The Mark of One Year

Here it is. One year has gone by.

It’s a snowy morning. This is spring. Even if mother nature is not ready yet. A milky white sky so serene, so peaceful.  Quiet.  Quiet like the start of day.  A practice I’ve put in place about six months ago: beginning my day in silence, being aware of my mind and body – stretching, yoga, warmed and ready for what’s to come. Showing love and gratitude for myself – from the very start. Lovely. It’s like a jolt of electricity when you feel something in your body that you didn’t know was missing. Tenderness directed inward, instead of trying to fill that need through everything but yourself. Now, I see how much I could have used that care in my past.

There are so many more interesting things to discover and uncover in the world – falling in love and being tossed aside by a narcissist isn’t the most important story I will share. On my empathy spectrum I have a great number of other causes that rank higher in my heart. I do not want pity or acknowledgement of what I experienced. I’m not in search of others to sympathize with me and tell me how brave and strong I am.

In an incredibly powerful essay by Cheryl Strayed about her experience following the death of her mother, she says that “…we are not allowed to be deeply sad. Grief is a thing that we are encouraged to ‘let go of,’ to ‘move on from,’ and we are told specifically how this should be done.”

I was so affected by her entire piece, her words describing the restrictions she felt through grieving and reacting to that grief in the way she did. People tried to talk her out of her sadness, neutralize it, “make it relative and therefore not so bad.”

Why can’t it be OK that I’m still upset and affected by the end of my relationship with the man I loved? Why is it a problem? I think it would be alarming if a friend just snapped their fingers and said I’m good, all set now. (Like he did in the blink of an eye). That’s scary. That doesn’t seem normal or healthy at all.

A huge part of my process has been looking directly at it: no avoidance, keeping my gaze at who I was, how I was, and with the utmost curiosity for this woman inside me.

I still have lots of emotions. I still get angry and totally disgusted and deeply sad and melancholy and acknowledge the realness of those feelings I had when I was with him, and we were a family. Those were real. I was in love, content, rooted.

It’s not that I’m preparing myself to be someone who will never do that again – or make sure that I’m not in a relationship that isn’t balanced – it’s simply that I’m wondering who I am.  Who do I want to be and can I? Can I look at what has happened in my life, take responsibility and examine the parts inside this machine? Objectively and honestly? Then, whatever happens can happen. I’m not looking forward or planning on a specific scenario. I’m learning to be with myself, because that’s who I need to commit to. That’s who I’ll promise to vow, cherish and keep safe.

I’m not working myself up to be this great, strong, grounded woman for someone else.

At the end of Cheryl’s essay, she recounts how she lost her mother’s wedding ring swimming in an ice cold lake. It killed her. She was devastated. She wanted the ring back as much as she wanted her mom to still be alive. Both were not going to happen. She didn’t want to accept it and tell herself she was better for it. She didn’t feel like she could go on without either.  There was no lesson learned, or happy-tied-up ending that she could step into. It was messy and painful and traumatic.

You can’t tell yourself it will all be OK, move forward already, get over it and be joyful as ever. That’s how the movie ends, not the documentary.

I’m not over anything. I’m not hardened and strengthened by this experience and ready to get back to combat. I’m scarred, wounded and I know some of those were self-inflicted. My samskaras (Sanskrit for wound) are still there. Through yoga I’ll continue to open up more. I’ve set up a lifestyle that suits what I need right now. I’m listening to myself and my body. I’m not grinning and bearing it. I’m still in it. I’m not “better for it,” I’m the same woman with the same anatomical structures.

Like another profound point of Cheryl’s essay, the life I had and loved died, it’s grief that took over me. She writes:

“If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up. And if they don’t -if they have loved too deeply- well, then we pathologize with their pain: we call their suffering a disease. We do not help them; we tell them that they need to get help.”

It still sucks that I haven’t seen the two kids I cared incredibly for since that very day. It still sucks that he had all of his friends and family believe I was/am worth throwing away and disassociated with me. None of the things that happened were like anything I had experienced with anyone else.

Last year at this time, I was being released from the hospital to my parents and brothers. So many friends were around me to support and help me. I am moved thinking about the deep connections I have and feel overwhelmingly lucky. Grateful for the life I have now, and for the opportunity that everyone has enabled me to take.

“Everything that occurs is not only usable and workable but is actually the path itself,” writes Pema Chodron (When Things Fall Apart).

She sums up where my mind is so much better than I could:

“We can use everything that happens to us as a means for waking up. We can use everything that occurs- whether it’s conflicting emotions and thoughts or our seemingly outer situation-to show us where we are asleep and how we can wake up completely; to awaken our genuine caring for other people who, just like us, often find themselves in pain.”


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