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entangled like the night sky

My dog Cash does a silly thing when he thinks there’s danger. Immediately, he springs into action, tail up, his Warning Bark on full blast. And he’ll come to get me to make sure I know there’s Trouble and then run back to its source to show me. It’s really smart and very Lassie, even if 9 times out of 10, the danger is not really a threat.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about danger, lately, about the desire to keep people safe. It is, more than anything else, an act of love. A selfless thing. Given the world we’re living in right now, it’s a lot harder than usual to do that. I’m someone who always protects what and who she loves, even if sometimes that means stepping in between someone and themselves. Sometimes, it means reaching out a hand, and sometimes, slapping someone upside the head. I never come at a conversation without the other person’s best interest at heart. I’m not quiet and I’m not shy, when it matters. I’ll walk into chaos without a second thought.

But it’s been pointed out to me recently I’m less accepting of the same in return. In fact, I’ll quickly change the subject or deflect. And that is, in fact, a defense mechanism. Because leaning on someone means they can let you down. Expecting someone to be there means they might not be. And years ago, in another lifetime, I had a conversation with someone who was close to me, who said the exact words to me that I needed to hear. Perfectly and preciously, as if he’d read the tea leaves of my soul. But in the end, those words were just that: words. Lies, perhaps, if you’re feeling less charitable. So, while I am still exactly me, other people be damned, there’s a part of me who—like Cash—will always startle at danger, real or imagined. Because I didn’t see that coming.

And, when it comes down to it, I know exactly how I love. I think those in my life know it too. But how do I need to be loved? Without walls, for starters. Without hesitation or pretense, the kind of steadiness that doesn’t feel like a held breath or anything close to a question mark. Enjambment, not ellipses. Polish and perfection are unimportant, and I love things that aren’t too neat or too easy, because I am neither. The deep stuff, the real stuff—the chaotic laughter and best mischief. The real conversations about fears and hopes, entangled like the night sky with innumerable stars, beautiful in all its darkness and light. The ease of bare feet and curiosity and quiet understanding, even when there’s disagreement. Not an expectation of neatness, but the mess that comes with an open mind and door and heart. A place without secrets or shame, made soft with warmth and all the things we need to be exactly who we are. Not kept small or quiet, surrounded by the particular appreciation that is both words and actions, that makes the bad days easier to bear simply by virtue of a tangible truth. Good love, honest love, earth-shattering love is just this: both safety net and freefall, both root and sky, both a wild thing and a soul-deep feeling of peace.

Andrea Gibson once wrote something beautiful about how they want to love: “Before I die, I want to be somebody’s favorite hiding place, the place they can put everything they know they need to survive, every secret, every solitude, every nervous prayer, and be absolutely certain I will keep it safe.  I will keep it safe.” And I think that’s really beautiful—to be loved that way.

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