The morning after you left, I struggled to set my day into motion. Getting out of bed. Going for a run. Stepping beneath the running shower. Pulling on clothing in bright colors. Ordering lunch. Summoning the motivation to eat it. Building plans with friends. Allowing myself to laugh. Pulling a blanket over my bones. Resting.
In an instant, it seems, I forgot the art of living a life. The clock halted, routine dissolved into my hands, and every action became a conscious decision. My hands were shaky, my feet unsteady, and I wondered at how I might find my way forward.
I discovered, in the months that followed, that my heart was far more stubborn than my mind. ‘People who want to stay,’ my mind urged my feet onward, ‘stay.’ In silence, however, my heart beckoned my fingertips into fists, holding onto the idea that you might just show up.
Things started getting easier the moment my heart stopped arguing with my eyes about who you were. I felt my fingertips unfurl, my lungs expand for more air, the moment I stopped trying to untangle your decision to leave. The first step of letting you go, I found, was accepting that you’d gone.
Life resumed its rhythm, the record back on track, when I pulled my hands away from the past, my fingertips no longer brushing over old chapters in search of an answer. I found a way forward, the horizon bright once again, when I began believing in today.
One morning, over coffee, my eyes widened, and I noticed the world brimming beautifully around me. I took it, the love I’d set aside for you, and I carefully unstitched it, repurposing it for the people who stayed. My friends, hundreds of miles behind me, had wrapped my arms around their shoulders, beckoning me forward. Their eyes sparkled the first day I lost myself in laughter, tears collecting on my cheeks, and surrendered to joy.
All of the conscious decisions became unconscious. I caught my reflection, one evening, as I walked beneath the sky on fire, and I found myself standing tall. My face, lost in thought, had been twisted into a grin. Grief had shed itself from me like an old skin, and the person who emerged from underneath was stronger still.
Because here it is: If it is true that there are People Who Leave and People Who Stay, I have made peace with where to file you. Staying takes courage, commitment, and steady hands, and life doesn’t grant these to us in the same quantities nor along the same timeline.
Forgiveness, boiled down, is a form of letting go. My steps grew lighter, my smile readier, the day I stopped holding you accountable to the person I’d hoped you’d be. Perhaps we were both guilty of this, after all –– of building some ideal stranger around the person across the table.
Letting go became possible, I discovered, the moment I accepted that some parts of you will always stay. The world we’d built together, the adventures we shared, now exist as stories I carry alongside me.
And they’ve lightened, my limbs, in the letting go, freeing my legs to run and my hands to reach and my eyes to search for the beauty around me. There was beauty, I found, in the rinsing away, but it pales in comparison the sun beckoning forward my wandering feet.