Well… it’s been a rough week. This week my lovely, wonderful therapist continued her pursuit in making my life better by charging me with facing my demons which are so neatly and carefully arranged in my subconscious. Bullshit! At least that’s how I feel at this particular moment. For anyone seeking a quick and easy fix through therapy, it doesn’t exist. It is a long hard process where half the time you want to tell your therapist to F-off and then are forced to do all those things that make you scream and shout and cry and bawl. YAY! But, as I’ve been promised, the world on the other side will be wonderful (and trust me, the little glimpses I’ve had of the peace of spirit that comes with conquering this territory have been enough to keep me trudging forward). But, is it fun? No. Is it easy? Hell no. Do you want to quit and go back to your ignorant stasis? All the freakin’ time! Is it worth it? Completely.
Anyhoo, that’s how I’m feeling about therapy at this moment. Mainly because, despite my best efforts, life continues to kick my ass (you can tell I’m writing from a very visceral place this week because of all the swears). The real problem right now is that I have the false expectation that just because I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to do to become open and vulnerable to the world, crappy things still happen. I’m really just whining, but hey, that’s part of the process too.
Back to the heart of the matter, this week in therapy we are dealing with “facing the void”. This could mean different things to different people, for me it means looking at life alone. Alone – a scary word, though it doesn’t have to be (which is what my therapist is hoping I’ll see – not quite there yet). In my last post, I discussed that The Ex had begun dating again. Liberating, but also the cause of a whole bunch of other emotions. For the past 3 years he has been committed to the idea that we could still work things out and had yet to start moving on. For me, there was comfort as well as frustration in this thought. Though we weren’t together anymore, I could still find solace in the idea that somewhere out there someone wanted to be with me. It wasn’t fully over. I didn’t need to engage in this new world I built because there was always the option to go back to the one I left. It was kind of like a video game, I had reached a point where I could move forward in the story, but if I continued to the next chapter, I wouldn’t be able to go back, so I spent time exploring every crevasse to make sure I didn’t forget something that I might need in the future. I’ve spent enough time in that level and now that The Ex is dating, it’s time for me to close that chapter and move forward. Easier said than done.
Moving forward means acknowledging that the safety net I had cherished is gone and I need to weave a new one. Not that the other one was effective, but at least I knew what it felt like to land in it. Now, I have a net that is untried and untested – terrifying! That scared little girl that lives within me is on her own to face the world. It needs to happen in order to move forward, but that doesn’t mean I need to like it.
All this came out of a conversation regarding my feelings from the past week. My issues are not only relating to The Ex – it has to do with many of my friends. As I’ve moved to a single-person self-employed over-worked lifestyle, many of my friends have moved to a coupled-children-homeowner lifestyle. We are now on different paths, work different hours and have different interests. For many, we still remain in regular contact, but there are a few where the divide seems greater. It is difficult and lonely. I am really happy with my life, but the changes have not come without their price. I’m no longer part of the “inner circle” of certain friends. It happens, but it leaves a void as well. There has been so much change in my life over the past three years that the need to cling to something consistent is great. This is where the feelings for The Ex creep in. I hope that maybe one day things could go back to normal instead realizing that this is what normal is now. Change and I have never been close compatriots.
So, this week, my therapist has bid me say farewell to those old emotions and feelings. It is time to wake up to the reality of my life. It is time to “face the void.”
I have a reflex when faced with extreme loneliness or vulnerability – I pick up my phone, scroll through my contacts and text/call/email those people who are probably inappropriate (aka exes, past lovers, past wish-they-had-been-lovers – but not The Ex, we don’t talk anymore and that would be bad… all kinds of bad), anyone that will give me a quick shot of self-esteem. It rarely works. Most of the time I end up feeling worse about myself or getting caught up in awkward situations that could have been avoided if I had just left well enough alone. My phone can be my worst enemy!
This is my temporary solution to put off actually staring my loneliness in the face. It doesn’t work and it doesn’t last. It is a trap that so many people I know (including myself) fall into. A desperate need to connect to someone, anyone, no matter how destructive that contact may be. It sucks, but it is a vicious and addictive cycle. That brief moment of contact stays that lonely feeling for brief seconds, which is a respite few can do without. But nothing gets solved, soon enough that feeling creeps back in and the process restarts.
This week I was charged with the awful task of writing the word “Alone” on my blackboard at home (it’s up there under the word “entitlement”, which we have discussed in previous weeks) and writing a goodbye letter to The Ex (one that would never be sent, but that expresses my intention to leave the last remnants of that relationship behind). The first task went off without a hitch. I’m getting to be a pro at some of the steps in this process and truth be told, it felt great to put that word up there. The thing we forget about the word “alone” is that it is a contraction of “all one” which is a beautiful idea. You can only truly become “all one” through being “alone” – which is my ultimate goal: to make all the voices in my head become unified. The second part… well, it is the only time I have not followed my therapist’s instructions (at least not right away – which I felt was telling). Of all the gut-wrenching emotionally devastating tasks she has set before me, this was the only one from which I completely withdrew. Until tonight…
After realizing that I had been avoiding saying my final farewell to the most significant relationship I’ve experienced thus far, I decided that maybe this was the most significant act I had to accomplish to actually move forward in my new life. I wrote the letter and it was less painful than I expected. If anything, it was enlightening. I wasn’t entirely sure what it was I had needed to say, but as soon as I started, it all came flooding out and I said my goodbye. It still hurts. I’m not sure if I’m done crying, but it hurts in a new way.
Once the letter was complete, I printed it, signed it, put it in my pocket and headed down to the river where I read the letter aloud and burned it. A ceremony – which I thought would make my therapist proud. We take too little account for the healing powers of ceremony in our lives; rites. I am reminded of Le Petit Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry (which is one of the most important books of all time). The fox says “[A rite]’s another thing that’s been too often neglected … It’s the fact that one day is different from the other days, one hour from the other hours.” There has to be something that distinguishes this time from any that have come before it. We have to find ways of acknowledging the significant moments in our lives. We hold funerals when someone dies, but what about the death of a long love? Ceremonies offer closure. So, tonight I held my ceremony. It was lovely.
It had been raining all day, so the ground was soaked as I walked through the woods to river. I climbed down to the water’s edge, the rocks covered with fallen leaves which made them beautifully treacherous terrain. I made it down and stood in the impending dusk to read. The world was silent. The wind was low but enough to make it difficult to get the flame going when the time came to burn the letter. Once it got going, it was quick to burn and I threw the few remaining scraps into the brook which fizzled out and sank into the water to be carried away by the current. I repeated the final lines over a number of times as the ashes drifted downstream until a police siren broke my reverie and I made my way home through the woods, which were growing darker by the second. It was appropriate that once I had said my final goodbye, I found myself alone in the dark woods, but, in the end, I made it home and back into the light.