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Love.

I have been writing about boys for so long. Men, boys, the guys I dated, used, loved. The boys I used in high school in an attempt to feel whole. And the more of them that I used in college. The boys I let use me in an attempt to find love. And then the few that I have loved. Since then I have learned how many girls follow that same path. How many of us search for love and worth and fulfillment in strange boys’ beds. How many of us fall head over heels in love with blonde, muscle-y artist boys in suburban summers only to have our hearts broken when they realize they do not love us the way even they thought. When they disappear back into themselves – their addictions or obsessions or adolescent confusion. I have learned how normal this is, I suppose. That none of that was meant to last. My muscle-y blond high school boyfriend was never meant to be the love of my life. But that doesn’t mean I was not meant to love him. They have each had their role to play. From Matt I learned what it felt like to be wanted and worshiped. From Jim I learned to love deeply, to feel awe and wonder at another human being, and to cultivate love. And from Andrew I suppose I learned something of stability. I learned that I can love and stay whole, grow more whole even. I learned what to love myself. I learned something of commitment, and of the kind of woman I want to be. From Andrew I learned patience and grace. I learned that I would rather be happy than be right, and I learned that while it is necessary to stand up for what we believe in, there are very few fights that are truly worth having.

I guess the problem is that we think these things are forever. We go into love hoping it will never change, that it will last and last till the end of time. That we will never again be confronted with heartache or pain. But that simply isn’t true. And it does not make love not worthwhile. In fact, each of them helps us to love better next time. I know that has been the case for me. I remember when my marriage was just beginning to unravel, when it was the beginning of the end and I didn’t even know it yet, Christina said to me that her own divorce had given her the opportunity to “love better next time.” At the time my pride prevented me from thinking that I had any better love to give than what I had given. And I’m sure I thought the same every time I have loved. But of course that’s not true and there is so much more I can give. There are always more layers to be stripped away. More of reality and honesty and truth. More of myself. More of acceptance. More of love.

And so far it is different. This is the first time I have loved when it felt like man and woman. Like two adults. Not two children, angsty with teenage passion and heartache, or a man and girl or woman and boy like so many of my relationships have been. He has strong hands, a face that has weathered years of life and love and heartache. He has strong thighs and a sturdy chest. His golden hair and soft touch make me melt, and sharing meals, prayers, and our bodies feels sacred, beautiful, and real. It is the first time I have felt so conscious in love. So aware of my thoughts and feeling and what rises up inside me before it comes bubbling out clumsily or gets buried deep inside, too scared or ashamed to let it be seen. And so again I am learning. Learning to love better – myself, and him. Learning to love as a mother too, of course. What it means to love unconditionally. To put myself aside and retain my whole self at the same time. To take care of myself so that I can be the mother and the woman I want to be. And yet despite the beauty and the importance of it all, no one can guarantee its permanence. That is the thing of life. To go through it with as much heart as possible, to stay open and curious and willing to love, to be loved, to let ourselves be seen and heard, always knowing that at any second everything could change. And trusting that when it does, it will only be followed by more of that same beauty, enhanced, if we let it.

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My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

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