Necessary pain

A while ago, just after my relationship had slipped away, I wrote that I was too scared to think about what I had lost. I was afraid the hole would be too deep, too dark, and I worried about how long it would take for that spot on my heart to shrink and disappear. Truly the pain has lessened over the past few months, but it thrives. Among the advice I continue to get from friends and supporters is that the pain won’t really heal unless I fully explore it first.

Have I not done this already? Have I not been sorrowful enough? It’s true that I’ve been guarding my heart quite heavily after promising myself that I wouldn’t let it break more than once over the same situation. I seal off my emotions in a hurry when I smell Ivory soap on another man at the gym, or on the bus, lest I remember the scent of my ex as he shaved after his morning shower. I skip through any song on the radio that I once heard in the background while he took my hand, smiled, looked at me and told me how happy he was. Should I be letting those memories sink in rather than pushing them away? Should I let that pain inside, knowing that it could liquefy the foundation on which I’ve built my acceptance and a sense that things are okay?

I believe it’s absolutely true that my armor has to come off once in a while. Usually it happens when I have no other choice, when I’ve been chafing inside for days and need to shed my outer skin for a while. Then the blows start hitting me, my stomach crumples, and I forget to breathe except for pushing out the cries. It’s all for the best, although when I reach the end I feel apprehensive about the next time I’ll have to endure such an attack. Who wants to go through that more than necessary? Yet, as I write this I realize that “necessary” is the key word, and that the amount of emotional release I need is probably more than I’d like to acknowledge. The plain fact is that I cannot recover easily from a broken heart, regardless of whether or not I’m the one who’s been wronged.

It’s important that I don’t walk this earth exuding a sense of want, but neither can I ignore this part of my experience: I have lost a great love and a great friend, whom I miss nearly every day. There is no longer anybody waiting for me when I get home from work (until I get a cat). There is no person whose companionship fills me up, who makes vegging on the couch feel more like an act of bonding than an act of recreation or boredom. There is no skin that I can touch besides my own. There is no other pair of eyes that I can look into and know, with exquisite sweetness, that what I see there is going to shape my life from that point forward.

Knowing—what a cruel joke that seems to have been. In bitter hindsight it’s easy to think that I was deceived from Day One, but at the time it felt like utter truth that we were going to be partners for life. It was love.

This rocky ground of conflicted memories is what I’ll have to tread again and again, I suppose, until it no longer feels significant; until it no longer serves me to go through the pain. Meanwhile, the mundane joys of my life belong to me alone, even as they pulsate outward in search of a receptive soul.

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1 Comment

  1. Jessica's Erik

     /  April 20, 2010

    If I knew you, which I don’t, (so feel free to delete this and disregard,) I’d encourage you to continue your exploration of the pain you are trying to overcome. I’d also encourage you to explore it not from obligation or habit, but from a place of humble kindness and deep-rooted compassion towards yourself. Speaking from my own quasi-similar version of extended pain, sorrow can run us introverts into the ground. One can try to not let it but that’s sort of Sisyphean. Sorrow must instead be transformed.

    Love is such an overused word, but one must love thyself to have a chance at realizing when grief is no longer productive. One must be gentle. One must be genuine and sincere. One must even be slightly amused by oneself even while taking it all so seriously. Ultimately, to recover means to restore thyself to a previous state. It means to forgive yourself and those involved. No judgments. No excuses. Recovery is borne from caring about your own well-being so much that you will fight back with love against the crippling heartache. Again, no excuses nor judgments.

    All I’m saying is that only love can conquer heartache. Introspection and despair (along with our co-sufferers, the extroverts, forms of escapism and anger) may cripple heartache but it won’t, in and of itself, restore you. That’s all I’m saying. And that I wish you well.


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