It’s hard to put today’s epiphany into words, but I’ll try very hard to do so, because of how moving and staggering it was.
For the last two years, I’ve carried a burden so heavy and so massive that it’s completely overshadowed me. Burdens are supposed to be external, aren’t they? Something tangible, entirely outside of you, that you pick up, shrug onto your shoulder, and then tote around with you… grunting and sweating and aching all the way.
This one was different. It felt like a chunk of my heart had disconnected from the rest, shriveled up, withered away, and died. Instead of losing weight, it somehow gained it — and then it magically appeared on the outside, on the ground, right there in front of me.
When I reached down to pick it up, I discovered that it was too big to fit into my hand, so I tried to cup it with both hands and found that those weren’t wide enough for it, either.
So I grabbed a bag, dropped that piece of my heart down into it, and then threw it over my shoulder.
And that the little dead heart followed me around everywhere… to work, and to school… into cafes and cities and dreams. I showered with it on, slept with it on top of me, and drove around with it beside me. It was, genuinely, a constant companion — this cold, hard, and non-responsive but oddly treasured thing. I identified with it too strongly to part with it.
I was uninterestingly driving back to work after spending my lunch break at the library (where I picked up a few items — most notably among them, the third book in the Ender’s Game series and a DVD copy of Office Space). As I meandered into the left turning lane, my eye spotted something small and orangey-brown rolling around on my car’s floorboard.
At the light, I bent down to pick it up: it was an orange-and-ginger scented lip balm. I furrowed my eyebrows, trying to place when I’d gotten it and why.
I realized that I’d purchased the tube of organic chap stick years ago, before we split up; do I like ginger-scented or ginger-flavored things? Heck no. But he did. I’d bought it for him. I wore it because he liked the smell of it, and the taste of it on my lips.
I grimaced. How many times, and in how many ways, had I compromised my authenticity to please him?
And why do I still miss him? I asked myself for the seven billionth time. I was sick of missing him — truly, so sick of it! Isn’t it awful, feeling something you don’t want to feel and finding yourself dreadfully unable to figure out how to stop feeling it?
“You don’t miss him,” an unusual voice answered my question. “You miss a statue. A memory.”
The statement jolted me. Like, REALLY jolted me.
A statue? I repeated.
A sudden wind carried the burden right out of my driver’s seat window. I flinched, startled to no longer feel it there. I always felt it there.
You mean… something inanimate? Not alive?
The light turned green.
…something fixed; permanent; closed — something that can’t change and that WON’T change?
The car behind me edged slowly forward.
“Yes,” the voice murmured. “You love your memories of the person, and the picture of them that you keep in your mind… one of who they were then. But they’re gone, Jace. That person is, essentially, as dead as your brother, as your dog, and as Rose… irretrievably gone.”
I pressed my foot onto the gas, knowing that the dead part of my heart was, right then, crumpling to ashes on the concrete behind me, fading fast, forever.
I don’t know why on earth it suddenly made sense today, of all days. A Wednesday! A dose of reasoning and a healing salve just apparated, appearing right out of thin air. And not a moment too soon.
I’ve been losing my time grieving a strange loss; the loss of someone who is still alive. And it’s hard to exhaust that kind of grief, you know? To really get rid of it… because there’s always this secret bed of kindling called hope — this hidden, eternal, dancing flame named desire.
I was stuck in love and had to feel – over and over again – the terrible frostbite of love unrequited — the rejection, the heartache, the nausea, the devastation, and the end-of-the-worldliness of it all. What was I to do with it, this love? Seal it up and store it in the freezer — hope for an opportunity to defrost it later?
Nope. I couldn’t even do that — freeze it, file it away, or bury it underground. Instead, I carried it with me everywhere… like a burden.
But here’s what I realized today (in my heart, finally, instead of in my head, where nothing seems to stick): The person I loved has evolved and transformed and morphed and changed a hundred times over without me standing by, seeing or hearing or feeling any of these changes. And because of that disconnect, the person who is still alive — working, living, laughing, breathing, and eating — is a complete stranger to me. I do NOT know them and really can’t love them, because how can you love somebody you don’t know?
And guess what? I’ve changed a hundred times over, too — drastically, radically. So I’m a stranger to them as well.
So what we’ve really got here is two strangers. Are they in love? Of course not. This was realization number one. Number two (believe it or not) hit me even harder: These strangers — do they have anything in common? Could they possibly re-learn each other, fall in love again someday?
The answer is – I’m happy to say – no.
We don’t speak anymore, but there are things that I know, and here, I’ll address the person directly: My lifestyle is so different from yours. My morals, and standards, and hobbies, and goals, and dreams… they are the exact opposite of yours. We aren’t riding the same wavelength anymore, or tuning into the same station at all. I find myself feeling more centered and authentic and strong every single day as I challenge myself to develop personally and professionally and to confront the sadness, strangeness, and loneliness within myself, and when I hear other people talk about you, they say that you play video games and watch movies now. That’s all I hear, but hopefully, you’re doing more than that… like playing the piano, writing insane guitar riffs, or thinking about going back to school. Because while you aren’t the love of my life anymore, you’re still talented as hell, and it would be a hell of a shame to waste it.
Regardless, you’re finding your own happiness, and I’m discovering mine. It’s a powerful thing to experience. It’s an adventure! And climbing this mountain solo… talking myself out of suicide and navigating a divorce and figuring out who I was and am and want to be… well, I don’t think anything else could have bolstered my self-esteem more. I did it! I made it! Without you. I didn’t know that I could do such great things without you… and I honestly never thought that I could be as happy (let alone happier) without you. But I am. I’m getting there now… right now.
I threw away the lip balm today. I asked myself, what about the cards? The cards that contain your handwriting and say the sweet things that I like to replay every now and then? I threw those away, too. I don’t need them anymore. It’s exhilarating… it’s strange! I stumbled across a childhood memento of yours two months ago — a stuffed ranger cat; something you gave to me seven years ago as a token of your enduring love —
and when I asked myself, should I text you about it? Ask if you still want it or if I can donate it? I answered no. I’ll let my best friend drop it off at your work instead.
And that’s how I know. I’m not trying to find a reason to read your words, hear your voice, or have your attention anymore. I don’t need you to like me, or miss me, or be proud of me, or think about me. I’m free of you. I am finally, finally free of you. The anger is gone, the grief is dying down, and the past is graciously creaking its wide-open door closed. Peace. The past and the present have finally made peace.
And for the first time in two years, I notice myself thinking: I feel ready for love — new love, not old love — to enter my life now… now, or SOMEDAY! Maybe AFTER I’ve enjoyed this #singlelife for a little bit longer…
I’m over you. Who knew it would ever actually happen? And on a WEDNESDAY…