One year ago on the last Tuesday of June, I (re-)met a person who instantly gave wings to my heart. I had found a Soul Mate and was granted the greatest gift on Earth to call this person my partner. I was convinced that I'd spend the rest of my life with her. I had never experienced passion on this level, or such confidence that we would happily grow old together and experience rich and sustaining lives.
Six months ago, I was blindsided by the partnership coming to an abrupt end when she called it off. The reasons were legitimate, we both had stuff to work through. It was out of my control. I was beside myself with grief.
Four months ago, I began to work through what I wanted out of life and love and partnership, and reflected on how to be a better, more attentive partner. I've grown into a new phase of life centered around roots and family and focusing energy on one person. These changes occurred organically, through a natural coming to certain realizations about myself. It resolved conflicts at the root of our breakup, but tragically it was too little too late.
Today, I woke up with the whispers of a dream about her fading from my memory, my heart aching, thinking about everything she has meant to me. I watched the animated short "Thought of You," missed her with every fiber of my being, and cried uncontrollably.
I strive to live fully, open-hearted, and in the present, but damn this is hard. I can still feel utterly alone and adrift. I have a brilliant life filled with amazing people and dancing and adventure and growth, for which I'm so deeply grateful, and yet sometimes all I can think about is that she's not in it. Every time I hear her name or see her face in memory or on a photo or in person, my heart squeezes. It's a squeeze made exquisite with a mixture of excitement (here is this person I love so deeply!) and anguish (here is this person I love so deeply and don't get to fully express and live in that love!).
When I feel this heartache this intensely, it raises internal concerns that I’m hanging on, not letting go, not processing completely. It’s easy to view the breakdowns as signs of weakness, of being incomplete or not fully healed or not “over them,” but the reality is more nuanced. It could mean that processing is incomplete, or it could signify being present with a deep and real sorrow, a loss that can never be recovered. That kind of sadness doesn’t disappear, it stays with us; we just come to accept it as a part of our existence. I’m reminded of the last half of Taylor Mali’s “Time and Tears Enough”:
If all of this were happening...
If this were your first Christmas alone...
wouldn't you expect broken glass to bloom at your feet?
Little flowers of destruction
bursting like the blossoms of shattered flutes
sown in the springtime of a hardwood floor.
Wouldn't you expect chaos for a time?
When things break,
the jagged pieces draw blood.
This, at least, makes sense.
But there is time, and tears enough.
So you wait and you cry,
and you cry and you wait.
For as long as you want.
Or as long as it takes.
The breakdowns will happen, and they make sense. The challenging part is accepting the interleaving of moments uplifting and crushing. Being present in this way is hard because there are so many conflicting experiences of life. I may be surrounded by caring, wonderful friends who make me feel appreciated and cherished, and at the same time I want her to be in that room with me. I may flirt with some beautiful and interesting and talented people over a dance weekend, and at the same time I desire nothing more than to be with her. These feelings seem conflicting on the surface, that they can’t both be genuine and occupy the same heartspace. But that’s the curious things about hearts: they’re quite adept at genuinely holding conflicting emotions. My only choice is to continue being present with my emotions, the elated and the downtrodden, the hopeful and the despondent, the confident and the insecure. I must allow them to flow through me and trust that they’re all in due course.
My relationship with her induced cascading realizations about what I wanted in life and what were my priorities. Our breakup gave me the space to take a long hard look at myself and how I want to operate in a relationship. As we grow, we grow in random and unexpected ways, heavily influenced by the people in our lives. We’re like a mosaic, where each diversely colored piece is an experience. Every once in a while, falling apart into a million little pieces allows us to begin again with a clean slate and take all those same learnings to assemble into a more coherent, elegant whole.
We all carry remnants of past relationships that touch our soul, they help form the pieces that form the mosaic of our being. In losing it all, we can choose how to put those pieces back together, we get to determine what kind of art we wish to create. That is a tremendous benefit, coming at a devastating cost. When in the depths of despair, when a life of being solo seems inevitable, I can take some comfort in knowing that I am actively reshaping the entirety of my being.