Holding Too Closely
i thought i had it in the bag. once someone tells you they love you, that they want to spend their life with you, it's just in the details, right?
you can focus too much on the details. i was holding so tightly onto the strings, marching forward with my blinders on, that i didn't notice he was quietly slitting thru the fabric and slipping out. all of a sudden, he was standing right in front of me. caught by suprise, i barely registered what he was saying. he was leaving? we were done? there had been too much misunderstanding; he felt constrained and ignored all at once. what he loved about us wasn't there any more. so he was leaving. we were done.
i was left alone, holding the empty tatters of the snare bag. i let it drop. what did it matter now if i kept gripping the strings? i had held too tightly, not listened to the moans and yelps, not felt him pendulum the bag back and forth, trying to speak, trying to ask me to see.
the heart is just an organ. it's a muscle that pumps blood and oxygen, reacting to electrical impulses. it's a rubbery, malleable thing. it can't break. the clichè of a broken heart is just a metaphor, not an actual event. or so i thought until that night. it was as if he had, Frankenstein-like, reached into my chest and squeezed, leaving shards of china where my heart had been. every time i breathed, every time i moved, the shards worked a little deeper into me, reminding me of what i had lost. it is possible to feel as if your heart has been broken.
i concentrated on keeping myself alive, but just barely. it seemed enough to eat, sleep and piss. there was nothing else. the pain was the only constant. it overwhelmed everything else, rendering the world hazy. in desperation, i crawled into another bag, one of my own making. i burrowed into my burlap hair shirt, trying to understand how it could have come to this. and i drank. oh, i drank. half in the bag, couldn't find her way out of a paper bag, all the way in the bag... i sought refuge in that most deceptive of panaceas, alcohol. at first, it would bolster me, making me feel brave and brilliant. it seemed possible to reason thru each event and pinpoint that one moment where a different word, a different action would have kept us on the right path. but of course, the next drink would make me maudlin. i would sit with the photo album, leafing thru and recreating each perfect day. i would will myself to relive the day we spent in Marblehead, the first birthday weekend, the costume party, the formal holiday gathering, meeting his family - turning over each memory, burnishing them one by one, rewriting them to be a little more perfect than they ever were. and eventually i faced a little shining pile of moments that were no longer mine. another drink, and the sadness and futility would creep in with the night. sobbing, i would list off all my faults and begin to understand why he had left. of course it wasn't true understanding. it was depression, abetted by alcohol. and then nothing mattered. another drink, and sleep, or at least inertia. this was my life, such as it was, for some time.
my friends came along, grabbed my sorry sack, and dumped me out, unceremoniously. they demanded that i snap out of it. they refused to listen to my self-serving little recriminations, would not accept my self-pity. we know you're stronger than that, they said. we know you've got a spine of steel. yes, i said ruefully, and that's part of what got me here. fine. then let it help you get out of here, too.
the rebuilding is gradual. it is a work in progress. 'The unexamined life is not worth living', said Socrates. and while he's right, some days i wish he weren't. it's not always the most pleasant of tasks to recognize your weaknesses, and accept them. some you can change, but some are the grain of our character, intrinsic flaws that you hope others will see as your uniqueness, not a black mark against you. other days, there is the quiet, internal triumph as you learn how to be a little better, a little stronger. i try not to bask too long, but to keep stretching.
and one day, he came back. i was scared. could we start again? did he even want to try? did i want to try? there was a lot of talking, considered phrases, measured pauses, while we tried to see what might happen. i fought against putting up my guard. the emotional Great Wall of China, someone once called it. i watched myself swing too far, trying too hard to listen. it's an interesting spot - trying so hard to be the good listener and empathize, really *get* what the other person is saying that you may as well just not be there at all. i found myself wanting desperately to prove that i had changed, that we wouldn't fall back into the same patterns of power and miscommunication that i nearly made a mess of it all over again.
these days, it's a balancing act. i'm afraid of feeling too happy about where we are now, because i don't want to stop paying attention. i try not to read too much into little gestures or comments, because i don't want to assume too much. i keep my thoughts largely to myself, because i don't want to jinx anything. i wrestle with the insecurity, trying to keep it in check so it doesn't taint the goodness that is there. i work on my own life and self, acknowledging that while i'm far from perfect, there is a lot there to be loved and nourished.
and i'm carrying a new bag. it's a small velvet pouch, with no drawstrings. i have the strap slung crosswise over my shoulders, so the pouch rides just on the front of my right hip, where i can see it. inside nestles a delicate egg, glowing like an opal. i glance down at it from time to time, sheltering it when things get crowded, hoping that this time it might stay, and understanding that it's not my choice, that it has to choose me.