The other day I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in awhile. After catching up, I told him of the great event of 2011 (J leaving) and he expressed the usual regret, gave me a hug, and then stood back for a minute assessing. My first thought (that I had something on my face, or looked old, or chubby) gave way quickly as he volunteered that he liked me better “this way.” What way? Softer, he said. More quiet and peaceful. I thought back to various stances, and braggadocio I occasionally love to display (“tough chick,” my girlfriend calls it). Or used to display. It wasn’t conscious, a desire to warn people off, especially men; but it was a sort of protection, a ruse against hurt and sorrow.

Everyone knows that sorrow and grief change you, that isn’t newsworthy. What is interesting though, from the inside looking out, is the way in which one can’t really continue to muster that old shiny strength, the old college try of posing for the picture, or brandishing the usual “stay away” weaponry of the strong, clever, and dominant. I’ve been reduced by this loss, but for a good end. It reminds me so clearly of the way I was as a child, tender, over-sensitive, but acute to sounds and colors and people, a way of wandering through the world taking it as it comes. A new mellowness for sure. Surprising that others can see it.

A few years ago, I traveled East to visit a good friend and her husband. They’d been married a number of years at that point, but I’d never really had the chance to sit down with him, or get to know him very well. Nor had I been much around her children, and she had been a dear friend since we were 17. I was only 90 days sober at that point and a bit edgy and jumpy, but even so, I was distant with her husband, the one I purported to want to get to know. She commented gently later that sometimes when I come into a room, she can literally see me stiffen and toughen up. Needless to say he and I didn’t hit it off… awkward repartee doesn’t make for a proper getting to know someone.  With the kids, I was able to play around and relax so the trip wasn’t a total loss.

After leaving the hospital in January, I remember emailing this same dear friend and telling her I was now a broken person. She reassured me that it wasn’t the case, that I was just grieving, but I think I was right at the time. Something in me broke when he left. Something that needed to be broken I think.

I have a new man in my life who often comments that I’m very kind and loving and soft. I know that it must be a joke, but I see myself sometimes accommodating, making nice, not in an obsequious obnoxious way, but with love and something else.  Having lost at love before, I literally have nothing more to prove. The winds have gone out of my braggy sails and it’s just me now, sitting here watching the world go by.


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Dust to Dust

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I found his grandfather’s ashes (G/A) underneath a box full of art supplies and old, very large, jeans. The urn is pink and speckled with white dots (ashes? on closer inspection not) and bears a silver plate with some inscription … Continue reading

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I still dream of him coming back, of some begging (his) and some eschewing contact (mine). In the end, I take him back, assured of his commitment and trustworthiness. What happens when you crave a happy ending and have yet … Continue reading

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There comes a point in the grieving process (7 months in?) when one has to stop idealizing the lost relationship, the lost partner and attendant happiness. With the help of a lovely guide (my counselor) I’ve been encouraged to acknowledge … Continue reading

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Loss and heartache have a way of altering your DNA.  I feel shifted and reshuffled, like someone went through my inner Edith Wharton and Jane Austen novels and exchanged them for Edgar Allen Poe and Flannery O’Connor, the prim and … Continue reading

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It’s been 5 months, (18 weeks, or 151 days) since he left. Me and the girls have been through the ringer, through grief, and loss and missing him. My eldest is in counseling having begun to show signs of extreme stress … Continue reading

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Freeze Frame

Our bottom floor is a museum piece; everything left right where he dropped it, boxes of his family memorabilia strewn around. I don’t come down here anymore, but the girls do, to play various games of hide and seek, or Twister, or cat warriors. I hear them from upstairs, ghostly voices laughing, bickering, living normal lives.

My eldest found this picture in a drawer and her face crashed down into sadness and grief, like an actor trying on a role. She looked hopefully up at me and asked: When can we see him again? I took a sharpie and marked out what I hope is the truth. “He misses you sweetheart and thinks of you all the time. But he had to leave to be with his kids” and just like that she perked up and ran into the living room to read. I stood awhile, my new hobby, and regrouped.

A good friend came over to help me clean out the last of his things.  “Let me get all the pictures out and find any potential booby traps.” Like a small sweet bomb squad, she suited up and rifled through boxes and clothes, left moldering and dusty for 4 months. Untouched. She gingerly checked a few times with me about this and that and then began tossing things into a plastic bag. “Let me take care of this for you. Would you like to sit down?”

This kind of friendship, part rescue part true love, is the gift of this break-up. Really, the main thing I’ve gotten out of the staggering loss. There are people who will help you clean up your heartbreak, who let you sit down and nurse your wounds, while they bury themselves in the dust of old jeans, smiling and chattering on about anything to keep you from drowning. Do you have a friend like that? I didn’t used to, excepting a few true loves from college whom I speak with regularly. I didn’t have women I’d let this close, so close they could see my  ridiculously gullible, open, stubborn, cruel heart.

Then another friend came and they both gathered and took the bags, placing them beyond reach of regret and potential future rifling and remembering. They took the last of him and his kids and stuffed it into an old dusty red Subaru, shrugged, hugged me, and drove away.

I stood there awhile in the driveway and shrugged as well, trying, not caring -getting over it for a few seconds -faking it.

I miss him. I can do this. I miss him. I can do this.


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