On Saturday, I felt lonely for one hour. Long enough for me to panic thinking what if I become this again, what if happiness has been my greatest illusion.
The prospect of returning to who I was panics me. Explain further, my sister said over the phone. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t put my fear into words, the crippling sadness of who I used to be. I went to my therapist today and as soon as I got there, my entire body bent in on itself. I looked like a snapped stem, like a woman holding her head in her hands, like a woman holding on to her enemy.
We started off talking about my energy, my medication, potential deficiencies in vitamin B and D. We spoke about supplementing my diet with iron. Then she said this could be a side effect of depression.
But, she quickly added, you’re not depressed. We smiled as if my stability was something we could be confident about, as if it were a miracle that had swept in and decided to stay.
I think you just need uninterrupted sleep, my therapist suggested. I definitely need sleep. We agreed and moved on. I told her about the past two weeks, about this new phase of dignity and disinterest I’d cultivated regarding my ex.
I told her about the letter that came, the intensity and timing of it, about being called a soulmate. Do you think of him as a soulmate? She wanted to know. No. Well, not in the typical sense. I told her about Elizabeth Gilbert, about him being a soulmate in the way she describes:
A mirror showing you everything that is holding you back, who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life, who reveals another layer and leaves.
Elizabeth says a soulmate’s purpose is to “shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master.”
I can’t believe I am describing someone I’ve loved in so harsh a light. I can’t believe he’s shaken and torn and shown and broken and transformed me. I can’t believe I’m finally at a place in my life where I am letting myself be aware of it, aware of the full impact of our relationship and the devastating disinterest I feel for him in its wake.
Talking about it though is different than just acknowledging it from within. When I talk about him I feel blunt and irresponsible with my heart, I feel finished and cruel. I read his letter, and I felt guilty. Because you’ve moved on? My therapist asked. Because the tables have turned, I said. This time I’m the one who has disappeared. This time I’m the one intent on letting our relationship go. The difference is I’m serious about it. I seriously mean I will never show back up for him.
The letter was broken and devastatingly sexual. I try to summarize the bulk of it but can only manage to do so with a reasonable amount of bitterness and disdain. It talked about loving each other forever, about me getting pregnant and us creating a home. It said everything I’d been wanting to hear again, everything I had been told before, everything he had promised and then taken back from me. The letter, I told her, was just unfair. It was too late.
My mom said when a woman feels guilty, it’s because she’s doing something right for herself.
I repeated this to my therapist and she smiled and held it wide across her face until I asked her what it was for. She looked so happy. Why? I asked.
I’m just thinking of your bravery, about how you’ve gotten yourself healthy again so you could move back to New York, she told me. I’m thinking about your life and how much you’ve changed it since we met. Sometimes you have to keep it in perspective. Your moods and dreams. Your love and your loneliness. Your breakthroughs and fear.
She’s right. She absolutely is. We could all afford to celebrate more, to celebrate the strength it takes to overcome the relationships which have held us down, the loneliness that has caused us to shrink with panic, that has brought out our sheepish ways for an hour on a Saturday afternoon but from which we have bounced back from.
It’s okay to be a woman who holds her head in her hands every once in awhile, who tries to sift and process the thoughts that pierce and overwhelm her at times. I think as women we have to celebrate the love it takes to begin making decisions for the betterment of ourselves.
We have to celebrate the courage wrapped up in our willingness to get so close to our thoughts. To me this must mean that we are not insecure enough to believe we can be defeated by them. And is this not the most beautiful thinking on earth?