I know what it is to fall in love.

I have been in love, although I have never been romantically in love. Some may say this is an oxymoron. Not I.

I know what it is to love the entirety of someone, to be in danger of adoring their flaws as well as their strengths.  I know what it is to latch onto every little laugh, the way she says her sentences backwards, or how her hair gets frozen in these brittle spiral ringlets because she uses too much hairspray.  I know what it is to recognize the smell of her clothes, and to use that skill to decipher which identical jacket is hers and which is mine.

I know what it is to desire to share the rest of your life with someone, and for that desire to be reciprocated.

I have felt all the intensity of love.  I have known what it is like to physically shake and shiver when having a deep conversation that cuts past all those boundary fences I have set up for myself and navigate around in polite conversation, cutting to the bone and casting off the moorings, daring to be vulnerable because I hope with a fair certainty that I will be accepted anyway.  I know what it is like to laugh myself silly until I’m crying for no good reason, often over something utterly ridiculous like bouncing cat videos we found on the internet page sporting a button that says ‘take me to a useless website.’  I know what it’s like to trust someone with my life, even when I’m scared silly, and then hold the other end of the rope while she does the same.  I know what it’s like to remember every tiny detail about her life that she’s ever told me–like the name of her dad’s best friend who lives all the way across the country and made a million frozen meals when her siblings were born.  I know what it’s like to share some the most sacred moments of my life with someone and to hold them like a secret, close to my chest, shining brightly somewhere deep inside my heart.  I know what it’s like to have some of the best adventures of your life with someone, to see my world expand along with hers.  I know what it’s like to have sunshiny afternoons filled with such delirious happiness that I can’t imagine a greater joy.  I know what it’s like to look at someone and see the other half of yourself, same but different.  I know what it’s like to look at her as she stands there in the bare-bulb half light, caught in a mischievous, sassy moment, and think, wow, she’s just so dang beautiful.

I know what it is to be betrayed.

I know what it is to watch another person fall out of love with me, and deny it to myself the entire time.  I know what it is to trust someone, even as she goes behind my back, even as her soul grows shadows and she starts keeping secrets hidden there.  I know what it’s like to have someone embark on the trip we planned together since we were fourteen–without me.  I know what it’s like to not say anything, to keep my mouth shut as the stab in my heart just keeps on getting deeper and deeper, bleeding out on the inside, hemorrhaging.  I know what it’s like to realize that I’ve been replaced.  I know what it’s like when the truth slaps me in the chest, words I’d never thought I’d read emptying my world of all comfort and leaving me numb and dazed, staggering where I stand.  I know what it’s like not to feel, because I can’t believe my world is crumbling about my ears.   I know what it’s like to hear the definition of the word ‘us’ change–it used to mean ‘you and me’ and now it means ‘you and him.’  I know what it’s like to realize that she decided that it was time for her world to leave mine–that her world got bigger as mine stayed the same and she didn’t share it with me.  I know what it is to not hear about her first real road trip experience, her first precarious college explorations.  I know what it’s like to have those things hidden from me, to realize that I am no longer trusted with the shallowest and deepest parts of her heart, although there seems to be handfuls of others that are.  I know what it is to only know what’s going on in her life through Instagram and Facebook and hate what I see.  I know what it’s like to cry and beg and pray and feel like I’m going utterly crazy and not be able to tell her.  I know what it’s like to sit down and talk to her in that coffee shop where all the hard conversations seem to happen, unburden myself, and see the tears in her eyes, and realize that she has nothing to say, nothing to contradict.  I know what it’s like to feel an irreplaceable hole fall out inside me, and for it to take months to get used to its presence.  I know what it’s like to truly grieve for the first time in my life, to feel like my physical body is going to implode, to feel a burning inside my chest, to want to scream or break something or tear my hair out to alleviate this awful, awful tension. I know what it is to walk around and have everything remind me of her–those shoes, that laugh, her hair, that song, that tone, that way of saying things. I know what it’s like to feel that others sympathize with me for a while and always listen to my chest-heaving ramblings but after a few conversations feel at a loss and therefore cope by adopting the reasoning that I really should have gotten over this by now.

I know what it is to lose one of the brightest lights in your life.

So you see, I know what it is to fall in love.  I know almost the entire range of what love means in this broken world.  I know what it is to be in love, and remain in love when you’re the only one left.  It’s an awful, terrible thing.  It is a thing that everyone understands, yet cannot fully understand in each other.  It makes love a very, very lonely thing sometimes, darkness shot through with bewildering, blinding fragments of swirling memory days.

And yet, there’s this thing… this thing I call desperate hope.  This thing that I can’t seem to get rid of, even if I wanted to. I have discovered that I cannot fall out of love.  Even when there have been brief moments where I have wanted to, I have found that I simply cannot.  I am glad for this–it is heroic, even when it is hard.  Although it be trying, it never be ugly. I have found a capacity to love in myself that I didn’t even know existed.  This cannot all come from me–there is a He who gives me help.  And with Him, I have found that I can bear existing in a one-way relationship, because I have this gray, flat, misty thing that is indeed hope, although it doesn’t come with all these bubbly, anticipatory feelings that it once did. It is a solid, grim, steadfast thing, like a horse gone through battle, slogging away through swampy sludge.  It keeps going, and there is a surging strength in its stride.  It isn’t pretty, but it is there, nonetheless.  Home is somewhere through that mist, it has to believe it.  Otherwise, what’s the point of keeping on?  This hope says pray.  This hope says give.  This hope says be who you’ve always been, even when it’s just you that remains the same.  This hope says be truth, be light, be love.  And if you wait long enough, eventually your love will wake up, look around at the mud around their feet, see the fake shadow of who they’ve been trying to be, and turn around and come running back, pell-mell.  Running home, because that’s what I’ve always been.

I have been in love.  I am still in love.  And in love I forever will be.