A few months ago a friend and I were talking about fairy tales and how they always end after the first kiss – after the initial decision to be together. You never see the work it takes to keep a relationship together. We grow up with these romantic notions embedded in our consciousness but all we ever see are two people who agree to give their hearts to each other, but we never see them actually do it, and that’s the hard part. After that conversation I wrote the following piece about what it would look like if we had to literally follow through with the phrase “I’ll give you my heart.”
There’s a difference between deciding to give your heart to someone and actually doing it. Deciding is relatively easy; it just sort of happens. Someone shows up and you have no control over your reaction to them, the attraction, the pull. Sometimes there are obstacles before you can actually voice the decision and some people like to wait, just to be sure. Ultimately, it’s an inside job. Your gut decides long before you ever choose to put words to it. Mentally you never really had a choice. It is the end of the fairy tale, get on your white horse together and ride off into the sunset.
For some people that’s enough – to just say the words, living on the idea that you decided to give your heart to someone, and you really would if you had to, but again, have you ever thought about what it really means? I like you so much I want to give you possession of my most vital organ. How do you even do it? Literally, how do you give your heart to someone? Would you hand them a scalpel and let them carve it out of your chest?
I’ve had a lot of people tell me that it’s easy if it’s the right person. Maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, but if the idea of someone – even the most well-intentioned person you know – holding a knife to your chest doesn’t make you nervous then I think you’re doing something wrong. There’s a reason they leave it at “ever after.”
I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m not discouraging it any sort of way. I’m just recently realizing that it isn’t as easy as Disney made it out to be. It’s actually really hard, and confusing, and terrifying, because it doesn’t just fade to black when the finale kiss ends in real life. You have to actually get out that scalpel at some point. You can delay by asking them, “Are you sure?” a few dozen more times, but if you’re going to do this for real then it means unbuttoning and letting them see the scars of all your previous hack jobs.
So you take a deep breath. One more “Are you sure?” just in case, and proceed, slowly. Lay yourself out. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Begin. It’s a delicate procedure and there’s no harm in being cautious. It’s barely started when the scalpel grazes over the bruise left over from that night seven months ago that left you feeling mortified and so stupid. You wince and the knife stops. Suddenly you’re freaking. out. because all you can think about are all the other scars still to be uncovered. The one from that guy who said it was a friendship ring but really they were engaged and you were too obsessed with your own feelings to see he was in love with someone else. Or the one from that time you said “forever” but he couldn’t pretend to care enough to pick you up from the train station. There are dings and scrapes from all the ones before him that hurt you, that just walked away.
Now he’s wondering if this is just too hard. Maybe there is too much damage to continue. You don’t blame him because, honestly, you can’t tell if you’re more nervous that he’s going to walk away or keep going. You were naive enough to think you could just cringe your way through it, simply grit your teeth and bear it until it was over. You miss the kissing part. That was nice, warm and comfortable. The kissing was full of promise and this is full of fear. Can’t you just go back there and put the messy stuff off? Maybe that’s best for a little while. There are no words for how terrified you are of the possibly that he’ll finish cutting you open and find nothing but scraps and broken pieces. It’s far too much to ask of anyone to try and put it all back together. No one signed up for that.
Breathe. Just remember to breathe. Calm down. Yes, you have scars. Everyone does. But that night seven months ago that made you feel so stupid? That’s why you cherish anyone saying they can open up to you so much. The guy with the rings? That’s why you’re always honest, no matter how inconvenient it can be. That time you said forever? It’s why you never make promises you can’t keep. You’ve been hurt, a hazard of being human. Wounds heal and yes, leave scars – you’re not perfect (it’s okay, no one is). The scars make you who you are and you are more than damage. Believe that. You have to – it’s the only way to make him believe it too, that it’s worth picking up again. Be brave and don’t sweat the small stuff. Take a leap of faith. Trust.
Breathe. Just remember to breathe. Save your strength, because after you find a way through all of that you still have to convince him to hand the scalpel over to you.
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