To Anyone Who Has Lost Themselves:

Love — be it romantic, self, or otherwise — is rascally. A few undiligent weeks and you can lose yourself, parts of you breaking off in pieces as the sun rises and sets. You can’t go on cruise control, ignoring the shifts and starts and stops that the cultivation of love requires. You must be focused, diligent, present, otherwise it can slip away not all at once, but slowly, until you wake up disoriented, empty, confused.

This is how love breaks. Not in one swift motion, but tiny fracture by tiny fracture until it amounts to a crash. We don’t see it coming until it’s screeching at us, almost too late, giving only a small warning to change course.

You can fall out of love with your partner this way. You can fall out of love with yourself this way. You can fall out of love with your life this way. With your friends. With your family. With your routines. With your passion. With your work. Time has a way of slipping off, never feeling too late until it is. And, love is a speeding train — no matter the form love takes — and if you don’t hold onto it, if you don’t watch yourself in it, it can leave you behind, breathless, uncertain, lost.

We can’t let days speed past without giving them thought, because this is the way we become lost. This is how we run in circles, because we haven’t stopped long enough to find a direction. Our life can run away with or without us attached to it and, while it seems we are the driver and conductor of whatever exists in our lives, anyone with life experience knows this isn’t the truth.

Life moves on without us. Time goes whether we’re spending it wisely or not. There is a neutrality to the way of nature — it blooms and grows and dies without our help. Sometimes love is so swift in its transformations, in its growth, that if we don’t pay attention we could miss it, charging ahead down a path that’s leading us further from where we want to be going.

I do this thing when life gets difficult where I abandon myself. Like I shed the part of myself that needs cultivation and go into survival mode, go into Safe Mode with limited capability, limited access. I lose belief and trust in myself. I react, and harshly, irritatingly, like any request put upon me is too much. I dream of places I could escape to where my name and identity could change easily, where I could find a way to live with the chaos in my mind by becoming someone new. I know wherever you go, there you are, but I’m very good at reinvention. I can convince myself I am anew. I can don a new life perhaps too adeptly. I am scarily good at fleeing the scene of a life I can no longer be bothered to tolerate.

And so, the abandonment of myself becomes the abandonment of everything in my life, including the love and the good and the light. Some may call it depression, but it feels more self-inflicted than that. I become almost comfortable cloaked in negativity, in sadness, in my harsh reactive thoughts to others, in being the one who was wronged over and over again. To stop loving myself is to come home to what I remember, what I know, what feels familiar. To cave into myself — introspective and self-analyzed and caught in the purgatory between thinking and doing — is the safest I ever feel. There’s a perverse joy I experience when I don’t allow myself to be loved by anyone, even myself, even when I’m surrounded by people who dare to love me.

It’s not pride that propels me to admit this. It’s purification, to empty this out of me so I no longer have to bear the burden of my self-inflicted suffering, to somehow abruptly halt the emotional gymnastics I go through to keep myself small and unloved and unhappy. To be alone and to belong only to a self I dislike is like pulling on a comfortable robe — safe, warm, easy.

This is to say I understand how love can easily break, how to lose sight of a life in spite of it being right in front of you. Because, you can live without living. You can love without feeling. You can feel without letting the feeling hit you deep. It may seem like contradictions, but anyone who has been drowning in plain sight understands the way opposites can still be true at the same time.

I used to soothe this melancholia, this heaviness with alcohol. I’m trying not to use that method anymore and sometimes it feels silly to try that, because alcohol is a culturally-approved means of escape. I get lost inside my own mind when I can’t escape from it, when I don’t distract myself from myself. Sometimes I think I should just be “normal” and let my life follow in the flow of others, to stop swimming against a tide that offers no tangible reward for doing so. I think, in general, I’m wondering why I do all the things I do, why my story keeps climaxing at the same point.

Turning thirty has not been the “no fucks given” adventure I was told it would be. I have been inside myself for six months, questioning everything and coming up with no answers, no solutions, further and further from my own guidance and insight. Life has slipped from me, tiny piece after tiny piece. It’s cracked, fragmented, ready to crash. That can happen to me, but I think while I’m in it I forget that I like to rise from the ashes of my own doing. I like to watch something burn in my life and see it purify me.

So, I recommit to myself and to love. I find a steady footing again, even if it’s a few rungs lower on the ladder than I remember. I start to climb, again, because to stop climbing is the way to die without dying. I look for love again in unlikely places, in smaller moments, and I remember all the things I forgot while I was someone else for a while, inhabiting my body but not acknowledging my soul. I reach for the things I remember bring me joy and hold them up to the light to see their purity. Is this still good for me? Have I outgrown this? And I stay gentle with myself, because that’s the only way. In a world that wants hardness, I will continue to fray my edges, to remember to keep them soft and smooth out of necessity, out of strength.

And, however many times a love — for myself, for another, for others, for anything — fragments and cracks, I will find a way back to whole. The whole may look different, come formed in a package I don’t recognize, but I will know when it’s whole based on the familiar grooves of myself. The pieces will fit together, somehow, eventually. This is how it goes. It’s the space between knowing it’s happening and waiting for it to happen where the mind can run away, a train off tracks, dangerously close to burning up in a way that might take too long to come back from. That is the tricky space. That is the expanse to take great care with.

That is the divide I am at now. So, I wait.


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