That word is love.

One word frees us from all the weight and pain of life. That word is love.
-- Sophocles

Maybe. Maybe love does free us but sometimes it feels like love is also the very thing that will rip me in half. Love creates a willingness to be open and vulnerable to life, and in that willingness we are open and vulnerable to the pain that only someone we love can inflict.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. The ability to be vulnerable is something to be grateful for. Everyone knows someone who is not able to do that. They are shifty-eyed at parties, looking as though their need to leave is literally giving them a rash; they keep themselves walled off, a step removed, unable to fully give or receive. They deflect compliments and criticism with equal vigor.

As someone who used to be one of those people, part of me really appreciates being able to feel my hurt feelings so deeply. But admittedly, part of me just wants to move on. And many days I do. I wake up to find I am present only in the present, and I am elated.

But there are moments. There are moments when I feel the pain clawing its way out of the soft soil of its grave at my feet. It sears my skin as it climbs up my legs, over my abdomen, onto my breastbone where the weight of it hangs as if on hooks that puncture the pale flesh there and scrape against the bone.

When I feel it starting its ascent, I reach for anything to beat it down, to put out its fire. I try all the usual things. I crank the music ever louder until my pets retreat to other rooms. I pour a few fingers of Crown on the rocks, attempting to fight its fire with the heat of Canadian whisky. But the usual things are ineffective.

So I think about pretty things. The dense clouds big as freighters cutting across the valley outside my window. The granite boulders with their speckled, roughened skin hunkered in my yard like prehistoric behemoths hiding from hunters in the hills. 

I think about the tiny purple flowers bursting into starshapes in the gravel of my driveway. The flat green fans of miner’s lettuce waving in the breeze.

I think of the last time the late afternoon sun pressed itself against my west-facing window, how I stood there, face turned to one side, and felt the planet shift beneath me. How that red-tailed hawk sailed by at eye level, and I could see the subtle movements of his body as he negotiated with a headwind.

I think about collective consciousness, how these moments of elation and love serve future generations. How those generations are born ready to live what we’ve imagined.

And for a moment or a day or a week, as I stand very still, I feel the beast unhook itself from my frame.  I feel it recede, gently, like a lover trying not to wake you as he untangles himself from the sheets. Hours pass and I feel the beast’s flames turn cool as it slides down my thighs and pools at my feet, now a tepid puddle of monsoon rain gathering faster than the earth can absorb it.

I wait for the ground to dry, for the wind to stir. And when a hawk passes overhead, I imagine that he hears my silent pleas, that he’ll carry my message to the future me. He’ll tell her not to worry, to keep moving, that a magical life has already been imagined for her, and all she has to do is live it.

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