That’s the thing about pain,” Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. “It demands to be felt.

John Green, The Fault in our Stars

It’s confusing to me how we expect our love, our hearts, our sincerest feelings to come with an on off switch.

Yesterday I was on a plane flight and couldn’t help but hear the conversation of two sisters sitting next to me. As one of them was talking about her recent break-up, expressing it was for all the right reasons but that she missed him- she just missed him -she started to choke up and cry.

She hastily apologized saying she didn’t know why she was crying, and though I was gazing fixedly at my book trying my best not to notice, I could still hear the deep breath, the compartmentalizing, the return to a more stoic, together exterior as she forced herself to stop.

I understand not wanting to lose it in public. On a plane. Surrounded by strangers. But part of me wanted to lean over and tell her to cry and feel. To release.

To let a natural expression of loss and sadness flow that honors the strength it takes to even try for a relationship, for love. The absolute courage it takes to tangle your heart with another, risk vulnerability, risk hurt.

Risk things not working out.

Risk things working out.

I wanted to tell her there is no shame to be found in having a hopeful heart or a hurting heart, when our hopes don’t go as planned. I wanted to tell her that the human heart is one of the most achingly fragile and sturdily resilient forces on the planet. Don’t be afraid of it.

Mostly I wanted to tell her go on ahead, be yourself, it’s okay to be human.

It is so hard for us at times. Remembering its okay to be human. We expect ourselves to entertain life with our best foot forward, a sense of having it together. We feel to be vulnerable is to fail at this misdirected, self appointed task.

We treat our relationship to our relationships so very oddly sometimes. Disingenuous, I suppose, and limiting. As if they are these linear creatures. One dimensional. Something ends and we expect our hearts to accordingly end all emotional attachment as well.

It’s this whole mentality of being “over” things. Everything is so disposable, so upgradeable in our world. I think sometimes we forget that those who touched us in a profound way, those we intertwined ourselves with on a deeper level- emotionally, spiritually, sexually, soulfully, sacredly, heartily- that those will never be disposable.

Even after they have ended.

People can try and save themselves from potential depth of feeling, of loving, of losing. Holding ourselves back and engaging in superficial interactions is a good means of bargaining with heartfelt relating, a means of protective negotiation to avoid the twining. But I suspect that at the end of the day even the best attempt at defending and compromising the human heart will backfire, leaving those who avoid meaningful connection feeling more and more like an empty shell of self.

I still feel it all. Those who have touched me. Not in the way I did at the time, but the imprints are still there. Each step.

I believe there will likely always be traces of someone who left a footprint on our internal gardens. The nature and scope of that footprint may change, but the fact that we allowed them access onto our land will not change.

And as part of being well and whole humans, I think that instead of rejecting their presence as we try and stoically compartmentalize and say that something which was absolutely something with a capital S, was indeed nothing. Well I think we are much better off making peace with our Somethings.

I stared out the window into the deep blue sky for a long time as I considered all of the above and took careful stock of my relationship to the footprints in my internal garden.

Some of them are spaces tinged with a hint of sadness for days gone by, but also sweetness that those days existed to begin. I notice that my heart feels bittersweet about these landscapes, not quite sure whether to be happy or sad. So I let it be both.

Some are dull aches, things that ended badly or hurtfully or abruptly without resolution. I notice myself wrinkling my nose a little and shaking my head over these careless moments, these careless footsteps that left traces of disturbed trail and litter behind them.

And some still feel like somebody came along and instead of stepping lightly and respectfully on the land, simply took what ground they wanted with little regard for the consequences of their actions. The earth has gone through great upheaval in these spaces. It is still trying to heal itself. I notice strange pains and great sorrow in my cells, imprints that didn’t exist at one point in my life.

It strikes me as I stare into sunny skies that my responsibility to self isn’t to deny any of this territory exists. Even the land that was damaged. But to embrace the wounds of land and then cover them with love and new life.

I am hoping this trip helps that process. Perhaps the beautiful land of Kauai bringing further wellness and beauty back to mine.

Time may be linear and life right now may not be where it once was, but my relationship to my relationships isn’t linear. Shallow and unchanged. Subject to a superficial timeline.

It’s fluid. Circular. Cyclical. A full. Subject to movement and change as it continues to seek healing that moves my land towards wholeness.

What a beautiful thought. The ability to bring healing and wellness to our ruptures in land, to heavy footsteps that happened long ago. If we take the time to notice and embrace them. To be complex and rich and full.

And know it is good and okay.

Later on in the flight, I noticed my seat mate and I were reading the same book. The Fault in our Stars. I noticed we were both in the same part of the book and both had our tissues handy, dabbing at the corners of our eyes. We talked about how beautiful the story is, our upcoming trips, and excitement over heading to the tropics.

As we spoke, I hoped in my heart the story gave her permission to cry, to feel and grasp something in her heart she seemed to be struggling to grasp within her own story. I hoped that the land would bring her healing, healing she may not know she even needs. I hoped she would find well spaces within and know them as good and okay.

As for me, I finished the book, had a good cry and carefully tucked its story into my heart to take with me.

And then started a new book, a new chapter.

No matter what other stories we carry, there is always room for new ones.