This one hurts. As I’ve gotten older and been through more pain, I’m realizing the subtle and not-so-subtle nuances of suffering. I’ve refined my palate, so to speak. I can sift through pain, feeling it course through my body and I know: this is heartache, that is fear, that’s regret, remorse, and so on.
I thought with my experience strengthening myself against cancer that all pain would be easier to endure. It turns out, all pain is not the same. Neither is my response to it. The pain that arises from uncertainty, loss, over-extended patience, fear? I can do that pain. Pain from a broken heart, the breakdown of a relationship, regret? I am not a skilled sailor in those waters. I sink, clawing at the waves, swallowing gulps of salty sea as I go down.
Perhaps it is actually because of my forged resilience that I find myself so deeply wounded. I don’t get close to many people. Not because I am particularly guarded or callous, mostly because my time and energy have been so limited. The people who love me demonstrated their love this last year. It was a culling of the herd. There were bonds made that are forever imprinted on my heart. They are inextricably linked to a fragile, scary, vulnerable time in my life.
Realizing in the end that love does not, in fact, conquer all reunites me with that same fragility. My chest feels cracked open with my soft, tender heart beating unguarded. You needn’t try too hard to cause deep sadness here. I’ve already done most of the hard work for you.
The worst part about the end of adult relationships is that I can have the maturity of mind to go my separate way, but my heart still doesn’t heed the warning. My heart keeps trailing after her, like a pathetic puppy trotting behind the car that pulls away down the dirt road. I cannot talk sense into it. I cannot convince it yet that she is gone. To let her go. It still pines after the comforting glow and security that only some special relationships yield.
I now know, at 34, that friendship is some of the deepest, fiercest love I will have the joy of experiencing. I cannot say I was ready to learn that hard lesson through loss. But here I am, fumbling inexpertly to develop a whole new kind of strength.
Give ‘Em Hell