Love Patterns

In my youth
I knew nothing of
the tenderness
the passion and
the burning love.

I knew only of
the awkward,
the obligatory and
the butterflies in my heart
that seemed to justify
anything and everything
as long as the boy wanted me.

These were the butterflies they spoke of in
the rom-coms,
the young adult novels,
the pop music
that came with flushed cheeks
twirled hair
and nervous giggles.
The ideal became one with
the real
and thus formed
the legend of love
that lived on
in the permanent scar on my heart.

This real-ideal
made it possible
to romanticize the tragedy of
my first love
as the butterflies
flounced around us.

The inconsistent,
the inauthentic-
the ups and downs of romance.
The unknown
the unspoken-
the enigmatic Prince Charming.
The silent yearning,
the repressed needing-
the necessary suffering for true love.
The pining
and window-watching,
the tears on my pillow,
the I can't breathe until I see him again-
the I must be a girl in a movie.

I never paid mind to
the other side of the narrative
because I was in love
and I was picked
by a boy
who had butterflies in his hair.

So I remained ignorant of
his selfish,
his indifference
his cruel
his discard
his reshuffle
his pick another
and another
his hand always full.

His I want you for now
but not for too long
but stay just in case
or I'll shed a single tear
without you.

The butterflies fluttered around
all that he did and said
and it was enough,
because it was what I was told to aim for.
I had it.
I secured love.

That was my real,
my deep, my romance.
My first love
defined it.
He set the
and it repeated
in others
and reinforced
my normal.

The manipulating,
the undermining,
the objectifying,
the controlling,
the witholding,
the abuse,

I never knew
that love was not supposed to hurt
because hurt was all that there was.
I never knew
I could demand more because
I never knew
that more existed

and if it did
did I even deserve it?

And when self-love
and self-worth
and self-actualization
came around on a regal white horse
it felt like it was too late,
because I'd already been accepting
for years.

Habits are hard to break.
Standards are difficult to raise,
especially as the breaking and raising
seem to infuriate
those who benefit from a low bar.

My pattern
will take time and hard work
to undo
and recreate.
But I now love myself
to see the real-real
and discard the ideal
and define romance for myself
and demand it.

Because I know
the virtue of a romantic,
butterfly heart.
and burning
and never one-sided
is no longer a foreign concept.

Because to hold a heart as gentle
and love as fierce
as mine
you must match them.
Now that I have the chance
to know
and proclaim this truth,
it can be.

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