I am afraid of crickets. They are gross, slimy predators that taunt you with their “singing” and jump as if to eat your face. Every August, my high school would become infested with crickets, so much so the walls were black with crickets piled upon crickets. It was terrifying. But I couldn’t *not* go to school so I had to put on a brave face and run through the hallways with my eyes closed and my best friend guiding the way. I did this until nearly all the crickets had died, leaving a horrible stench in our high school. Sure, there would be one or two nasty little survivors, crawling threateningly across the floor of my biology lab, but the scariest part was over.
The point of this story is twofold:
1) Sometimes we are afraid of silly things.
2) Sometimes we have to face our fears, silly or not.
In my relationship with Slim, I was always afraid he was going to break up with me. I had no logical basis for this fear. We had a great relationship, communicated well, and loved each other. But I’d seen my mother abandoned by my father and then again by my step-father. Both divorces came out of nowhere and left a devastating wake in my family. So in my experience, love didn’t matter. People leave. And you can’t stop them.
Slim was wonderful about assuring me he wasn’t going anywhere. And I began to relax and settle into the routine of our relationship. I grew comfortable and we planned for our future. But then one day he came home and told me he was leaving, that our relationship was over. It was out of nowhere. It was awful.
And it might be one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
See, when I saw his face and realized what was about to happen, before he even said a word, before everything got tilted and spin-y, there was the briefest moment of clarity. In that moment, I remember thinking, “Oh. So that’s what this feels like. Here I am.” And then my heart broke and things got blurry and I forgot about that moment.
Recently though, I’ve been thinking about that moment a lot. I spent a lot of time in fear about what would happen if the person I loved left me. Fear isn’t productive. I didn’t make a plan. I didn’t stop to calm myself down and focus on my own strength. I just worried. That’s the problem with fear. It’s paralyzing.
But then it happened. This thing I’d feared for so long happened. And even though I didn’t have a plan, even though I’d never been able to see beyond the “what if”, I survived. It wasn’t easy and it hurt more than anything I’d experienced. But I had a choice. I could either allow this thing to crush me or I could gather my strength and run down the hallway with my eyes closed. I chose the second option. I borrowed courage from family and friends and I pushed myself forward, forcing myself to take one step, and then two, until I was walking, then running, on my new path.
The dust has settled now. Sure, sometimes there’s a cricket or two, reminders of what I’ve lost, but the scariest part is over. And those reminders are nothing compared to what I’ve gained: a new understanding of my own strength. See, I am stronger than I ever realized. I’ve seen my whole life turned upside down and I’ve continued moving forward, making new plans. I am loved and supported by so many wonderful people. I will not break.
I am healing. I have gained perspective. I see how wonderful the last two years were, how much I learned, and I’m glad for that. I’m also glad that I’ve been able to let go of this fear. Because now I know what will happen if the person I love leaves. It will hurt, more than anything can possibly hurt, and it will take a long time for the pain to go away. But the pain will go away. And I’ll still be standing. Because I am a tree. I can bend, I can shake, I can die for a little while, but my roots will hold strong.
I am running down this new path with my eyes wide open. Because between us? I’m a little excited to see what it feels like to experience love without that same level of fear, to love someone while having this kind of confidence in myself. I will fall my ass off in love and I will take whatever the Universe throws at me, with gratitude and an open heart.
Because I am a tree.