On the last full moon, I decided I was no longer afraid to fall in love.

It’s a pretty bold declaration, especially coming from me. I’ve probably always been that girl “looking for love in all the wrong places”. I have those doe eyes that are just begging for it. And over the years many people have tried to give it to me, but no matter what, it was never enough.

I always wanted to experience love, but I never wanted the fall. I wanted to feel validated and adored and happy and secure. Who doesn’t want to be swept off their feet into the can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t breathe, intoxicating bliss we’ve been promised in movies and books? But I didn’t want my not-so-secret insecurities brought to the surface. I didn’t want the light shone in my deepest, darkest crevices.  I didn’t want to be unraveled. Falling in love is fucking dangerous.

But when we met it didn’t seem so risky. We casually went to La Torta Gorda on a Sunday, and he tucked his napkin into the top of his shirt. He asked me a lot of questions that I didn’t know how to answer, except when he asked me what my book collection looks like. We went hiking by the beach and he brought strawberries and took his shirt off and the strawberry juice stained his mouth and ran down his chin. He smiled authentically like a five year old does when he’s done something he’s really proud of, like caught a bunch of fireflies in a jar on a humid summer night. On the way back from the hike I was convinced I had already I blew it. I said too much and he would probably never speak to me again. But then he cooked me a steak dinner and we ate it sitting cross-legged on the floor. We played three rounds of checkers before we decided to kiss.

At some point we decided we were “dating” and we quit smoking cigarettes together. Later on we decided to call each other babe, and then I went to Cuba for 8 days and when I came back, he was introducing me as his girlfriend to his friends at the coffee shop.

So when he admitted to me that he was too scared to be in a relationship (ya know, like after we were already in one). I felt robbed, this wasn’t what I signed up for! A part of me I thought I had left in the past was triggered, and without noticing I defaulted to the same old defense protocol I had always used. He became the newest villain, joining Niko’s legion of doom in my endless saga of failed romances.

I love to complain about my lack of love. I’m perfectly content to obsess for the rest of my life over how he just didn’t love me enough. How he just doesn’t deserve me. How I’m just too good for him, I’m too emotionally deep, or too intellectually stimulating, or just too much of a woman. How he’s lost his chance. How he doesn’t fan my flames anyway, and he’s emotionally unavailable. And fuck it, he snores 75% of the night away and surfs 75% of the day away, so why the fuck do I even care?

Because it’s way easier to rationalize my feelings away, then to actually feel them. And after he spoke his truth, I could list a million reasons why he wasn’t my Mr. Right anyway, because he didn’t do this or doesn’t have that. And some of my reasoning sounded pretty good, reasonable even. Listen, I have a disease of always wanting more and still never, ever getting enough, and it makes for a pretty fucking self-absorbed narcissist dating identity. So off I went to write an angry blog post that poetically and passive aggressively shits on him for not wanting to slay dragons to win me over and how I’m some phoenix who rose from some shitty alcoholic ashes to become this enlightened sober being. The blog post went viral and I got all the validation my pain was looking for. Serves him right, I thought.

But there we were on the 4th of July a week later, watching fireworks, still broken up but bodies pressed into each other, the tip of his cold nose on my cheek. Acting as if nothing had ever happened and he was still my Golden Boy and he hadn’t said he was too scared and I hadn’t cried and he hadn’t said please don’t leave and I hadn’t walked away. And it made no sense but I didn’t care. And the smell of fireworks mixed with the smell of his skin and his neck was warm and tasted like the ocean. And it felt like everything I wanted was just being dangled in front of me for one last time. How romantic is that?

And then SPOILER ALERT: we got back together a week later under the full moon. And I was humbled by it all, really though, I was. Because really, I wasn’t scared that falling in love would stir up darkness I wasn’t ready to face. Me and darkness, we’re old friends. I was more scared that falling in love might show me how much light I innately possess. I’m not scared I’m unlovable, I’m scared love is all I really am. That night at 1am, he said everything I wanted him to say and offered me everything I had said I needed. And I was shocked and in a state of mourning him, but I said okay, we’re gonna do this for real.

And just like magic all our walls seemed to be blown to smithereens. It was gag-me-with-a-spoon sickeningly sweet. It was babe this and babe that. It was endless spooning and forehead kisses. It was the most liberating and intimate sex of my life. It was feeling adored and admired. It was the way he winked at me, the way he asked me to read him bedtime stories. Now, I used his toothbrush and wore his plaid pants and drank all his sparkling waters. Now, we whispered “I’m grateful for you” before going to sleep, and maybe that was becoming our way of saying I love you.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that life can change at the drop of a dime. Before I could catch my breath we were trapped in the chaos of unreasonable demands and self-manufactured dread and irrational reactions to unrealistic expectations and shutting down emotionally and we should probably break up (again) and this will never work and who am I kidding and why did I give this another shot and he’s sick I’m sick he’s selfish I’m selfish he’s sensitive I’m sensitive we are going to destroy each other.

This most recent conflict was a first in sobriety. I’ve seen men act in almost every way imaginable, but his anger hit me like a sucker punch. A grown man energetically barricading himself off in the corner, yelling at me to stop yelling at him (but I’m not even yelling I swear) I’m used to taking my own inventory and examining “my part” in conflict, but I’m not even sure what I actually did wrong this time, and maybe I didn’t do anything wrong this time? And everything he metaphorically hurled at me stung. Yet I held it together. Speak calmly speak slowly say you’re sorry ask what you can do for him don’t get angry be loving and kind okay it’s not working maybe just get dressed this slumber party is over he wants to be alone you don’t have to take it personal it’s okay speak calmly speak slowly walk to your car it’s fine.

This is what progress looks like for me right now. It looks like me bawling my eyes out in my dirty ass car after midnight, letting it all hang out, snot coming out my nose, frantically calling every Virgo I know for some sort of advice on how to not fall the fuck apart, or purposely crash my car, or as my therapist would say “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. I stayed calm, I did not emotionally react, and I walked away when there was nothing else I could do. This isn’t a failure, this is what progress looks like, and how it feels is painful. It’s what my friend Sam Lamott calls “growing pains”. And instead of rationalizing it away or running away from it like I’ve done in the past, I’m ready to face it. I’m not going to take the easy way out. If I want to be seen, then I need to start seeing him for who he is (instead of how he is or isn’t fulfilling my needs). If I want him to lay me bare, I better strip myself down first.

The most loving version of myself would tell the terrified version, “hey there, you aren’t just a raggedy Ann collection of all the distorted memories and unresolved trauma and grandiose narratives you’ve been schlepping around your whole life. You are capable of change and you are changing before your own eyes. It’s messy and it’s human. You are unfolding, you are blossoming. You are healing. You are willing to see things differently. You don’t want to burn bridges, you want to grow a garden.”

It’s a mess, but it’s my mess, and unlike the messes before, I’m not ashamed of this one.

And ya know, just because you decide you’re ready for love doesn’t mean love is ready for you. I used to say “it’s all or nothing”. But now I want to learn to love the space in between. It’s not black and white. And it can’t be put into words. Love Is Strange. Like when he tells me I’m a fierce dandelion, and I’m a wilted black rose, and I’m not sure what any of that means but it feels way more romantic than anything I’ve ever heard in movie or read in a book.

It might fall apart again tomorrow, but I am willing. I am willing to see things differently. I am willing to see pain as growth. I am willing to see fear as a pretty little cup that needs to be filled with love.

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Niko Carmella

My name is Niko and I’m in a love/hate relationship with words. I am seeking new ways of thinking, being, acting and moving through my world. I have learned that self-creation is the key to staying alive.



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