And yes, that means you.
If I could open my heart to you, I'd welcome you into my most vulnerable spaces, the places where it would cost me the most, those places beyond all of my defenses, and I'd let you see yourself through my eyes for even a single moment. Where you see flaws, I see the courage to grow. Where you see wounds, I see someone who loves enough to reach through the pain, even though they're afraid they'll just be hurt again. Where you see short-comings, I see how far you've grown. Where you see something ugly, I see the beauty in you.
Your wrinkles remind me of the way you laugh or the bittersweet beauty of knowing you're capable of loving enough to have your heart truly broken. That you tend to respond harshly when you're feeling vulnerable is just an echo of how much love you're capable of feeling. When you're hard on yourself, it brings to mind how much you value the gift of yourself and you want that gift to be its very best. Everything you see as a short-coming in your world is a reflection of something beautiful when seen through my eyes.
If you're someone I talk to (even just in passing), if you're someone that I drop an email to every now and then (even if ridiculously long periods of time pass), you have a very special place reserved in my heart, just for you. Things change. Dynamics shift. Geographic distance grows and fades. Time passes. But part of being such a passionate person is that I'm incapable of renting space in my heart. I give those pieces away, forever, for you to keep. That part of my soul that you held, even for a moment? Look in your pocket, in the back of the junk drawer in the kitchen, or on the top shelf of your closet. I never took it back. It's yours to keep. Forever. If you ever want to find it, all you have to do is look. It's there.
When my daughter was born and I became a father, I didn't stop loving the people in my world so I could love her in their place. My heart simply grew a little bigger to encompass everything that I felt for her. When my son was born, I didn't love my daughter less - my heart simply expanded once more. In the same way, I never stopped loving you. I never stopped cherishing you. I never stopped seeing the beauty in you.
While I can't show you my heart, I can show you how I see the world. I see beauty everywhere I go. A manhole cover. Spilled oil. A concrete wall. A pile of dead leaves. To other people, they're garbage. To other people, they're missed and overlooked in the flow of their everyday world. But they catch my eye. I don't go looking for them. They jump out and say, "I'm beautiful." And I answer, "You're absolutely right. Hold on a moment. Would you mind if I took your picture?" There are days when I see so much beauty that it's almost overwhelming, when my camera is more of a defense than a tool, an instrument that takes the edge off of the wonder around me and turns the volume of the world down just a little.
If those everyday things are beautiful to me, then you, you are simply awe-inspiring. You are breathtaking. When I'm near you, you regularly leave me in awe. You make me feel lucky just to know you. We may not always agree or always get along, but that doesn't lessen the beauty of you even the tiniest amount, not even for a fraction of a moment. It's just my overly passionate, tremendously emotional self that gets in the way. I realize that it's the price of admission into my world. But it's also what allows me to love you as much as I do.
And I do love you. Even the parts you think are unlovable. Even those, to me, are beautiful.
With all my heart,
|A rainy mud puddle|
|A concrete wall|
|A sewer cover|
|A manhole cover|
|Paint flaking on a wall|
|A concrete barrier|
|An old warehouse door|
|A train car|