At 19, I left my first adult relationship. I lived alone, working for minimum wage at a coffeehouse in Rochester, N.Y. Consumed by anxiety and loss, I stopped eating. Within the month of September, I lost 20 pounds. One afternoon, my co-worker slipped me a piece of paper with an illustrated, step-by-step recipe for oatmeal: “Stretch on the floor and breathe while cooking. Scrape into a ceramic bowl you like touching. Breathe into it and eat slowly.” I don’t like oatmeal, but years later the recipe remains taped to my dresser mirror. — Madeline Lathrop

The alarm would buzz — the neon of my Timex clock displaying 4:30 a.m., just as it did every morning. A stock trader in Chicago, I would drag myself to the kitchen and scoop grounds into my Mr. Coffee, just as I did every morning. I would shower, put on makeup, dress in a preselected work outfit, just as I did every morning. I would whisper, “Bye David,” to my sleeping husband, who died suddenly 10 years ago. With eyes still completely shut, he would reply, “You look beautiful,” just as he did every morning. — Allison Stiefel

Matt and I knew that we were planting a flower scheduled for scything. Still, we couldn’t stop ourselves. We museum hopped, savored afternoon scones, explored England’s Suffolk Coast by train. In the sticky summer heat, we bared all, hoping we could evade the blade of my inevitable departure. Love often blooms that way: blind to opportunity, reckless with its velocity and need

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