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Do you believe in life after love?

Cue the Cher music. But seriously, do you believe in life after love? For a very long time, I did not. I wasn’t sure I believed in much. That’s what happens when the fragility of life is hung over your head.

The risk of loving again and losing can be crippling. I see it all the time. Those who stay stagnant in the safety of what they know won’t hurt them. A safe routine, the safety of the people you know, the restaurants where you are a regular, the greeting from the front desk worker at the doctor who knows your name, the roads you drive without a GPS (unless you’re me and still map your way to work every day).

The unknown can feel like the dark, entangling woods of nightmares.

Sometimes, I long for the girl who wasn’t scared and willing to risk it all. Young and hungry, bags packed and moving to a new city, a new job, a new love. I miss her naive optimism about what would be. A marriage, four kids (so no one would ride alone at Disney), a home with white sheets on every bed and a wreath on the door, and perfect family Christmas cards on a nice thick card stock in the mail.

If I dreamed it, I would do it and manifest the shit out of what I wanted until it came true.

That’s how I thought life worked: work hard enough, and you can do it.

But sometimes, life rocks you, and the unknown is all you know. There is no more planning, hoping, or wanting.

You just are. Standing in the same place and scared to move forward because what’s there?

That’s how I lived from when the word cancer entered that tiny hospital room. A terminal diagnosis for my 30-year-old husband, and all was unknown. All I knew was nothing at all.

Will he live? Will he die? Will we have children? Will I work? Will I ever dream again? Will any moment of happiness ever not feel wrapped in sadness? Will we send Christmas cards, and who is in the photo? And suddenly, the color of our sheets seemed trivial.

“They” tell me to take it a day at a time, an hour at a time. But how does that work for a planner, for a doer, for a check-the-box, and move to the next type of girl?

It was like the future didn’t exist. And neither did I.

I mourned for the future. I still do.

And the thing about life is, it just keeps coming.

My friend lost her dad this week; he went to get the car and then was gone.

I got news from friends about a baby asleep before it even opened its eyes.

Another hospital visit for a friend, away from their young son for a month so daddy can fight cancer.

Maybe knowing hurts worse than the unknown; I’m not sure.

Or maybe knowing is the gift?

I looked over in bed this morning. Sleepy eyes of a 9-year-old who “knows” too much for her age. She knows bad things can happen because they have. She knows her daddy died before she was one year old and worries she’s forgetting something she never really knew.

Here she sits, holding a wiggly baby sister and a bro-daddy by her side—a curly-haired dog who won’t stop peeing on the carpet snuggles in. The early morning TV glows on our faces as tired parents will themselves awake to care for their little people, and at that moment, I’m glad I know.

I’m glad I know how fast things can change. How messy life can be. I’ve known great loss and now can let myself feel great love and take it in, not for granted.

The unknown can’t scare me because I know life, loss, and all the love. And I’ll still worry about the sheets and all the people who snuggle in there in the morning.

I’m glad I know.

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