I had assumed that because I'm balls-deep into my thirties that I wouldn't have to deal with the agony of growing pains. I thought I had left those unbearable nights lying in bed with every part of my body aching because each one of my cells decided to work overtime to build me in my pre-teens. I thought that I wouldn't have any more nights lying in my bed, tears pooled in my eyeballs, willing my body to just shut down because that would hurt so much less than the heat radiating in my knees and what felt like my shins being pulled apart.
I clearly had been mistaken, because then January 2017 happened. The first day of this year was spent like the first days of the previous six years... Snuggled on one end of the couch with my husband on the other end. I gazed at him just as much that day as I did the first day I met him. I watched his face and imagined what it would look like when he got older. I listened to him talk about whatever was playing on the telly and imagined what it was going to be like three days from that moment. I closed my eyes and willed every part of me to remember what it felt like to have this person I'd been in love with for what seems like forever so close to me. In the darkness of my thoughts I sifted through sixteen years of plans, dreams, memories, and emotions.
The second day of the year was a flurry of excitement. Our house was full of people who were helping fill a gigantic truck with all of the things I had come to know as OURS. Books and art and records and dishes. Our entire life had been reduced to boxes labeled either "Dane" or "Danie." All the memories I had spent the previous night mulling over had been carefully packed into boxes that had no way of indicating all the years we'd spent loving their contents beyond the clumsy notes written on their sides.
And then we drove. During the drive I snuggled my puppy and imagined all the possibilities that we were driving towards. I organized and reorganized the plans and thoughts in my head. I reveled in the excited confidence that I was certain I would experience once the drive had finished. I smiled to myself as I imagined all the things that I would do, watch, listen to, and eat. In that moment I was astronomically proud of the strength that I believed I had built within myself to wade through this mess that we were driving towards. I anticipated no tears, no drawn out dramatics, and no pain.
And then the fourth happened. I woke up and immediately lost every tiny speck of courage that I had been clutching onto. It was six in the morning, chubby flakes of puffy snow were falling all around us, the air smelled of all the fireplaces that had been lit the previous night, and I was holding him and hoping that it was cold enough outside that our bodies would freeze together and I'd have just a little more time with him. When he got in the truck I watched him. I saw every move he made as he situated himself to drive away from me. I knew them before he did them, and knew that he was gone, but had I secretly hoped that he'd come out and hug me just one more time. Hoped that he would wrap the arms I spent my entire life pining after around me and place one more kiss on my forehead. But then he drove away and I immediately began to sob heavy, marble-sized tears into the snow. I waited, hoping he would pull back around the corner. I waited and cried for twenty minutes, thinking that maybe he got lost and might still be coming. I cried until I felt the thin glaze of moisture begin to freeze in salty sheets on my face. I waited until I realized that he wasn't coming back. He made his decision and left me.
Once I remembered that I had legs that were functional, I waded through the snow back into my house and laid on my bed and sobbed for hours... and the hours turned into a day... and then that day fell into weeks, which turned into a month. The agony that I would come to experience was like nothing I had ever known in my life. I would spend days huddled in blankets, begging for the pain to dull however it could. Praying that the hurt that my heart was feeling would shift to a toothache or a stomachache or a goddamn stab wound. I would have taken anything over feeling like my actual heart was dying.
But over the past several weeks, I've realized that it wasn't dying. Parts of it were shifting and growing to take the shape of my new heart. The heart that I have spent years wishing that I had the strength to accept. The heart that cares more about me than everyone else. The heart that I have now decided to begin falling in love with above anything or anyone else. My heart is becoming my own.
For the first time in my life I am living alone and it's terrifying and exciting and relaxing and horrific all at once. I have begun to file away the past sixteen years of memories... Placing them carefully on high-up shelves that I have no intention of visiting on a regular basis. I am running the fingertips of my mind over every thought, insecurity, heartache, excitement, frustration, and expectation I've seen over the past several years and taking the pieces that I know I will need and putting the rest away so that I don't need to stare at them anymore.
Because I don't NEED to. I am finding myself growing in ways I had never anticipated. I am discovering new hopes and dreams and desires that I had never given so much as a second thought prior to now. I'm caring more for me and my heart than anybody else's. I'm filling my cup up first and not allowing myself to be afraid of what people will think if I don't immediately stop caring for me so that I can care for them. And it's exciting. I am so thrilled with the peace and empowerment that most of my days are filled with now.
Sure, there are still days that all I want to do is lie down and cry and replay every destructive memory I have. Days that I beg for a relief from the pain my heart is going through... But those days are coming less and less often, and I know that it is because my heart is finally getting to the place it needs to be for me. Not for anybody else. Just me.
I'm finally growing into the me that I was always meant to be. I'm growing and I plan to take advantage of it as often and with as much delight as I possibly can.