To the Poems We Thought Were Ours

Do you ever ask yourself why it’s so hard to admit the truth out loud? Why it’s so hard to tell someone how you feel, even if you know that deep down, that’s all that you really want to do? I think about this a lot. I’ve had multiple conversations recently, discussing the times when we encounter people or experiences that walk into our lives and start to fill in these blanks that we didn’t even know existed; finding those who match us, invite us into powerful discussion, and then for whatever reason, leave.

We keep asking ourselves where we went wrong, what we could have done better, or how we could have changed so someone might stay. What a silly thought! We shouldn’t change so that someone stays; we should rejoice in the fact that we don’t have to change in order to find the right person, time or place. Instead of asking someone to show up for us, we should take a step back and show up for ourselves.

One of my favorite poets, Sarah Kaye, does a piece called, “When Love Arrives”. It’s this genius poem about what we perceive love to be, who we perceive love to be, and what we perceive love to be. It starts out,

I knew exactly what love looked like – in seventh grade

Even though I hadn’t met love yet, if love had wandered into my homeroom, I would’ve recognized him at first glance.

She goes on, with her friend Phil, to talk about all of the times they thought they had met love, and then love disappeared. And the first time I heard this, my heart was broken, and I felt like in all of the world, I had stumbled upon this poem that had been written just for me. Because that’s what love feels like, right? Like it was a story written just for you? And when love slaps you in the face and you don’t know your friend anymore, or the boy that used to send you flowers, or the older family member who can no longer remember your name, you feel like that too, is only happening to you. You feel ashamed, that you couldn’t have prevented it, couldn’t have controlled it. You feel like in the entire world, full of billions of people living out stories you don’t even know, your story is the one whose ending got a bad chapter.

Here’s the thing. Your story is still being written. My story is still being written. There are chapters and sequels to the stories we love most, to the goodbyes that we didn’t see coming, to the tragedies and the weddings, and the storybook pages that come out somewhat similar to someone else’s. We’ve got an author with an abundance of endings, and even more new beginnings.

And yet, we rush. We rush to see what’s on the last page, in Chapter Thirty-Two. Sometimes we go back and re-read Chapter Ten so we can find the pages that could have shown us what was coming next.

So I go back to Sarah Kaye and Phil, and I listen again. I hear,

But love also cries.
And love will tell you you are beautiful and mean it, over and over again. “You are beautiful.”
When you first wake up, “you are beautiful.”
When you’ve just been crying, “you are beautiful.”
When you don’t want to hear it, “you are beautiful.”
When you don’t believe it, “you are beautiful.”
When nobody else will tell you, “you are beautiful.”
Love still thinks you are beautiful.
But love is not perfect and will sometimes forget, when you need to hear it most, you are beautiful, do not forget this.

Love is not who you were expecting, love is not who you can predict. 

This time I realize that this poem was in fact, not written just for me. This poem was written for every story, for every sad goodbye and surprising hello. This poem was written when a girl met a boy who had a story with similar characters, and together they discovered that their stories were not yet over.

So when you want to put down the book, keep reading.

When you want to skip ahead and find out if every bit of what you’ve expected will prove to be true, take a breath.

Thank your author for the chance to keep finding new chapters, for the hints and the detours, and nights you spend wondering if your story is the only one without a clear ending. Because you’re in the process of showing up for yourself each time you decide that your story has worth, and goodness, and freedom.

When you feel alone, when you feel that you’ve lost touch with your own steps, remember that there is probably a girl on the other side of the country, a boy down the road, and a child who has not yet questioned, “What did I do to get here? How will my story turn out?”

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