Jodi Lewchuk lives and writes in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her deeply personal storytelling and self-portraits explore the vulnerability, and bravery, of the human heart.

Letters to Lovers: The Twin {4/6}

Letters to Lovers: The Twin {4/6}

—Series inspired by Mary-Louise Parker's captivating Dear Mr. You

What a complete and utter surprise you were, X.

You arrived in my life out of the proverbial blue. I hadn't been looking for you; you simply appeared. I don't think you had been looking for me, either. You just happened to bump into me one day, and when I think back to that first conversation we had, I marvel at how innocent we were to everything that would unfold.

As we got to know each other, the degree and depth of the parallels and synchronicity between us would have been frightening if it all hadn't been so electrifying. Being with you was like looking into a mirror, only better. It was so much more than simple reflection. I saw myself in you, but in coming to understand you, I came to understand myself in illuminating ways — the why and how of me.

You challenged me, and pushed me. You made me listen more deeply, and see more expansively. You made me reach higher, and explore uncharted depths. You sent me in search of things I had never encountered before, and made me reexamine everything that was familiar. You made me remember, and you made me feel anew. It was as if every door within me was blown wide open, showing me all the things I knew lay beyond but that I hadn't yet seen. You gave me a glimpse of everywhere and everything. You were an ally. You were a kindred. You were an initiator.

You also had a life very separate from mine, and I knew my place within its context. We had rules of engagement. They were clear. 

But the danger for a woman who had spent so much of her adult life feeling invisible was that being seen, and being seen so clearly at long last, was addictive. While there is no fault in that itself — we all deserve to be wholly appreciated for who we truly are — coming to rely on that validation from someone who can offer it only, by necessity, in a narrow capacity can be perilous. And even though I knew better and had been determined not to let it happen, we both know the precise moment when my heart slid across the line that wasn't to be crossed. 
There was no other choice but to put space between us. 

I never had delusions about us. I always knew exactly what we could, and couldn't, be. But that didn't make learning to live without your regular presence any easier. In fact, it was an awful lot like what I imagine people experience going through withdrawal. I had trouble sleeping. There were days when I stared at my computer screen trying to make sense of the splatter of characters and colours that appeared on it. I would be going about my daily life — folding laundry, walking the dog, visiting my favourite stalls at the Saturday farmers' market — when I'd be hit so hard by a wave of emotion that I'd struggle to breathe and would have to sit down. But most troubling of all was the weight I could feel myself carrying. 

I noticed it because I was in training to run the Boston Marathon. I wore my qualification for Boston like a badge of honour. It had come with the very first marathon I ever ran at the age of 40, a tangible act of triumph in the wake of the end of my long-term relationship. I had run my way back to myself after having been lost in that destructive partnership for too long, and Boston was a powerful symbol to me of how much hardship I had battled through to earn my self-identity. And yet there I was in the final third of the training cycle, struggling to complete tempo runs that I had once knocked off with ease. My Sunday Long Run, the workout I normally look forward to all week, became a battle between me and my GPS watch, with me certain I was running full out but with the display telling me I was slower per kilometre than I had been for my very first endurance race. The psychological and emotional turmoil happening within me was manifesting itself bodily. 

I began to wonder if I would be in any shape at all to run the race I had spent more than a year dreaming about. 

About six weeks before I was scheduled to leave for Massachusetts, I was desperate enough that I felt I needed an impartial party to give me advice. I knew there wasn't anything physically wrong with me; I was simply carrying something in my heart that I needed to let go of but didn't know how. I said as much to the astoundingly intuitive and wise woman I was directed to for guidance. It took me about forty-five minutes to pour out the whole story of us to her. My rapid-fire words were punctuated by smiles and tears by turn, and ended with my desperate plea: 

"Please tell me how to leave this behind and move on." 

She looked at me with the kindest eyes and smiled as she leaned forward to give me the secret instructions for salvation. 

"Oh, Jodi," she said. "Why would you want to take something so rare and so special and bury it? Don't you think it would be much better if you could harness the magic that you shared with X and find a place for it — it, not him — to exist within you? That way it will always be there to inspire you and give you hope and open other doors. It will always be a reminder, when you need it, that magic is real." 

I blinked at her in dumbfounded silence. 

Of course that would be better. Honestly, I felt like a bit of an idiot. It was such a simple idea, such a logical one, and I have no idea why it hadn't occurred to me. We have this prevailing wisdom about needing to dump the baggage of our past, when all we really need to do is learn to carry the right parts of it with us in the right way.

I walked home from the appointment through my favourite park, sobbing the whole way. I cried with release, with relief, and a potent mix of the last of my sadness, elation, ... and peace. I could feel it with certainty: Everything was going to be okay. (In truth, it takes a bit of practice to learn how to carry the magic without also holding onto the thing the caused it, but like anything, time and conscious effort have a way of getting us to where we need to be.) 

As it turned out, the weather for the Boston Marathon was terrible. The temperature hovered around freezing, and the rain fell in steady sheets that were rattled by headwinds along the entire course. I missed my goal time by fifteen minutes. But do you know what? I ran that legendary route with a lightness I hadn't felt in a long time. In the start corral, right before the gun sounded to start my wave, I imagined a piece of our connection, a shared love of the challenge and freedom inherent in endurance sport, sparking like an ember and guiding my way. It ended up being the slowest marathon time I've ever posted, but it was the most triumphant race I've ever run.

So that is how you remain with me, X. That crackling energy our connection gave off during the time we shared is housed in an ember embedded deeply within me. I fan it so that its heat catches and glows whenever I need its particular brand of inspiration. And when the weave of your life's path crosses with mine, as it does sometimes still, I feel affection without burden and admiration without entanglement. I look at you, and it reminds me of all the things I like best about myself.

I think that's one of the nicest things I've ever been able to say about anybody. 

Always shine brightly, X. 

Letters to Lovers: The Hunter {5/6}

Letters to Lovers: The Hunter {5/6}

Letters to Lovers: The Catalyst {3/6}

Letters to Lovers: The Catalyst {3/6}