A couple of months ago, I shared a poem that included the title of this post. At the time, it didn’t seem possible that the sense of loss I feel could ever be anything other than infinite.
Last week, I shared another poem. This one is by James Wright, and the last lines are:
Suddenly I realized
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Here’s what the past month has taught me. Loss is not infinite. I can’t lose Tony any more than I already have. In many ways I lost myself in my relationship with Tony, and not in a romantic, oh-I-love-you-so-much-I-just-want-to-drown-in-you way, but in a “what the hell happened to me?” sort of way. This is not a slam at Tony, far from it. What it is, is an eyes-wide-open realization that I spent my entire marriage taking care of Tony’s needs and ignoring my own. This is not his fault, nor is it mine, really. It is, simply, truth. It was the combination of the truth of who he was, and the truth of who I was.
It is not the truth of who I am. Not any more.
I haven’t written much here lately because I have been undergoing such an intense breakthrough in terms of who I am and what I want that I haven’t known how to write it. I have spent most of my life taking care of other people to my own detriment, and I can finally see that. It’s written on the walls, everywhere, so much larger than life that it’s hard to believe I didn’t see it sooner.
I have spent most of my life feeling unbeautiful, undesirable, unworthy.
I don’t feel that way anymore, and it feels like a miracle to me. I’ve used butterfly imagery a lot, in my jewelry and art and in my writing. I felt like an ugly caterpillar for a long time. I’ve had moments of feeling better about myself, but they’ve always been tied to someone else’s opinion of me. Tony sensed that, and perhaps because of his own battered self-image, he would sometimes use it against me. I don’t think it was deliberate. I think he was so sick that he couldn’t see how he was treating me, and how it hurt me. I think he couldn’t see beyond his own pain, and neither could I, to temper his words with any knowledge of my own self-worth.
I understood the idea of a therapeutic breakthrough, but didn’t get how deeply profound it would really be. My relationships with men in particular have been fraught with self-loathing and bad decision making. I have not thought about myself. I have not had much fun.
In the wake of all of these breakthroughs, a funny thing happened.
Someone on Facebook started flirting with me. Paying me compliments. I started having fun, and the breakthroughs and the flirting flipped a switch in my brain. All of a sudden, I know that I am beautiful and I know that I will never again settle for a relationship with anybody who doesn’t know that I am too. I never liked pictures of myself, and suddenly I can see beauty in every picture of me. Suddenly my curvy body and my unruly hair and my dimpled chin are things I like.
Can I even possibly put into words how huge this is, for me? I spent years hiding, ducking my head, not looking people in the eye. I spent years feeling terrible about myself. And now, at the age of 45, I am breaking into blossom.