I wrote this piece a while back for my lovely friend Amanda, who is the creator of The Love More Shop, which is basically the most perfect thing you could possibly check out for Valentine’s Day. Go read about her beautiful heart and buy yourself a beautiful shirt. And Happy Love Day – here’s a not-so-typical love letter for you.
The surest road home from heartbreak has always been love.
I arrived in Portland nearly eight years ago, a wide-eyed wreck of a girl with a life I had loved and lost, with a man I liked, but knew probably wasn’t the one. Behind me were two years spent in my parents’ big wild backyard, walking the woods and reclaiming myself from a failed marriage, a painful rejection, and the loss of so many words I’d used to define home. Behind me was the entirety of the plan I’d had for my life, and so I arrived here untethered, uncertain what I believed or where I was going, unclear on whether love was a word I’d be able to use again in present tense. I arrived here broken open, and I fell in love.
Portland, OR is a city with a rhythm – a whine and a pulse and a beat echoed in raindrops and bike gears and coffee sips and hipster eyerolls. Something in the soggy pace of this place began to sink into the baggage I carried, began to rot away the walls I’d painstakingly erected to protect my still-aching heart. A little hope leaked into me, a little moss began to spread over my aging excuses, and Portland began to teach me to love in the smallest ways – to love like a stepping stone, like a whisper, like taking hold of a hand.
Here is how to fall in love when your heart has been broken:
Begin with leaves. Crush just a little on the magic of a wildfire fall, the red and yellow swirling, the fluttering rush. Take long walks under sun-shadowed canopies and let the sound of them soothe you – trust them, even though you know they are only temporary. Let yourself rest in the beauty of leaves, and once you have loved them, just a little, just enough, love more.
Surrender to the patterns of city streets, the sweet swell of them, the bustle and chaos. Count cobblestones and coffee shops, read street signs aloud until you learn them, watch for moments of beauty drawn in sidewalk chalk. Write poems to the strangers you pass there, and when you have loved the streets and the strangers just a little, just enough, love more.
Dare your eyes to meet the eyes of others as you pass them – look there for connection, for loss, for a common ache. Meet strangers eyes on the train and in book shops, and when this stops terrifying you – when the gates of your heart stop slamming shut at every new face, try smiling. Let the smile that begins at your lips work its way to your hands, to your voice, and extend them.
Put yourself in paths where your people may find you, and when they find you – when strangers become acquaintances and you start to love them, just a little, just enough, love more.
Begin to take chances. Test the holes in those heart walls by shoving little love notes through them. Let yourself be fascinated by someone’s hands, or the way he laughs, or the way she cares for others. Teach yourself to start using old words with new landing places, words like friend and best and together and possibly even home. When the walls start to crumble, when they threaten to fall, push them mightily with true stories and long dinners and longer term plans. Throw parties and share secrets and invite everyone in. And when you find yourself loving them all just a little, just enough, love more.
Fall in love with a season, then a place, then its people, then something holy, and let it all heal you. And when your trust falters, begin again, begin always again. When your roots grow deep and wide, when there is a man and a new marriage and a child with a wild heart and your eyes, and you love them too much, or just enough, love more. Love hard and fierce and stubbornly more.
When they fail you, when you fail them – when the landscape changes, when your heart breaks a thousand more times, on the days when the grit of the city and the struggle and your tired mama soul rise up in protest – gather your courage and love just a little, just enough – then love more. Begin with the leaves.
The surest road home from heartbreak has always been…