Early this summer, I wrote about the exquisite tension between time together with my girlfriend and time alone in solitude. I’ve learned some things. My life is getting a little easier. I so love our time together. It’s still hard to spend time alone. I still think of calling or texting her often…and I can finally say I enjoy my time alone, too.
I’m learning about layers of grief. At first, I grieved the simple loss of my partner and my love. More recently, I’ve been grieving what could have been, how Nancy and I were punching through our pattern of bickering, and finding loving connection with the help of a great couple’s counselor. It’s tragic, like fighting your way to reach what you long for, and just as you get there, the object of longing is gone. We were making wonderful progress in October, then her illness put her in the hospital, and she never returned. The loss of what-might-have-been is quite different from the loss of my soul mate.
So I’m still in it, spending time with others, spending time alone, and more is bubbling up. I notice that most of us who lose a spouse, either through divorce or death, tend to respond in one of two ways: we lose ourselves in companionship, or isolate completely. I have several divorced friends who spent months going through sex partners like grapes. I know others who completely cut themselves off, staying alone for weeks or months or years. Some still can’t grieve, seem like shadows of themselves. I did both extremes in the first couple of months, too much dating, too much time alone.
One of my favorite Rumi poems speaks to this.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep.
Back and forth across the doorsill, going out and connecting and feeling love, going in alone and feeling who I am now. Now I seem to do both, consistently and easily, a few days social, a few days quiet. And who I am is…abandoned. Nancy just left, without a goodbye, without any connection or warmth toward me. Some resolution came in after she was gone, as her ghost danced in my life for weeks, but the hole in my heart came from her departure, and the way she departed. So I now feel abandonment, and realize this is a wound that goes way deep, perhaps to my birth. Now my grief is for myself.
It’s the door in, the yawning, gaping hole, the abyss inside that drives me to attach to others, to love, to the joy of touch and connection. Good to know. There is a whole area of psychology about this, attachment theory, and I’m doing some reading to help bring context to all I’m feeling.
So I continue to move back and forth, from union to separation and back again, letting abandonment unfold, softly and sweetly. The pain seems to be easing, a little at a time.