It wasn’t until the death of my ex-boyfriend that I realized how strongly I had been guarding my heart.
It should have been evident from my inability to find another partner, but I couldn’t see it. I had grieved the death of our relationship, the future we planned for ourselves, and his presence in my life… But when I grew weary of mourning, I shut it down – and the remaining pieces that needed examining, laid quiet within me.
The past few months have been a blur for me. From the moment I was notified of his disappearance, I felt it inside me – he was gone. But with lack of a body and no evidence to support it concretely, I had hoped for the best and went through the motions of searching for him and discussing all the possible scenarios with his family.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned myself spending so much time with his mother and the conversations we have had. She and I have been a support to one another in ways that words cannot begin to describe (but of course, I will try). The stories we have shared with one another have shed light on parts of him that neither of us saw. It has helped to connect the dots. To answer unanswered questions. To see the man we both loved so dearly in a much broader sense.
When I received the news that his body had been found, it was as if the whole world stopped and came crashing in. There was a reckoning. Every thought and feeling and emotion that was left unaddressed came bubbling up and pouring out. I was unleashed. Consumed by feelings of loss and regret, I knew I had to sit with it. I had to allow it to surface and to acknowledge every tear and fear as it arose. And I did. And I grieved the loss of him – heavily.
And it didn’t take long before the truth came to me and looked me square in the face: ever since our breakup, I have been dating with a guarded heart.
In some ways I had known it all along, but I hadn’t realized how strongly I had it guarded until that moment. Yes, I have learned to embrace life and friendships and my passions in life with a kind of fierceness and unbridled sense of adventure that is easy for myself and others to see. How confusing then, for men who try to date me, when they can see how open my heart is for the rest of the world, and how armored it is for them.
How completely unfair of me to expect that I should find a patient and open-hearted Knight in Shining Armor to unlock the chains I placed, when I wasn’t even willing to hand them the key.
So now I must remove my armor.
In order to receive the love I so greatly desire to feel again, and to build the family I long to have, I must remove the barriers I have built, and allow space for love to enter again. I must be willing to place my heart into hands that promise to hold it gently, and trust that it will be cared for and tended to, the same way I will tend to theirs.
And so begins the next chapter for me, of unarmoring my heart. Of learning to love again, unbridled, without fear of being broken.
I can only hope, and try one day at a time, to allow my tender-heartedness to be my greatest strength and not my weakness. To remember that love is worth the risk and that it is always good to have it stretched open, even if it has to close back up for mending. Like a beautiful flower, it can always bloom again.
Here’s to unraveling the chain, one link at a time!
Miss Erin Terese