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Archive for July, 2019

Have a Nice Life

Last September, I was standing outside of the airport in Albany waiting for my ride that would take me further into upstate New York for my cousin’s wedding.  I began talking to another woman who was standing outside trying to figure out how to work her new cell phone.   A third woman came outside for a smoke break and we became a brief trio of strangers brought together by small coincidences of time and place.  We chatted, the subject matter unimportant and now forgotten, and the third woman finished her cigarette.  As she went inside, she said words that I would never forget and which would seem prophetic after the next days of my life would unravel in a way that I could have never seen coming.

“Have a nice life, ladies,” she said before she disappeared through the swoosh of automatic doors.

I smiled a little bit then.  That phrase I had only heard used in this sort of bitter sense.  I never want to see you again, have a nice life.  But no.  This lady knew that the small coincidences that had brought us together were coming to an end and that we would never, ever cross paths again with nameless strangers that we passed ten minutes of our existence with.  I will never see you again so my hope for you is that you have a nice life.

It was just hours later that I received news that would shape my existence from that moment on.  It was a loss, it was a heartbreak, it was the swoosh of automatic doors that dropped the bottom out from under me.  It was grief stepping up to my side and telling me that we had to dance together once more.  Two days later I remembered that stranger’s words and I wondered how to have a nice life with this current dancing partner who was stepping on my toes and putting his hands where they weren’t supposed to be.

The thing about each new dance with grief is that it tends to remind us of all the other songs that played before; even way back to the first one when we weren’t even certain our feet would move in that sort of way.  And, sure, the steps get learned.  But they never get easier.  And our feet tire from dancing.  And sometimes that song plays in the trickiest of moments.

I’m not even going to pretend that this part of life is supposed to be nice.  It’s not.  But, nevertheless, it is life in the most, purest, unabashed form that life has to offer of itself.

And as this cursor sits blinking even now, I’m not quite sure why I’m writing this, on this day as the rain falls outside and my dog sleeps quietly at my feet.  Except that last night, my friend gave me the advice that I need to start embracing the unknown.  And that last night, I went to sleep and asked my dreams to give me guidance and I woke up feeling disoriented.  And then I listened to a podcast in which Elizabeth Gilbert spoke of grief.  And as that song started playing in my head, it was right next to those words.  Have a nice life, ladies.  And I was right back to being that lady outside of an airport on a crisp day that just whispered of fall who had no idea what was going to roll into her path on the hours and days and months that would unfold in front of her.

Because what would I have done?  Would I have run back into the airport and bought a one-way ticket to some tropical island while ditching my phone in a toilet so that life couldn’t contact me there?  If I had done that, I would have missed one of the worst nights of my life.  But I would have also missed the next day, where I got to see one of the most important people in my life marry a man that loved her so endlessly and completely.  I would have missed the heartbreak that consumed my springtime but I would have also missed the falling in love of the winter months.

The word that Elizabeth Gilbert kept using today when describing the dealing with, the handling of , the survival of grief is mercy.  Mercy is the compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.  It is the dance we do with ourselves, day in and day out.  It is a plea that our soul speaks to our heart and our crazy, whirring minds, to just simply be gentle.  Be gentle with this moment, with this situation, with this loss and with these gifts.  Be gentle with this chasm of space that exists between what is known in this moment right here as your eyes sweep over these words and the moments that will appear to you as this day and this life unfold.

My ex-husband always told me that I was a terrible person to dance with because I refuse to be led.  I always found it funny.  And I still do.  But now I think of the spins that I take with grief and loss and wonder if I would get my toes stepped on a little less if I simply granted my partner the mercy of being present.

And when the song ends, I thank this partner for his time and his lessons.  I gently remove his hands from the small of my back and allow myself to breathe normally again.  I leave the dance floor, in a whoosh of automatic doors.  It’s not a tropical island on the other side, but it is life.  And I know it will be a nice one again.

 

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Dear Ashley,

I forgive you for falling for him.  He played a good game.  He gave you just enough to make you believe that you could be different from the others.  But he also gave you some red flags that you weren’t so easy to see, ones that you didn’t want to see.  But now you  have those recognized for the person that really matters.  Promise me you will never get to a place again where you have to feel insecure about telling someone you miss them after three months.  I know he appeared to you as grounded and thoughtful and charming.  But I think you know that he never followed through on scratching the surface.  And that his way of being would not have made you happy in the long run.  You work hard to be happy and you want someone who is willing to do the same.

And I forgive you for mourning so hard for him.  He played with your heart and your head and then made you believe that you were the reason it ended.  Ashley, you WERE patient with him…probably too much so.  And you WERE trusting…you always put your heart all in with people.  The reason you didn’t fully trust that he could love you was because your intuition told you that he had no love to give you.  And then he showed you that you were right all along.

I forgive you for those months of standing still and living in that place of hurt, sweet girl.  You want so badly for others to have the big, open heart that you have.  You give them the benefit of the doubt.  This man’s heart was simply incapable of holding yours.  It only wants to recognize pain at this point in time.  So, unfortunately, that is what he shared with you.

They say that the amount of grief felt after a breakup is equal to the amount of love felt.  He was lucky to have that bold love while he did.  And you might never know why he rejected it.  But you know in your heart that that kind of love is meant to be shared with someone who will hear your needs and not be so stuck in his own that he refuses to inch towards you.  You told him your fears and he used them against you.  And that’s the opposite of love, my dear friend.

And I know you feel like an idiot because here you’ve been hurting and he went straight to someone else.  He could have told you the truth about the breakup but he danced around it and then blamed it on you.  You did nothing wrong.  Your friends have been telling you this for months.  Can you believe it now?  Can you believe that the only thing you did wrong was see this man for the potential of who he could rather than what he was showing you?  And you wanted so badly to help him get there.  But you’ve given him enough, sweetheart.  You gave him more than he gave you in the good times.  And you gave him far more than he deserved after he pushed you away, even when he denied you the one thing you ever asked him for.

But, dear god, you’ve risen before and I know you will this time.  Perhaps the height of the rising will be equal to the depth of the low.  I know you thought he was your soulmate.  And, in a way, he was.  He brought your wounds to the surface to heal.  His hands weren’t strong enough to do that job.  But yours are…I promise they are.  And the tears you’ve cried have not been in vain.  They have been slowly unclogging the confusion he left you with.

I know this seems unending.  But I can’t wait for the day when you laugh because you are so grateful that he removed himself from your life.  Because you had everything to give to him.  And he had nothing to offer in return.  You’ve come way too far to accept a shitty bargain like that.  And you know this. You are loved, you are important, and you are enough.  And you will find someone who is not scared to tell you these things; you deserve someone who wants to shout them from the rooftops.

Until then, be gentle with yourself.  Be gentle with your anger and your sadness.  Let them pass through you, honor their existence and then allow them to leave.  You’ve got bigger things to see.

 

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