This is the second post in a series on relationships called #LiveTogether. You can read the first one here. The series will cover the challenges, the humor, the heartbreak, the hope that comes with choosing to do life with people.
For me, the song of the year so far is Coldplay's "A Sky Full of Stars."
I know not everyone is as on board with Coldplay as I am, and that's fine. Regardless, I think it's a great song, and I'm pretty sure I've listened to it at least 150 times. (iTunes, in fact, says that I've listened to it 56 times. But that doesn't count Spotify, or my shower, or all of the places I've walked and breathed in the last few months.)
The song begins with Chris Martin's syncopated piano chords sweeping from a loud hammering to a muted plunking, as if he was shooting back and forth in space, and he sings:
'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars / I'm gonna give you my heart.
I'm hooked, right away. Then he follows it up with:
Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars / 'Cause you light up the path.
And as the piano drives harder back into our atmosphere, there's a thump, and his vocals soar as he hits me with a line that I can't move past:
I don't care / Go on and tear me apart / I don't care if you do.
There's a part of me, the hopeless romantic, who wants to join in with Chris Martin, launch myself past the pull of gravity, hurtle myself into the kind of reckless love of which he sings.
There's another part of me, the grizzled traveler who has walked what feels like thousands of miles on the road of life, who has learned and re-learned this hard lesson:
The human heart can only be torn to pieces so many times.
There's a limit to how many times one can dive into a relationship with wing-like arms spread wide and chest exposed and slam into the ground because the water is too shallow. Or rush out into the cold of night singing, "Come what may," and be left alone to accumulate snow like an abandoned car.
There's a limit to how many times your heart can expand and regain its shape after being flattened under an onslaught of stampeding hooves.
I wish I could sing the line and mean it. I wish I could be like Augustus Waters and say, "Oh, I wouldn't mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you."
A younger version of me would. And could. And did. I got a thrill out of the challenge. I thought I was made for the throw-caution-to-wind, leap-into-burning-building kind of love that movies glorify. I wanted to champion a story that would gallop into danger on chariots of courage, race into the foul and gaping mouth of the dragon, and emerge from the smoke and ash with my lungs full of fury and my eyes steeled with strength.
I certainly got the fight I asked for.
The first time my heart was broken, it dropped me to the ground. Literally. I gathered myself, got back up, and threw myself back into the fray until I was spit back out. Again and again. Over and over. Like a shirt that's run through the cycle week after week, I lost material and threading until the holes started to show and the seams fell apart.
There's a part of me that refuses to put myself in that situation, to give someone that power ever again. I refuse to say to someone, "Go on and tear me apart; I don't care if you do." Because I've experienced the disorientation of being shredded and discarded like junk mail that no one wanted to read. I know what it is to lose yourself and your worth in the darkness of someone's disregard.
Seriously. No way. Not again. Not ever. That Paul is dead.
In my coldest moments, in my deepest retreats into the basement of the fortress I've built around me, amid the echoes of dripping water bouncing off the bare walls, I hear a voice.
It's not an audible voice. I don't hear it with my ears.
It's more like the tiniest, thinnest beam of sunlight that snakes through the dark and dust and finds the back of my neck. I feel its warmth, and the hair on my neck rises. As I keep my back to it, it sways in circular motions on my skin and begins to spell out letters that string into words, and even with my eyes closed and my ears shut, I can't ignore it.
It says, "You were not made for dungeons and darkness."
I know it's right. I feel it pulling at me, tugging at me, urging me back outside my walls. I don't want to be destroyed again, but this--this hiding, this barricading--isn't the way. I stay at a distance because of fear, but fear isn't the rudder I want steering my ship. I want to listen to better voices.
The voice I hear in those moments reminds me of this:
I'm at my best when I'm open and vulnerable. I'm not at my best when I've shut myself in.
There are too many people in my life who need me at my best.
As we move toward anyone, any friend, we place more of ourselves in their hands, more of ourselves at their mercy, more of ourselves at risk to be torn up a little. That's the cost of doing life with other people, doing life together. It's quite different than continuing to knowingly place ourselves in dangerous, harmful, or abusive situations--into the hands of people who have proven they can't be trusted to be kept within arm's length.
All relationships requires risk. All relationships that are worth it demand us to bare ourselves at some point.
I'm re-learning the curves and contours of the route of risk. I'm measuring the depth of the water before I jump. I'm wearing extra layers so I don't freeze in the cold. I'm not quite sure that I'd sing, "Go on and tear me apart," but I'm out of the dungeon. I'm squinting in the daylight. I'm feeling the ground beneath me one step at a time.
This is the way. This is what we were made to do.