"Why don't you change me at all costs?"
I have a small Maltese dog, by now she’s more the family dog than she is my own. She’s five years old and is the proud owner of too many toys and so much of my love. When we first got her I was able to hold her in the palm of my hand, a literal heart in my hand.
It took me maybe a couple of minutes of holding her that first day before the anxiety kicked in. I wanted to give her back. She was everything I had wanted since I was a kid but in that moment all I wanted to do was not own her. Because I knew that if I owned her she would own me. She would have a piece of my heart that I would never be able to get back.
I was terrified with the thought of loving someone so wholly because I knew that with loving would come pain because when you care that much for someone, love and pain go hand in hand. Whether it’s pain caused by them or pain felt on their behalf, those moments of hurt will be the nudge in your side that remind you that you love someone well. But they hurt, and they’re frightening, and they require you to learn to surrender to the inevitability of both happiness and pain.
When I looked at this barely there puppy, there was nothing in her months old eyes that could promise me that she would never cause me panic, get sick or worse. She couldn’t promise me forever because, well, dogs don’t live forever.
When I was holding her that first moment, she licked my face and I looked at her and admitted something that I’d been running from - I needed to go to therapy. I didn’t want to be too afraid to keep a love I’d prayed for forever. I didn’t want to be too afraid to be happy in her presence just because there’d be days that would be harder with her. I didn't want to keep myself from belonging and feeling loved just for showing up as I am, all because I was too scared. I didn't want to fuck up my chance of actually getting everything I didn't even know I needed, plus everything I always wanted.
I’m writing this while on a train to Brooklyn. I’m in the middle of the 3 train subway cart. There are people moving around me like they know where they’re going. I’m going wherever this train takes me because lately it’s how I’ve been living my life.
I’ve been letting love lead me. It’s such a stark difference from where I was years ago, from where I see so many people in my life are now.
We act tough as though not hurting is the real prize and I don’t know maybe I’m just playing for keeps in different ways, but in my league the real prize comes with surrendering to loving so hard that when the silence is filled with absence, you take the time to notice...and when your people start losing people, you cry for them and with them....and when doctors appointments lead to straight up fear, you become as fear-ridden as they are. What an honor to bear witness to, to participate in how love snakes through our lives and teaches us to share the weight of pain with each other. So that when hurts knocks on our door, we don't default to going to war with our people, instead we go to war for them.
I fight to love them well and to be loved as well. I surrender to pain because I know what it feels when you're hugged and your head is tucked under a chin and to feel like home is the smell of a t-shirt. Just one of those moments is worth all the moments of hurt. Weight in gold. We tend to take love for granted, but those moments of hurt they remind us that we're alive, can love, can show up and that we can survive love. To love teaches us that it's more than saying "I love you," it's actions that somehow, by the miracle of God, can actually change someone's day for the better.
That somehow my brand of love will make even the smallest of difference in someone’s day is mind-blowing to me. To know that I am so worthy of getting that love returned, that I can expect that when my knees hit the ground and I can’t open a water bottle alone there will be someone there who wasn’t afraid to surrender to love me, someone who will open the bottle for me — how fucking amazing is that.
When I think about weddings, I think about how much of the ceremony is centered on celebrating, honoring, and pouring vows into romantic love. I want a wedding one day, but for me it’ll just be the party that I can host to show my partner just how much love is poured into our own love. The ceremony itself won’t do anything that a random Thursday didn’t do for us.
To hold onto love and let it change you, that’s the biggest vow you speak into the universe and you translate into truth.
Love is someone telling you they have a lump in their breast and you not having any real thoughts, just reactions. Eyes shut. Head back. Tears pooling. Lip between teeth. Pain. Fear.
Love is holding your mom’s hand in the ER waiting room. You’ve been there before. You’ll be there again. Because…you’ll be there, fingers intertwined, every single time she is. She’s home and love and your reminder that to invest love will always yield more than stuffing it under a mattress.
Love is a text message before a procedure where on one side you’re scared shitless and the other you’re a pep rally of positive texts.
To love is to hurt on behalf of someone else when they’re hurting or lost or scared. It’s to feel for someone else what you feel for yourself on the darkest of days.
There are tears in my eyes on the 3 train and the guy sitting right in front of me is staring like he’s afraid that I’m going to breakdown and, listen, hipster, I just may.
Because what else do you do when you realize that you’re just so loved and have so much love to give? What do you do when it hits you that maybe you not having a mom just means that even at 25 you can be adopted by so many women who choose to mother you, and so many women you choose to be the daughter of.
Love isn’t just the up against the wall kisses when a relationship is 6 months young. It isn’t just talking over tacos every couple of months and resorting to bitterness when natural change and growth happens.
Fuck, love is loving even when they don’t deserve it. It’s loving even when they spit it up like a baby would because they don’t know how to swallow the reality of real love. It’s loving even when you have to hold your dog still, again, on your way to the animal hospital. It's being scared that it'll be another thousand dollar surgery, but really just being scared about how much this little dog can bring you to your knees.
It’s having a lightbulb moment that love is getting muddy with your loved one even when you don’t understand their anxiety or fear. Even when you think it’s just a dog. Even when you think it’s just fear of moving into a new place. Because who the hell cares what you think, your person is scared, so you show up. Get muddy. Love them even when it’s scary, especially when it’s scary.
To love people the way I do has been a revelation of my own potential to give and receive love.
I’m in a season where the only love I’m walking hand in hand with is the kind that invites me to get muddy, to hurt, to feel.
Playing it safe emotionally is walking to the corner of every New York City block before crossing the street. I grew up jaywalking.
I’m off the 3 train, the light is 3 seconds away from turning green, I’m walking like nothing will hurt me because when you know you’re capable of loving yourself to healing, of loving others back to life, a little pain never hurt anybody. Mortality is real. But what’s a life lived without risking in love?