So this is it.
He walks down the hall. You wish him well and close the door. You hear his loud sigh and sink into the couch. You set down his glass, and your face fills with tears.
And then a week goes by.
You wake up to the sunrise. He’s still on your mind. In passing. But the thought passes. Your makeup stays unsmeared.
You start to play music again and hear the lyrics. The meaning stings, but with gradually less pain.
You dance in the shower.
You dance in the hall. You turn to your closet to get dressed. The dress he liked is still there and is still your favorite. You choose to wear it, this time for you.
And you step into the sun.
You take a deep breath, and tell yourself “everything is okay.” You start to believe it. You start to accept it.
And when you pass the first neighbor, you look up to smile.
You’re scared. It’s normal.
What if the memories return? What if they bring you to tears? You don’t want to go through the pain again. You don’t want to remember how you can pour your heart into something so beautiful, and watch it fade away. You don’t want to put sadness to the memory of moments filled with pure joy.
So you simply smile.
This smile is new. This smile has nothing to do with your past.
And your neighbor smiles back.
It’s these small things that keep you moving forward.
The courage to talk to a stranger. The butterflies when finding small talk at a coffee shop. The release when writing, and the sticky note you scribble saying ‘it’s okay to let go.’
It’s okay to focus on you.
Sometimes, though, you still pause. You worry about letting go. You worry about forgetting. The memories you had were some of life’s greatest moments. The memories you created together were an absolute gift. You can’t replace those moments. You worry that you will move forward when there’s still a chance to stay in the past.
A part of you wants to stay in that past.
So you write another sticky note: the journey is not linear.
And you remind yourself: You are strong. You are deserving. You are allowed to feel joy and seek out new reasons to smile. You haven’t lost your ability to smile. You are allowed to grieve and let go however you feel is best. Nobody will judge what you think is best.
You think fondly of him and hope he, too, is finding joy in the present. You hope he can find room for you as a friend one day, and you hold that hope as another of his gifts.
And you return to yourself. You return to your music, your dancing. You return to your writing.
You start your day by connecting with a friend. And a comedy class. You start with a joyful work day and dedication to your career. You start with a decision to reorganize your living room and a commitment to a large mug of tea.
You start with the little things.
Eventually, you start to branch out and open up. You start to feel vulnerable — in that toe-tingling, glorious sort of way. You start to fill your week with smiles and laughter. You start to think about the future without fear of what if.
You start to live in the present.
Of course, you realize, your past never leaves you. He never leaves you. And you don’t want him to. The person you were before meeting him was so different from the person you are today.
Because of him, you grew.
Because of him, you discovered more about yourself — the pieces that make you more lively and joyful. The pieces that he encouraged you to share.
With him, you found reasons to love your broken parts — because he respected those parts. And you found reasons to embrace your silly quirks — because he celebrated those quirks.
So you step out into the sun another day.
You look up to a neighbor, and you raise your head to smile. You don’t forget the gift you had, but you don’t remember it first either. Not in the same way. You simply carry it — its lessons, its nourishment, and growth.
The memory is a part of this stronger, absolutely beautiful you.
As you walk a little further, a leaf catches your eye. You bend to pick it up, its parts crinkled and fragile. You hold it softly in your palm, the dew of the morning cooling your skin. You run your fingers across its imperfections, feeling its bumps and sharp edges. You notice every piece of it. You love every piece of it.
And carefully, you set it down, and walk away.
You open yourself to the possibility to love again and to grow even more. You move forward, always carrying absolute gratitude for what he gave you. His memory is a gift every single day.