I've tried to write this post a hundred times over the past few weeks. I didn't like that my last few posts were about the breakup. Because my life lately is not ALL breakup and figuring my way through a silent ex-life. But as we know, I can't just write about the world without including what's bubbling in the interior. Don't misunderstand me. I am open but I keep some things sacred, and I believe we all should. Even if we share our most truest stories, our most delicate darknesses, it's still impossible to be seen completely. Maybe we can only get close.
Or can we?
Loss is an interesting thing. The process of grief and deep heartbreak is something everyone will experience, something we can all talk around, understand logically, and intellectualize in an attempt to grasp and pin down, but until it's in the body, until you are living through it, whether you're paying attention or not, it doesn't matter what you know. The body will show you.
Since February, and perhaps for a few months before, I've been all body. All water and saturation, all tears and the weightiness of an ocean about to shift. Then I was in the shift, and though I'm still feeling the pull of tides, the storm is settling into my bones. I was lonely, and I felt change coming. I didn't know what that change was, but looking back on the winter, I think I knew I was headed somewhere else. I was sad and hungry, needy and reaching for knowledge and comfort, love and connection. I was bleeding news stories and songs and begging for friends and connecting with students as if something was missing at home. Something was missing at home. It had been for a long time.
Then, I was broken. My body leaked water. I cried, I shit, I dry-heaved until I couldn't take in a thing. I couldn't eat, I could barely drink. I woke up crying, I called my friends and cried. The water wouldn't stop coming out of me. I was a skin-sack of repeating damaging thoughts wandering around scared and insecure. How to talk about loss? How to accept defeat, rejection, and also know that it was so so necessary? How to talk about a shift in identity and a new awareness of attachment style? How to talk about shame and vulnerability in a way that owns what is true and also sets me free?
I knew I was becoming. I knew I was letting go of water-weight. I knew I'd been holding in all the protest. I knew my relationship ending was the best thing that happened to me. I knew I'd thank her for it all one day. Thank myself for what I learned there. I just wanted the mess of me to be over. I was so sick of myself. But I kept showing up. I gave myself little things. I promised every day to honor my process, even if that honoring felt like faking it. I hurt all over. I wanted to know what was next, but my body said stay.
A few weeks ago, I started to feel things shift. I began noticing things again. I heard verses in my head. Moments in the world began to illuminate and make sense again. I started journaling, drafting, taking notes for future poems. Or, just to get the muck out of my head. I was starting to feel my feet again as more than just liquid and nerves. My legs. My pelvis and deep belly. My shoulders were rolling back, freeing the front of my chest, just a little. My eyes were softening, my vision widening. I saw a therapist, and even though sitting there talking about everything over and over again like I had for months made me anxious and a little manic, it felt good to be seen from a distance. Even though I could feel my neuroses and intensity heightened, my shame sitting on the surface of my sensitive skin, I knew I was ready to do the work.
Step one: Keep doing things. I mean daily things, like just getting up and declaring it a win. And when I'm stuck in my head, take Pablo for a long walk. Long walks have saved me. I've walked in the rain for hours, here, and I've walked through the snow at midnight. When taking a long walk, remember what it means to witness. Breathe into the belly. Look around. Take mental notes. Remind myself what poetry means to my soul, and take in images, even if I'm terrified I'll never write again, never be seen.
Step two: Keep going to work. Work is hard. I forget that I'm a teacher sometimes. I get sucked into the interpersonal drama of restaurants, and the place I chose to work is top dollar, all prim and proper while lately I feel anything but. I'm stressed and tired and don't get home until 3am some nights. I miss my mornings, my students. Keep going. Connect with people who want me to connect with them. Be genuine. Be me.
Step three: Speaking of being me, really start to define this. Because the scariest and most exciting part of coming out of a codependent relationship willing to learn and change is that I get to decide now who I want to be. What do I really want in a partner? In love? In silence? In the world? Where are my friends and why have I neglected them for so long? Do I really want to teach? Am I really a poet? Do I want to make love in just one way? Do I need a glass of wine to relax? Do I really not want marriage? Kids? Where do I want to live? Can I crave nature and rely on the city? Do I want that many dogs? Can I build things on my own? Do I want to? Stay open. Spend time really being open to possibility.
Step four: Me first, then the world. Self-care. Sleep. Beautiful food. Time alone. Books. Movement. Meditation. Then, slide into the flow. Or not. Whatever I want, really.
Step five: Write down qualities I want in a person. Ritualize this. Ask for it. Demand it with my words and whole body, some smoke and candles in the dark of night during a powerful full moon as I burn my old life to ashes in the tub. Play on dating apps and practice saying no to people I don't feel. Own it. Say yes to someone I do. Let her in. Be body heavy together. Ask deep questions, listen, make love. Know that life is too fucking short and anything could change at any time, so say yes to what feels right. (And stay clear, take only what I need, and don't hurt anyone in the process.)
Step six: Slow the fuck down. Ask these questions but remember I don't need to know anything at all. I'm allowed to change my mind, to become someone that feels the most me I've ever felt but also someone I don't really recognize. Let myself be excited by this. Become this.
Step seven: Go to the woods alone. Feel cold, and afraid. Be quiet and disconnect for a while. Prepare to do this again and again until it's second nature. Until fear is just a friend in the chest.
Step eight: Know I can do anything. I can take anything. I can feel and be vulnerable and let go, be grateful, take no shit, and also, endure. (Read stories about people who barely survived. Remember we all survive in our own ways, but many many others have it so much harder. This doesn't diminish my pain. But don't forget global perspective. Remember my calling: to encourage, praise, encourage, and praise.)