I knew you were “the one” when I got the call.
“I’m in the emergency room.”
I was panicked and it was genuine. That was new to me.
I drove the hour to hold you, even though you said you were “fine.” I wasn’t. I was high on emotion, reactionary. That was the first time I thought of losing you.
I pushed the pedal forcefully into the floor, resisting the reality of the drive. Pure passion carried me forward, faster, faster, faster.
You were still in the ER when I got there and I cried buckets into your lap, careful not to touch the tangled wires and weird machinery. In that moment, I realized I knew nothing about healthcare. It was creepy, sterilized, and emotionally confusing. Nurses in blue and green scrubs ran around the unit, their voices calm but their movements chaotic.
I called on strength to carry us through since it seemed like my responsibility to “fix” things. Over the length of your stay, my heart exploded for you. You became the thing I cared about the most, the thing I never wanted to let go of, the thing that life was threatening to take away from me. We missed our vacation to Florida that year but it was more than “fine.” I only wanted you, healthy, perfect, wonderful you.
What followed was two years of doctor’s appointments and painful run-ins with reality. You weren’t “sick” but you weren’t totally whole either. I fulfilled “my duty” to The Universe by going to nearly every one of those appointments, convinced that enough attention and love from me would “fix” things. I compensated for moments of powerlessness with perceived influence as if The Universe could see my devotion and cure you. I cradled you like a newborn, ran my hands through your perfect hair, and told you everything would be “fine.” Up until then, my life had always been about myself so being a caregiver was new to me too.
That year, I decided I wanted to study healthcare after years of telling my Dad I didn’t want to work for a pharmaceutical company or any related entity. Everyone was thrilled I was going into such a lucrative field but in my mind, it was my way of doing what was necessary for our family, the mature reaction to uncertainty. We would need benefits someday, good ones to keep you healthy and carry our legacy forward.
The next thought I had about losing you surfaced for other reasons. I was spending so much time making choices for us that I lost sight of myself. One day, looking back at me in the mirror was someone with sunken eyes, dull skin, stubby nails, and frayed nerves. I became insecure, I lacked confidence. I needed reassurance constantly but I never felt settled. Everyone became a threat. My value was tied up in how well I cared for you and our family, not in what made me unique or beautiful. I panicked in a new way.
Over time, our relationship suffered as visions of you laughing with someone, anyone danced in my dreams. What if you met a prettier girl or one who liked sports better than me? Or what if you realized you wanted something different than the “hag” I saw in the mirror? Threats, so many threats yet I held fast to my purpose: cure you, care for you, never let you go.
Unfortunately, we’ve been a series of highs and lows ever since. As a girlfriend, it’s difficult to remember who you are when the woman in the mirror is neglecting herself when your value is bound to your “other half.” It’s hard to see the life you love clearly when you’re deathly afraid of losing it. It’s impossible to feel gratitude when the very skin-you’re-in makes your flesh crawl, threatens you. Self-sabotage becomes easier when your relationship is on life support.
On New Year’s Eve, I realized as I watched the ball drop behind Julianne Hough seconds after waking from a solitary nap, that we’re ending the decade on a low. It’s a new low because it feels final but it’s a good low because it’s so incredibly healthy. I still have a lot I want to experience with you and I hope we make it out of this happier and more committed. I know deep down that you’re the one for me but I also know that I have a ton of work to do on myself first. I’m flawed but I’m trying.
The truth is, I love you so much the threat of loss consumes me. I’m afraid to lose our future to the girl you went to high school with, to the guy friends who just don’t understand, to growth, to change, to death but especially, to death. Because at the end of the day, none of that matters if you’re gone. Even in separation, the world would be less of a fairytale without you in it, happy.
Of all the “things” I’ve tried to fix, love is not one I can talk up against a wall into working out. Love is freedom, acceptance, and trust, something I’m learning in your absence. Love is working on yourself so you can put your best foot forward for the person you love, a lesson I’ve learned from you. I know that the best version of me will still be madly in love with you which is why I have to wait and I hope you will too.
I’ve learned that love isn’t about holding on for fear of loss. It’s not about suffocating you so you never walk away. It’s about letting go and knowing that somewhere in the world you’re there for me saying “everything will be just fine,” as I celebrate my own existence.
Faith, it seems, is new to me too.