It’s Like Learning to Fly When You Ain’t Got Wings (Public)

Falling down is the hardest thing

It’s Like Learning to Fly When You Ain’t Got Wings (Public)
Photo by Christian Lue / Unsplash


By early October I had decided that it wasn’t right between Mira and I, that it was too risky in terms of all that we could lose, and I called it off. It was sudden. She didn’t see it coming I don’t think, and felt broadsided. She had been living in the moment enjoying herself and I had been living in some possibly cloudy future.

I broke her heart. It kills me. I broke my own as well. I loved her. There was something about her. We could always laugh. When the magnitude of what I had done hit me, I absolutely sobbed and sobbed, my face hot and wet against the pillow in my too bright room.

We emailed after that, trying to work things out. I met her once for dinner—we talked about the job I was considering—and once under the dome at the Palace of Fine Arts. She’d said, “Bring flowers.” We walked to the beach in the Presidio, stood on a bridge over a tidal wash for a long time, embracing. The tide was out and everything was dry, strewn about. Rocks sat lost and dumbfounded in the shallow bed beneath us. After that she wanted her distance.

The next time I saw her was in January. It was a cold, rainy, wet, Friday night and we met at the Make Out Room. It was so good to see her and we laughed over drinks, and dinner later, like we hadn’t in awhile. At the end of the evening, both of us thoroughly wrung through with alcohol, we walked to her place arm in arm. I kissed her on the cheek, told her I’d had a fantastic time. We haven’t seen each other since.

Fear begets what it most fears, and I fear that I have now lost what I was somehow desperately trying to preserve, a friendship with a girl that meant so much to me. It’s so self destructive, I saw it coming a mile away and carried on. Can you believe it? How could I have? Shit. My God… I’ve got to stop.


If I listen, I can still feel echoes of those days. I remember the tragedy of losing the relationship, and the love, I’d tried to protect. And the thing that feels so difficult to read from my current vantage point are the phrases like, “I had decided it wasn’t right,” and “I called it off.” The unilateralism I read in those statements churns my stomach.

In those days I don’t think I was equipped to talk about my feelings, to open up to Mira, be vulnerable, and share. What if I had shared my fears? What if I had said, “I love you so much. I love spending time with you. You mean so much to me. And I’m afraid of committing to a relationship. I’m not sure that the sexual spark is there for me in this relationship. And I value you so much. And I love laughing with you and I don’t want to lose you.” What if I’d said any of that? What if I had said that in Barcelona?

And I’ve had the experience, in the intervening years, of feeling like a relationship absolutely wasn’t for me, and then celebrating, and feeling utterly grateful for that same relationship, and so in love, thirteen years down the line. I don’t think relationships come fully formed. They are built.

I don’t think I had the emotional skills at the time, or the emotional courage, to face, to befriend, to love, to value my inner being enough to offer Mira a relationship with that part of myself. To recall myself attempting to navigate relationships without access to my emotional being, it churns my stomach because it feels dangerous, like watching someone get into a car with a kid who’s trying to impress but doesn’t know how to drive. You just think, “Oh my God, this isn’t going to end well.” I didn’t have the training. But I got in and drove.

I think I had the sense at the time that I was potentially dangerous to women. I sensed that some women felt that way too but I didn’t understand why I was dangerous. But how can anyone be a safe harbor for another without access to their own hearts? When the heart is closed to others, even to ourselves, we lose empathy and connection. And then we can enact all kinds of horrors in the name of who knows what.

I advocate for open hearts, for loving and opening all the parts of ourselves, especially the ones that feel hard to love. For when we can love those parts, we can love all of the parts of others too. And then we’re on the road to joy.