I am in Amsterdam, with my mom who is the perfect companion for whatever fleshy bag of sadness is now Masha. She knows that parks are off-limits on our daily walks, that some streets are too scary and beautiful to walk down, that I can only eat one salad at that one cafe at 3 PM and that suggesting I take a shower will bring me to tears. She knows when it’s time to kick my cousin and my nephew out of the apartment because a thunderous wave of grief is about to crash. She knows that manicures and massages are impossible because I can not stand to be touched.  She has figured out that it’s better for me to fall asleep on the tiny couch, uncomfortable and in my clothes than in the bed, where I have nightmares all night long. She celebrates with me the one or two moments a day where I manage to enjoy something- that salad at that cafe, a breeze on my feet, a book. She reads to me until I fall asleep.

Two days ago she took me to the doctor when my ear and jaw started to hurt.  On the way there,  I started to cry when I saw  a stork perched on a boat, looking into the distance, his feathers ruffled by the wind. “He’s in pain too, he knows what this feels like,” I managed to get out through my sobs and then I tried to hug him. My mom lead me away, gently. Further along the canal she patiently waited while I tried to stroke a duck’s head because with him too I felt communion, but he just wanted food. She joined me in a big “fuck you” to a beaten up wooden boat named “Meant To Be.”

Once we arrived, the doctor delicately told me that there was no physical cause for the pain in my jaw. And he told me that I have beautiful, healthy tonsils. That brought me to tears too, that someone, an unbiased professional sees some part of me that is still beautiful and healthy. And I have never loved my mom or my tonsils more.

Things I’ve Learned

I have nothing to say, but I feel I must say something just to distract myself from this, even for a second. I have learned many things the last few days. Like that grief and denial come in waves. And one usually replaces the other. I’m in the grief wave right now. And that staring at a photograph of boats that has been hanging on your wall for months, can relieve grief for a whole five minutes. And that taking a nap is dangerous because for a few seconds after you wake up, you forget what happened to you. What is, unfortunately, still happening to you.

I also learned that my yoga instructor is a loving sadist. Because after receiving an email from me where I told her about my grief and my inability to eat, she worked me to the bone. And sang “My bonnie is over the ocean. My bonny is over the sea. My bonny is over the ocean, bring back my bonny to me. Bring back, bring back, bring back my bonny to me.” Four times. Everyone else in class laughed, because they thought she was nuts. I cried because it was meant for me. But I held my stupid Warriors so hard I am still hurting two days later. I guess that was the point. To show me that I can grieve and do the things at the same time. If only learning it once was enough.

I learned that you can not eat and still have things to throw up. And that saying “You are safe” over and over again to yourself can help you breathe. And that breathing is important if you have decided to live. If.  I learned to take more time making decisions to make sure to pick the one that will feel less terrible than the others. I learned that you can love someone more than anything and fear them more than anything at the same time.

Doing the Work.

Yesterday I was mad at the universe because I was convinced that I had started to do the work. I was on my way, I thought, slowly but on my way.  The proof of work I provided was going back to yoga, making food for the person I love twice, going to my Turkish classes, doing the laundry and cleaning out the kitchen cabinets. See? Doesn’t that sound like a person who is trying? I called the last 8 (9? 10? I don’t remember) months of my life “a difficult period.” I was depressed and now I was going to come out of it, by trying really, really hard.

And then this happened. And I felt that just as I had decided to start going to the gym, building up muscle and power,  the universe chopped off my right leg to speed up the process. And that’s stupid and unfair I thought, because it is a lot harder to go to the gym on one leg.

Today I began to do the actual work, work that required me to do open-heart surgery on myself, without painkillers or any idea of what I was actually doing. This actual work is giving me grace. Real, tangible fucking grace. Like the kind that makes you feel grateful even as you think you might actually die from the pain.

I have not been going through a difficult period. I got a year off from my pain because my partner’s light, and our light together blinded me to the truth of my fears, the loneliness I have been running from for twenty years and my complete inability to accept that I am a good human who has done the very best she could under the circumstances. And that she had to fix herself from age 12. And nothing fixed by a twelve year old actually works again. Adults need to do the fixing, plumbing professionals and carpenters and handymen need to do the fixing.

I have read all the books about self-love. And I never got it. I understood with my intellect that you cannot give away what you don’t have. That you can not truly accept another person until you can accept yourself. I understood that it was important but I just did not know how. Affirmations? Bullshit. Going to the mirror and saying I love you? What the fuck is that and how does it work. A day at the spa? A cup of tea? How is a polished bottom and a warm beverage going to erase 20 years of shame and guilt and self-hatred?

Yesterday I looked at myself in the mirror and said “I hate you.” I really did that. Today, before I found my way into the actual work, I stopped by the mirror and said “I don’t love you yet, but I am going to try because that is the only way we are getting out of this alive.” So yeah, I did the stupid mirror thing. And then I did the work. The start of the work, the first steps towards building a foundation within me that can never be shaken. That is strong enough to survive the house burning down. That makes me sure enough of my own house to help put out fires in other houses, maybe even his, once I am strong enough. Because his house is on fire too.  

DISCLAIMER: I reserve the right to disappear back into the dark cesspool of graceless suffering at any moment because I am goddamn heartbroken.

Things I’d Like To Do Again.

It is 8 AM. I have been up since 5.  The last three mornings I have woken up just before the call of prayer. I hear it, and for a second I think that maybe God wants it to soothe me, but right now God can go and fuck right off. The pain is unbearable and I am pacing from room to room, as if I can walk away from it. I both, long to be free from it and can’t stand the thought of the pain ending because it would mean I was able to let him go. How could I let him go? What I can do, is make a list (I love lists) of things that I would like to someday be able to do.

Eat. Guys, food is disgusting and I don’t know why we put that filth in our mouths.

Yoga. First I have to remember how to eat, because yoga is hard.

Teach my writing class on Sundays again.

Dance. This one is extra hard because dancing is how we fell in love. We do it together wonderfully. He does it on his own even better.

Sleep past 5 AM. Or wake up at 5 because I am happy to start a new day.

To not feel like I am dying.

To not be in pain for a full minute and then an hour and then a day.

To remember that this is not all of my fault and that he is the one who left.

Read. I tore up and threw out my books of Rumi and Neruda poetry because that is also how we fell in love.

Give the tiniest of shits about someone else’s day.

See a happy couple and not want to stab them.

Not care where he is every second of every day.

Water my plants. He hates plants.

Wear red lipstick. He hates red lipstick.

Kiss him

Wake up next to him and see his halo of chestnut curls and be completely and utterly happy.


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