For the first time since all of this life upheaval started, I felt today a glimmer of excitement about the fact that I don’t know what comes next. The map of my past is filled in, explored as thoroughly as I care to, and spreads out behind the X labeled “You are here.” Until now the lack of terrain features on the map ahead of me was creating anxiety and fear, not interest or excitement. But I am finally in a place where the lack of certainty is exciting and not frightening. I have hopes for what lies ahead, certainly, and I have things I am capable of actualizing to give me some sense of obstacles to come, but the actual landscape? Unknown. Unpredictable. And, at long last, Undaunting.
Monthly Archives: February 2016
I looked through my old photo albums tonight, as I moved them from the trunk where they have lived for the last 5 years to a cardboard box for storage and eventual transport home (or only to my forever home, depending on how things go). The girl I was 15 years ago, and even 12 years ago, was almost a stranger to me because of how long it has been since my face bore that 100-watt smile. It will again someday, hopefully soon; I think it maybe even has a time or two in the last 6 weeks. But a time or two every quarter, instead of in practically every photo I took? I was sobered and saddened by that divergence.
I am also minded of The Princess Bride book and its description of Buttercup post-Westley’s death by pirates:
“She had entered her room an impossibly lovely girl. The woman who emerged was a trifle thinner, a great deal wiser, an ocean sadder. This one understood the nature of pain, and beneath the glory of her features, there was character, and a sure knowledge of suffering.”
In that lies a kind of solace. I know things the girl who always had that smile did not, and knowing is always better than not knowing. My smile might never again have the innocence of hers, but its absence will make the happiness that much brighter.
I don’t know how other people process break-ups. I don’t know what the “standard” sequence is for working through and letting go of the various aspects of a faded love and its effects on you. I have this feeling that for most people it is easier to let go of and grieve the good, while the scars from the anger and betrayal and hurt take longer to heal. I could be wrong, but that is my impression of how it goes for most people. Perhaps it would even go that way for me in a different set of circumstances; hopefully I never have to find out! I don’t want to go through this again. But for me, this time around, I am finding the process of getting over the relationship to be a letting go in reverse. Kind of like Joel in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, actually – the more recent memories are the first to be deleted, while the first memories are the last to go, except instead of excising memories I am excising pain. It has been quicker for me to heal from and understand and forgive the damage he did to me, which was mostly inflicted at the end, and slower for me to grieve the good parts and the hope and potential from long ago. I realized last night that what I have been struggling to admit, because it is shameful to admit given the full scope of his treatment of me, is that I DON’T REGRET ANY OF IT. I don’t know that I could willingly put myself again through the heartache and the peculiar Hell I lived in for a decade, but, having survived it, I cannot say I regret it. And not because of my son, or the deep and profound personal insight I have gained, or the hard lessons I have learned about loving another human that will, I believe, enable me to appreciate a true love in a way I could not have before. All of those are ancillary benefits. I don’t regret it, even though parts went horribly wrong, because the parts that were right were worth it, at least to me. I wrote last year about that being what it means to love; I realized that, yes, I stand by those words even though we did splinter shortly after I wrote them. The last thing I have to do, I think, before I can leave Limbo and the rest of Hell behind me for good, is forgive myself for that. It is not an easy thing to grasp, that you would be so willing to hurt your own self – because, in the end, I chose all this time to stay. I could have left a long time ago, and I didn’t because the good parts were good enough to be worth the pain. So I am at the part of unloving where I am back to the beginning, back to the beach party and the closed up house and the choice to stay or to run. There is no “Meet me in Mawntauck” for us; my future holds only a different kind of man and a different kind of love. But there is also no longing to rewrite the past, to go back to the girl I used to be and tell her, “Run.” She loved. If no other part was real, that was. As I un-love, I find that to be the hardest wound to heal. It’s the only one left. Limbo grows thin. “Hi. I’m Joel.”
The Honest Courtesan reminded me that today is Imbolc; I simply woke up thinking it’s a friend’s birthday (ironically a Pagan friend, so you’d think the association would stick…). The amazingly lovely graphic she chose and her simple benediction make an excellent preface to this post, which I have had partially written since November, when I was staring into the oncoming winter, but never felt the time was right to finish. Today is that day.
The Sleeping Season
Autumn – when all that has outlived its purpose dies and falls away, leaving nothing but bones. It reveals what parts are immutable.
Winter is the sleeping season. The season of renewal. The season of rest. The waiting season.
The season of dying is long past, and the long darkness has fallen over us, taking over by degrees of frost and silence. It has now been silent so long we know it will not be broken until spring.
Perhaps because I live in the South, winter has never seemed a particularly dead time of year in the physical world, and it never really has to me in the metaphysical or metaphorical senses, either. Green can still be found; the fallen leaves are noticed more in the return than in the absence. When spring hits, it is this great wall of verdancy that just appears, and only then do you see how empty it was before.
I can always find beauty in things, and the melancholy grey of winter is no exception. But I have never felt winter so keenly as a period of dormancy and rest. My soul has never followed the seasons; like the subtropical land I call home, it grows and blooms and lives all the year round. But not this year. This year I had that period of dying through the autumn, of shriveling up and falling off and sloughing dead pieces that had grown burdensome. Thus the need to experience winter as the sleeping season. What is waiting to burst forth in glorious bloom within my heart is so eager, but the soil of my soul was so drained. It needed time and peace to replenish the resources that grow beautiful things. But feeling that inner fire makes the emptiness of winter serene and hopeful. A necessary stop, a point to simply stand still and exist, a space between the moments, a pause between movements in the symphony of life.
I sleep, frozen. Hungry. Patient. Waiting.
But today my inner fire stirs. Almost, almost, almost.
I don’t want to go back to sleep – but there are 49 more days to my winter.