We were together. I forget the rest.Walt Whitman
There are no villains in this story.
It is important to me that you understand this.
It’s something I’ve learned at long last and at great cost – there can be loss and pain and hurt without anyone being the bad guy. We are pretty much all doing our best, and even when that’s true things can break or die.
I bought this sign after my divorce. It felt defiant in a way. It felt like I was insisting on it. That love was winning. And I thought that was evidenced by the fact that I was in a new relationship and in love again. It was a big love, one decades in the making. A fierce love and a relationship that was healing in many ways.
That relationship has ended.
Seven years ago last month, I got divorced. My marriage imploded and I found myself running and numbing, drinking and starving, doing anything and everything to not feel the pain of losing the life I’d built and the love I thought would last forever. No amount of wine could keep me out ahead of the crushing grief, no running five times a day on the treadmill and skipping meals could make me disappear fast enough.
It took me months to tell the people who cared about me what was going on and by that time I was in a hopeless cycle of drinking and not eating.
I signed up for every voluntary pain in order not to feel THE pain. I’d spent most of my life acting as though pain was an indicator of failure or weakness or that I was doing life and love (same/same) wrong.
The thing is this, when you lose a great love it should hurt. Anything that forestalls you feeling the pain actually prolongs your misery. All those years ago, I did not believe I could survive the pain of what was happening, so I ran and numbed and starved and suffered. And because I was broken, I broke things. I did so much damage because I was unwilling to accept what was happening and let myself feel it.
I am grieving.
Grief is not a problem and therefore does not require a solution. Grief doesn’t need to be fixed or managed, cannot be hurried or made efficient. It requires no platitudes, looks different on everyone, and takes the time it takes. In the face of losing a great love, deep grief is an entirely appropriate response.
We buy into the notion that if we’re heartbroken we’ve failed somehow. Not so. To love is to risk. Hearts aren’t meant to be kept safe. I loved with my whole heart and that heart is shattered as a result, so I remind myself that’s proof I was using it as intended and that broken is not irreparable.
The circumstances are different than they were seven years ago and so, thank God, am I. Today, I am once again standing in the unexpected rubble of a life I’ve spent years building. The grief and loss are overwhelming and I am determined to feel every minute of it.
I need to grieve what I am losing – people, places, things, and pets – which feel as though they have been torn from me.
And this all touches on very old wounds. Wounds I thought were fully healed and they’re not. Or they’ve been re-opened. Doesn’t matter, really. All those old stories, the ones I thought I’d retired, resurfaced.
Unwanted. Not worth fighting for. Abandoned. Not enough.
I’ve done my work. I know those things are not true. I don’t need to be talked out of it. I’m human and hurt, so right now they FEEL true.
I don’t know if any of you have been as obsessed with the show Songland as I have, but it’s my favorite thing to come on tv in a good long while. If you haven’t watched it you should check it out. On one episode a talented young singer/songwriter named Sam DeRosa performed her original song, Pill for This. The song is great. And I relate to it so much though I do not, in fact, think I should be drunk right now. I do relate to wanting that relief, but even in this time of abiding heartache I know I don’t need a pill for this.
I need to stay still for this
Before I got sober, my inability to sit still for pain and grief and uncertainty was the driving force behind my drinking. I would feel one of those things and immediately seek to remedy, change, or stop it.
This is a hard season. In times like this, when it feels like the ground is shifting beneath my feet, I have to remember that I have been here before. I have been here before and handled it in ways that were damaging to myself and others. That woman, the woman I was before I got sober, did not have the tools I have today. She was doing the best she could, but now I can do better. I can sit still for this pain. I don’t have to run, numb, distract, or ignore. I can just feel it. I can survive it. I can hold all of this with an open hand knowing it will pass, eventually.
A couple of weeks ago, when I took this sign from what used to be our living room, I considered throwing it away. I was undone and overwhelmed and it felt like a lie. It felt cruel, honestly. Like a bad joke.
Here’s what I believe now: Love does win. The long game. Love wins the long game. It just always, always wins. New relationship, no relationship, hard relationship, broken relationship, ending relationship. In the long game, love fucking wins.
The thing about love winning is that it frequently does not look the way we think it will. I believed love winning would look like me being with this person for the rest of my life. He was my favorite. I really believed we would make it, but no amount of wanting that to be true will make it so. Ultimately, that’s just going to have to be okay. This was a love I thought would last forever, and here’s the thing – it will. It will last forever.
Love is like energy, it cannot be destroyed – only transformed, and it is not diminished by the transformation. Even in the midst of pain and loss and endings, love shows up in safe harbors and offers of help, love shows up in friends bringing you coffee and sitting silently alongside you in grief. Love shows up in self-care and generosity and sobriety and forgiveness and acceptance.
Love wins. I believe it. Still. That’s the hill I’ll die on. Love wins and I love everyone involved in this heartache and I always will. I get to choose and I choose love, whatever the hell that looks like.
Hanging this sign will be the first thing I do in my new home today. Love seems like a good starting point.
Love you so.