Are You Willing To Never Love? 

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The full question made my heart stop. “Are you willing to never love just so that you don’t know heartbreak?” 

The question that followed echoed one that I’d already been sitting on. “Are you willing to not trust just so that you don’t know betrayal?” 

The train swayed me left and right like I was just going through the motions of life, but it was 9:29am and I’ve never been more intentional. 

My answers? Nope and nope.

If our twenties are meant for anything it’s to learn how to survive by our own volition and at the hand of our own decisions. We can’t do that if we’re spending it on the surface emotionally and only taking the safe, less challenging bets. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum and the relationship where I surrendered and tried my best to show up every day, that’s the one that taught me more about love than any other encounter with a man. Admittedly, it’s not for the faint of heart. The consequences of his decisions, of mine, they don’t just write chapters, they write an entire series, but damn, to love in that way. 

By the time the train makes it to Clark Street there are only 11 of us on the subway car. 6 on one side, 5 on the other. Different ages, different backgrounds, probably all weighing in on different points on the spectrum of being afraid of real love and trust. When I first got on the train, we were shoulder to shoulder. Standing like sardines. Staring at those sitting like they made it on at the perfect time. We were all vulnerable to the same feelings and pain though, sitting or standing didn't excuse you from experiencing the discomfort of their existence. 

Only those 11 of us made it to Clark Street. Even less of us will make it deeper into Brooklyn, on certain stops others will hop on to even us out. 

This is how I view love lately. Am I dumb for staying on the train even after it empties out and I’m left sprawled in space, but also in emptiness? Or am I brave? 

When you fall in love, like real “Jesus I’ve been picturing our kids since the first hand hold” kind of love, you’ve officially thrown yourself into the deep end of love and once you know how warm that water is, it’s hard to go back to swiping right on superficial fucks, eye-rolling games, and cold hearts. 

Yeah, real love carries the warning of potentially drowning you, but remember that jump? The way your stomach somehow triggered a permanent smile on your face? The way you both didn’t acknowledge it when you called him “babe” for the first time, but the memory is what you’ll see when life flashes before your eyes? The first time that the phrase “I gotta go poop” was used in conversation so free flowing that you understood that if you could say that out loud, you were on the right path?

Pure freaking magic. 

It’s worth the heartbreak to know a love so real, so anchored, that the fear of loving is the only real monster you ever had to wage war against. 

We grow up being encouraged to put on our seat belts and to wait before crossing the street, all important life skills that help to keep us alive. Those skills don’t really have transferable equivalents when it comes to love or trust. Because you survive love and trusting someone. No seatbelt needed. I promise. 

Because love does not give you guarantees. I promise. 

Love gifts you moments with people who trust themselves enough to surrender and to work with you to create those same spaces so you can surrender too. The lack of a “one size fits all” way to stay safe in love pours itself into the reality of the skills and building blocks you can tap into — boundaries, grace, forgiveness, repentance, intentional love. Fucking bravery.

The deeper you walk by the hand of your person, the more you realize that if you decide on forever, you decide on just as much love as there would need to be forgiveness and grace and acceptance of human, faulty growth. 

Forgiveness and grace are not easy to give to someone else when we barely know how to give them to ourselves. It’s foundation building, whether we’re looking at self-love or romantic love. It’s also the best teacher on how to set healthy boundaries and how to couple that with the AA mantra, “Let go, Let God.” 

Because here’s a blunt truth I’m becoming best friends with — we can’t choose how someone hurts us, but we can choose how we invite love in, the kind of love we invite in, how we forgive, and how we give grace. 

We can choose and control ourselves, but don’t mistaken that with holding ourselves back. To love and trust in a half-assed fashion, it’s a disservice to both you and the person you’re faking your love with. 

I’ve felt the burn of betrayal before. It’s audible in the silence when a heart breaks, I know. I feel you. 

But, when the question is asked — are you willing to never love just so that you don’t know heartbreak? I say a resounding, "nope." 

The wind blowing my hair while on the back of an ATV at full force, worth every second of pain. Because it's a pain that triggers hurt, yes, but it also triggers feelings of love and fun and happy moments. It triggers memories of moments when I was brave enough to give to myself and let myself enjoy happiness I'd never given myself before. Not without grays or faults, but still, wholeheartedly happy and mine.

I know too much about myself now to continue any cycle of self-punishment by starving myself of love that I wanted just because someone else could hurt me. I say "nope" because I'm in the process of learning to love myself enough to never inflict that kind of hurt, emptiness, and solitude on myself.