All of a sudden, our ignorantly blissful relationship had a dark cloud hovering above.
You had a front row seat to the worst moments of my life.
I saw in your face that you weren’t ready to deal with this. To deal with me as I faced the death of my mother.
I saw your eyes searching mine. Looking for some sort of hint or sign of what you should be doing. We were just 22. Neither of us had experienced anything like this before.
“Just sit with me.” I said. “Be with me. I don’t need anything else.”
I assured you that there were no magic words. No gifts. No tricks.
You still said that you didn’t know what to do, so you just didn’t. You did nothing.
You didn’t come around me. You didn’t bring it up.
My favorite person in the entire world was dead, and then I felt you slipping away.
My partner. My friend. The person I trusted with my heart.
No, we didn’t have a big, grand love. We were the attractive, surfaced, life of the party sort of couple.
You were the best at making me laugh. That’s what led me to give you a chance in the first place.
I was certain I’d always be laughing. I needed that.
But, I guess your charm only turned on when the circumstances were ideal.
It was only a couple of weeks later when you formally made your exit.
Because you didn’t know how to deal with me. I deserved better, you said. Because you wanted to be there for me, but felt like you just couldn’t do it.
I never cried in front of you when she died. I didn’t try to bring it up.
I let you ignore it. I didn’t want to burden you.
How could this be happening? What was so terrible about me?
How was I not enough?
And so you left. And I remember feeling like a tsunami was enveloping me in its angry, relentless arms.
When she died, I was lonely. So detrimentally lonely. But, you were my glimmer of hope.
And then you weren’t. The loneliness was magnified as another major presence was pulled from my days. You.
As I grieved, and thought and tried to cope in every way possible, I saw that I didn’t need you.
I knew that we weren’t right together. I knew that I had fantasized a lot of our happiness because that’s what I needed.
I clung to you when all else was being pulled from me. You were someone to spit out “I love you”s when I needed them. That seemed like enough.
I thought maybe I had escaped unscathed. That you didn’t do that much damage.
I felt okay. My heart didn’t feel so broken. I didn’t really miss you. This seemed good.
But, after years of blind, self-destructive behavior, I learned how wrong I had been.
I had been living in this foreign haze.
As my healing continued and my mind started to clear, I realized what I had been doing.
Like a never-ending reel of film swimming through my brain, I saw the years dancing through my mind as clear as day.
I watched myself run from people. I watched myself try to give in. Try to share myself with someone, then immediately retreat.
The faces of those who tried to care for me over the years flashed in my head. I should have given them a chance. I should have found my old trust in others.
I had always been an innately trusting human. Too trusting at times. A bit naive, as well.
Now, I doubted everyone because I couldn’t imagine what they would see in me.
I didn’t let people get too close. I would try and then I would shut them out. I would hurt them.
My parents always told me to “know my worth,” but I couldn’t see it.
You blunted my ability to see who I really was.
You crushed my faith in other humans.
My trust had waned.
My heart froze and hardened.
Until I realized. Until I reflected. Until I looked in the mirror and saw myself for the first time in what seemed like forever.
I understood myself better than I ever had before.
I saw that my love for myself had crumbled into dust.
I realized that I subconsciously acquired these massive trust issues. This debilitating fear that forced me to shut down.
I had no idea it was even happening.
But, how sweet it was to see myself again.
To allow myself to soften.
To recognize that all men, or people, aren’t like you.
To understand that I wasn’t the problem.
That I wasn’t so horrible.
That it wasn’t my fault.
Through the destruction, I found this clarity. This love and respect for the person I am.
It’s what you had taken from me. I got it back and it’s better than ever.
Now, I not only know what I want in a partner, but I don’t feel pressured to find it.
I’m so happy. Content.
I wouldn’t wish my last few years on anyone, but the personal growth I have found is something I would have never found otherwise.
So, now, my friends. Anyone who has felt alone when all they needed was a little love.
For you, I wish for the heaviness in your heart to be lifted.
I want you to know that these moments. These hardships. They don’t define you.
You define you.
Other people’s choices are just that. And we have to rise to the occasion and allow ourselves to grow.
It took me so long to figure all of this out. Too long. But, yet it’s never too late.
You are enough.
See people for who they are. Trust your gut for better or worse.
And to you. The man who made all of this possible:
I thank you.
For helping me connect with the best version of myself I’ve ever known.
You gave me more than you’ll ever know.
You did not break me. You taught me what I needed to know to bloom and flourish.
To stand tall and find the sun. Like a sunflower.
Sending so much love to anyone who needs it now, and every day.
Emily Perrott, The Sunflower Child