Tonight I spoke your name lightly, just in passing conversation, and I thought it would hurt. It has sometimes hurt before, just the sound of it escaping my lips. Sometimes, it hurt deeply. Other times, it was only a pinch. But when it comes to You, hurt is hurt, big or small, and I braced myself for impact.
But it didn't hurt. And that was weird at first. When I got into the car, I tried it again, softly and slowly. And nothing.
The whole drive home, I thought of You. And that was weird too because I don't think of You that often anymore. The time that I knew You feels like a million years ago. But then there are times when it feels like You were here with me just yesterday. There are times when I cannot remember your face without looking at a picture, and then there are times when I can still feel your lips brush against my hair as You whispered a secret in my ear. I cannot recall the last conversation we had, but I know every word You spoke to me as You brought me that first Diet Coke, leaned back on my picnic table, and pointed out constellations. You spilled your life to me then (and for countless nights after) all the shame and secrets and sadness, behind the comfort and seclusion that a dark Texas night can provide.
This is the exact moment You stole my heart.
I didn't know it at the time. In fact, I didn't know it the whole time I was falling in love with the idea of you, but I realize it now. Sometimes I wish I had seen that moment for what it really was because, if I had, maybe I would have sent You to go find some other picnic table to be your confessional. And then maybe things would have been different.
But I didn't see it for what it was because I was young and stupid, and when you're young and stupid, your brain stops making decisions and your heart takes charge. And the heart isn't very good at decision making. So things weren't different, and day by day, you charmed me into loving your broken life, and I became addicted to You. More specifically, I became addicted to solving the riddle that was You. You were my first fixer-upper. The first wounded bird that I could not heal. I was sad for that because to make you happy and to see you smile was all I ever wanted.
Lately, however, I've come to understand that I wasn't addicted to You at all. I was addicted to the way You made me feel about Me.
You made me feel unique instead of awkward.
You made me feel smart, and I was sure that You were the smartest person I'd ever known.
You made me feel beautiful, and I had only ever felt plain.
You made me feel as though I could accomplish anything.
You made me feel comfortable because you didn't ask me to be anything but Me.
You made me feel nervous but not insecure. And I didn't know those could be two different things.
You made me feel powerful and confident.
You made me feel that my voice was important and that I deserved to be heard.
You made me feel talented and special.
You made me feel loved and appreciated, all in the space of seventeen short syllables.
You made me feel necessary to this world at a time when I was seriously lost and alone.
Even more than making me feel those things, you made me know them. For. a. fact.
You made me know that I was all of those things before You, and that I would be all those things well after You. You lit up my soul and then held a mirror to my face. And then you forced me to see myself. It was painful and hard and electrifying all at once. Many times in all the years since You, I have forgotten that I knew these things, knew them in my heart, and many times I have chosen to ignore them. But those times were my fault, not yours. And those moments are fewer and farther in between now.
I am so very different now. I am not the person You knew. Perhaps You might not even recognize Me if we passed one another on the street. I might seem familiar, like someone You knew in a past life. And I am.
I understand that You are different now too; your life is so very different than when I knew You best. I'm ecstatic about that because You were so unhappy then, and that fact alone caused me such pain. I am hopeful that although I couldn't fix you, maybe you uncovered a way to fix yourself. Or maybe the love of someone else filled in all those places that were missing. And maybe when she tells you that You are beautiful and special and powerful and unique, You believe Her just like I once believed when You whispered those words to Me.
This is the gift that You gave to Me. The knowledge that I am enough. That I am worthy. That I can do anything. That even though things may be painful, they are important. That people can slip away and that they can break your heart, but they cannot break your spirit and that they are not gone forever.
And this is why it doesn't hurt to speak your name anymore. And why sometimes it even makes me smile.