begin when you are innocent to be pure.
Everyone has a history, and while obviously, Steve’s isn’t one I care to reminisce about, we’ve been open and honest with each other. The honesty built trust, and the trust built love and the love grows, still.
Steve wasn’t in my life when I was a nerdy girl in jr. high, and he didn’t know me the summer I cried hot tears into my pillow and he didn’t see me through most of my university years, partying too hard and searching for something that wasn’t to be found. Just as I didn’t know him. But what I didn’t see then, what I didn’t understand is that just because someone wasn’t around at a specific time or for a specific event doesn’t meant that they can never know your true self. It doesn’t mean that a pure, innocent love can’t grow.
We can look at ourselves in two ways: as irreparably broken, or as beautiful beyond measure.
Our life is cyclical, from the planet’s orbit to the wind that lifts the ocean, molecule by molecule into the sky only to release that water back to us when the sky is full. These cycles, this pattern, this is what provides us the opportunity to heal ourselves.
We suffer loss and heartache and yet, there is no choice but to move forward. We bruise and heal and bruise again. We take medicine to make us happy and then stop taking medicine so that we can be happy. But through it all, we remain. Sometimes alone, but life is ever changing, always evolving.
The strength of the human spirit can withstand such heavy burdens, it astounds me. I have been blessed with a life of “happily ever after’s” and because of that perhaps the extent of my strength has not been tested.
I thought that all I would have to offer would be fragments, but maybe that is all any of us are. Fragments. These pieces, some large, some very small are placed together on a larger canvas. And there they make the most beautiful of windows.