Uncurling the Roots

Kelsey J Barnes on learning to accept incomplete and messy endings

by Kelsey J Barnes

I have never been one for endings. If things have to come to a close, they need to be neatly packaged; no unfinished business, no more feelings, nothing to wonder about when we’re 40 and having a mid-life crisis and looking to make mistakes. I like closing a book and knowing that there is nothing more to want or explore. I want to be at peace with it: characters have found their path, story-lines are wrapped, the antagonist defeated, and the ending is happy. That’s what I wanted in all of my stories and in my endings –happiness. If things needed to end, at least have them end happily.

I wanted someone to pour all of my love into and I wanted that person to fill all of the cracks in my armour in return. I wanted someone to make me into his home – a place he would come to when he needed it, making me feel worthy, and then he appeared.

Loving him was a lot like learning to swim – I didn’t want to tiptoe into his world too much at first; the water was dark and unexplored. There was something unnerving about looking out into the water and not being able to see anything below you, and I thought that was a lot like love – you don’t really know why you’re subjecting yourself to potential harm, but you grab his hand, swim a little deeper, and make a silent decision to follow him anywhere. Every new experience was like taking a breaststroke a little further away from shore, but he was there. I learned every line in his palm while swimming further and further away with glazy eyes and no care in the world.

Until I found myself alone in that large body of water with no one to guide me back to shore.

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For the days and months that followed, I would pretend that I was fine; I was floating through life, desperately pretending to enjoy the view. I would roll my eyes when people would bring him up. I would repeat I’m over him, I’m over it, and I’m over us to anyone that would hear it. If I said it out loud, maybe I would start to listen to what I was saying. I wasn’t over it. I was afraid I would never be over it. He planted seeds in my heart and made a home out of it; the roots were embedded within every part of my body, I didn’t know how to untangle myself away from him. To this day, I can still trace out all of the favourite places his lips met my skin – that spot behind my ear, the scar on my inner arm, the freckle below my breast, the birthmark that I’ve never really seen on my back. To this day, I can still feel the weight of his hand on my back on our last day together. It would be the only thing I would be able to feel for months.

Months would pass and I would just barely be getting by. I wasn’t over it, but I tried to get rid of it anyways; I kissed other boys who tasted like whiskey and boys who told me I had too much to say for myself. I needed them to feel like home. I needed someone who wanted to make a home out of me again. I needed someone to plant seeds and grow me into something useful again. I wanted a new ending, one where I was happy again.

When I found my way back to shore, I had to learn how to walk again. This time, there would be no hand to hold. There would be no other person to guide me. There would be no person to fill all of my cracks and fulfil all of my desires. I needed to figure it out for myself; I needed to be okay with things ending abruptly and poorly. I needed to learn that there is no such thing as a failure when it comes to love; you can find worth and lessons in things ending. My happiness and worth could not be dependent on another person.

For all of the days that I wondered whether his roots would always be embedded within my bones and for all of the nostalgia-induced nights that were spent tracing the outline of his lips on my skin, I think of us and can only feel gratitude. Our story, and subsequent ending, was what it was – a lesson in learning how to uncurl the dead roots grown by another in order to dig deep down and plant my own for my foundation. No longer was I searching for someone to make me into his home. I was my own.


Kelsey J Barnes | @kelseyjbarnes
Kelsey Barnes is a writer from Toronto, Canada. She’s just learning how to be her own heroine. You can read more of her work on her blog.

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