I curl up in the empty bed. I can’t get warm. When I don’t write, the warmth trickles out little by little. My body keeps the score. Have you expressed yourself lately? it asks. I sigh. I can’t write when I can’t feel. What am I supposed to do? My heart is elsewhere, and I don’t always know how to bring it back home.
I was told there is a hardness to my eyes where there once used to be light. I curl into my shell like a snail. The words hurt then, and hurt now. I remember the way I felt those days—desperate not to be the girl with the soft eyes and the even softer heart, ashamed that I was—and I just want to melt back into them. But the trouble now is that I can’t. One summer there was no girl left in me. Whatever has grown back since simply doesn’t feel the same.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Every now and then I wake up from a deep sleep and I feel her. Still golden, still glowing, radiating a heartfulness that permeates everything she does and everybody she connects to. I think I will never be this me again, and that’s the hardest pill to swallow. I can’t get in there, and I can’t get her out here. We keep missing each other. The rule remains the rule.
I wonder who I could have been now if I had been loved right. If things were as beautiful as they could have been. If I had had the energy to nurture all the magic bubbling inside me. Imagine being loved the way you love. Imagine what that would do to you. Just take a mental picture of it, close your eyes and wait for it to develop. I do. A little love goes a long way, even when it’s a little made up.
I wish I could make enough of it to keep in jars, spread on toast, and stuff myself with it when I am love-starved. Imagine all the things that no one can give you, not even yourself, to keep you fully alive and radiant. Imagine that you still have the sun in you because of that. Imagine that you have so much that you can even share it with others. Does it start a fire in you, until it’s wild in your eyes and the energy starts pouring out? It does that to me, too.
Something I’ve always been aware of is how difficult and irascible and quick-tempered I become when I don’t feel loved. I put my walls up and if you try to break them down with anything other than safe love, I start breathing fire in your direction. I surround myself with things that remind me of what warmth feels like. If you ask me to come away from them but leave me out in the cold, I’ll snap and reject you and resent you. I don’t make the heart-mind connection right away, but later, when I think about my high reactivity.
An important insight from the concept of the five love languages is that each of us has an emotional love tank. When the love tank is full and we feel truly loved, we tend to have positive, growing relationships. When the love tank is empty and we don’t feel loved, we see each other in a negative light, barriers arise, and we become hostile. I read it and felt loved, because being heard, being known, being understood are all so close to being loved that the heart can’t always differentiate.
Sometimes I beat myself up for the apprehension, for not being excited to create, for having so much and not finding it to be enough. But it takes an overwhelming amount of vulnerability to feel, express, and journal lately—chores I’ve become good at avoiding. Exploring my darkness isn’t always poetic. I can’t always turn it into art or newfound empathy. Sometimes it’s just plain awful, and I’d rather not do it at all. My love of writing has never left me, but it’s been dampened by the departure of love. I don’t know how to write from here.
But the feeling that my toes only graze the surface of my reality when I don’t is such an intrinsic part of me, and I know I can never escape it. I miss diving deep, even when I can’t breathe, anywhere. Writing is my Promised Land. Warmth returns in waves as I put pen to paper. Time begins to feel slippery. Peace is the new default. Words flow like honey, slowly and gently, drop by drop like the sugary goodness that I still am, that I still can savour, that I can almost, almost return to.
The yearning for experience and connection is still unsettled deep down, too. I know, because I keep writing the people I once loved into my characters. Old loves are writers’ food, after all. All the energy I put into them can’t just disappear, it has to be redirected. My stories contain them because that’s the only way to say, ‘Thank you for letting me do life with you for a while. You’re so much good. Thank you for helping me live with my whole heart. There was no other way to be near you. Thank you for spending time in my world.’
But it’s hard to write when you haven’t lived in a while. The longing for life is always the strongest of the two. Things happened there. You happened there, I happened there—and I will happen there again—and who knows who else? I don’t want to walk through another door marked Forever, For Now. But I also don’t want to sit still and miss out. I may never be the same girl I used to be, but who knows what the woman I’m becoming holds. I’m lingering here, between what ifs and what is, but I can’t help the curiosity. And it’s a pulse, isn’t it?
As I keep going, the words pour out from the deepest, bloodiest part of my heart, and I want to get good again. I want to be close. I want to create. I want to reach out and give love, like white flags of surrender. Then I get triggered and take it back, and I’m a stranger to everyone again. A large part of the mind isn’t amenable to hardheaded logic. In an ancestral part of me I still operate with a sense of danger and a need for control. But when I write, it doesn’t have to be that way. And when I loved—and maybe when I love again—it doesn’t have to be that way either.
Once, not so long ago, after the explosive feelings of aliveness—magnificent and exhausting at the same time—left me in pieces, I feared I was condemned to numbness. Afraid I’d already felt too much and could never feel so much again, and could never want to feel so much again. But lately I find myself learning to feel again.
It’s happening when I don’t pay attention to staying strong. It’s happening when I feel the intensity of another human being upon me so very deeply. It’s happening when I find myself wondering, Is this a moment, or is this a moment worth keeping? It’s happening when I choose to connect instead of withdraw. It’s happening when the world doesn’t seem empty of wonder. It’s happening when I speak human again instead of I’m fine.
They are all glimpses, openings, and opportunities to remember how to feel—and when I see them, I forget how to fear. My cravings always win. This is beyond simple logic, it’s visceral. Feeling feels like healing. It makes me care about my creative health again. It drives me wild with want and need and I like it. It’s been so long since I’ve been anything but safe. It amuses me that allowing isn’t just about releasing energy. It’s also the way to reset love.
It’s taking time, patience, and practice, but it’s happening. The high is rushing back. I feel my heart growing to make room for all the love I still have, for all the love I can still grow. Suddenly, I want to write and I want to speak and I want to show you that I am just like you, really. I feel warm and real and loving and hopeful. Most importantly, I feel. The gap between the world and me is closing again. Love fills in the cracks, and suddenly I can see myself finding my way back home.
‘You are the way to hope. You are my ride home. Please, do not give up.‘
I know what this is, even if I can’t keep my eyes wide open yet.
‘I missed the fuck out of you,’ I smile.
‘I am not the same.’
‘Good. You don’t have to be. I can’t wait to see what we are now.’