Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.
I rifle through I Heart memories like an old card catalog.
Two years of stories read as the CliffsNotes of who I’ve become.
The confessions, some candid more than others, begin with the summer romance that broke my heart open to love again.
I think back to the gentlemen that followed.
The cocky surfer boy with an urge to “Netflix and chill.”
The fifty-something dude who transformed our date into a therapy session.
The cute firefighter I accosted on how to treat a lady.
The bartender, depressed over an ex, who excused himself mid-date to go home and watch movies – alone.
The chemical engineer with a well-planned first date sealed with a garlic and fish flavored kiss.
The single father who was just not the right fit.
The Argentinian lover.
The guy from EOS.
The pen pal I laid naked with in the hot springs of Big Sur.
The twenty-six-year-old I forgot to call back.
The man who’s become the love of my life.
And yet, past issues regarding love and partnership still show up.
Only this time with slightly adjusted façades, taking on different forms to test and see if I’m absolved of them.
The same voice that once told me in my single life that I may not find true love now whispers from the pit of my stomach that the man I am building a life with may look at me one day and tell me he’s done.
I swat the thoughts away like bloodsucking mosquitos. But they always come back.
That inner voice physically takes a hold on me.
My teeth clench, the left side of my body goes faintly numb, and my head gets so clouded with fear I become distracted.
As if my mind, body, and soul are holding its breath.
I am sick of being a slave to the negative.
I’ve hit rock bottom with my inner anxiety and have found a way to move on.
It happened over dinner.
As I carried a plate of roasted yams and salmon to the table, I locked eyes with my sweetheart as he looked up from his phone.
The feeling of pure love for this man rushed through my insides but then, moments later, the negative appeared.
Don’t get too cozy. He could leave you at any time!
But instead of fighting this terrible thought with a positive one, I accepted the worst case scenario just to feel what would happen.
And you know what? I knew I’d be ok.
I accepted this possible fate, understood the risk, and was able to move past it.
Compare it to bungee jumping.
There’s the possibility that when you step off the ledge, the cord will snap and you could die.
But you sign a waiver anyway because the experience itself can add excitement and joy to your life.
I finally signed my waiver and now I can live in this partnership without the nagging fear of being left tearing away at my heart.
After I graduated from college, my mom shared this piece of advice.
She said, “The best gift you can give yourself is learning to be by yourself.”
I love this quote.
It creates a wonderful practice that we all have the ability to do.
Because no matter what happens to our family, friends, and loved ones, we have ourselves.
The fact is, the scariest and most lovable person of all is the one we can’t escape.
But learning to face our personal fears and anxieties can turn out to be the greatest escape of all.
I believe the darkness has a purpose. It resurfaces until we are angry enough to throw it away for good.
The fear, anxiety, and hurt all stem from love, after all.
Maybe it’s the echo of our past broken hearts.