excerpt: I promise, there are reasons.
Birthdays. Setting fires. Holding hands. Making stew on cold nights. Mountain climbing. Sleep. First dates. Vacation. Spending the day in bed. Buying wedding rings. Exploring a forest. Playing peekaboo with a baby. Watching someone smile genuinely. Camping. Stargazing. Counting rings on a tree. *Realizing that someone loves you.* Returning that love. Getting drunk for the first time. Smell of old books. Looking through black & white photos. Learning your ancestors’ names. Laughter. Hot chocolate. The feeling of getting back up after falling down. First day of college. Last day of college. Acing a job interview. Screwing one up and realizing it’s not the end of the world. Collecting shells. Sunbathing. Listening to someone’s heartbeat. Sound of waves crashing against shore. Rain hitting a tin roof. Heartbreak that turns into heart-healing. Your own house. Decorating that house. Coming home to someone you love. Hearing the sound of their footsteps on the stairs. Honesty of fall leaves. Their colors. Fresh snowfall. Singing favorite songs off-key. *Seeing love come into someone’s eyes.* Watching your parents look at each other like the very first time. Sunrise. Sunset. The way fire burns into ash. Smell of a campire. Waking up with light spilling over the sheets. Breakfast in bed. Living long enough to watch wounds heal over. Change. Wilderness. Forgiveness. Change some more. More change. Spring. Flowers blooming, opening up like you can. Good memories. Learning how to forget bad ones. Warm feet in a cold bed. Sleeping with the only person you care about. Waking up to their mouth and arms. Smiles that reach all the way to the eyes. Letting go of balloons like dead weight. Floating in water on your back. Skydiving. Risk. Adventure. First C on a test. First A. Favorite teacher. First poem. Last poem. Holidays with family. Roadtrips. Changing the sheets. Your father’s gnarled hands when he grows old. Grandchildren. Children of your own. Their first day of college. Their graduation. Their wedding. Anniversaries. Making daisy chains. Smell of freshly-cut grass. Pride. Feeling good about yourself. Loving what’s in the mirror. Not being afraid anymore. No more heaviness. No more grief. Survival. Picking berries til your fingers are stained dark. Frost on windows. Holding someone without sex. Sex with love. The joy of swearing. Counting the years you’ve lived. Another candle on the birthday cake. Another mark of victory. That bellyache laugh that hurts all over. But hurts so good. Breath freezing in winter. Feeling that breath on your skin. Someone’s eyelashes blinking into your palm. Accomplishment. Self-worth. *Love.* Triumph. Sitting under willow trees without weeping. *Apologies that get accepted.* Understanding that comes from forgiveness. First fight. First makeup afterward. Less hurt. More good.