Losing My Innocence

Posted on in On Our Radar by Meredith Heller

Love’s Forge

Some people are late bloomers, some are late losers—of their innocence. And though I believe we grow and bloom when we’re ready, it took me until mid-life to lose mine, and unlike losing my virginity, which happened when I was a young teen, in the woods along the Potomac River, I lost my innocence in the desert amongst 80,000 people, connected by dust and sweat, but in a sacred temple with one.

A tall ginger boy whose turquoise eyes tracked my every curve, whose elven smile and indigo voice warmed my stone garden, whose kisses turned my world into a pastel sky, and whose hands touched my body like I was some hot and holy creature just being born.

And though his back was bent by a past of being battered by angry fists, he had cultivated a texture of attention that was tender as new green shoots. We spoke in multidimensional metaphors. We stood for hours in a house of mirrors, looking at a hundred different angles of each other’s face, and we walked out holding hands.

We carved trails in the dust with our bikes, clean curves of geometry. We led and followed each other, weaving helixes of words and silence. We met in the middle, burned the maps of our past, and rode directly into each other’s reach.

The air was hot and hungry. It seared our lungs. It magnified the light. There was no room for anything but the truth, and the truth was singing. We danced and kissed in a throng of bodies moving to rhythms and melodies that expressed everything we were feeling, and the stars burned through the night seamless as the cycle of breath; we lay down on the desert floor to dream.

Morning rose, twirling her skirts across the horizon in waves of oily silk. We wrapped each other in last night’s furs and rode out into the desert to make our prayers to the light. In the desert, the quiet is a presence. It approaches on moccasined feet, touches its palm to your chest, whispers a secret into your ear that blooms in your brain like salvation. We stood together in that desert temple and said the only thing there is to say to each other.

A woman's hands holding a white lotus blossom.
A woman’s hands holding a white lotus blossom.

But a few days later, when we returned to the city, though we gave each other no promises and I knew he didn’t want commitment, he went right into the arms of another woman. And it took four conversations over the course of four hours before he told me, and only because I asked. And another hour before he told me she was coming that afternoon, and was I going be okay with that? Truthfully!? I was shocked. I yelled. I spit. Then I crumbled. I should mention he was the first man I’d even kissed in over a year.

I had come home a day early from the Yuba River feeling cleansed and shining, ready to meet him in the morning to help install our friend’s 34-foot polar bear sculpture at the SF Ferry Building. And maybe I would’ve felt differently had he been excited to see me, had he pulled me close, but he didn’t even reach to kiss me when we said hello.

Couldn’t he allow the alchemy we’d created together to echo through his being a little longer before diluting it with another? Did I feel one of the richest connections of my life all by myself? I thought he went there too. But to go right to another woman? No. He couldn’t have felt what I did. That kind of connection is magic. A rare gift that comes once or twice in a lifetime and you want to honor it and each other by allowing the seeds to root, the vibrations to hum, for as long as possible.

My whole life I’ve been tumbled by intense tides of solitude. When I do emerge from the depths of my solitary sea, if I meet a man I like and there is a connection that feeds us both like a fountain of youth, then there are no games with me; there is no cat and mouse. If I let you into my private cove, it’s because I already love you, and I don’t hold out, and I don’t hold back; I bring my wild and wounded love right to your altar, ripe as a summer peach.

But this summer in the desert, I loved a man who said he loved me too, then he turned away and made love with another. And something inside me has finally turned off or more rightly, it has finally turned on. This part of me that has always been willing to love freely, perhaps innocently, again and again, despite being burned to ash, is no longer willing. A gate in me that has always swung open eagerly is now shut and locked, combination changed. My heart has finally grown wise —with fierce protection and fiercer love.

I feel for the next man who loves me. He will have one hell of a time getting my attention, one hell of a time getting me to believe him, one hell of a time getting me to surrender the hard-earned love I’ve finally forged for myself, and he’ll have to be better than I am alone, because I am on fire!

In the forge of my will, I melt myself down. In the white-hot heat of hurt, the last embers of survival roll over in surrender. I am tempered, heated and cooled, hammered and folded, over and over, until the inside of me and the outside of me meet and merge. And through this dark catharsis, I rise, glowing with a strength and dignity that come only from giving myself wholeheartedly, and losing.

Where my heart had been broken, there is now open space. Here, a new capacity and willingness to embrace my vulnerability and claim my power as a woman, to value myself thoroughly and accept myself with deeper commitment, to rightfully guard the wellspring of my heart and body, sharpen my discernment, and understand that this derailment is not an obstacle to the path, but is the path itself.

And to love, even when I’m broken and there’s nothing left, and I want to give up on myself. But instead, I learn to sit with what hurts and not abandon myself. I go to nature, sit by the water, sleep on the earth. I grow to trust my tides of death and rebirth. I make song and poetry from my charred bones. I tattoo a feather across my scar. And finally, I pick myself back up with kindness and fire in my hands, and love again, because this is who I am.

As women, no matter our age or our agelessness, we continually grow and bloom, wither and seed. Through love and loss, we learn to trust ourselves and navigate our hearts with greater wisdom. We open and close, and open again, because we are strong and lithe, resilient and resourceful. And because love is what we do.

I heard she drank the fire. I heard she tempered her sword. I heard she sat in stillness until peace found her. I heard her heart remembered to belong. I heard she tuned her compass to a new wilderness, where each moment sings.

Meredith Heller is a performing poet and singer/songwriter with graduate degrees in writing and education. She is a CA Poet in the Schools and author of the new collection SONGLINES (Finishing Line Press). She is mused
by nature, synchronicity, and kindred souls.

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