The broken heart cannot fathom that which broke it, and it’s not easy for the mind either. Naturally, I’ve spent a lot of time asking “Why?” and “What can I do to change this?” My hyperactive mind thrives on these kinds of struggles; I’ve spent much of my young-adult lifetime mulling over ideas and possibilities with needless anxiety. It may not be an addiction, but it’s a habit, and like many human habits it’s something I’ve grown attached to. Freezing myself in a state of constant rumination keeps me from having to make real choices, and to make potentially painful progress. So I ask questions that I don’t really want to answer, or can’t, and when they fizzle out I invent new ones.

There are reasons and causes for the end of my last relationship, to be sure, but no justice and no explanation that makes sense to me, although I’ve torn myself up looking for a semblance of those things. Looking at the whole picture, it’s difficult to reconcile the pieces that don’t fit together: the commitment and abandonment, the fondness and anger, the bliss and despair, the love that seemingly turned to indifference. Which version of the story was I supposed to believe? Which of the feelings in my heart was I supposed to cultivate—love, hatred, compassion, sadness, hope? And if I truly loved him, did that mean I needed to forgive? I was left with a fistful of loose ends that I desperately wanted to tie up.

My therapist knows enough about those loose ends to offer a useful perspective. Like a friend she has been right there with me, shaking her head in puzzlement and showing me more compassion that I often show myself. But her larger attitude says that sometimes love goes bad, people behave unpredictably, not everything can be understood, and not everything can be forgiven—and that’s okay. I have permission to be confused, conflicted, and not ready to forgive. Maybe what happened is simply irreconcilable, and I don’t have to make it my quest to comprehend or justify it. My job is to adapt to a life in which he may never reappear, and to construct a world in which he doesn’t need to exist.

I don’t say this to be harsh; I say it because I’m trying to heal. I’ve felt a great improvement since I liberated myself from questions that can be answered only with time, if they are to be answered at all. Disengaging from that struggle is akin to lifting a weight off my shoulders. And while I can’t free myself totally from heartache and memories, I’m learning to disengage from them after they run their course. As a test, this week, I blew the proverbial dust off an album I hadn’t listened to in months because of its association with him. When I got to his favorite track I sat up tall, breathed deeply, and let the song play through while I swam in bittersweet memories. There were tears in my eyes, but it was okay; I knew that the music, like life, held much more than sadness.

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