It’s the full moon. The first of two in the month of October. My friend Jenny Arndt tells me that this moon is in Aries and I know that means it’s the moon of my inner warrior. I always give things to the full moon. Things that no longer serve me. So in the interest of release, and for the honour of my personal battle, here’s the next instalment of this post series.
The bargaining phase of Kubler Ross’ stages of grief is described as the point when we struggle to find meaning, we reach out too often, and we tell our story. It’s the ‘what if’ phase. Have you ever tried this exercise in your healing practice? It’s a rabbit hole, to be sure.
I had to take a big breath for this one, and I put pen to paper first.
What if I hadn’t been the first to reach out? What if I hadn’t decided to be exclusive? What if I wasn’t afraid that I was running out of chances at love? What if I decided that he didn’t seem ready? What if I stopped making plans? What if I’d put my energy towards me instead? What if I wasn’t aching for a family again? What If I’d stayed away last September? What if I hadn’t offered to help launch that business? What if I was less attached to my son’s father? What if I could change my love languages? What if I were better at trust? What If I didn’t need to feel adored? What if I tried harder to feel him? What if I hadn’t panicked? What if I’d stayed in school? What if he hadn’t moved in? What if I’d invested my energy into my practice? What if I’d stuck to my guns? What if I was always running? What if I’d had more faith? What if I could have believed he’d be back? What if I’d done three more sessions? What if I was wrong? What if he was wrong? What if he has more to say? What if this is exactly what is supposed to happen? What if we’re both better off this way? What if I’ve found something I wouldn’t have otherwise? What if this isn’t the end of our story? What if it is?
To the moon I give all of these questions that cannot be answered, and I ask for peace and clarity as I move ahead with my journey.
There are days when all the walking in the woods doesn’t clear me of the desire to scream at the top of my lungs.
I was in an open, polyamorous triad in which we were raising three children when I lived in Toronto and I was never subjected to the kind of gossip and ear-bending that I’ve endured and witnessed over the last couple of months. This place is too small for its own good sometimes.
Writers write about the experiences that move them. How many songs have been written about break ups? Everyone reading knows my version is only one side of the story, and we’re all grown-ass adults. Sure, you can pick apart my words and try to turn them into something hurtful, but this space has been, and always will be a place for me to process my experiences and create deeper meaning. This practice of articulating my pain has helped a lot of people over the years. It’s probably helped you too once or twice.
My moving through the dissolution of this relationship doesn’t leave me blameless. I’ve written plenty about how I contributed to things going sideways.
When two people make the difficult decision to end a relationship, the most healing thing they can do is move on with their lives. To those of you who think it’s helpful to report on what you see or hear other people are up to, check yourself. If you actually have something to say, beyond the realm of hearsay and speculation, address these things with love and care. Tend to your own fires because when other people’s problems become so fascinating to you, I can bet your house is burning to the ground while you’re gawking out the window.
Oh, this anger is a ball of fire in my chest and a claw around my throat.
I am quick to arrive in this angry place when I feel misunderstood and unheard. It’s part of what sank the boat. Though I’ve come a long way in managing my anger, I still need to create space for it. When I’m angry and trying to protect myself, nobody else is getting in. This means they aren’t seen, or heard. It’s a vicious cycle, and it ended in a stalemate. It was something we both created and perpetuated, and there was no clear way for the light to get back in.
Someone needed to soften. To lay down their arms and open them instead. Someone needed to take the step forward and say “I’m sorry, I’m here, I want this and I want to walk through this with you.” It couldn’t happen. I was too tired of the cycle. I’m guessing he was too.
There are moments when it’s easy to be bitter about all the promises and hopes and ideas that will never really be fulfilled. There are moments when I just can’t understand why I wasn’t good enough to make it work. Moments where I can’t believe how I behaved, and feel such shame about the choices I have made for myself over these last eight months. The unfairness of it all is suffocating, and this place of disappointment isn’t one I like to dwell in, but it’s there.
I’m not convinced it was supposed to go down like this.
When we met, I felt like I was pulled into his orbit by a force that was bigger than both of us. I had to find out what that feeling was all about. This was back before I learned what it means to rest in the feminine and let things come to me. Still, once I’d set it in motion, he seemed just as intrigued as I was.
As we began to create space together, it felt like home. He said all the right things. I was fascinated by the way he looked at the world. There was something so charming and so old-fashioned about his approach to so many things. The age difference didn’t deter me. Not right then. I was sure we’d figure it all out.
Here are the lessons:
It’s impossible to be sure about anything without time.
One should not confuse chemistry with cosmic purpose.
In love, you will see early on the exact behaviours that will drive you apart. Most of us ignore these revelations.
No conclusions should be drawn about the capacity of a relationship until you’ve allowed yourself to sit in someone else’s darkness.
I couldn’t do that last part. I kept excusing it. I kept rationalizing it. I kept trying to heal it. I kept focusing on the way it pulled me into my own darkness, and how I’d suddenly fallen back into patterns that I thought I’d moved past.
Sit in someone’s darkness. How does it feel? How are they accountable for how their darkness affects you? How accountable are you for how you respond to the darkness? Love cannot only live in the light.
I wrote so much poetry. How could such beautiful words pour out of me if we were just going to stay trapped in toxic cycles? Where is the beautiful life we were going to create? Where are the mountains we were going to move?
When do we finally stop wondering if some little thing will change the course? When do we accept that this is exactly where we are, and truly allow ourselves to move forward?
There are moments, in the forest, when I am so aware of my wholeness. The cool, sweet decay of the carpet of leaves and the wet, alive fragrance of the ferns are the cycle to which I belong in a pure and untouchable way. In these moments my soul feels too big for even me to contain, and I realize with tenderness how difficult I must be to love.
I feel so wild and yet so rooted in the domestic. So demanding of connection, and yet connected so deeply to myself that I cannot bear what I perceive to be a threat to the strange little girl who dwells inside me. I must learn to stop defending her to the death. I must learn that she is wise enough and pure enough to speak for herself.
She can rest in this messy place, and pluck out a few curious pieces to amuse herself with until what is meant for her steps forth from the strange and chaotic universe. I have to trust her, and let her lead. I’ve kept her behind my back for far too long.
To the couples’ therapy session we’d waited a month for, I mean. A month that felt like years. A month I couldn’t make it through because I was so exhausted of trying to bridge the gaping chasm that grew so wide between us.
But I agreed, even after I said I couldn’t remain in the relationship. Have you ever had to set a boundary like this with someone you loved deeply? It’s one of the hardest things.
He’d never asked for anything like this. I was surprised when he did. I realize now I was still waiting for him to meet me. To give me a little piece of something to hold on. Instead I saw that he was done. Instead I saw our pattern play out for the last time; when I don’t feel seen, I am activated. When I am activated, he de-activates. It’s a cycle, and it’s brought us to a stalemate.
I know that I was loved, but I know too that love is not enough. I need deep intimacy and communication, and this cycle we fell into made it impossible for both of us. I tried as hard as I could until it felt so lonely that the only thing that made sense was to try to heal myself.
Someone told me I shouldn’t yearn for little pieces. That from day one my name should be written in lights.
A breakup feels as raw and deep as grief. Even if you know the relationship isn’t working. The love remains, and it doesn’t know where to go. What do you do with everything you wanted to believe? How do you extract yourself from the story?
I’m listening to a lot of podcasts. One particularly useful one suggested that I frame the entire relationship from the first moments to the very end as being predestined. That the ending was as certain as the start, and that all of it has created deeper meaning in my life. I like this. It feels less like I’ve failed, again. More like the Universe wove something beautiful and complex and painful in which I can discover, more deeply, myself.
I have discovered that when I am the one who takes all the initiative in the early days of a relationship, I set myself up to always feel like I’m chasing someone. I have discovered that my subconscious beliefs about love are that anyone I open myself up to will inevitably betray me and leave, and so I select and create circumstances where it is impossible for me to be as vulnerable, as empathetic and as connected as I yearn to be. I have discovered that this betrayal and abandonment began long before I entered the realm of romantic love.
I have discovered that when the sobs wrack me so hard I can’t produce sound, it actually works to hold myself in the fetal position and stroke my own hair.
The trees will continue to remind me of all that is wild and beautiful inside me. I can miss him deep in my bones, remember how sweetly I would sleep beside him, remember how the morning light seemed to create a halo in his messy curls, and I can slowly extract the threads that belong to me and weave them back into myself.
There is someone out there who will love him so much better than I have been able to. The same is true for me.
I have never felt like a half-life. I don’t need someone to help me feel whole. I just wanted to love and be loved. I still want this, but the idea of being open right now feels absurd. I need tending; gentle, daily reminders of how worthy I am. I know I can manage this task myself. I have always enjoyed my own company. When I’m lonely I have an army of witches, healers, mothers and warrior-women to reach for. I have my beautiful children, and my family.
With the new moon I set an intention. I asked to ‘receive’ and I will mend my heart and sink deep into the Feminine and open myself to everything that is meant for me. I will not push, pursue, lead, demand, beg, plead again. I will rest, and I will unfurl like the sweet ferns in the deepest part of the forest.
This is exactly how a Sunday morning should feel; I’m sitting in bed in the warm glow of the bedside lamp, and the rain is pattering outside. The screen of my laptop is reflecting the Gingko tree in the backyard, and she feels like she’s watching over me. My little cat Luna is curled up on the bed, licking raindrops off her coat, and I’m here, talking to you as we approach our first pandemic fall.
I tried again. And again. The space between him and I grew wider and wider. Not for him, somehow, which I don’t think I’ll ever understand, but certainly for me. It’s the worst kind of lonely to be lonely in a relationship.
So, here I am, creating Sunday morning sweetness for myself.
I shared my decision with so much love. I still feel all of that love, but I’ve made peace with the fact that I can love someone and not be in relationship with them. There needs to be time now for me to understand, with no measure of uncertainty, the cycles we were locked in. Two wonderful people do not always make an ideal pair.
This time my decision wasn’t a boundary I threw up in the midst of conflict. This time I sat in this feeling, I did the work with my team of healers, I wrote and wrote and wrote. This love was a huge piece of my healing because I filled four books from cover to cover in the space of a year and a half with trying to understand. Understand him. Understand us. Understand who I was in this space.
I could not be myself.
My son and I are settling into our new life, in our new home, in our new town. I’ve moved in with a dear friend who is also a single mom. She’s got a five-year-old daughter who is full of fire and sweetness. My little guy is adjusting to having her around, to having his own room, and it’s not always smooth, but I am so happy here.
I sit around the fire with amazing women. We share our secrets and our struggles as the coyotes howl in the distance. My roommate is full of kindness and grace. She’s brilliant and talented and so wonderful at mothering. I wake up to coffee and a huge backyard with the most beautiful Gingko tree to shelter us all. Gingko is longevity, resilience and hope.
I can’t wait until my daughters come to see this place. I can’t wait to cook for my friends in my home.
What do I need now? I need to focus on my career. I need to give my heart space and time to heal. I need to be in nature, and I need my children. I need to see my parents and my brother. I need to connect more with my dear ones in Toronto. I need good books and delicious food and permission to have days where very little gets done but everything gets processed.
I need me.
None of us can envision the coming fall. This has always been my favourite time of the year, but now I’m just not sure where it is leading us. I could not have imagined a world where I’d deliver my son to grade three and everyone would be masked and distanced. I couldn’t have imagined a world where he couldn’t have sleepovers with Grandmere and Grandpere. What will happen as our numbers continue to climb? We’ve lost so much, haven’t we?
What have you gained? I’ve gained a clear and unwavering understanding and acceptance of how I need to be loved. I’ve gained permission to fall deep into my own wildness, to grow feral with my need to be connected to nature and the divine. I’ve gained an awareness of how powerful my journal therapy practice is, and how I am truly meant to do this work. I’ve gained another reminder of how precious and fleeting my time is here.
I’ll be sitting more often with you. I need this space again, this space which has been so powerful with each huge transition. I’m going to cultivate the most healing pandemic autumn that I can. How will you adapt your favourite fall routines?
Whatever we come up with, I hope we can be connected and healthy and aware of how important it is to nurture ourselves.