I am seven days away from turning another year older. I notice the wrinkles. I find the grays (that I hope will turn white). I feel the creaks in bones that once sprung. I find all of these things to be funny. I'm not scared of getting older. The list of the things that terrify me I don't think getting older was ever near the top. I'm scared of not being enough or not being able to help someone that I love. I get anxious at turning left or driving on the highway but I've never ran away from this idea of being older. I mean do I like that I am no longer the youngest kid on the block? Sometimes but age is not something that defines me either. I was talking to my daughter last night, this smart and mature kid of mine who will be twenty when I'm forty and that makes me smile. She's young, her whole life in front of her. Life will take her on an adventure and she will learn how to pivot much like I did. I had a plan, sure. I was going to marry that boy and we were going to make blonde haired, blue eyed children. I was going to become a well known author and he was going to be in the Major Leagues. Looking back at that fairy tale now just makes me giggle but I'm so thankful for that beautiful piece of fiction. We were talking about love and, yes, how terrifying love can be. I ran for years away from love because I didn't understand it. That fairy tale? No, I never told him because it was silly to me even then, even when I wanted it. I never gave him much while he was willing to hand himself over to me. Then, in my life, that fairy tale wasn't something real to me but today I understand how love is. In that fairy tale, I loved him and in my nightmare I lost him. I have no regrets. I needed that fear of love back then to truly embrace it later in my life. I needed to keep my distance and not speak my truth for all those years. While there is something poetically lovely about love, there is something just as breath taking in our fear. It is in fearing love that we are able to give ourselves completely to it.
It's tough being a teenager. I remember not really knowing what was going around me. I was supposed to know exactly what I wanted and where I was going at an age where life hadn't taught me anything. I loved my parents and my siblings and my friends. I went to school. I had a boyfriend... but all of these things made me feel some sort of strange expectations that I didn't want. I was supposed to figure out who I was but be exactly who people told me to be. So, I learned how to run away from all of them. I didn't want to listen to them. I didn't want to love them. I didn't want to fail them and that was where the fear came in. I didn't understand then that in their expectations for me lied their love and their hope that I would become successful. I couldn't understand this overwhelming feeling came from a place of love. As I sit here today, seven days away from another year gone and find myself stuck in these memories, I smile at the stubbornness of who I once was and how she still very much with me, how I see that same stubborn girl in the child I created. She is so very loved but I see the same struggle within her, too. Love chases her and I hope she can be caught much quicker than I was. I told her as best as I could that allowing yourself to love, to truly love, is one of the scariest things you can ever do but do it. Look at that person and love them with everything you got. Let yourself be swept up in that fairy tale, embrace the magic even if just for a moment of that euphoria. I could see in her eyes the fear of that thought. What if it doesn't work? What if that person doesn't love you back? What if you plan this life and it doesn't work? All these questions I asked myself and my answer was to run as far away as I could for as long as I could... until the day love in its truest form was placed on my chest, bloody and covered in mucus, in the form of my tiny crying baby girl, the one who now sits so tall in front of me. Love comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, in a million different ways. Sometimes it is covered in rose petals and other times it hides itself in our deepest fears. So I told her if it doesn't work out, you hold tight to the smiles it did give you. I told her if they don't love you back, there was beauty in the way her heart did. I told her if it doesn't work out, there was still joy in the moments that did.
She asked me last night why that fairy tale boy and I didn't work out, assuming that I never really cared for him to begin with. I suppose that's fair because I've always shrugged this boy off when I've talked about him. So, last night when she asked, I was honest. I did believe in that fairy tale with all my heart. Him and I had so many conversations about our future but it was him that did all of the talking. I just sat back and dreamed them up for us. He was my first love, the first time I ever had feelings for someone that strongly. He scared the shit out of me for lack of better of words. He would smile and I would swoon which would make me put up another wall. He would kiss me and I would fall and I hated the way he made my knees shake... because I loved him and I hated the fact that I loved him. I was terrified if he knew that I loved him, he would walk out that door and I would be left devastated. All I could see was the end of us. I never let us begin. She asked me last night why we didn't make it. I spent too many years trying to figure out why we ended the way we did, why life had to go so terribly wrong for us. The older I get, the more perspective I gain. What I now understand is that we never had a chance and it no longer makes me sad. There was a strength that we both needed to stand together and we were never going to be strong together. When I came home from college, he no longer saw me and I could not stand the way he felt. We were never going to be strong enough to get over that hate, that fear. All of these things I know now, understand now. What that fear taught me then was how to love now. If life had worked out differently, if me and this fairy tale boy had managed to pull it out, then my precious daughter would have not been sitting across that table from me. Sure, I might have those blue eyed, blonde haired children right now but they wouldn't be her. I smiled at her and told I would trade a million fairy tale hims for her every time. She taught me how to love without being scared of it. Because of her, I was able to find my husband, to truly allow myself to love a man without fearing that he was going to leave or hurt me. Perhaps, my mother was right. Maybe that fairy tale boy was the one that got away but looking at where I am, I'm glad I let him go.
Love didn't have to be this frightening thing but for me it was for a long time. I understand my kid's battle with it. I get why it's so hard to allow yourself to be that open with people. I was that closed off, blocked off girl for a long time in my life especially when my kid was younger. I had to be. I wasn't just protecting myself. I was protecting her tiny little heart, too. I remember when my husband and I first started dating. I asked him what he wanted out of me. What was his goal in whatever we were doing? He told me he was all in, kid and dog and all. It was at that point I started taking the walls down with him. I saw the way he acted towards her and it warmed my heart. I felt the way he looked at me and I started to fall. It took a minute and he definitely had his struggles with me letting him in but once I did, it was a magical moment. I had never allowed myself to feel that way for anyone even the fairy tale boy though I loved him just as much. With my husband, I was able to tell him and show him and give to him parts of me that I never gave to anyone before. I was able to open up my heart and be honest with the way that I felt instead of telling him just what he wanted to hear. When I met my husband, I was a grown woman with a small child who had been taking care of herself for years. He was a man who had been on his own taking care of his father for a long time. We were two grown adults who knew exactly who we were, not two teenage kids with a world of expectations on our shoulders. Our love was steady and strong, at our own pace and flowing without restraints. The way he loves me has given me permission to love without guilt, without fear. He makes me want to love and she inspires me to give this love to everyone around me. I understand now why that fairy tale boy was so special. It was never because he was supposed to be my reality. The broken heart he left me with taught me the lovely parts of pain. In fear, there is beauty. In loss, there is a lesson. And in those both, there is always love there to embrace us. The older I get I understand more clearly the path that I have walked. And while some moments in my life have been too painful to think about, it is in those moments that I truly learned what love really is. When I accepted love as the only way to live my life, I became that fairy tale. I just changed the characters.