If your life were a map, with the small heartbreaks as rest stops, with all the u-turns and exit ramps clearly marked. If you could trace your life in this way, there's at least one heartbreak that changed everything.
Mine was the spring semester of my senior year of college, over thirteen years ago. I had loved two other boys before him, maybe as many as three. Time makes certain things blurry.
But our short relationship, and even more so the breakup that followed, is the one that altered my trajectory.
I spent years broken, then years healing, then finally a good few years marveling at the miracle of being whole. It was in that last phase that I added in embarrassment I'd let such an occurance define me.
His name came up for the first time in therapy last week. I've been going to weekly therapy for over a year and that season of my life, the one that led me to California, that relationship that I point to whenever asked, it hadn't ever been on my lips much less in my heart.
We had 8 minutes left in our session when I referenced 21-year-old Laura offhandedly and my therapist asked for an explanation. I gave the briefest of rundowns and she summed it up for me as she stood to signal the end of our time:
He didn't love you like you loved him.
I....blinked. In my decade plus of self-analysis, I'd rerouted the ending of that relationship a hundred times. Making excuses for both of us, plotting revenge, or giving silent thanks for forgiveness. I had never had the thought, embedded so deeply in my knowing soul: he didn't love me.
"There was something missing", the therapist went on. "And he realized or at least admitted it before you did."
Our hour was up and I couldn't move from the couch. Paralyzed by her three minute observation on the heartbreak that changed my life. Hearing the words I had always avoided. Then I smiled. I walked to my car and that smile became a deep belly laugh. Standing in the street with one hand on the door to my shiny SUV, my body bent at the waist in laughter. A revelation that previously would have killed me from tenderness now felt like opened chains.
He didn't love me.
Neither did that old friend. Or that one.
The old employer who caused so many sleepless nights? There was no love there.
An absence of love. Where I was sure it had been hiding.
I was given the all clear to go home. It's over.
People often don't love you.
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