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.