Beautifully Broken

How did we know that our lives would be so full of beautifully broken things?

broken-heart-on-cross– Dave Matthews Band

It is cold and dismal out today. I checked the calendar and realized that as of December 21, it has been 90 days. Isn’t that a typical jail sentence for minor but serious offenses? I feel like by now I should have made bail and been released. But this broken relationship continues to feel like iron bars across my heart. It is still lacerating, and knowing it was the right thing to do to escape it while I still had my sanity does not seem to be assuaging my grief at all at the moment.

What helps: work, movies, friends, writing, reading, hiking, children, music, binge-watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

What hurts: Just about every other blessed thing

At my family’s Christmas brunch, I felt the ghost of him by my side. How could it be possible that he was not there? I missed his smile, his hand in mine. But more than anything, the knowledge that after all the festivities and gifts and food, we would be leaving together to enjoy each other’s company, talk, drink a little, maybe make love or just cuddle and watch a movie. I miss his touch, the back of his hand curving against my cheek, his hand patting my knee.

I am trying to counteract this image in my mind by putting it next to the other one with which I had also recently become familiar: scowling face, derisive tone, sarcasm, ultimately his dismissal of me and my ideas and conversation as not worthy of his time for one more second.

When I saw his simple text, “Merry Christmas, Holly,” I felt gutted with sadness and stupidly excited, like when we first met and had just started trading flirty texts. Like the last year marred by dysfunction and drifting away of affection had never happened. Like maybe he had that revelation that we had something so amazing it deserved an iota of effort to save it. Like he had changed his heart overnight, like Scrooge in a Christmas Carol; had an epiphany and turned into a person who realized my abundant love was of value to him after all. Nope, just a crazy dream.

One of the hardest things for me to do has been to let the dream die; to realize I was just another woman who came in and out of his life. He may have loved me, but I wasn’t really special to him after all. And for whatever reason, that just crushes me. We all want to feel beloved and when we are and then it is yanked away, it seems like the most malevolent of tricks.

I know I am lucky he is not more interested in stringing me along, because I don’t know if I could resist a few more rounds with him. This time I imagine I am drawing a line in the sand much sooner. I am defending myself. I am walking away the first time he is shitty to me and hits below the belt.

I find it ironic that one of the things that pains me the most is feeling like he lost respect for me because I would not fight back more, when it was he himself who put me in the position to have to defend myself. I am blaming myself for not being more of a bitch willing to take him on, so essentially beating myself up for being a lover, not a fighter. Really, that is sick logic.

There is a great song from the show Nashville, How You Learn to Live Alone. This passage really captures the slow process of resignation as I am working so hard to let it go.

It don’t feel right, but it’s not wrong, It’s just hard to start again this far along
Brick by brick you’ll let it go, as you walk away from everything you know

Bit by bit you slip away, lose yourself in pieces in the things that you don’t say
And you sit there in the rubble, until the rubble feels like home

When I think of that rubble, it reminds me of a phrase I have often heard in spiritual circles – beautifully broken. We all are; we all need to be, it is our brokenness that ironically bonds and bounds us to one another because God and each other are all we got. Actually, not sure if there is a difference between the two. It is my friends who are loving emissaries for God and his unwavering devotion to me. God is a fan, thank God. Learning to trust that walk in the darkness is a bitch, sometimes, though.

I am seeing a therapist, and sometimes I feel stuck in limbo land between dwelling too much on the past but at the same time trying to make an honest assessment. I am working to discover who I am and what I really want so I can somehow stop sabotaging my life with self-defeating relationships that are not worthy of me. Can I get an Amen?

Since it is close to New Year’s Day, I decided to revisit my goals from 2014. A couple years ago, I decided instead of resolutions, I would set goals in every area of my life: spiritual, physical, professional, personal, financial, etc. When I reflected on 2014; as usual I realized some were a little too ambitious but overall I was pleased with progress I had made. I made a list of accomplishments and realized very quickly that most of what I marked as successes were relationship-driven. This is me all over, and maybe I need to stop fighting my own heart. After all, a broken heart is an open heart, is it not? Beautifully broken.

I can’t stand the look most people give me when they hear I have been married – and divorced – three times. I am probably over-sensitive about it but it just seems pitying. I imagine they are wondering, “Gee, she must be hell to live with,” or “she’s looking for a man with money,” or more charitably, “she must fall in love easily.” I guess what I want them to understand it is about that I liked belonging to someone. My joy is in giving and being part of a partnership –but to paraphrase a quote from one of my favorite movies, the odds were not ever in my favor. In fact, each man was quite lovable but in a very easy- to- discern pattern (in hindsight) was simply not there for me, and not capable of growing together in a future with me.

Lately, I have felt increasingly angry and resentful towards men in general. I never had a brother and I won’t even get in to the complicated feelings I have about my dad – I think I just never understood males. With rare exceptions, I hate sports, and most of the recreations many men like to engage in -drinking, hunting, fishing, video games, strip clubs … I guess maybe I want them to be too much like women – open-hearted and real, for example.

I know I am over-generalizing a little here but I hate the way as men get older, they stop appreciating women for who they are (if they ever did) because we are no longer as aesthetically pleasing – they continue in a pervy way to lust after young flighty girls the age of their daughters. You can say it’s their genetic makeup if you want, or because they are more visual, but whatever, I just resent it.

Wow, I sound bitter. I didn’t use to be that way. But I feel like with each failed relationship, I am learning something. But sometimes I think the biggest thing I am learning is to just give the fuck up. I’ve been watching this show called Orange is the New Black about the life of women in prison. To me, it is an intriguing look at what happens when you are thrust in situations that require total surrender. Sometimes you just have to fly the white flag and lie on the ground until your world stops spinning a little. It reminds me that we have this one big and beautiful and painful life full of pitfalls and pleasures that it sometimes takes courage to recognize in the haze of our self-centeredness.

Beautifully broken. Our ability as compassionate people to help each other hobble through to the next “pool of light,” as author Anne Lamott puts it, is still extraordinary.

This last busted romance has hit me so very hard – and made me wonder if it is even worth trying anymore. When my ex and I got together, we had already been friends for years. I was post-divorce, but finally starting to come into my own; working again in my field, reconnecting with friends and just starting to dabble in a feeling of contentment with my life. I love to smile, laugh, talk, connect with others. I am positive and perky, always everyone’s cheerleader and right now I just feel like saying oh, fuck it all.

I’m tired of putting a positive spin on everything – sometimes things just suck. I have found myself hermit-ing away and blowing off social or other obligations – licking my wounds I suppose, but maybe that’s OK.

But while I am grieving, I am trying to listen. To appreciate the everyday and ordinary joys of simply being on this planet. Nature, music, prayer, community, friends, writing, motherhood.

And being. Just being. A beautifully broken being. But I suspect everything I need to continue to repair the pieces is already inside me. If I can just be quiet enough to hear that still small voice.

Momentary Lapse of Reason

Love ready

I gave in to temptation and texted him. I know it was insane, and I had this crazy notion that somehow we could talk – not to start or re-start anything between us, or rehash the past, but just talk like friends. The friends that used to ask about one another’ s families, or talk about stuff on the news, or just have interest and care for one another. But I am not ready for this. He is not ready, either. We may never be, or one or the other of us may never be. It wasn’t an unpleasant interaction, in fact very neutral. But his response to my text was carefully worded and tactful but for once, I read between the lines.

When I said I missed him, and ‘would he talk to me?’ he responded saying he was away and wouldn’t be home until later. At first, I thought that meant he was hinting I should call him later. But then I read the rest of the text and he said he was working 13 hour days and that didn’t give him much time to talk. What he really meant, I realized, was that he really doesn’t want to talk to me, and I can’t talk to him just because I want to; that is one-sided and pathetic.

I was not surprised at his response that he didn’t have time to talk since when we were romantic partners he wouldn’t or couldn’t make time or room for me in his life then. I thought that maybe he missed his friend, but he made it clear he doesn’t want or need to be friends with me, especially when his ego is still tied up in the fact that I was the one to break up. I am sure he thought I was playing games or something but I really wasn’t; just being unrealistic about my ability to put aside my emotional upheaval and talk as friends. He always subscribed these ulterior motives to me that didn’t exist. He always thought I was trying to manipulate. Sometimes I wish I knew how to do that, but anyone who knows me knows it is just not in my DNA. I am honest and genuine and transparent to a fault. In fact, he derided me for “wearing my heart on my sleeve.” He was just used to drama, and it only exhausted me so I refused to play.

I know it was dumb to text him, and I am kicking myself for my lack of control and willingness to fling myself headlong into something so potentially self-destructive. How did I think it wouldn’t be hurtful to do this? But I am human, and it was a quiet and lonely Sunday afternoon and I guess the holidays are making me particularly vulnerable. I had just put my Christmas decorations out and was trying to decide if I wanted to even bother with a tree this year and suddenly I just wanted to talk to him so badly – just chat- just connect.

My mind was swirling – why do I even want to talk to someone who treated me neglectfully and coldly? I guess it is because there is still this maelstrom of memories cropping up in my heart that won’t be denied – I am spellbound by the ghost of him – remembering when he caressed my cheek and kissed my forehead. When he texted me love poems during the day, when he showed up at Easter with a lovely picture for my kitchen wall that was perfect for my décor. When he said that he loved my shape; that I was adorable. Even more when he said what he loved the most about me was that I had the biggest heart – that I was beautiful on the inside and outside. (Man, this guy had me in the palm of his hand) When he texted me how proud he was of me when I prepared a special reading for church. Maybe it should have been a small warning sign though, that he wasn’t there when I read it.

In fact, he was always more comfortable, and our relationship more successful, from a distance. (Can you say “emotionally unavailable?) For years, before we were involved, we were friends and he would call when he was driving a truck over the road and we would talk for hours. When my marriage imploded when my soldier husband walked out on me after returning from his tour in Iraq, I cried over the phone while he listened and comforted and cared. I thought that foundation of friendship was going to serve us well when much later we moved into a relationship.

He had always traveled a lot for work but I knew we would talk just about every day, and he never failed to call when he was on his way home. I missed him, but I was willing to deal with the travel – it was his job and there wasn’t much choice. But I did want to be the one to be there to welcome him home, but he had no interest in sharing our lives by sharing our living space, so again it was from a distance that I loved him. Near the end, he was spending more and more time by himself or with buddies at his trailer at the lake. We talked every day and he would tell me how much he was thinking of me and how much he missed me, but yet I was here and he was always somewhere else, not for work this time but by his choice.

I was so careful to not cling – to keep my many outside interests thriving so he would never become my whole world – but damn it if somehow that didn’t happen anyway – at least emotionally because I always wanted more than he was willing or able to give. He gave me a beautiful ring, but couldn’t articulate what exactly it meant. I was still thrilled – I knew it wasn’t an engagement ring and I didn’t want it to be necessarily but it did seem to be indicative of some kind of deeper promise or commitment. But one day I asked him if he had told his mom or sisters about giving me the ring, he said it was none of their fucking business. So I let it go.

It is fascinating to me that I was able to let so much go unchecked in the relationship, but I am having such a hard time letting go of it all now. I have to make myself remember the ugliest moments – the mockery and patronizing and comments that chipped away at my confidence – the many, many nights I cried myself to sleep over this man who does not deserve my tears.

I saw an article online the other day entitled, ‘The Formula for Happiness,” and I was skeptical, but in fact it was pretty on target. Three things: Let it Go, Acceptance and Gratitude.

I know I need to do the first thing before I can fully embrace the other two, so here I go. I was happy before I met him, I can once more find my joy. I just need patience and to treat myself with as much tenderness as I once gave to him. But no more texting, no more pity party, I can do this thing. Thanks to whoever is listening to this craziness and reading my blog. You have no idea how much it really helps. You are helping me to “let it go.”

Something Good to Note

Post it note image

Somebody stepped inside your soul
Somebody stepped inside your soul
Little by little they robbed and stole
Till someone else was in control

“The Troubles” – U2

A couple days ago, I noticed there is a random post-it note on my desk at work with the date September 21. I don’t know why I felt the need to go back and record the exact date my ex and I parted ways for good, but there it is. It just sits and stares at me.

I have often written dates on a post-it note and later forgotten what they mean or why I wrote them. Have you done that? See a post it note with a date or phone number and think, ‘what the hell did I write this down for? I don’t think I’ll forget what this one means – this lone date scrawled in purple in all caps on the little yellow 2×2 scrap of paper. September 21. When I ponder this little note, I realize it means so much more than simply a record of the day and the month.

It means that September 21 is now my new “birthday” the way that alcoholics and addicts use their sober birthday as a milestone to help them stay away from what they know is toxic for them.

It means that time passes, and as deep as this soul wound is, the ache will start to lessen. I do know that with each new day is a new opportunity to be grateful for your life and work to connect yourself to your joy, your passion, your raison d’etre.

It means to me that every time I look at it I can tell myself that despite the temptation, I have lasted another day without succumbing to the urge to text him or call him for “closure.” It kills me, but I know in my heart he doesn’t have the capacity to look at the relationship with anything even resembling objectivity. He showed his true colors when we were breaking up and when I went to give back the damn ring. He only knows how to blame me for my part in the demise of our love and tear me down for my many faults. It is a fantasy to believe any conversation between us would happen any other way. But if I heard him actually say those things to me, I think it would break my heart again. So, nope. Not going there.

It means I am taking back the reins of my life; that despite the yawning chasm created in me after this breakup, there is life after Dave.

This post-it note is also a reminder that I will keep my vow to give myself a year off from September 21, 2014, and not actively seek any kind of romantic relationship. In other words, I am NOT looking. Believe me, this is a real departure for me. I am someone who has jumped eagerly back into the pool after nearly drowning time and time again. But not this time. I need to first truly believe in myself as a cherished human creature.

It means I am so lonely sometimes, and will be for a while. But I know if I use this year to become the best version of myself, and learn to fall in love with that sweet girl, I’ll be ready to bring more of what I truly deserve to my own door. And if no one comes knocking, so be it.

It means that if someone does come into my life in the future, they better be ready because the no bullshit sign is on the front door. It means the very first time I am talked to disrespectfully or condescendingly will be the last time. No reprieves of “oh, he just had a bad day, or ‘he was a little drunk,’ or ‘he’s worried about work …” I know no one is perfect and I will never expect that, but if you are ugly to me, but you’re too proud or stubborn to look me in the eye and say genuinely you are sorry, I am not interested.

It means I will never stop working to be the best version of myself as a caring, compassionate, genuine, joyful ambassador of spirituality who cares deeply about my family, my work, my neighbors, my church, and my community. It means if it is not in your plans to do something in the same vein, to look at yourself honestly and always work on becoming a better you, then I am not interested in you being my companion for the journey.

It means that I need to figure out why I have been attracted to men with an arrogant streak who are “misunderstood.” How do I keep finding men who seem kind at first, but end up treating me cruelly and coldly? This one is on me. I know I need to stop being a broken-wing fixer.

It means that I am writing a new story – one in which I no longer expect princes, but refuse to settle for frogs, either.