"I believe in the fire of love and the sweat of truth."

These words have stuck inside me like a splinter, working their way through my skin, deep into the muscle of me. I stumbled clumsily onto them, unaware of their existence, and now my thoughts are consumed with knowledge of their existence. I have soaked the affected area, hoping to draw them out, examine them, determine the source of this ache. I have picked at, pried at, cut around, dug into the tear, worsening the wound in an attempt to ease the pain. After days of limping about, this morning they worked their way out of me, and I sit now, staring at the words spread out on the table.

Studying their shape, I see their edges are smooth, not the jagged, rough, cutting edges I had imagined. They are small and simple and known, not a monstrous foreign body taking up unearned space. These words are plain, undecorated, and not nearly as severe. Sitting with the feather weight of them, I must own I've given these words a fair amount of undue credit. It is the accompanying acknowledgment that penetrated me, and not the words after all. For I do believe in the fire of love and sweat of truth. I believe in the heat and burning and metamorphosing nature of love. I believe exerting energy, contorting the mind and body for any purpose but the dogged pursuit of truth is effort wasted. I believe in authenticity and admonish senseless, unnecessary fakery.

And so the sweaty, sticky truth is this: Water has been poured on the love that for so many years I stoked and tended. Since its ignition, the fire burned bright and high. A bonfire of passion and fascination. A wildfire, burning all brush-crushes in its path, and clearing a wide space where it danced, glowing marvelously. I worshipped at this fire, tossing in the emblems of a past life, hauling logs of love to its base. I created an unbreakable stone circle around this inferno of love and around myself. The heat was all-consuming, and I was captivated by the blaze. As new-love night came to a close and the sun came up on this love, I was suddenly aware that I was alone at our fire camp. I was sure he had wandered to the woods and would be back shortly to replenish our stock. As the embers have slowly died out these many months, my arm growing weary from the business of keeping burning alive, I quietly, secretly hoped to be relieved of my duties, and for my love to bring kindling and strong arms to my aid. I now know that he has found peace in the woods, and there he makes a new home.

Now that my fire of love has gone ashy and cold, I am warm with the knowledge that I have loved, and have been altered by it. My core was melted to a puddle and reformed, reshaped, redefining itself. The fire of love has burnt me, scarring me. My body bears the marks of this love. I am proud of these stretches, the discoloration, the visibility of motherhood. This body of bumps and rolls. This body loose and stretched. I own this. I am no victim to the flames of love; I am a phoenix reborn in fire and ever grateful.

Ah, the sweat of truth.

Truth telling, and the hearing of it, is work. Eye to eye, fiction facing reality, beads of effort collect in the dark crevices of the body, pooling. Dripping down the back, filling the space between fingers and toes, heating the brow and hairline, making the clothes and rooms around the body just a bit tighter, closer, steamier. This slippery truth, this slick and terrifying truth. The smell of the work of truthing rises from the body. Like the pungent stench of dishonesty, it can be registered from quite a distance, but the sweet, floral candy bouquet of truth telling fills the nose with a victorious cleanliness.

I believe in the fire of love and the sweat of truth. I found these words written quite simply on a small scrap of discarded paper that I tucked into my pocket and carried home. I washed these words, fading, but not erasing them. I stuck these words in a drawer, out of sight, but never forgotten. I ran these words over and over and over in my waking and dreaming. Now, I release these words, and with them my own.