I feel I am now approaching a master level understanding of heartbreak. Don’t get me wrong, I am very sure there are people in the world in much, much more pain than I’ve been in the last three weeks. And I know that there are a lot worse things in this life that can break your heart besides a former lover. And they are terrible. And I am sorry those things exist and keep on breaking hearts. But I’m not writing about those things tonight. I’m writing my experience.
Don’t get excited, there’s not going to be gossip-worthy stuff here today. Probably not future posts either. I have too much respect and love for the entirety of this now departed relationship to ruin the ending even further with a stream of specifics. I am, however, writing it all down offline in as much detail as my scattered and broken brain can muster. There’s some really good stuff flowing onto the keyboard and maybe one day I can find a way to use it to help someone else through their own broken heartedness.
I am speaking here about the hurt. Holy shitballs, people! I had no idea that broken hearts could feel so terrible! For a week it was really, really hard to get out of bed. I couldn’t really work. I couldn’t really eat. Sometimes I couldn’t really walk. I shook. I shuffled. My chest felt full of bricks. When wailing was at its worst, my whole body hurt like I had the flu. It was freaky… in a way I was totally flipping out with sadness but there was a compartment of myself that was all, “Whoa. WTF? You have body aches from sadness??” I cried and cried and cried. He and I talked and talked and talked. I ran for the comfort and logic from my friends and therapist. And my friends who ought to be therapists. Friends made sure I ate at least once a day. Friends hugged me and petted my hair and let me ramble on for hours. Friends made sure I understood how valuable and loved and special I am during a week I didn’t feel very valuable, loved or special.
He and I have 4 kids and they have had a friends-turned-sibling relationship for over 2 1/2 years. We lived together for 8 months. They are all very sad. He and I are very sad. We all wish it could be different from our own particular angles, but it isn’t. This romantic relationship is over. He’s lost his best friend and I’ve lost mine. Beyond us two, the reasons why it’s over don’t truly matter, it just hurts like hell and I’m finally getting a glimpse into what real grief is like.
Grief sucks. Grief is unpredictable. Numb/angry/sad/rinse/repeat. But never in the same order. Never for the same triggers. Never at the same time time of day. Never at the same place.
The support I’m getting from my village is breathtaking at times. My gratitude cup runneth over. I have one friend who encourages me to show up on her porch whenever I want for whatever reason. Another friend texts me stern logic that sures up my self-esteem enough so that I could bear to participate in the most menial tasks of life. Several others take me to lunch. Another goes with me to a movie. Another texts me insults about him because they know I’ll laugh at the absurdity.
I wish I could turn my love off like a switch. But I can’t. Instead I have to endure the shut down. The breaking. Every day is different. There can be a really, really happy day happening and I will remember the tiniest little memory and I’m in a sadness spiral. Sometimes for days. Sometimes I am filled with bravado and “Fuck him! I rock!” and then I realize I’m standing in a place we used to go or hear a special song and I start to shake. There are days when am eerily and uncomfortably calm, which seems to be how my particular ‘numb’ manifests.
I remember reading on www.dooce.com and www.blurbomat.com when Heather and Jon Armstrong were proceeding through her separation and eventual divorce. I don’t know/remember the reasons for their split, but I do remember their reactions. I have this mental image of Heather crying on the bathroom floor from scenes she described of her grief. Jon would create posts that always ended in affirmations and it was clear he was trying to work through some heavy internal stuff. My other internet idol, Maggie Mason, spoke only briefly of her divorce. I appreciated them acknowledging their life changes on their blogs at whatever level they were comfortable with. I also appreciated them not pretending like nothing happened, tra-la, nothing-to-see-here-folks. This is my attempt at that.
Yes, this isn’t a divorce. But it feels like it to me. Or worse. I’ve been through divorce and break ups. What’s worse than divorce? Let’s call it Soul Obliteration, Level 6. Higher levels of Soul Obliteration include losing a spouse or child. (Level 9 and 10, respectively….I imagine.) When I returned from SXSW (tales coming soon), I had two trusted friends walk with me into my now 1/2 empty, 5 bedroom, 3000 sq ft house. We walked into each place and space where things looked different so I could touch or comment on them and cry. They sat with me as I absorbed this new space. Another friend is coming next week to burn sage and smudge the shit out of this place.
I can’t stay here. I can afford the mortgage without too much sacrifice, but this enormous house is too much for 3 people, two of which only live with me half of the time. My daughter wept on the living room floor last week after I chastised her about being behind on her book report. As I urged her to pull it together, I’m not that mad, she said she wasn’t crying about the book. She was crying about the house. “Can we please move? I don’t want to live here. There are too many memories. I miss my sister and brother.” My mama heart was so proud of her for expressing her feelings, something she is historically not able to do very well. But, I was also so very sad for the pain she and her brother are going through. When my kids are crying over my failed relationship, the knife…it does twist. I promised them this will never happen again. It won’t. Of all the things my heart doesn’t understand in this situation, this is one thing it does understand: This won’t happen again.