Because I loved him too much.

I fancied myself in love a few times over the years. I read the signs. There was the quickened heartbeat. The flushed cheeks. The constant smile and inability to sleep. The sense of admiration. The desire to be near him and talk with him. To know his dreams and passions and the secrets he was waiting to share with the right someone. I could be that someone. I was ready, I told myself. So I would endeavor to be close to him, to lend time and space in my heart to him. I would uncover his quirks and I would fall past infatuation into the rabbit hole of love, lost in my hazy daydream, only to be stopped by the sudden thud when I hit the bottom, looked over, and realized that I was the only one who had fallen. He was still at the top, peering down as he called me friend and asked if I wanted help up. No, I would say. I’m fine here for awhile, as embarrassment and remorse and frustration that I had been so wrong filled the cracks around my seemingly broken heart.

Then I fumbled around in the dark, asking myself why it hadn’t worked. Why did my happy ever after elude me once again? What did I mess up this time? Was I too obvious or too reserved? Was I not smart enough or sexy enough? Or maybe I was just too much? Maybe I loved him too much? Cared too much? Wanted it too much? Maybe if I had like him less it would have worked out. Maybe if I had diluted my feelings down until they were safe and manageable and normal, things could have been different.

My love had ruined it. A small idea whispered around the corners of my subconscious. Small and untrue but poisonous. I watched that idea seep into my life and each relationship. Like a tea bag dipped into steaming water, diffusing and spreading as time passed. I watched myself pull back, create distance, and convince myself that loving too much would be the weight that crushed my relationships.

Love became synonymous with letting go. With moving on. With being alone. To love meant it wouldn’t last. It couldn’t, because everything must fade. Everything. Leaves and snow and light and people. Things cannot last in world with beginnings and endings. So I would face love distrustful, knowing that one day when I wasn’t ready it would be taken from me. Love would bruise and shatter and then turn away, and I would be left to piece myself back together. I would fall into it then out of it, worse for the wear. I expected an ending and waited for it. Or rather, waited it out. Not just with men, but in friendships. I would give a little of myself, a small piece of my heart that was a bit cold and tired, and I waited to be left disappointed. It would come, it always did. That moment when you’re suddenly standing on the beach alone and the tide’s gone out and there are broken shells and sharp rocks and you have to walk through it to find yourself again. The less I gave of myself, the easier that walk was.

My love was worthless and unneeded. This became my truth. I was not necessary or useful. Had I been, I wouldn’t be alone. I wouldn’t have to watch people hurt me and take from me and the walk away like I was a toy they’d grown bored with. I had nothing to offer. Or maybe I did. But what I had – my compassion and empathy and love and time – were used as weapons against me by those who claimed to love me. My love was my weakness. My feelings were dangerous. I was not to be trusted. My heart could never be trusted.

So I loved less. I felt less. I diluted myself into something safe. I slowly let the color in my life fade to black and white: a neutral emptiness. I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t devastated. It seemed like a fair trade to avoid heartbreak. But I wasn’t myself in those moments. I was a shadow of myself, a poor imitation of the woman who had been born to feel everything all at once. A woman who loved and empathized immoderately. A woman who would give everything for those she loved. A woman who was a romantic and a pragmatic and made it work because life is full of amazing beauty and wonder that should be keenly felt and observed and written down. A woman with an imagination that left her in the middle of seven stories every day that she could never quite capture on paper.

A woman who one day woke up and realized her life shouldn’t be spent apologizing for every feeling and laugh and smile and tear and hopeful romance.

A woman who finally stopped hiding because it was killing her slowly. A woman who realized that her love wasn’t poison or worthless, but it wasn’t always appreciated and that’s not her fault. A woman who refuses to believe that love and compassion and emotions make her fragile. A woman who believes love is not a matter of less is more. A woman who still knows here will be beginnings and endings, and love may change, but that only means another chapter is waiting.

I found my way back, waded through the men who looked past me and the friends who left me broken. It wasn’t my love that had ruined those relationships. There was no saving them. But I’m allowed to guard my heart. I had never known what that phrase meant, why so many people would go on about it. It lost meaning in its overuse; an annoying song on the radio that you hear so much you hate it until someday your life is different and you finally listen. And it’s beautiful and you get it. Guard your heart. Don’t shut it out or lock it up, but hold it dear and keep it safe and share with those who treat it with the same care you do. Don’t make people jump through hoops and wander a maze to get to it, but know that some people will take what isn’t theirs and you don’t have to give everyone a free pass at your heart and soul.

It’s a matter of trial and error, I suppose; beginnings and endings and mistakes. Some things we can’t learn until we’ve done it wrong three or four times. I can’t spare you the pain, but I can tell you that it ends. That you are strong and brave and will make it through. That your love and your emotions and the depth of your heart don’t make you weak; they make you powerful and beautiful and fierce. And I can tell you that one day you’ll look back and realize if you could take it all back and save yourself the heartache, you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t change a thing, because who you are today, in this moment, grew out of the person who learned to love all those years ago.

{Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter >> @cassiclerget. I’m pretty entertaining.}

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