We used to love football. Dogs. Pizza.
We loved long nights out with friends. Silly things like Minions and Star Wars. We loved Mumford & Sons. Country music. We loved campfires and sweater-weather and the way the leaves changed in the fall.
We loved each other.
We shared a home. Hearts. Lives.
What do I do with those details now?
The small, sweet casualties of a love gone wrong?
Do I put them into storage with the rest of the boxes and pretend they never existed?
Will they always be tainted?
Do I still have a claim to any of it? Am I allowed to love what I left?
Am I brave enough?
I spent a year wandering and wondering, meeting moments like holidays and anniversaries and seasons that highlighted the new-ness of alone-ness.
Somehow in all the sadness I realized it wouldn’t be fair, not to me, not to the things I’ve loved, to let it all pass me by in a haze. Christmas was still Christmas. Music was still music. I might as well enjoy the hell out of it, and perhaps all the more deeply if I’ve made peace with the journey.
Really, there was no need to put away parts of my heart to protect the pieces that broke.
So I went to the concerts we both would’ve loved. I watched every game we could’ve seen side-by-side. I sang all our songs, then again on repeat. I ate our foods, drank our wine, and went to our beaches.
I loved it all the same, and, this time, for myself.
Of course, it’s one thing to say that I’ll keep loving music or sports or food. It’s another thing entirely to take ownership of the most complicated of relationships: the one I have with my body.
He used to love it. I used to love it. We used to enjoy each other, very thoroughly.
However, sometimes this relationship took a more disrespectful-dysfunctional-disordered turn.
Sometimes at my hand, obsessing with diets and thinness and comparison to other women.
Sometimes by his, with boundary-crossing, coercion, neglect, unfaithfulness, or, again, comparison to other women.
A mess, really.
Last week I traveled to the place I was most afraid to go— California, the home I last shared with my ex. A place our marriage was lost and I was found; a place I thought would be heart-wrenching and anxiety-ridden. Despite this, my return was healing in a way I hadn’t expected. Instead of pouring salt into the wounds of last summer, this coast gave me the chance to undo another knot in the net I’d been tangled in.
It was nothing profound, no lightening-bolt from heaven or words from above. Just a day at the spa with a sister, and something as simple as a massage.
Honestly, it seemed strange at first, but there I was, resting on the table, only ever having learned to poke and prod and despise my body for softness or stretch marks or rest days. There he was, stretching my shoulders wound-up from work and undoing more damage than he realized.
In the end I could not have been more grateful for that particular massage with that particular man. The whole experience was so incredibly respectful, it left me wondering— when was the last time anyone was this kind to my body? When was the last time I was this kind to my body?
I left that day and found myself enjoying the longer walks home, simply for the sake of enjoying the breeze. I kayaked and swam. I embraced the sun and my heartbeat and the movement of a body not being punished by exercise. I moved because I enjoyed it, and I moved because I deserved it.
At the end of the trip, I stepped one last time into the Pacific with nothing on but the water; waves crashing, the sand dark, the sky ink, the only light from the stars.
I was there, both found and lost again in the middle of it all. Surrounded by primal, incomprehensible, beautiful majesty, and somehow just simply a part of it.
And now I’m here, home again, and I’m taking it back.
Everything I loved, and everything I am, will be mine again.
Both for you and for me, and for the girl who found herself again in the sea.