Who is this woman? She is someone I barely recognize & can hardly remember, yet she remains intensely familiar to me. We spent 27 years together before I left her behind. I still think about her, wondering where the direction of life would have led her by now. Although I left her behind, I still see her every time I look over my shoulder. Sometimes she is so far off in the distance that she is a mere speck on the horizon, & other times she is so close on my heels that I am frightened by her proximity.
She loved someone once, someone she loved far too fiercely & far too easily. Someone who didn’t deserve her. She made exceptions & excuses for behaviors that should have never been tolerated, but she was desperate to be loved. She let the fear of being alone hold her captive in chains. Love, for her, transformed from being tangible to being a complete illusion, becoming more disfigured & manipulated over time.
More than love is an emotion that takes us to highs & lows, love is a choice. So she chose to love, even when love was not bestowed upon her. She chose to love, even when love was the most difficult to choose. She chose to love amidst a myriad of reasons why she shouldn’t, but this didn’t make her any stronger or wiser, because she went through life expecting that others would treat her with the same kindness, respect, & compassion that she freely gave to others, not knowing that evil intentions were conceivable options.
They tried to work out their differences, the conflicts, sort out the lies, & build trust. Day in & day out, she fought back tears & forced smiles, shoving doubt from her mind & living in his promises that the days would get better & the days would get brighter. But, day in & day out, her strength withered. Her heart’s ability to repair itself after the damage he caused suddenly ceased. When her eyes were finally opened to the hell he put her through, her numbness began. It started with a tingle until she felt nothing. That tingle that turned numb was the answer to all of her questions. When they spoke to say their final goodbye, he asked what she felt when she looked at him. “Nothing,” she replied. “I feel nothing.”
I left her behind nearly one year later on January 8, 2015. I hastily took a deep breath before checking my rearview mirror as I drove away, feeling both anxious & guilty about leaving her in the cloud of dust that swirled through the air. Staring in my mirror, I watched her house slowly melting away until it had disappeared into the trees. I thought about the letter she had written to me eighteen months prior, a simple letter that only contained one sentence, scribbled onto a small piece of folded kraft paper: If you ever feel lost, come to the mountains.
She wrote the letter to me with purpose, so I would never forget how clearly the mountains had spoken to her during a time when she had given up all hope. In the wild is where she could experience peace. In the wild is where she could actually envision a future full of possibilities & void of threats. The spark of clarity that she found in the ease of the mountain air & the stillness of the pines is what set my heart on fire & brought me to life.
I am her, but she is not me.
Some wounds are easier to bury than they are to face, some take more than just time to heal. Some leave behind vicious scars, reminding us of our failed attempts at healing—even though the wound doesn’t physically hurt us anymore. For all of the nights that she cried relentlessly, whispering “Why?” to a wall that only echoed back that haunting question, she now has an answer. This is why. Because I wouldn’t be where I am today without having first experienced her pains from yesterday.
Although I left her behind, I still see her every time I look over my shoulder. Sometimes she is so far off in the distance that she is a mere speck on the horizon, & other times she is so close on my heels that I am frightened by her proximity. That girl in the ivory dress with the beautiful veil will never leave me, because I am her… but she is not me.
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”Joseph Campbell