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  • Ginger Pennington

#TBT - The Great Loves of My Life

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

I originally wrote this post on Taste of Ginger in May of 2013, and it still remains one of my most popular. I understand why: love is the only thing that truly matters in this life, and this post catalogues some of my favorite love letters from boys and men I loved from about 2000-2013. From where I stand now, these letters are more to me than just a nostalgic romp: now I can see the evolution of my understanding of love in the stories they tell. I'd like to say more about that, but first, the original text. (NOTE: I was 28, and had been dating Kai, my now husband and twin-baby-daddy, for only a month at the time of the initial post.)

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Taste of Ginger

May 20, 2013

"Love Notes" I am not finished getting my heart broken. It's something I recently realized.

I was talking to my current Special Someone, who informed me that I recently acquired "the power to break this boy's heart." Immediately I responded, "I won't!" 

But then I thought about it. And I realized I couldn't promise that. Nobody can.

Later in the twilight quiet, I realized this slightly morose universal truth, which seems so simple once you consider it: Nobody who loves can avoid at least one last heartbreak from now until death. Here is my rationale: Either I am going to break your heart or you are going to break mine. If neither of those things happens, one of us is going to die.

May 2013, with my man of the hour and future babydaddy.

I am never going to encase my heart in bulletproof glass. I am never going to die while I'm living. I will remain forever naive and on fire and willing, even if it means losing over and over again. What a beautiful life I will lead, letting the most beautiful people occupy a place in the ever-growing deepest chamber of my being. 


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Present day, 35-year-old me for once reads something she wrote in her twenties and, rather than cringing at the headstrong naivete of it, wholeheartedly agrees. Keeping my heart open over the years has been the best gift I have given to myself.


My first love was kind and hilarious, not to mention one of the smartest people I've met to date. I took a gamble on him in eighth grade (afraid that his band-geek persona might sully my hard-won popularity) and we were glued together from then until college. Our love was one of companionship. We were both growing, literally, from children into young adults, and we saw each other through those changes. We competed, we argued, but mostly we laughed. I broke his heart freshman year. I hated doing it; it broke my heart too, to end the only relationship I'd ever known. But it had to happen. You can't marry your high school sweetheart without knowing what vapid frat boys the world has to offer.

He always treated me like the "sweetest, kindest, most talented, apeasing, adorable, respectable, most gorgeous lady."

He has since married his college sweetheart, become a doctor as per his lifelong dream, and fathered two adorable children. Once in a while if I think of some goofy thing we used to laugh about in high school, I'll write and ask if he remembers. He usually doesn't.


After quite a few short-lived romances, I ended up in my first volatile, impassioned romance. He won me with grand gestures while I wasn't looking for a relationship. He was a frat boy, a sweetheart with a brilliant mind he began to addle with drugs. As those substances took hold, he lost his grip on reality and on me. At that time, I was becoming independent with no one's watchful eye trained upon me. I wanted to find out what the dark side looked like, and to be in thrall to something I "couldn't control" (my drug of choice was an unhealthy relationship). Our love was characterized by throw-a-stapler-against-a-wall insanity, punctuated by short periods of bliss which mostly arose from my own selective attention and his attempts at making up.


I didn't stop loving him; I just couldn't keep loving him. I learned that I didn't actually want to feel out of control of my own life. Senior year of college, I quit him cold turkey. Since then, we've talked on the phone a few times over the years. I knew drugs wouldn't be something he did long-term. Even in college, he'd explain how he was getting this fuck-up phase out of the way now, so he could have a family in the future. He does have a family now, and seems stable and happy.


Because it seems you have to learn the same lesson over and over sometimes, I relived a more intense version of that relationship six years later. This young man was the most charismatic person I've ever known. He looked like a rock star, he talked like a manic poet, he lived like a maniac, and I uprooted a six-year, stable and loving relationship so that I could bask in his glow. (Why no love letters from that stable and loving relationship? The heartbreak I caused there was so painful that only minimal evidence remains. Even now I doubt I could read an old letter from him without feeling stabbed by residual guilt and empathy.)


I cut this letter in half because it was so long and involved. (The second half, no joke, detailed a long fantasy about swimming with the luminescent plankton.) But it's hard to live that intensely. A month or two after he wrote me this letter, I left him for the sake of my own sanity. I mourned him then, along with the relationship he had taken me away from. And six months after that, he jumped off a building and took his own life.


Every year around this time I think of him. You'd think I'd regret my dalliance with him. I could have saved myself and others so much heartbreak. But I don't regret it. He showed me how to live like you're dying, which is a magical, fantastical, and ultimately unsustainable way to live. He showed me rock bottom, which showed me my own strength for the first time. And it's because of him that I am where I am, in more ways than one.


In my post six years ago, I included a few more letters, but this time I'll replace them with a more pertinent one. Then, since Kai and I had only been together a few weeks, he had never written me a love letter, but after he saw my post, he wrote me the first of many.


Since I learned that universal truth that I will never escape heartbreak, I finalized a divorce and watched my best friend and sister do the same. My ex committed suicide. I got remarried and had two children. I lost my father and saw my mom lose her life partner. I met the mother who gave me life. Each experience has affected my heart in unique new ways: my heart has stretched, broken, regenerated, scabbed over, swollen, and grown.


And even on a daily basis, these changes of heart take place on a micro level. My heart breaks when I walk down the street and meet a woman my age with a bag full of clothes, sitting on a curb. I had thought I was having a shit day, but she asks me how I'm doing.


My heart stretches every morning when Taika wraps his little arms around me and says "mommy." I press my cheek against his and feel the softness, then squeeze him tighter.


My heart regenerates when I have a conversation with the mother of my ex. It's his birthday and he's been on my mind, so I share good memories of her lost son and hope I'm never in her place.


My heart swells when I reread this love letter from the man who is now my husband, and feel him, still, safe in my heart.





Here's the Original Post, in case you want to read the other love letters.



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© 2019 by Ginger Pennington