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This Fool's Old Heart
and our three springs
In the mirror a white hair is poking straight out of my head. I fold over an intuitive seam where the fine top layer reveals the darker underlayer of my hair and all in a row white strands bloom nicely, blending in like tinsel on a tree. I bow to myself and find more white. I think about the time not so long ago I made fun of my brother for his greying behind his ears before he reminded me I had our father’s hair and he had our mother’s. I think about the photo of my father at his 40th surprise party where his hair was salt and pepper. I think about March and my birthday and what all those things mean together. Later over text my friend says I like the way you’re hopeful and soft.
There was a period where I believed I was no longer such a person. Wasn’t sure, ever, if I could have her back and found a misery born from the pain of another. Inflicted on me because I had a heart that believed and loved largely. A dark bruise formed where hope used to be requiring a kind of reeling in, a protective retreat that I didn’t think I would come out of. One spring came with its euphoric warmth, its hopeful heart, and then another and I cried the second time around because it was palpable to me what was lost and I couldn’t figure out where it was. Couldn’t call it back as there wasn’t any note of goodbye. I only knew it had gone and I knew what had caused it.
Then one afternoon, during the spring I spent crying, I was walking along an avenue and a tiny kind of miracle took place on an apartment that had a half-number address. Someone was cooking near with the window open. Its clatter tumbling to the streets and it reminded me of being a kid. The sound of potential, known only to fall or spring, where a season awaits and it’s warm enough to have the windows open and play outside. When we’d dump our backpacks on the porch because we couldn’t even risk a moment to go inside and we’d run through the yard or jump on the rope swing my father tied one afternoon after we moved in. My mother at the sink with the water running and dinner cooking. Hope, memory, that first kind of love flickered in my chest. The pain of my missing it cracking me open, bursting a blister that stung in the April rain showers when warmth is just a theory most days.
I looked right at that window and stopped to listen. A thread tugged in me and I followed it down to the bruise along my heart and found the hope beneath it, changed, but preserved. Moving slowly, quietly, but there it was.
There’s a certain narrative I find myself bracing against, throwing my body into on what that means. Where an entire dinner table once seemed to find that their misery made them older and smarter. That I still believed was proof there was something I had yet to discover. They were also adamant about something I never understood. They seemed to think it was inevitable that one day I would become them. It was almost as if they looked forward to it, my suffering, so they might say I told you so. No counterargument I presented seemed to hold any weight because by nature hope and softness were already the weaker, ill-informed, opponents.
I do not see my soft heart this way.
You have to be brave for such a life, even if it seems simple. I fought that spring through the loss of one softness and the retrieval of another. Coaxing out hope and looking at the world and remembering love as something good and familiar. The sound of cooking for someone, laughter escaping and arcing to the green trees of a new season. Spring proof that warmth will always return. This is a hard thing to do, to fight against our recent memories where love was pain and tragic. Where endings seemed to be a cold and bitter place to land. To have a soft heart is to believe more in what you hope for and less of what you’ve experienced. Seeing that what had happened was not all that life could be.
Rekindling those old feelings and choosing to tell a new story about what it means to live.
It’s true, in some ways I have learned something new, become wiser to a greater truth of what it means to be alive. I could not keep that same soft ripe heart forever, but to see someone with such a gift? Why would I seek to destroy it? Maybe it was a child’s heart at the start, but I was not at fault for having it. And maybe we all are inaugurated into such adulthood and we must decide what we see. Pain does change us, as much as love. In the end, when that crack in my heart began to let the hope back out I had a story to tell. One reminiscent from a dinner table some years before about the pain I knew my heart remembered. Where the singular truth is that the suffering I knew so well was all that I would inevitably find if I kept going, opened, and peered out with those curious eyes.
I could decide those things won. I could see the poor hands, their abundance, and decide that’s all life is ever going to be. Or I could see both things, the good hands too, and hope knowing what I know. I could say to the echoing story of people who had been hurt, I understand that you are okay with living this way, but I am not. Knowing that bad news, bad weather, betrayal, and misery are part of all lives, even the good ones. I could decide not to succumb to that terrible feeling that makes me believe terrible things about myself and the world and decide to give up before eventually all that lost hope bleeds out and a modern miracle will have to wake me from the coma of my despair. Or I could look for the good, focus my eyes to it, and let the horrible things people have said to me fall to my peripheral because I am not the fool, they are.
This thing in me doesn’t warp and bubble in the heat of another’s fight leaving craters or a cast of another person’s broken heart in its wake. I won’t be a casualty, I won’t bend. This is my strength. They want me to be miserable like them because it’s grown predictable. A way of being close and understood without having to submit to the terrifying uncharted intimacy of joy and goodness. They like to hurt, but I don’t and I’m willing to risk it. Sometimes I’ll be disappointed, but that is not a lethal game. I have survived such storms before.
And so spring warmed, passed into summer, and I paid attention to the good of it all. Standing at intersections with friends getting food or those gentle breezes welcoming that hope home. Another spring followed that one, even as the cold seemed endlessly ongoing and I longed to wear short sleeves again, to show myself to the world and admire its pleasantries. To see the end of something without mourning but with appreciation. And now this is my third euphoric transition, sitting on the horizon. What else is spring but a reminder of what we have endured?
An old and beautiful blessing for this durable heart that believes.
I’m starting to realize again there is nothing more dear and content to me than the idea that I would get to wake to the light of March and all that it promises even as winter wages on its borders and eat my toast with hope in my heart that warmth is coming. Not the oppressive heat, but the gradual rising of it on your arms as you lay on the sunny pavement when you’re a kid. Retreating onto the dark surface like it were a blanket beneath you, still needing sleeves and pants. I’m not so far ahead yet to dream without jackets on. But instead, think of that one swift breeze dulling the heat on my body considerably. Only to find quickly warmth growing back again. In March, I feel more like a kid, like I can’t get one year older without first turning to put one foot back in childhood. This strip of white hair seems directly to compromise what those people believed of me. When it first started I complained out of obligation, but isn’t it the very proof I have lived? That this soft thing in me is old enough to know and still grab for the world with bare and calloused hands.
A playlist from my hopeful heart!
“I believe in love. If you do too, then feel that and live it and talk about it and never, ever be ashamed of it. This world needs us. If you have the courage to stand up for love, to give your love generously, to lead by example, to throw your love out there without worrying about who loves you back, then do that. Let someone else hang back and feel ashamed. That’s not you.” Heather Havrilesky for Ask Polly
Even not knowing him, all those years wanting someone like him, was a smaller distance than the one left by the betrayal between us. February 20th, 2023 9:16 AM
And love was here and love was here February 14th, 2023 1:39 PM
The next time most of us speak again I’ll be 26. I’m uneasy to say the least. Even numbers I find are harder years than the odd ones, but I dislike just the same those contractual observations that see pattern in that way. That creates a fixed destiny for things we can’t help but become. Like when I was younger and people kept prophetically telling me how mean teenage girls were even though I was not yet a teenager. Which made me angry because I felt mean before I could decide I didn’t have to be. In March I start to feel like, oh we are really doing this thing aren’t we? We’ve decided to let this year stay as it has appeared before us. This year has breached the horizon and it soft around the edges. I feel already I have salvaged myself from the wreckage of being 25, a year I spent crying. So I’ll be glad to be 26 more than I’m afraid because it seems that it was all good work I was doing. I know now, what it takes for me to live. I’m getting enough sleep and I’ve got a good writing routine and I don’t feel the same pressure. I’m going slow and finding the solitude I crave and I’m not so sad. And when I am, it isn’t for as long. I am no longer recovering from the things that happened last year. 26 is a reminder to me of that very idea, of what all that paying attention was for. The rewards of facing the discomfort and fear and deciding even though I know this place so well, I don’t want to live here anymore.
That’s a good birthday gift.
To a new softer year.
Here is this month’s mood board! it started out as blues nad greens and slowly grew to encompass the many colors of a hopeful spring. Winter is almost over my friends! Rejoice!
Until March 22nd I am having a sale for my paid newsletter. Whether you choose the annual fee or the monthly one, it will be a year of 25% off subscriptions. So in theory you wouldn’t pay the whole 5$ until I was 27 and who knows what discount I’ll do then!
The paid newsletter is a more narrative exploration of each months theme. All come with their own little goodies, a look at what I’ve been mulling over that month etc etc. If that’s not your thing, don’t worry about it. We’ll see each other somewhere groovy soon.
That’s all this month! If you enjoyed the little conversation we had let me know! Save, share, and tag @chloeinletters
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Here’s to Starbucks Fridays, this bruised heart, and all the ways we can choose to live despite our suffering!