“Are you okay, beauty?”
“Not so much, but it’s really something I should not discuss because it should never have been in the first place. I’m sure karma and her friends are raining down upon my head. I deserve to battle alone…”
That is a lie. A lie that your heart tells you because you are punishing yourself for the crime of being human.
You and me? We are so very human.
I don’t know the specifics of your story. I don’t know the exact reason you feel that karma has decreed that you suffer in solitude. But since I am human, just like you, I can fill in the blanks, and I can imagine.
So from that space, I will tell you now. It is not true. You don’t ever deserve to battle alone. None of us do. So, do me a favor, dearest, and shut that down right now. Even just for the time you read this letter.
Now, it’s true that I don’t know a damn thing for sure about your story. But shared experience holds a pretty clear mirror, and I see beyond your words. I feel your heart, and I know.
I know, love. I know.
You have loved, haven’t you? You have loved someone you believe you shouldn’t, and it is over, and you hurt, and maybe someone else has gotten hurt as well, someone you never wanted to hurt along the way.
You are punishing yourself for that. Holding yourself responsible, neon-lit scarlet letter upon your chest. Your heart is broken, but you don’t think you have the right to feel that grief, so even the sadness becomes another marker of all the ways you have done wrong.
But here’s the thing, I don’t know too many people who have gotten through very much life without at some point and in some way, loving someone we’re told we shouldn’t. If karma decreed that we be alone for the human act of loving when the world says we should not, then most of us would be destined to exist in perpetual solitary confinement. Some sort of horrible self-constructed purgatory, forever and ever.
Our hearts are beautiful and mysterious and sometimes selfish and not often very forward thinking.
And they do what they are here to do.
To seek love and find love and open to love, again and again, and again.
To fill in what is empty in us.
To allow ourselves even momentary kindness, or touch or desire.
To be seen and known, even for a brief time or a time outside of time, no matter what lies on the other side.
Bravely and recklessly. In kindness and fullness and in greed and desperation.
So, without knowing anything about what is happening for you right now, know this:
If the act of loving, even outside of contract or social acceptance or what the world decrees is ‘right’ makes you deserving of anything, it is entering the room with all of us who have stood where you are now standing.
All of who have loved and lost and broken, who have brought hurt to others. All of us who have confused and tangled our own hearts, or made questionable choices to quench our own desires, or stepped outside of our own integrity to taste what called to our souls or our bodies or our longings for things we cannot even name.
This is a part the humanness that connects us.
Threads woven between broken and stumbling souls.
Fumbling and scared.
Wanting and open.
Holy and whole.
We don’t get here clean. We can’t. It’s not how we were made, us miraculous, stumbling, terribly messy, deeply wanting humans.
And my god, if I don’t believe we all deserve infinite tenderness inside of this truth.
I didn’t always know this. I didn’t know it when I made the choices that cost me my own grasp on integrity and all the stories I had told myself about who I was and the things I would and would not do.
Not when my choices left me dazed, months later, when it felt as if the entirety of the life I had known had burned down in the wake of my own decisions, collateral damage beyond my comprehension.
I didn’t know it when a few short years after that someone dear to me broke my trust to have a hidden relationship with someone I will love until the day that I die. I didn’t know it when I yelled and wailed and walked through the night with tears streaming down my face, sowing the seeds of anger and resentment and letting them take hold and root down deep.
I didn’t learn this lesson until I fell into a love that was a remembering.
A love where past and present and future and countless parallel lives tangled and exploded into life, as real and anything I could touch or taste in front of me. A love that was my first experience of what it was to be seen and loved for who and what I am, never once asked to be anything or anyone else. A love so holy it could never have felt wrong. This love, the groundwater and memory and inevitability of it, it pulled me forward in spite of everything I thought I knew about what was good or right.
In the process of this loving, I chose a path that was not the one the world would have had me make. One that brought great hurt to another and once again risked the foundation of the life I had rebuilt from the ashes. And in the process of this loving, I made a choice not between goodness and wholeness, as I first thought, but instead a choice that was an integration, finally, of the two.
In the aftermath of this love, there was a difference inside of me. A self that refused apology, that recognized that a such a love, it demands that we listen. It asks if we are willing to taste, to allow, to open. In the aftermath of this love, I found redemption and forgiveness was finally made possible.
When there is a chance for a love like that, I learned. We take it. And we don’t always take it the way we believe we should. And we don’t always take it without betraying others, or ourselves. Sometimes, integrity, the real and rooted kind, is something we only find through the path of that betrayal.
And if that was true for me, then it was also true for the others who had broken my trust and brought hurt to my doorstep. There was no forgiveness of self without the forgiveness of others.
It is true, when we stumble off the path that marks our relationship with our own integrity, that profoundly personal and incomparable relationship, there is work to be done. Hard, painful, deeply humbling work. None of my words are here are to offer excuse or absolution. That is between you and whatever and whoever you answer to in the deepest part of your soul. It may require penance or the hard work of rebuilding or the letting go of what refuses to repair.
And every last one of those will hurt and come with costs I cannot know or name.
So no, I’m not handing out free passes or making light of what has been done. God knows I am still carrying the marks of my own choices. And god knows, it may be something you live with now and forever, as it has been for me. This knowing of what it is for your actions to impact another, maybe even someone you dearly and deeply love, is not a thing that can be undone. I’m not going to sugar coat or gloss over that reality. But I’m not going to let you sink into the pit of self-loathing either.
And I am going to tell you that there is redemption, even now, right there waiting for you.
It’s true, redemption and forgiveness are sticky things, almost always. But never more so than when we are asked to shine that light on our own hopelessly human hearts.
And maybe its presumptuous of me to type this, when I don’t really know a damn thing of what your heart is living right now, and there are days when I know my own work of self-forgiveness is a patched up, beaten around work in perpetual progress.
And possibly this is simply my own attempt to remind or even convince myself that I am worthy, in spite of the times in my life when I’ve left the path of my own integrity, and brought havoc by the act of my own loving.
Or maybe it is only this, that we need to meet each other here. That we must.
We must remind one another of the fact that we are here, and alive and human, so terribly and beautifully and sometimes painfully alive. And that very thing is what makes it so blindly brilliant, so achingly true.
We are not defined only by our actions in the moments we step off the path. I cannot believe that because that would damn me and you and all of us. I believe that ultimately, what defines us is the way we keep stepping back on. The way we trip and struggle through the wilderness of our selves, the way we wander through the dark desert night believing ourselves worthy of being cast out. And still, somehow, when the light rises in the sky, our path appears again, and we step back on, put one foot in front of the other, and onward we go.
And you, my dear friend, are finding your way back to the path. Even if you can’t feel it or see it right now, you are.
And you deserve to be there. And so do I. And so do all the rest of us.
We are here, you and I and everyone we loved in the light and all of those we have loved in the shadowy spaces.
Our hearts doing the thing they are made to do, pulsing and yearning and casting aside all doubt in the hope that we will be met and seen and known in holiness and in wholeness, with our guilt and our scars and every last ounce of hope remaining in our bones.
Here we are, you and I. Hearts beating. Still loving. No matter what.