I stare into my bedroom vanity and trace the wrinkles in my face with the tips of my fingers as if reading a book written in braille. I stare deeply into my own eyes and wonder,” when did I get so old?” Did these indentations on my skin come from too much happiness or perhaps from too much anger and bitterness…? I sink within myself withdrawing into the solitude of my own mind. This is home. This is safety. Here I don’t have to face questions that I already know the answer to. Here naivety is something expected. Or at least in the outside world others would perceive it as naivety, I suppose? But, in all honesty, it’s deliberate. Sort of like making vague statements or casual comments hoping that someone will see that those almost unnoticeable phrases fit together like Morse code. A sort of test to see just how many chances I can give him, before he can finally see it, these pieces form words spelling out sentences that my heart has always been too afraid to speak. “Can you see me? Do you know that I’m here?! Please, notice me before I disappear!” When will I find the courage to ask him for help? Why do I believe that for me to ask for help is to admit my own weakness? When I know for a fact that there is no greater form of bravery than to look someone directly in the eye, open myself open completely, and say, “Here is my heart. I trust you enough to show you the unexplored raw depths that linger inside me. This is a piece of me that no one will ever get the chance to see. This is yours now. If I’m wrong to do this then prove it.” That sort of vulnerability and trust is profound. To put faith into someone with the hope that they will do the same is too often viewed as pathetic. As if feeling love and a sort of completeness in the presence of someone other than myself is weak. I’ve been hurt. I’ve given myself completely to people incapable of understanding my worth and I’ve never been in more pain than when I feel the severing of that connection. To gamble knowing that it might happen again verges on madness, but what better word to describe love than madness? People throw the phrase self-love like it’s the 21st century motto of self-actualization. But, the words love and ego have no place together. Love is caring for a life you view to be worth suffering for. What we need is self-respect. To respect yourself is to stay true to your own integrity despite the love you carry within yourself no matter how many times you are pushed away. Whatever it is you stand for, stand by it with a form of absoluteness. Never give it up, because in the end that integrity is all we are. When we die people are left only with the impressions we exude in the form of our words and actions and the love we put behind them. I guess my problem is that my words and actions have never truly aligned with my love. I sacrifice one or the other and end up worse because of it. The steps it will take for me to find that balance are unknown. But, I know that I have to keep trying. No matter how much I want to stop and end it all, I have to keep trying. This pain will pass and I’ll be happy. One day at a time I’ll learn the inner workings of my heart well enough to share it with the ones who matter to me. It’s not impossible, that love you feel can be reflected back at you through another individual in time and when it does, by God, you’ll see it… beauty.