I love you.
More than words can say, as cliché as that may sound. I love you across the ocean and back again. From then until now. That fundamental thing will never change. Before now, I never believed this love had borders. The horizon seemed to keep moving each time I came to the edge and I was prepared to sail until the world dropped off. I know this is no longer true. This love does have boundaries. There are hinterlands through which I will never walk and valleys I never wish to traverse again. But this, muse, is not the end of a love you once called vast.
Now, the world has rounded and instead of teetering on the edge, we are standing on different continents attempting to rebuild. And perhaps that is for the best. But there are still ships and bridges and when time permits we will come to know each other again. Until then? I will stand on the shore sending signals the only ways I know how. My words. My actions. My love in abundance.
I will miss you.
In my childhood watching my parents and other familial couples, I learned that love came in many forms. It was rough at the edges and amazingly sweet. It was hard and at times the only glue that held it together were the children sleeping in the next room. Love was sacrifice in steel mills and factories and birthday parties to rival any white collar, suburban brood. Love was transcendental .
I grew from a child shouting I would never be married to a woman clinging to a marriage. Both were extremes. I allowed myself only two choices, a flat Earth or one too bulbous to hold alone. Now I’m struggling to find the happy medium, to find the borders of love. Yes, there is sacrifice and there are hard times, but when do you stop the intake? How do you ensure that your heart is protected without shutting out those who may benefit from what you have to offer? I’m not sure.
The best I can come up with is to take it day by day. One of my online support team tells me to take it hour by hour. She says if I feel the urge to reach out to wait and if I make it through that hour? Wait another one and so on and so forth until the day is done. There have been times I have had to break this down to minutes. When I apply this technique? The Earth evens a bit and my grip tightens. This hold on my borders strengthens and I’m able to make it through the day without too much self-sacrifice. When I don’t? I open myself to uncertainty and pain. I’ve learned enough over the last months not to do that to myself. Any pain I experience from now on? My own doing. I said before that I relinquish victimhood. I meant it.
Finding borders is a struggle for me. I love hard. I love open. I love to a fault. To survive, rather to thrive, I have to find ways to place boundaries on those around me. I guess this is really finding ways to place boundaries on myself. I must learn that loving doesn’t mean blindness or ignorance or complete selflessness. It means knowing what I need, meaning what I say, and expecting the same of those I choose to love.
Athena Dixon is co-founder/prose editor of Specter Literary Magazine, poetry editor of The Reprint, and a managing editor for Z-Composition. Her work has appeared both online and print and is forthcoming in several journals. She writes, edits, and resides in NE Ohio.