before you have a baby

I’m not a parent. And I have no plans of ever becoming one. But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the concept.

And I have one question for those considering bringing another living, breathing, tiny human into this world: Will you love it?

You could have a boy. Or you could have a girl. He could be short. She could be tall. Attractive or homely. Smart or slow. Quick-tempered or easy-going. You could have a child who’s mentally handicapped. Who suffers from anxiety. Or multiple personalities. You could have a child who is blind. Or deaf. Your child could be gifted. A prodigy. A genius. You could have a boy who likes boys. A girl who likes girls. A boy who wants to be a girl. You could have a child born with no clear gender at all. You could have a child born with extra toes. Or one eye. Or no hair. Or terrible, incurable diseases. You could have a great athlete. A talented artist. A beauty queen. Your child could be perfect in your eyes.

Or they could be anything but.

And you have to think for a moment before creating that new person: Will you love it?

Now I don’t mean: Will you raise it. Teach the child right from wrong. Impart your beliefs, your prejudices, your religion. Rearing up an immaculate version of yourself who thinks the way you do, makes the same choices you do, never disappoints you. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about what happens when your freckled-face 13-year-old tells you he’s known he was gay since before he knew he was supposed to be straight. I’m talking about what happens when your all-star quarterback wants to go into theater. Or your Bible-school daughter wants to pursue Islam or Buddhism or atheism.

What do you do then? Will you love them?

Will you say Go on; explore the depths of your own soul. Find what makes you feel most honest, most joyful, most true. 

Or do you call them a disgrace and declare they are no longer welcome under your roof. Do you blame them for making these “choices.” Choices like seeds planted in their souls. Choices that have been growing in them and with them and because of them. Choices that are tucked into the farthest corners of their being. Choices they have no choice in.

Will you love them?

There are no qualifiers for being a parent. But maybe there should be just this one: Unconditional love.

If you are not capable of it, I ask that you think hard before having a baby.

Because we all deserve to be loved.

No matter who we are.

 

love means never having to say you’re sorry

The summer semester before my senior year in college I took a course called Sociology in Film. That’s where I was first introduced to Love Story, a 1970s romantic drama about two college co-eds falling in love. I don’t remember many specifics from the movie, but what I do remember is a line from the closing scene. The main character tells his estranged father: “Love…love means never having to say you’re sorry!”

And that line plagued me for years. Because to me, it didn’t make any sense.

I.

Growing up I was a momma’s girl. I bonded with my mom from a young age, considered her one of my best friends throughout my adolescence and even into my 20s.

But that relationship wasn’t without turmoil. Mom suffered from depression. And when it swept up over her—all sudden and ferocious and overpowering—she’d shut herself in her room for days at a time.

In a deeply personal letter she wrote my sister and me when we were teenagers, she apologized for all those dark moments.

And I need to say I’m sorry I couldn’t be all those things that babies and toddlers’ walking falling legs desire… I’m sorry I could only be me and half the time I had no clue who that “me” even was.

That was my mother. She was the first love of my life. And this was not our only “I’m sorry.”

II.

Then there was First David. He was the boy I fell irrevocably in love with in the way only a sixteen-year-old heart knows how to do. He was the boy who promised me the world and the stars and forever. He was the boy I let have every part of me. And then he got drunk and stole those same intimate parts away from other girls on the side.

For six years First David and I bobbed and wove inside our ring of relationship. We threw punches and jabs like prizefighters—always waiting for a bell that was never going to ring. Each round ended with no victor, but plenty of apologies.

That was the second love of my life. “I’m sorry” was sewn into its seams.

III.

Later I found Second David. A quick-tempered Oklahoma transplant with a spotted past, Second David was a challenge in the same way growing a garden on a patch of earth that gets too much direct sunlight is a challenge. He was defiant and obstinate and volatile, but I loved him just the same.

Five years later, we’re still together. And more impressively, still happy. That’s not to say it’s all roses and rainbows these days. We have plenty of hunker-down, fist-shaking, voice-trembling fights. But when they’re over, we look each other in the eye and say we’re sorry.

That was the third love of my life. And “I’m sorry” helps us keep it together.

This is why the line from Love Story haunted me for so long, why it didn’t make sense through the lens of my first three loves.

IV.

But then there’s also my fourth love, my Amy.

When I was in college, I got back together with First David after one of his many infidelity escapades. Knowing none of my friends would support my decision, I lied about it. I lied about where I was going and who I was seeing and what I was doing.

After a few weeks, the buried truth bubbled its way to the surface, leaving all my poor choices and deceit fully exposed. Some of my friends shunned me; some yelled at me; some stopped talking to me.

But not Amy.

Amy had been my closest companion since middle school. We met in sixth grade but didn’t really hit it off until seventh. By the end of eighth, we were inseparable. Our friendship survived high school—even with her as a popular cheerleader and me as a reclusive nerd—, dorming together our freshman year of college, and the many years of self-discovery that followed. We never had a single fight, an argument, or even a tough moment of differing opinions.

When I tried to apologize to her for lying about reuniting with First David, she cut me off before the words could even begin to come out of my mouth.

“You don’t have to say it,” she said with empathy and kindness. “I already know.”

<3.

Looking back on it now, I realize that never having to say “I’m sorry” isn’t about not screwing up. It isn’t about loving someone so much that you never hurt them, that you never let them down. It’s about understanding someone enough, trusting someone enough, loving someone enough, that those explanations are simply not needed.

Love is real. It’s flawed. There are mess-ups and break-ups and make-ups. Some loves need apologies. And that’s okay.

But the fourth love of my life was different.  The fourth love of my life was Amy. And thanks to her, the words from Love Story finally make sense.

 

This piece was crafted as part of YeahWrite.me‘s Summer Series Silver Lounge. Thank you to three incredible bloggers (Meg of Pigspittle, Ohio, Tienne of The Silver Leaf Journal, and Rowan of Textwall) who provided invaluable feedback and pushed this post–and this blogger–to a stronger place.

on epic love

She looked out her window and said “Speak from the heart.”
So I read her my lines. I told her my part.
I said “I’m not broken.” I said “I’m not lost.
I’ve not yet been trampled. But believe me, I’ve fought.”

And her eyes didn’t blink as she started to speak.
“I hear your voice quiver. Your smile is so weak.
You pull at your hair. You tug at your ears.
You sit on your hands and you laugh through the tears.”

“What do you feel when the silence gets loud?
What do you fear? What rains from your cloud?”
And I repeated those words. Without making a sound.
Caught up somewhere between stoic and proud.

How do you explain what it feels like to break?
When your body is hollow from a pain you can’t shake.
When you wake from your nightmare to find that it’s real.
How do you begin to explain how that feels?

And so she repeated, “Speak from the heart.”
And I nodded and chuckled. “So where do I start?”
I told her our story. It was love. It was right.
I told her our troubles. Every treacherous fight.

I told her you broke me. I thought I was gone.
And day-by-day passed and I could not move on.
And years have gone by and you follow me still.
Haunting my dreams and my thoughts and my will.

How do you go from love to regret?
I wanted you so; now I’d die to forget.
Your love was a curse. A sore. A disease.
I’m infected with you. How I long to be free.

And what she said next, caught me off guard.
“Do you not see just how lucky you are?
We all spend our lives in search of a spark.
A moment to light up a lifetime of dark.”

“Your love was a firework. Your love was a flare –
Bursting with fury and heat through the air.
And of course in a moment, all that remained
Was the echoes of passion and smoke, but no flame.”

“And now you feel hollow. And now you’re alone.
But the beauty is that you went to the show.
You saw your world light up. You felt your heart fly.
You heard the explosion as you lit up the sky.”

“Your love, it was beautiful. Your love, it was true.
And the pain that it caused even time can’t undo.
But don’t wish for a moment to leave it behind.
Because that love that has cursed you, I can’t wait to find.”

write amuck

the house that love built

Weren’t we supposed to love each other? Weren’t we supposed to rub noses and dance in our underwear?

What happened to us? To forever and ever? To first and always? To brighter skies and better days?

We took turns tearing it down. Ripping apart the house that love built nail by nail. Shingle by shingle.

Maybe we were angry. Or lost. Maybe we were scared. Maybe we were even brave. But before we knew it, we were broken. We were broken beyond repair.

Scars grew around our wounds. Twisted like ivy. Heavy as an anchor. And so we sank together to the bottom of the sea.

At the end, I looked at you and us and yawned. I looked at the past and the future and winced. So I called you up. And I let you go.

Weren’t we supposed to love each other? We did. To rub noses and dance in our underwear? We did that too.

Then we lit our love on fire and watched it burn to the ground.

But from the ashes, something else grew. Not for us. No, no, no. We were long gone.

But among the wreckage and the mess, the smoke and the  glowing embers, I learned a lot about love. I learned how to give. How to fall apart. How to hold back while still letting go. I learned love is neither a battle or a war. It does come easy. But it’s always hard work. I learned that even pain is beautiful. That the good memories are forever worth the bad.

There were six years. Many fights. Endless regrets. But I walked away with my heart in tact. And l have learned to love again.

love, it takes all kinds

There are people who marry for money. And I think they’re in love. They love security. They love a lifestyle. They love comfort.

And there are people who marry for looks. They’re in love too. They love beauty. They love watching others stare. They love showing off.

There are people who love for stability. Because it’s easy. Some for simplicity. Others for complication.

Love is not right or wrong. Not weak or strong. Love is precious. No matter why we fall, our love is perfect. Love is always perfect.