The Thing I Could Not Ruin

I realize now I was hard to love.

I want you to know that I did not know the things I was ruining. I did not know how much strength it took for you to hold your tongue and my hand as I sobbed and screamed and thrashed. I didn’t know how it ripped at you when I ripped from you and retreated into myself. I did not know that the walls I built were wide and almost insurmountable. When I looked in the mirror, I saw outlines and shadows. I didn’t know what you saw–the tears, the smeared mascara, the empty grey eyes.

I don’t remember the words I said to you, and part of me is thankful for that. I don’t remember what weapons I wielded or hurts I hurled at you from behind my walls.

I realize now that my panic, my terror, my fear–it was yours, too. I thought I was all alone, that no one understood, that I would forever be this mess of depression and anxiety and pain and forever be alone to carry it all. It was my burden to bear, I said. He can’t understand.

I realize now it was yours, too, and with every tear you wiped away, you took a piece of my heaviness and made it yours.

In the late hours of the night when I couldn’t sleep, you followed me as I wandered, picking up the broken pieces of who I was that I was leaving behind, and you kept them. I did not know you were collecting the parts of me that fell, that you would help me back me back together.

Sleepless nights were the worst. I would move from the bed next to you to the floor, from the floor to the closet, from the closet to the couch, from the couch to the porch, and everywhere I went, the restlessness and the demons followed. But so did you, militant, armed with a blanket to keep my warm and strong hands to pull me up from the pit. But even the strongest hands quiver when the things they hold shake and tremble like the earth quaking in turmoil, and I left you in an aftershock.

The sleeping nights were no better, and when I awoke in terror in the middle of the night, you did, too, and my tears burned your face as much as they burned mine. I would grasp for your hand, but push it away when it came.

I’m sorry, you would say, and I would cry more because I was sorry, too, but not for me. For you. I didn’t want you ruined. I didn’t want to ruin you.

I realize now that you were my rock, and my tears eroded a little bit of you away.

I know now that I was as exhausting as I was exhausted.

But your love is inexhaustible.

The sun would go down, the night and the dark well on its way, and I would say, I wish I were not here, and I know now what you knew then: I meant, I wish I were dead.

What I didn’t know was that a little bit of you would die every time I said those words, that the words would try to ruin and wither you. But I want you to know, I couldn’t feel a thing, and the words were just mush and ruin to me. How could I have known how sharply and deeply those words would stab into your heart? I didn’t know.

I didn’t know I was hard to love. I didn’t realize that every time you lit a lantern to light my way, I blew it out. I tried to ruin your light.

I didn’t know that I used up all your fuel, that you were out of the car, on your hand and knees pushing the me the whole way up the mountain I simply could not climb. I didn’t see you slip and lose traction and get right back up just to keep pushing. I sat in the driver’s seat and steered, weighing things down, trying to navigate through the mire. I didn’t know you were doing all the heavy-lifting.

I know now.

I know now I was hard to love.

You were my rock and my high place, and I stood on top of you, heavy with my burdens, and as the storms hit, I let the waves crash against you while I searched for dry land.

I realize now because of you–formidable, wonderful, indestructible you–I am here, learning to love you. Because of you, I was able to heal. Because you kept track of who I was, collected me as I fell apart, I was able to find myself again.

You were all the best things I could not see. You were the dry land, the rock, the light in the dark, and the hands pulling me out of the pit. You were all the best things I tried to ruin, but praise God that I could not.

I could not ruin you. I did not ruin you. Because you are still all of the best things, and I am so glad you loved me.

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