I erased you from my memory. Until I was forced to look you in the eye–in a picture I dug up on Facebook.
It’s true, I was stalking myself. But it was for a good cause. I needed to share my life story with a group of women I’m doing life with right now. So I dug up all the old stuff. I sifted through the pain and the heartbreak.
And there you were.
Justin Bieber asks a pretty profound (maybe) question: Is it too late now to say sorry? Here’s the truth: if you showed up today and sang me this song, I wouldn’t even flinch. It’s way too late to say sorry.
And I’m fine. Actually, I’m more than fine. I give thanks every day that I’m allowed to remember you as a distant memory. Not in a dwelling, pathetic, ice-cream drowning my sorrows kind of way. But, please don’t hear me wrong. It took me a long time to get to this place.
This place of looking in the mirror and not seeing you staring back at me.
This place of believing that you were a pivotal person in my life. You showed me who I was and helped me realize who I want to be. You pointed out my flaws (thank you) and made me deal with them. You grew up with me. You danced with me. You laughed with me. You cried with me. You walked me down the path for just as long as you were supposed to–and then you let me go. And I’m so thankful.
I can’t ever fully erase you. When I shared my life story, you showed up in more than just one chapter. My identity was wrapped up in your name and in my deepest desire to take your name. But I wanted your name for all the wrong reasons. It sounded pretty, or something.
One day, you snatched your name like a rug from under my planted feet. You left in a hurry and I sat in a puddle. For a long time, I stayed stuck in the puddle. I watched your life move on in colorful pictures and cheerful status updates. I heard about your so-and-so from so-and-so. I pretended not to care about your so-and-so. But it was your growing so-and-so that made my puddle grow from a pond to a lake to an ocean. Capsized in the stormy sea, I couldn’t even remember when the storm started. How long had I been drowning?
Someone, at some time, in some place lifted me out of the puddle. I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember the freedom.
The freedom to just remember.
Not to cry. Not to wish that you would knock on my door and bust out into J. Biebs. Not to wallow.
To just remember. Remember that remembering sometimes makes me think only about the good stuff, when we both know that together we created a lot of bad stuff. Remember that remembering sometimes makes us forget, to sugarcoat the ugly and long for only the princess fairy-tale moments.
Pictures are deceiving. We’re always smiling. We can’t see the moments before or after the smiling. We can’t hear the voices behind the smiling.
Today, I can breathe easy when I remember the moments when I danced on top of your feet and you whispered promises of forever. Because, it turns out, forever is a very long time.
Today, I can breathe easy when I remember the moments when they all admired the perfect couple and you doled out advice like we had it all together. Because, it turns out, nobody has it all together.
Today, I can breathe easy when I remember the moments that you tried to shelter me and I let you try, and try, and try. Because, it turns outs, sheltering isn’t for the weak or the loveless.
Today, I can breathe easy when I remember.
Because, it turns out, remembering helps us forgive.