I am so pleased to have Lizzi Lewis here to help me kick off my new #BeReal series. Relationships are hard but so far my relationship with Lizzi has been the easiest and most rewarding friendship I have ever had. She is my sunrise and I am her sunset. My life is better with her in it.
You will find a surprise we have been working on together at the end of this post.
Please give her some beautiful love for this amazing piece. It is close and dear to my heart and I cry tears of gratitude every time I read it through. I love you Lizzi. It is you who taught me how to love better.
I grew up believing love was something unpleasant you were forced to do when you were bound by blood and obligation to someone you didn’t like. I grew up hearing “it’s my privilege” but experiencing “you’re a burden.” I grew up on the understanding that ‘love’ covered all manner of sins, including systemic emotional abuse. Because LOVE rendered it acceptable. Somehow.
I grew up believing I was too stupid to understand the ‘Somehow’, and only knew love meant pain and vulnerability. I developed the ability to hide my preferences – my weaknesses – knowing they would be used against me. I turned into a person determined to never show anything less than flint and cold steel, otherwise I would be open once more to the pain and rejection I felt when seven year-old girl-me had her Daddy stolen by depression, and found him replaced with a vicious, baiting monster, who ruled the household as a tyrant, who delighted in her tears.
It worked in my favour, in a way. I was eventually able to withstand daily bullying from home and school, existing as a lone entity. I allowed hatred and anger to turn my heart to stone; gradually callusing the weaker, softer bits of it with hurt. I was impervious – impenetrable and utterly isolated.
As an adult, I got married. I thought I could love, but the mind plays tricks and convinces the heart, when desperately lonely, that it is in charge and knows all. The scales eventually fell from my eyes. I realised how very lost and alone I was, and reached out into what seemed to be a safe space – an online writing community.
In that cozy World Between the Wires, where I could be truly myself without the assumptions of childhood or the expectations of role and ritual, I discovered there were people whose souls I began to see beyond their words; whose characters I appreciated, and who I began to care about.
The closer I got to these people, the more concerned I felt. I didn’t feel equipped to navigate the territory of friendship even in person, much less without all the physical cues and signposts which were usually extant. I was worried because these people whom I had begun to cherish, were responding with warmth to my overtures, and I couldn’t see that I had anything to offer them, nor any good reason for them to care in return. Yet they persisted in caring.
I spent a long time anxious and astonished, terrified that one day I would do or say something to expose myself as the repugnant creature I really was. Scared they would all leave. I loved them, yet was too insecure to let them know. Instead I repeatedly pushed their boundaries and had to apologise for my behaviour.
In spite of my efforts at self-sabotage, these people reassured me of their care. For the first time in my life, I felt as though I belonged in a group; as though I was wanted. And that was a huge and very marvelous thing. But I still couldn’t tell them.
Then SHE came into my life.
Introduced by a mutual acquaintance, I was immediately drawn to her – this individual with sunset-red hair atop an exquisitely beautiful face. When I read her poetry, I knew I was in the presence of someone far more accomplished than I at transcribing the depths of the soul.
I asked her for a favour – a poem for a blog I was running – and she obliged within the hour, with a piece so sparkling, I felt completely star-struck by her talent and generosity. I did the only thing I could, and started stalking her blog, liking and commenting on every new poem (and they were numerous, and beautifully composed). Gradually I came to understand the reason I was so drawn to her – she was writing from a place so similar to the turmoil and darkness of my own soul, that I felt I knew her.
There was one vast and incredible difference though: how very much she LOVED.
She seemed to think nothing of telling people she loved them. I was awestruck by her courage and generosity of heart. Rather than ridicule and reject her, people basked in and flourished under her attentions. I was entranced.
Her warm responses to my initial reachings-out were sufficiently encouraging to keep me coming back. We gradually moved beyond the business of writing, and became friends. The depth and decadence of her love for others absolutely captivated me. I wanted to experience it, because I was still so incapable of doing the whole ‘love’ thing in a way which felt acceptable.
I had written several times, by this point, about how tangled I was about love and saying that ‘L-word’ to people. My friends were understanding, and told me they accepted me as I was, but I knew I wanted more. I wanted to be able to achieve, express, and indulge in, what this Sunset poet had – the beauty and wonder of loving with abundance, abandonment, and even (maybe) wastefully.
The closer we became, the more I understood her, and some of the behind-the-scenes explanations began to fill in pieces of the puzzle. She chose to love in spite of a keen fear of rejection, because it was so much a part of her history that she knew what it was to cry out for love and not receive it, or to be rebuffed. She acted lovingly, giving people the benefit of the doubt, because it was better for her heart not to be snared by anger or disappointment. She loved daringly, in the face of a deep-seated fear she could never be good enough for any of the people she loved.
It was like listening to a more evolved version of the other half of my own heart.
We ‘sealed the deal’ on our friendship one afternoon three summers ago, when I had vehicle trouble and spent a frustrated couple of hours awaiting rescue. She was online and we chatted back and forth for the entire time – about the ‘Something’s and ‘Nothing’s, and everything in between. That day she transitioned from an ‘internet computer friend’ to a functional part of my life, and we have spoken every day ever since.
She brought me into her world; the one she showed through poetry, allusively, playing out her anxieties and terrors in public. She had the same method I did – writing prettily about the darkness to somehow redeem it a little with beauty and light. And oh, her light!
Her care and attention (and yes, I can say it now – her love) was like oxygen to my suffocated heart. The power of it was able to melt through all my defenses and shine into the epicentre of my darkness, chasing shadows away and making it feel as though somehow, some day, I could be as courageous as her. She accepted me absolutely as I was, and I flourished under her attention, though I still skirted around expressing the word I knew I could use, if I dared.
Eventually I felt secure enough in our relationship to bite the bullet. I found a small, red-leather-bound book, and in it I began to write about love. Poems, songs, doodles, explanations, prose…all focused on one concept: love. And how much of it I had for her – she, who had shown me it was within me to release.
Finally finished and heart in mouth, I packaged the book and sent it. Anxious butterflies remained trapped in my stomach; dormant, but fluttering back into life each time I wondered whether she’d received it yet. Whether she had it and had chosen to ignore it. Whether it had been lost and all my efforts had been in vain. Whether it would matter.
Whether I would matter.
I think when it arrived, even the stars knew how much she delighted in it, and cherished it.
That day, something in me began to release. Something deep and dark and locked-tight-for-survival, broke open. Wonder and happiness crept out, basking in her love and growing stronger every day. I practiced my new found freedom with childlike glee, repeatedly telling her I loved her, and delighting in her mirrored response.
Slowly but surely she built me up with the affirmation that by learning to love, I was doing the right thing. She accepted my failings and anxieties, and was patient with how slow I was to begin acting on my new-found capability. She waited (smiling, I fancy) as I stumblingly began to emulate her by telling others I loved them.
When I panicked and ran back to her with woe-filled tales of getting it all wrong, she comforted me and helped me to find a way forward. When I succeeded, and told her of the ways I had made meaningful connections even stronger – had been vulnerable and caring in a way which elicited a positive response – she celebrated with me.
Never before had I experienced friendship so deep, so comfortable, and so freeing. As I flourished, I felt as though new neural pathways were embossing themselves into my brain, all sparkled with the light she had brought into my world.
I had no idea that an ‘internet computer person’ could be so utterly vital to my personal growth, my psyche, or my soul. No idea she could become my best friend. Although my heart was firmly hardwired, I finally made us ‘real’ by flying to America to meet her for the first time.
When we hugged, it was a pinnacle moment. We both cried for sheer delight at how right it felt to be together in person at last. As per my nickname for her, she will always be my ‘1000Mile Heart.’
Each time I was acknowledged, affirmed and accepted by her, I felt more human – more rightly myself. I was rediscovering something long-lost and intrinsic: the pieces of me which had been so badly damaged were coming back together, Kintsugi-gilded by her care.
No matter the distance between us, I know that now and for always, she feels like home. Like love.
Lizzi is a Deep Thinker, Truth-Teller and seeker of Good Things, committed to living life in Silver Linings. She’s also silly, irreverent and tries to write as beautifully as possible. She sends glitterbombs and gathers people around her – building community wherever possible. She’s absolutely certain that #LoveWins.
A founder member 1000Speak, she hosts the Ten Things of Thankful blog hop each weekend and tries to #BeReal as often as possible.
Now on Amazon “Let Me Love You, Anyway” written by Lizzi Lewis and Hastywords. A poetic duet has been turned into a Journal. A journal we hope you will dedicate to someone you love and fill with all the treasures of your heart.
People so often say “Everything happens for a reason”, and whilst there are usually trails of cause-and-effect, quite often the ‘reason’ which can be drawn from a situation depends on what you put into it. Occasionally, though, it’s pure serendipity and life can spin on the dime of chance, altering its trajectory through happenstance. Both things were true for us – we ‘met’ online and somehow (perhaps it’s a poet thing, or a writer thing, or just a people-who-are-right-for-each-other thing) we clicked, fell utterly in Friends, and have become keystones in each other’s lives.
We have both been blessed by the unconditional flow of adoration, compassion, encouragement, understanding, and acceptance that transcends the miles between us, and is strengthened each time we meet. This poem was written from our hearts, one to the other, in support, solidarity, and love, which remains bright and shining between us, even on our darkest days. If friendship is the pinnacle of love, then may we ever enjoy this apex.
We believe the sentiments our poem definitely go further than the two of us. We hope you fill this journal with heartfelt words and then… give it to someone you love.