Monthly Archives: December 2014

Give yourself permission to let go of what is no longer serving you

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Perhaps the strangest thing about breakups that one is never really prepared for, is how totally and completely the world is turned on its head. All perspective is lost. The beauty of the bahamas trip was how remarkably it allowed me to check back into who I am, where I am and what I want. I cried during the flight there.  Everything felt sad and lonely. And even after getting there and sitting with some remarkable people for dinner, I had to excuse myself.  The red-eye flight and the build up of tears led me back to my room at 7pm.  I cried and felt so powerless. I felt that all I wanted in the world was for Him to call me and promise he’d change, our relationship would change, he’d fight for me, he didn’t want to lose me. I yearned for this. I wanted it deep within my bones.

Despite being so on board with our break-up and weeks before, fighting for all the reasons to throw in the towel, here I was yearning to go back to the relationship that had shrunk me down to a person I barely recognized. This reaction makes sense on a psychological level. Anthropologist Helen Fisher has done some really interesting studies on what happens to the brain when you are in love, and conversely when you are suffering through a break-up.  She collected data from several heartbroken souls who were put into an MRI machine and then shown a picture of the person that broke their heart. She found that the same parts of the brain that are associated with physical pain are triggered as well as those parts of the brain that are associated with drug addiction. She believes the origin is in biology.  “In a way, nature gave us this response as a protection,” she says. “It helps us keep relationships going under adverse circumstances, which is important for keeping our species going.” In other words, it’s supposed to hurt. And you’re supposed to want to get back together with the person causing the hurt. For more on this check out this article from the Greater Good and a fascinating video  here.

That said, I was in The Bahamas and was so wanting to let some of the pain go. It was weighing me down and I needed a break. I wanted inspiration and light.

So I spent my time there going to yoga classes and meditating, laying on the beach and soaking in as much warmth and sunlight as possible. During my first yoga class, while my brain was spinning out of control, reworking conversations I had had, wishing I had said X or Y, and anticipating every type of future interaction, I realized I had almost forgotten I was standing on a platform looking out at the ocean surrounded by swamis. I was brought back when my yoga instructor stated, “Give yourself permission to let go of what is no longer serving you.” And I realized there was great power there. The endless ruminating, though biologically ingrained to propagate my species, was not serving me. At all.  So slowly I began letting things go that were not serving me. And amazingly, that created space for some beautiful alternatives.

During my time there I had the pleasure of conversing with Jon, a lovely older gentleman from the UK who had the most amazing warmth. He managed to see right to the depth of my suffering. During our first conversation, right as I had spent the previous night going back and forth about what I was willing to do to make the relationship work (I would learn to ski! I would climb! I would mountaineer! I would eat every 2 hours so that I was never hangry), Jon looked at me and said, “the minute you begin to believe that if you do X or have X you will be enough, is when you have become lost to who you are. Doing X or having X will never make you more loveable, worthy or whole.”

As the week went on, I began sleeping, stopped crying and felt my heart literally crack open. My chest was swollen with love.

The morning that I was leaving I had woken up at 6am to meditate and I could barely sit there. My mind was anxious with returning and what I would confront when I got home. Could I keep my heart open? Could I keep breathing and let go of what was no longer serving me? During my last meal there, Jon sat next to me and commented on my struggling from earlier in the morning. He noticed. I told him about my fears. He looked as though he already knew.  He said, “your relationship was perfect for getting you to where you need to be. So much of our suffering is ego and if we can just sit, feel and breathe, without attaching ourselves to the  (often bipolar) thoughts, without thinking about how wronged we were, or how righteous we are, we can reduce the suffering.” Finally, he said that when someone comes at you with their finger pointing in your face (either literally or figuratively) and hurls hurtful words at you, ignore them. What they’re saying is “you aren’t loving me in the way that I need and my heart is hurting.”

I packed up his insight, my sandy bathing suit and yoga clothes and boarded the little boat to take me over to the mainland and back home to Sacramento.

Eat, Pray, Love- the breakup guide to looking forward

I remember when I first read Eat, Pray, Love. Months before, I was speaking about it to some friends who all seemed resigned in their conclusion that the book was fluff, vapid, the stuff of Nicholas Sparks autobiographies. Someone gave it to me. It sat on my shelf until I needed it. Until I broke up with the man I had been dating for 4 years and remembered some criticism of the book having to do with the target audience: 30-somethings who are newly single. Perfect.

I recall the book being entertaining and having some passages that struck a chord but only recently have I come to appreciate it’s true value. Perhaps it’s the relationship I just ended that is so similar to the relationships Elizabeth Gilbert struggles with. An experience that made me feel like she was writing specifically to me. This quote for example.

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Had she ended that paragraph with my name, I’m pretty sure it couldn’t have spoken to me more clearly.

Or this one:

 

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Immediately after it became real that we were breaking up, that it wasn’t an empty threat we spat at each other after our more-and-more-frequent fights, I watched Eat, Pray, Love. Then I purchased a ticket to the Sivananda Yoga Retreat in The Bahamas and planned accordingly.

I called, despite everyone and the internet telling me not to.

Despite swearing up and down to my neighbor that the woman he was with at the store was a friend who he carpooled to a group camping trip, he couldn’t tell me that. Refused. He made clear that he doesn’t owe me an explanation and anyone who respects him would know he’d never do that. He is also grieving and lonely and sad.

At some point it became clear that I had hurt him in a recent conversation when I was trying to establish boundaries. This incident felt like some cruel retaliation. At the end of the conversation I apologized for hurting him and he said nothing. My mind was blown that after everything I had been through in the past 5 days, I was the one saying sorry. This person who I almost married, with whom I just shared how harrowing the previous days were, could not even express sympathy for my pain, let alone provide an explanation to take some of it away.

I had made a terrible error in making his actions about my worth. The call helped me see how important the trip to the Bahamas is and how much work lay ahead.

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Suffering is a human experience

This weekend I was on my knees trying to pull myself above the waves of sorrow that threatened to drown me entirely.  I’m 33 years old and can say with certainty I have never felt this kind of pain. It was physical. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. The vision I held of the world was through hazy glasses and I had to squint to make out any days that didn’t include this unrelenting sadness.

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Did someone say downward spiral?

The worst. Literally the worst possible thing that could have happened in my healing during this break up has happened.

I went to happy hour, feeling like I was moving beyond the sadness, hope was out there, I was alive and well in it. Then I went to the store. Randomly. 8:00pm and 2 margaritas later.
And I saw him. Actually I saw his car first. Fully packed with two road bikes, one significantly smaller than his and a car full of camping gear. It was the margaritas that made me go inside. I walked straight to the cough drop section, that was the reason I drove there in the first place, and there he was, standing next to a cute brown haired climber girl. He turned toward me, something akin to terror registering on his face before saying hello. I left, got into my car and drove home through a torrential downpour of betrayal and disbelief. I spent the rest of the night drinking whiskey as my friend and I paced the sidewalks. Two weeks ago he moved out and asked that I not foreclosure on the possibility of getting back together. Disbelief doesn’t cover it.
The anger is overwhelming. I have visions of slashing his tires and chucking hard objects at his head. How could he do this to me? This man who wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, who cried because he was sure he’d never find anyone as amazing as I.  The loop replays in my head. Over and over. Me seeing the van. parking. going inside. seeing them. leaving….repeated, again and again.
Then it is followed by some phantom conversation that I wish I had had. The things I wish  I had thrown. the  words I wish I had spat at him, and at her, and what I would say now or what i would say if he calls me, comes to my house, I run into him again, tries to contact my family. A thousand scenarios played out in my mind. It’s poison.
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Day 5

I didn’t include day 4. I didn’t write about it because yesterday I didn’t feel weepy and sad. I didn’t feel so terrified because the night before He and I spent the night together and then held each other and woke up being kind. Last night when He returned home at 10pm, he told me that he had found a place. He’d be moving on Tuesday. It didn’t sink in until today.

There is a deep, deep fear inside of me so strong that my body is in this endless attempt to purge it out. My  crying is more of a soundless contracting, loosening the pain to ease its passage. All I can think of is the final good-bye. The final night together, the final trip with his stuff, the final awkward hug between two totally terrified people. The final door closing, the final realization that it is just me now.
Tonight I don’t think I ate enough, or maybe I ate the wrong thing because I have felt panicky, unmoored, inclined to stay in this apt for safety and scratching at the walls to get out of here because i can’t fucking breathe. This is the first night after He and I broke up when I know he’s not coming home. And it’s not just a trip to the Bay Area when he’ll return after a night or two.  It’s the beginning of him leaving. Permanently.
Today He said he felt so sad and was about to start crying and then immediately shut it off, zipped up any emotion that was about to tumble out. I feel like I’m grieving in solitude.

Day 3

Today I went back to work. I held in my tears until lunch, after four excruciatingly long hours. Progress. Today I recognized what I had lost in this relationship- the pride in being me, in being sexy and strong. I am excited to rediscover these things.

Last night He and I snuggled. We have every night since we broke up. We spend the days awkwardly dancing around each other, trying to orient this new half-dead relationship where we are no longer a team. We use first names now, don’t call each other during the day, don’t eat dinner together. But at night we hold each other for dear life. It is the clinging that gets me, that shatters the composure. Because it just makes it so clear that we are terrified. That this is one final piece that we will have to let go of. He is looking for a new place and I recognize that he has to go, that this tip-toeing we’re doing is not helping the healing process, that we’re in a holding pattern. But the sad, fearful side of me is okay with that, wants to fill whatever tank there may be to get me through the loneliest of upcoming nights. Last night  I woke up in the night and just stared at his arm wrapped around me. I stared at his hand and fingernails and the papery texture of his skin alit in the moonlight. I believe I was trying to burn it into my memory, making myself believe that it was real for so long and in a short amount of time, will be no longer. Two days ago every single thing made me cry. No dinners together, no drives, no trips to the co-op, no backup with my family, no laughing and silliness and support. No future. Today those are all there, in a lower frequency in the background. Now it is just ALONE. That is the word that brings the tears. Alone in my bed, alone in the apartment, alone in my stories, alone in my dinners, alone in my life. No more papery skin and protection throughout the night. Just me. With all the fears and worries. That is where I am. I don’t know if I weigh the beauty of having Him for a few more days, just so I can sleep, just so I can pretend enough to let his arms feel like they always have and not a vestige of a fading relationship,  against what this all will be like when he is gone, if it will be worth it.

A fearless inventory (Day 1)

We broke up yesterday. Last night. After 3 years. We talked well into the morning and only when 5:00am rolled around did I find any solace in sleep. I had begun to believe that there was still hope for us, that we might find the hidden door to lead us out of this mess. But he had resigned himself to what is likely for the best, an imminent break up. I cried, so hard my head hurt. Tears nothing more than the liquid manifestation of a deep seated bellowing pain. The fear and confusion turned way to abject sorrow.  How is it possible to have a world where two people can love each other, strive to be together, and ultimately fail. My urge is to scream into the deafening wind that “YOU’RE NOT DOING ENOUGH.” But maybe there is truly nothing more to do. And beyond, perhaps it is best not to continue in a relationship when the fundamental reason you’re there is that you’re expecting your partner to become someone else.

My reaction to this break up is to cry. His is to not. The end result is me feeling out of control and alone. So alone. And Sad.
I know it won’t always be like this. I know that in time the wounds will heal and I will be once again off on another journey. But for now I feel frozen in place awaiting the shifting of this glacial sadness so that the light can get in.