Deep breaths; here we go.

You know how sometimes they say that love is right in front of you and it finds you when you least expect it? I always thought that a parable for romantic comedies, fiction novels, and fools. But today, I wrote a love letter for the first time in 7 years.

Last weekend, my lover and sweetheart of nearly 2 years said I love you, and something big shifted in me. I had been feeling it too; the slow burn of our sweet and tender passion had grown into something bigger, but I was too scared to name it. But J did, and ever since then, I feel a hard shell cracked open, soft and quivering insides oozing out for all to see.

For many years, I've feared that there was something wrong with me because I had never had love like it seemed that everyone else around me knew. I have said I love you many times, always quickly to new lovers in the roman candle of our passion. I hadn't said it to anyone or heard it said to me in years, and the last person who told me they loved me also brought out the worst in me. A year and a half of her "love" had brought me to a deeply dark place, one where I felt inherently unlovable and like I would never love myself enough to pick someone who would love me well. I hated myself after her, tried to change as many things about who I was and the way I looked after we ended in the hopes of escaping that deeply sad person. I feared that maybe it was me; that I wasn't someone deserving of love or compassion or care, and that she was the best I would ever get.

Over these past 2 years with J, these deep and tender wounds have begun to heal. J cares for me in a way that I don't know that I've ever experienced in a lover. When we're together, I feel cherished and special and beautiful. When J touches me, I relax and feel safe. When we're together, I feel present and my mind is quiet.

My relationship with J doesn't look like what I would have thought love could be. J has a primary parter, and we have seen each other about once every week or two for the last couple of years. For a long time, I felt that J and I were in the murky territory between dating and a Relationship. I don't know that I took us seriously enough, and when J said I love you, everything changed. Maybe I just needed to hear those words, or maybe it's that J said them first when I was too scared to risk it. But in the days since it happened, it's as if my eyes started to creep open after a long, deep sleep.

Tonight, I sobbed while I re-read the letter I wrote to J. I cried for the happiness I didn't think I could have. I cried for the terrifying fear I feel in loving someone, knowing that nothing is promised and that I can be hurt. I cried with thanks to finally realize how much I have and how lucky I am. I cried because I am afraid of that I might want more than what is possible. I cried because I am terrified of my own need. I cried because J isn't scared of it. I cried because someone who knows me also loves me, and I didn't believe that that could happen. I cried because J has given me the gift of learning to love and trust myself.

A few years ago, a close friend of mine was falling in love and I read a quote from her that's stayed with me ever since. Anaïs Nin wrote it, and I remember reading it and yearning to know that feeling.

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

Today, I cried with release because I can finally begin to let go of all the dark beliefs I've held about myself for all these years, and because I can now begin the terrifying and exhilarating process of learning to love both J and myself.