I just spent the last four weeks in the midst of a beautiful, miraculous long-distance love affair with a man I love deeply, an old friend from high school. It was completely unexpected and nothing that I was even remotely looking for– but it was absolutely perfect, right down to the part where he said “I think you should let me go.”
That was potentially the most perfect part, although perfect is not necessarily the word that came to mind as I absorbed the unexpected blow of those words. As our conversation unfolded a few nights ago, it was just a bit before he uttered those words that my stomach began folding into knots. I sat there listening to his voice hearing the distance growing between us with each word uttered, and clearly understanding that nothing that I could say would sway him from the course which he had embarked upon.
Initially shock is what registered in every cell of my body. The two hour conversation (a short one, by our standards) ended and I sat silently on the couch for an indeterminate amount of time. I texted my friend, who had been keeping regular tabs on the goings on of our newly blossoming relationship, and told her what had happened. “(He) just delivered the crushing blow that he didn’t think he could ever understand me so that there’s no purpose in carrying forward…” I sat in silence on my couch for a bit longer– and then tapped out an email message to him on my phone– reiterating my love for him (as if it needed reiteration.)
The pathway through my house that evening and into my bed is a bit unclear– in that it’s hard to even remember getting there. I just remember lying in bed, unable to turn my mind off. I got up and reached for my computer. Another message to him, two actually. The first, short and to the point: “There is nothing lost in loving.” The second, a plea to him to leave behind the pre-fabricated ideas of what a relationship looks like and exist with me in this unconventional one, or to at least come and be with me face to face before completely letting go.
I woke up, well rested, but still in shock. I had received no response from him. I wandered through the morning rituals with my kids, having no set time that I had to be somewhere, wanting desperately to call him, knowing that I couldn’t. I kissed my children goodbye and sent them off to school. The house seemed cavernously empty. I got into the shower, let the water run over me– and with it, the shock began to run down into the drain. As it dripped from my body I started to feel the open gaping wound sitting in the space which just the day before had housed my heart. I began sobbing, allowing myself to feel what my body had protected me from for the previous ten hours.
Abandoned images flashed through my head. Ideas shattered.
I got out of the shower and heard my phone ding that I had a new e-mail. I knew it was from him. He told me that my sentiment was a beautiful one, but he knew himself too well and our worlds were too diametrically opposed. His last words were: “trust yourself.”
I spent much of the day with a dear friend, working on a project at my studio. He and I batted ideas back and forth and wove into our conversation the heartbreak and transitions both of us were working through. The energy of the studio and his company were instantly healing. With my focus on the task at hand I was not captive to every raw emotion that ran through my heart.
That evening I fared worse. I cried as I drove the kids home from swim lessons, isolated in the front seat, as they bickered in the back. As I was making dinner, tears began running down my cheeks again, uninvited. I sniffled. Oskar, in the next room asked “Mom, are you crying?” in a tone of bewilderment. I tried quickly to pull myself together, but he came in and his sweet ten-year-old concern of course made me cry harder.
I cried on the phone to my best friend after dinner, who said all the right things– as only a best friend can. As I talked to her and began to articulate the heartbreak that I felt, I realized that this heartbreak was different than any that I’d felt before. Bigger. More profound. And I realized it was bigger, because my heart had expanded. Those four short weeks of opening to loving this man made my heart grow. That can’t be wrong. I felt a hundred times better after I got off the phone with her. I moved through the rest of the evening aware of the comfort and support that surrounded me.
As I was winding down for the night, contemplating sleep, I received an e-mail from the friend who I had texted immediately following the blow. “I want so much for you to have a partner who is whole & who is in awe of you. That’s what you deserve…” That sentiment really encapsulated a lot for me. And beyond that– it shifted my perspective completely. It dawned on me, I can only hope to have a partner who is whole and in awe of me if I can be those two things myself. I have to trust myself. always.
I realized it was exactly this that I stopped doing with this beautiful man. I don’t know why or how exactly. I don’t know if I got scared, or felt threatened. But I realize now, as soon as I planted a seed of doubt within myself, about myself, it needed little tending to grow into something palpable which could not be ignored. I stopped trusting myself. I started to shrink. Who wants a shrinking lady? Nobody.
The love I feel for him transcends what I’ve felt before for anyone– and I don’t have a clear explanation for that– except to say that he awakened me to myself and to love in a way that no one else ever has. He helped my heart expand. He allowed me to let go in ways I’ve never conceived of before. And he sought, against all odds, to understand me. He was, in a word, a catalyst. He helped me to see that big is the only thing that I can be anymore.
There is no clearly defined way in which this man and I can exist within the boundaries of what might be considered a typical relationship. We don’t want the same things. My life is full here, and his is full elsewhere. Ultimately, I want him to be happy, and he wishes the same for me. But happiness, at least for me at the moment, doesn’t have a prescription. I don’t have some set idea of what love needs to look like, or act like. I don’t have the need for a partner to take part in the daily routine of my life. And someday, that may change. There’s no way for me to say for sure.
What I know is that my love for him is enduring– and almost as immediately as I let him go, and allowed my heart to break into teeny, tiny little pieces, the image of him came bouncing back to me, like a little rubber ball, unfettered and free. And once I was able to see that image of him, those teeny tiny pieces remembered that they were part of a much bigger whole, one that was much stronger together than apart. And they wove themselves back into a seamless union, stronger, more resilient. Simple as that.
So somehow I find myself, having just endured the biggest heartbreak of my life just a few short days ago, whole and strong and full of joy and hope about what it is that the future holds for me. My heart is whole, and it’s more expansive than it’s ever been before. What is entirely clear is that there is no more shrinking allowed. I’m only getting bigger from here on out.