When he reached me in a Manhattan coffee shop, I was nestled in a booth. He came down to my level, into my arms, gasping and breathless as he threaded his arms beneath my shoulders and curls. “Don’t cry,” he whispered, nestling his cheek as he hugged me tightly. My body wracked with sobs. The skin on his face was the canvas for his gentle sapphire eyes; the canvas for his smile, perfectly uneven, the left corner of his lip lifted slightly more than the right.
He loved my quirks, my spunk, my passion; he loved me. He loved my past and my present. He could have easily loved my future. The relationship wasn’t perfect; not even close. But it made me feel safe. Safe. Yes, safe, that feeling where you don’t have to face the pain in your heart because you can throw yourself into someone else’s arms. Hidden from the world.
I knew I was going to break his heart that afternoon. And it was going to break my heart to break his. Tears lumping up in my throat; my heart breaking a little with each passing second. My tongue played with different strings of words to explain. Explain that we weren’t walking in the same direction in the labyrinth anymore. All the while I was terrified of being separated. Lost in the labyrinth. Not knowing where my steps would take me.
Letting go of romantic love is absolutely terrifying. Instead of experiencing the nightmare of heartache, I have tied myself to relationships for too long. Too afraid to walk the twists and turns of the labyrinth. Too afraid of the unfamiliar faces who rush by me at unfamiliar turns. Strangers. So oblivious to me. Too afraid to sleep alone. The night terrors come and I have no one to clench my body to. Too afraid to wake up and feel that dreadful pounding in my chest; the pounding where I can’t catch my breath and am being buried alive.
In that coffee shop on that frigid winter day, I did not want him to let go of my crumbling body. No, no, nono. My heart spoke loudly to me; no matter how afraid I was to let go, the relationship was dead. All that survived was the smell of moldy love lingering on my sheets. Meanwhile my mind spiraled with unanswerable questions: What if he was the one? What if I never found love again?
There is something so beautiful and cryptic to letting go.
2 years have passed since that coffee shop nightmare. And I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to find my way out of the labyrinth as I meditate on the chaotic beauty that is my past. In this moment I know I’ve found my way out, back to the beginning of the labyrinth where I entered. But now I am more whole. It is a place where a man doesn’t need to save me. It is a place where in times of fear I let the stronger parts of me cradle the weaker parts of me.
I’ve also come to realize the beautiful reality that is crossing paths with other women and extending love and compassion. As we stumble in and out of the labyrinth, we don’t have to walk alone. If we open our eyes, we will see other women who are wobbling and stepping. Crossing our paths. Maybe once; maybe a dozen times. When we barely know where we are stepping, the labyrinth can lead us into roadblocks, but it is always redirecting us.
We all walk along the labyrinth facing confusing turns and unforeseen roadblocks. When we cross paths let’s reach out our hands to each other with love and compassion.