Honey Off a Thorn

I will need to be careful, with this one.

Know what else I know? I know it’s one thing to tell yourself that you’re going to tread lightly, and quite another to pull it off.

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Let’s walk, shall we? Let’s open ALL the cans of worms.

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We’re going to allow ourselves to get in knee-deep today, even though we know it’s not such a great idea. And as soon as it becomes painfully obvious where we’re heading — we’re going to make a strategic retreat. We’re going to shake our own heads and swivel our own shoulders and say nope, actually, we want to go in THIS direction.

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I don’t know about you, but I haven’t ever had much luck with setting off in the right direction. Without, you know, spending a really rather significant amount of time getting intimately acquainted with the wrong one. Process of elimination, you know? Only in real life. There seems to be somewhat of a steep learning curve, in real life.

Some mornings I wake up thinking I can take on the world, and other times it takes me the better part of the day to talk myself into taking a shower. Today I woke up thinking (not for the first time) how hard it is not to romanticize a memory. How tempting it is to circle back, clutch it close.

I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about him. Why my thoughts have been straying back in that general direction — back across oceans too big and countries too wide and cities too bright.

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He is happy now. He loves again. And I am…something. I am becoming — in the way I knew I needed to, and in ways I didn’t know I needed to, too.

And yet. It is hard not to wonder, hard not to wish. What if I hadn’t been sick. What if I had been older. What if we’d lived in the same place; what if the pressure had been lifted. What if I hadn’t been so afraid. What if we’d known each other better. What if we’d been able to grow together. What if we’d met now. What if he hadn’t met her.

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You’re thinking that’s a pretty long list of what ifs. You’re thinking we should probably cut our losses and turn around now, aren’t you? Yeah. I know. I agree with you, but there’s that quote about going all the way with what matters.

I can’t talk about love. What I know about love is so new, so fragile.

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I can, however, speak to what it’s like to have absolutely no logic where someone else is concerned. I didn’t have it then; I don’t have it now. Needless to say.

Human beings are funny. We’re always in such a hurry to prove to everyone else that we’re over the people who make up our past. But what if we don’t ever really get over them? What if we don’t ever really manage to leave them behind? What if we just found a way to sit with the fact that feelings soften and sharpen and shift all the time. Slam into us sometimes, and slip away at others?

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I don’t miss him all the time, every day. I go weeks, sometimes several in a row, without thinking very carefully about him, and then all of a sudden there will be a week where I feel close to him again. Silly, when he’s just about as far away as could be.

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I’ll mention him in a story I’m telling without really realizing it. I’ll read something so perfectly poignant, and something still shoved way back inside will splinter. I’ll hear his voice in my head when I’m unsure, just the barest breath of rolling R’s, and I’ll feel the world right again. Steady. I’ll go somewhere just so impossibly beautiful, and I’ll wish he were there to see it too.

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I’ll watch the steam rising from my tea and I’ll wonder about England, about France. About here, about there. I’ll wonder if he holds her knee when he drives from place to place. I’ll wonder if his mother loves her, if his father teases her. I’ll wonder if she’s exactly what he needed. I’ll wonder if all is as it should have been. I’ll wonder what he cooks for her. What he calls her. Whether — eep — he loves her as he did meWhether the two of them will get married.

It helps to look around at my mountains and my moss-lined streets. To consider the whole year I had in New York. Would I be the woman I am now, without having had those experiences?

No. No, but he would have loved you anyway. Loved you regardless.

It doesn’t matter, though, because I didn’t believe him. Couldn’t, believe him. Couldn’t or wouldn’t — I’m still not sure which.

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There is neither a clear way forward nor an obvious way back when I think about him. That’s what I wind up thinking, every time I think about him.

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“The heart surrenders everything to the moment. The mind judges and holds back.” -Ram Dass

“The way to love someone is to lightly run your finger over that person’s soul until you find a crack, and then gently pour your love into it.” -Keith Miller

“How slow life is, how violent hope is.” -Guillaume Apollinaire

“Love: It will kill you and save you, both.” -Lauren Oliver

“The body shuts down when it has too much to bear; goes its own way quietly inside, waiting for a better time, leaving you numb and half alive.” -Jeanette Winterson

“Personally, I’m a mess of conflicting impulses — I’m independent and greedy and I also want to belong and share and be a part of the whole. I doubt that I’m the only one who feels this way. It’s the core of monster making, actually. Want to make a monster? Take the parts of yourself that make you uncomfortable — your weaknesses, bad thoughts, vanities, and hungers — and pretend they’re across the room. It’s too ugly to be human. It’s too ugly to be you. Children are afraid of the dark because they have nothing real to work with. Adults are afraid of themselves.” -Richard Siken

“I think I need an instruction manual three moons thick so I can learn where to put my knees when I watch the news.” -E.A.

“So miss him. Send him some love and light every time you think about him, then drop it. You’re just afraid to let go of the last bits of him because then you’ll be really alone, and you’re scared to death of what will happen if you’re really alone. But here’s what you’ve gotta understand. If you clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using right now to obsess about this guy, you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot – a doorway. And guess what the universe will do with the doorway? It will rush in and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed. So stop using that boy to block that door. Let it go.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

“I try, I do. I try and try.” -Richard Siken

“There is so much stubborn hope in the human heart.” -Albert Camus

“My grandfather always said that living is like licking honey off a thorn.” -Louis Adamic

“We’ve been married for 16 years. We’ve both gotten a bit rounder than we used to be, but what isn’t hotter has grown warmer. I have to admit I never really understood how growing older would be when I was younger. Let me see if I can explain what I mean. When I see my wife now, it’s like looking at a person in a time warp. She has a certain smile that takes me back to a memory of our honeymoon. There is a mischievous grin that puts me inside a moment when we were still dating. She has these little hairs that curl right below her ear that make me think of the first morning I woke up with her next to me. There are so many layers now; such a deep, wonderful complexity about how she makes me feel when I see her. Am I attracted to her? Oh, god, yes. No matter how we look now, I see her across all the years as a kind of gestalt vision of who she is and what she means to me. She is the most interesting and attractive person I’ve ever had in my life. No one else even comes a close second.” -The Most Beautiful Thing I Have Ever Read

“It seems we need someone to know us as we are — with all we have done — and forgive us. We need to tell. We need to be whole in someone’s sight: Know this about me, and yet love me. Please.” -Sue Miller

“If you want more love, love more. If you’re lonely, be there for someone. You get what you give in life.” -Julia Hofmann

“The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bee comes.” -Mark Nepo

“I have learned that when sadness comes to visit me, all I can do is say ‘I see you.’ I spend some time with it, get up, and say goodbye. I don’t push it away, I own it. And because I own it, I let it go.” -Carolina Zacaria

“He says: ‘I think she was afraid of happiness. It made her uncomfortable, like she didn’t know what to do. Or maybe,’ he paused, ‘maybe she couldn’t help herself. Sadness does so often become an addiction.’” -Unknown

“A hurt animal will bite any kind hand that tries to touch it and that’s the best way I can explain why it’s too late for you to decide to be sweet to me.” -Rebeka Anne

“If you have a past with which you feel dissatisfied, then forget it, now. Imagine a new story for your life and believe in it. Focus only on the moments when you achieved what you desired, and that strength will help you to get what you want.” -Paulo Coelho

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s what I want in life. It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s 4 a.m. and no one goes to bed. When you can’t remember exactly what you did, but you know you went, you saw, you laughed, you felt.” -Marina Keegan

“Do you remember what you were fighting for before all of this? Look at you now. Haven’t you heard? You became, you became, you became.” -A.Y.

“There is immeasurably more left inside than what comes out in words.” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“I notice you, I want to say. Even when no one else does, I do. I will.” -David Levithan

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{Hawthorne Bridge via @ngreener, Mount Hood via @studercinema, Crater Lake via @alex.mcintosh, Rowena Crest via @ngreener.}

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