“And it kicks so hard
It breaks your bones.
Cuts so deep
It hits your soul.
Tears your skin
And makes your blood flow.
It’s better that you know
That love is hard.”
“Love is Hard”
I want love to be all hearts and flowers and grand romantic gestures. I want it to be noble and patient. I want it – need it – to be selfless, even if it’s selfish at the same time. And healing. And holy.
God – I need love to be holy.
What I get though, for all my wanting, is hard. Love is hard. And it hurts. It wraps around your heart and squeezes, slowly, so you can’t breathe and you just want to stop feeling anything at all. But, you know, it’s love, and it doesn’t just stop when you want it to. It just keeps… hurting.
I am not in a happy-hearts-and-flower-love place right now.
I may never have been.
Frankly, I don’t get love. I don’t think I ever have. Which is a terrible thing to say, I’m sure. But I am called to be, if nothing else, honest. So this is honest.
I never doubted I was loved as a kid. Mostly. But love came with strings and conditions and secret codes that changed the minute you thought you decrypted them. And love hurt. It broke you into a gazillion pieces – pieces so small and jagged and sharp that your hands came away bloody every time you tried to gather all those gazillion pieces up.
At some point, you just stop. Or at least, I did. You stop trying to figure it out, stop trying to feel it – or not feel it. You’d give anything to not feel that pain twisted with hope, that thing that makes you feel like hollow fire, that thing that just pounds you and pulls the rug out from under your feet and whispers all your insecurities to you in the dark. Because you know it will be taken away, the minute you give in to it.
You know that nothing you do will ever be enough to be loved for longer than a minute or three at a time.
And the stupid thing is – the stupid, naive, sad thing of it is – for all you know about love, for all you know how tragic and hard and ephemeral it is, for all you know that it will not last, will be taken away, you are a moth drawn to that incandescent arc of light and you dance along that path and feel its warmth as long as it lets you, as long as you are able, until you are singed and burned and broken.
At some point, you are scarred enough that, really, you’re more like the Sorceress in the fairy tales you love so much – and you love them (love, you’re pretty sure, or whatever passes for that, because you just don’t know) because the world they inhabit is so pure and clean and the evil is evil and the good, good and it’s all just so easy to get to happily ever after, even if there are horrible quests and adventures in the middle, because you know that Destiny is waiting to deliver that Happy Ending – but that Sorceress, she removed her heart, keeping it locked away in a secret hiding place, so that it would be safe. And if that meant she could never love anyone, not really – at least she could never be hurt again. Fair trade.
And then you have a child. And that child finds all your secret places, without even trying. And that child looks at you as if you could slay dragons and heal plagues and talk with frikkin’ God, just to say hello – he just expects it. So you do. You do all of those things, and you find the heart you were sure you had buried somewhere long away and far ago, and you hand it over, as if it were nothing. As if it had never been broken.
You start to think that happily-ever-after may be a real thing, which, in your books, is just another way to say redemption. Not that everything with this child is heart-and-flowers all the time. That would be wrong and disturbing. No, this is a real child, who has tantrums and gets angry and snotty and demanding and is kind and giving and selfish and smart and annoying and you wouldn’t give up a nanosecond of any of it – in hindsight, in the moment, sometimes you’d give anything to sell him to the highest bidder. But you don’t. You just love him. And wonder if what you’re feeling really is love, because this is the most singular and glorious thing you’ve ever experienced, until you stop questioning it and you just do it. You live it. Every day, you’re just in it, with him and it really doesn’t matter if you can define it or nail it down or parse it six ways to Sunday.
And then comes the day when he hurts to the breaking point. Or maybe just beyond that place. This isn’t the normal, every day hurt of childhood – or even pending adulthood and the madness of puberty. This is a shattering. This is a hurt that snakes around his soul, and you thought you knew powerless before, when you got sober, and stayed sober for a couple of decades, but this is a whole new kind of powerlessness that brings you to your knees – because there is nothing you can do, at all, to heal that boy. Nothing. All you can do is watch him hurt.
It’s killing you and you have no idea what to do, how to fix him, how to shield him. And you’re sure that you have failed him and broken him. All you can do is love him and hope that that’s enough.
And while you may not ever have done this for yourself, while you may know, without any doubt, that love is hard, and it huts and it cuts deep and gets takes away – for your child, that boy who is hurting and once looked at you as if you could dance with giants and play tag with the sun – for that boy, you are willing to believe that maybe, please God maybe, that love is, in fact enough.