It's June and I'm tired of being brave.
I started measuring my life in summers about 3 years ago.
The summer before my senior year of high school, I craved pleasure. I did anything I thought would make me happy. Which included making some very bad decisions, and getting involved with things and people I shouldn't have. Funny enough I don't regret any of those things. They didn't make me happy but they made me stronger. They were the gateway to discovering what I really needed to get happy.
Last summer, the one sandwiched between my last year of high school and my first year of college, I learned how to pray. It sounds funny because I've spent my whole life going to church, but I realized last summer that means I've spent my whole life fitting into other people's rituals. I saw people that prayed and read their Bibles and had these great spiritual encounters and that was it for them, and I thought that I should fit into that mold, but every time I tried it felt less like finding grace and more like guilt and it got to the point where I wondered if God even existed. I looked into other religions, and actually found some pretty interesting things. I encountered God for the first time in a coffee shop. I made more mistakes, had even more breakthroughs, and created rituals and prayers that made me feel closer to God, instead of what everybody else thought I should do. I guess in a way I kind of redefined what spirituality and Christianity and God meant to me. It's still sort of out of the box, and unconventional, but I'm happier now than I was.
This summer, well this summer is still writing itself on my heart, but it's shaping up to be about love. I fell in love in January, which in and of itself was a huge adventure. In April love traveled to a different city, and it became phone calls and text messages. Now it's June and love is back but not really, and it's taking on a new form all together. The walls of love are being redefined as I must redefine what it means to be a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a friend, a girlfriend and a survivor. Relationships sure have a way of pulling at my heart, and sometimes it feels like pieces of my heart are no longer inside me but out there with the people I love and I can't seem to get all my heart in the same place. This summer has been a lot of time spent hunched over a notebook, or a keyboard, or anything I can get my hands on really trying to redefine what love means to me, the people I love and how love changes me.
Summer, though, always has a way of changing me, of breaking open my heart and forcing me to examine life and think about the hard things.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend the wedding of one of my friends this past Saturday. He married a beautiful girl, and I don't like to admit it but I cried at their wedding, because there are few things I find more beautiful than 2 people in love.
I remember the first time he told me about her, and how even then I think I knew because something in the way he talked about her was different.
There are a few things I've always been: independent, and emotional. I've spent a long time trying to make peace with these things.
I have a hard time confessing that I need people, maybe because part of me is convinced I still don't.
So a few days ago, when I confessed in a conversation with someone I love for the first time that maybe I need you I started to cry.
I've been trying to do more honest, real things lately. It's hard and heartbreaking and sometimes means crying at inopportune moments and having weird emotional reactions to just about everything. Something they never told me in school was that loving people is hard. It's not just hard because everyone you love holds a piece of your heart and its all just out there but because it's not always easy to choose to love people, or to allow them access to the ugliest parts of you and looking at their ugliest bits and trying to put them together to make something beautiful.
But even before I started dating, I always said I wanted love to be crazy and real or not at all. Perhaps I shouldn't have said that because that's literally what love is for me right now. It's crazy and real and messy and its full of fighting and crying and then loving and making up and it's close and it's far away and sometimes I wonder how my heart can stretch so far.
Sometimes, I guess, love looks a lot like saying "Maybe I need you."
A few nights ago I got to spend the evening with 2 lovely little girls. We painted pictures and told stories and talked about our dreams and laughed and it felt like I was spending time with old friends rather than 2 kids who had been placed in my care.
The whole night felt like magic, and I may have been guilty of wanting to keep them up past their bedtime so we could keep painting pictures and eating cereal and telling stories.
After they had gone to bed, I sat at the kitchen table and wrote about love.
Around the house were these little quotes, cut out and framed and oh so beautiful, and I couldn't help but notice as I marveled that many of them spoke of love.
Love, I decided, is something that must be insisted upon. Sometimes you have to put reminders in every room of the house, reminders to love well and that all of this heart opening is worth it because love is beautiful.
They always say love is a small word with big meanings but I never understood that until recently. Maybe I still don't understand it.
There's a canvas print hanging beside my bed with a quote from Gandhi. It says "Where there is love, there is life."
Love is hard, and there are moments when I feel it requires more of me than I have to give.
Love is also beautiful, breathtaking and life giving. Loving makes me brave, makes me strong, and sometimes it feels like the one thing I'm good at.
I sent him this message before he left for the week, the day after our conversation that included the words "Maybe I need you."
I said "I'm not good at a lot of things, and there are a lot of things someone else could do better than me, but one thing no one else can do is love you like I do."
And sometimes love makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Because why do I get to love and be loved this much?