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The Price of It All

When Greg and I met, I was coming off the first substantial amount of time I’d ever spent on my own. I’d grown strong and independent during this time. I lived alone, put myself to bed every night, traveled to and from Los Angeles, always returning with the knowledge that I wasn’t reliant on anyone. I felt so strong that this independence was exhilarating — it was the first time in my adult life that being alone wasn’t a sad or scary thing.

And then I met Greg.

He flew out to Los Angeles a couple of weeks after we met in Chicago, and we spent a magical weekend together. We walked all around Venice where I lived, drove up to Malibu to Matador Beach, and sat out on my little deck on the canals, late into the night. On the afternoon that he had to leave we stood in my kitchen talking. I’m in love with you, he said. Move to Chicago, he said.

I nodded slowly, fear flooding through me.

Suddenly I felt more vulnerable than I had in a long time. Gone was my strength and bravery. The love I felt for this man? It left me trembling. I realized that it had been so easy to be on my own all that time because I’d had nothing to lose.

After that conversation in the kitchen I drove him thirty miles south to Long Beach airport. In the car we both cried. Please be careful with yourself, I pleaded. I was so afraid that something would happen to one of us before we had a chance to finish falling in love, to get married, to have children, to do all that I wanted to do with him. I’ll be careful, he promised.

It’s been five and a half years since that weekend, and we’ve been careful. We’ve had two kids, two cats, two moves, several books, and a thousand days and moments that I once worried I wouldn’t be lucky enough to have. But the more we’ve grown as a family, the larger my fear has become. I wish sometimes that I could wrap us all in a little bubble. I wish desperately that nothing could ever touch us, that none of this could ever, ever be taken away.

But I can’t.

And sometimes I lie awake at night, trembling from the enormity of it all.

Last weekend in yoga class, my instructor quoted Rumi. He said something like, A sufi is someone who has had their heart broken a thousand times, yet still has the courage to love. This quote ran so deeply through me that I’ve been thinking about it every day since I heard it.

I have indeed had my heart broken what feels like a thousand times, and not just romantically, but with the deaths of my parents and friends. I’ve been cut down to the utter floor of myself and I’ve rebuilt myself back up over and over. Today I feel stronger, happier, and more open and more afraid than I’ve ever been.

But I now think that this must be what it’s all about. This is what my father was talking about on his death bed, that all this constant beauty and sorrow make life what it is, that life is worth living.

My heart is raw and wounded and wild with love.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.




  1. greatpostprofoudnquotecutepicofVerawonderfulcurrentreality, and all that other stuff, but it must be asked: What the heck is that crazy-melted-looking Santa thing on the right side of your hearth?!

    Comment by Carroll on November 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm

  2. Me too! All the time! My little family is what makes life worth living and how to protect that creates huge fear in me! Sometimes I’m internally scared just leaving Romeo at school because I want him close by me all the time! And Persia is a girl in the world and how to even….anything. Love that what we humans feel is palpable, and shared, and that I’m not alone. Somehow this is reassuring. Xxx

    Comment by Tanya on November 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm

  3. Oh…how I love your writing!! Love love love it! What a gift you have!

    Comment by Chris on November 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm

  4. Deep sigh. I needed to read this post so badly right now. I’m feeling so much the same, and it’s such a relief to know I’m not alone. After years on my own, I’m now living in a wonderful home with my wonderful husband and a baby on the way. I’m an oncology nurse, and every day I see people who have had it all ripped away. I fills me with a deep fear that I forcefully push away many times a day. It’s almost like the happier I am, the larger the fear becomes. I guess you are right, this is what it is all about. I would never give up to beauty to free myself from the fear or sorrow.

    Comment by Anna on November 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm

  5. I just read your blogpost, and feel compelled to share with you a line from a poem I just read, no kidding, 5 minutes ago. The poem is called “the Peace of Wild Things,” written by Wendell Berry. There is a line that reads:
    “I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. ” I am much older than you are (my two daughters are your age) and I tortured myself as a young mother with anxiety, worrying about the potential of loss. We are surrounded with endless stories about all the tragedy that can befall us as humans, and becoming a parent exaggerates those fears a million fold. My analogy was that I lived my life as though I was at a really great party, but that I could never enjoy the party – instead I was bummed because I knew the party would eventually end.

    It is so hard, but I am constantly reminding myself to stay in the moment. I am committed to not worrying about things that have not yet happened. At least I try! I enjoy reading your blog, and have your book on my list to read. Have a joyous Christmas with your beautiful family.

    Comment by Claudia on November 29, 2012 at 7:12 pm

  6. Lovely and a great reminder on how we HAVE to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to really feel all the love that is out there. You are an inspiration.

    Comment by val sutherland on November 30, 2012 at 6:40 am

  7. :) ))) Love u, Claire!

    Comment by francesca on November 30, 2012 at 7:50 am

  8. Beautiful! Especially love this… I’ve been cut down to the utter floor of myself and I’ve rebuilt myself back up over and over. Today I feel stronger, happier, and more open and more afraid than I’ve ever been.
    Open & afraid… and yet we move forward and live, love and carry on. Gorgeous writing!

    Comment by kwqr on November 30, 2012 at 11:36 am

  9. Lucky Greg. (Guessing he already knows that.)

    Every time I read one of your posts I think not only “I’ve felt that, too!” but “What a gift to her family that she writes it down so that they will know her again later and maybe even say, “Wow — my mom felt this once, too!”

    I just am so struck not only by the wonderful present (in both senses of the word) that you give all of us but of the beautiful future you are giving your husband and girls, too, with the gift of your words — one that will remind them of things they did, how so many of their days with you and Greg unfolded, and how deeply you have always loved them.

    Comment by Kirsten on December 2, 2012 at 6:51 am

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