My life unraveled rather quickly. It definitely wasn’t a slow undoing, but I saw glimpses of it, the unraveling, for a long time. I got hints it was there on the horizon, maybe even from the very beginning.
I still remember what he feels like, and what it felt like to have his arms around me. I remember his smell, his smile, his goofiness that was once endearing and became less and less so as the years wore on. I remember the way my head felt resting in the hollow of his chest, and the way his sideburns were beginning to gray. I remember his height, and the way his feet looked. I remember the songs he sang in the shower and the way he rubbed gel through his hair. The memories of him are not yet fuzzy.
I can remember his size and the weight of him as I tried to shove him in the large walk in closet. “Please don’t let the kids hear this…”
I stood staring at him, he wouldn’t look at me. He never looked at me anymore. The tears came before I spoke a single word. I was so mad at myself for always crying. I stood before him this broken shell of a human, I felt worthless and useless and ugly and tired. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror, I didn’t see the light in my eyes. He made a slight face, a sneer, as he turned his back on me. He began busying himself with putting the pile of clothes away that was on the shelf in front of him.
He didn’t listen.
He was silent.
He ignored it.
My mind was frantic. I didn’t know how to get him back. I didn’t know what to say or not say. I didn’t know how to act. I didn’t know if I should even be trying. I didn’t know how to make him love me. All I’ve done is love him. Why can’t he love me?
I quieted and stood staring at his back. I turned and walked out. I was as tired of our closet conversations as he was. Outside I discovered life was continuing. So I walked into it.
That night I couldn’t eat dinner. I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten. I heard my voice saying, “I need help. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. My stomach hurts all the time. I feel like I can’t breathe.” He looked at me across the table and asked what I wanted him to do.
Instead I said, “Can you call the pharmacy? Can you see if I can get something for anxiety?”
He never responded.
That night, I lay down in bed. He was beside me, back turned, looking at his ipod.
Soon the bedside lights were turned off, and I could hear his soft snoring beside me.
I lay there so weary I didn’t think I would survive, but sleep wouldn’t come. My eyes burned. My heart pounded. It was too hot. It was too cold. The sheets were bugging me. I didn’t like not being covered up. The hours ticked by. I realized the chanting in my head was all that go me through these days. Tonight it was, “God please help me. Please help me. Please help me. Please help me.”
Sleep came, but even in sleep I felt the awful pain and ache that was always in my stomach. The pit, I called it.
Moments, or hours, later I awoke. My chest was burning. I was crying uncontrollably. Why was I crying? What just happened? I couldn’t breathe. My stomach was filled with such a wrenching pain, I thought I had been stabbed. For the briefest moment, I believed I had.
I sat up abruptly. There he was, sleeping, snoring, looking peaceful. I felt rage surround me. I stood up. Breathe, breathe, breathe. I kept telling myself that. I looked down to make sure I hadn’t been harmed somehow, the hazy feeling of sleep still surrounded the edges of my reality. But the pain. I took a breath. It sounded more like a sob. I took another one. Another sob.
I stood in the corner of the room, facing the bed, and heard myself calling out, “I think I’m dying. I need help. I think I’m having a heart attack.” I saw him open his eyes and look at me. “You allright?” He said, his words slurred by sleep. “NO! Help me. Please. Hold me. Please, call someone. Please, love me.” I realized I was hysterical. He sat up and folded his knees under him wrapping his arms around his long legs. He sat there staring at me as I fell to the floor on my knees, sobbing, trying to find reality. Tears dripped of my face, into my hair, landing on the tile, one drop very quickly turned into a small pool.
Out of the darkness of the pain I heard him say, “You’re fine. Stop overreacting.” I stared up through the curtain of my mangled hair and watched as he lay back down, rolled to his side, and began snoring again.
It was over. I knew in that dark moment, in that panic and fear and utter sorrow, it was done, but I wasn’t. I would fight. I would never stop fighting. He WOULD find me. He WOULD love me.
The man who promised me his life, the man who helped me bring two beautiful children into the world who stood there holding my hand and cooing to our newborns, the man who dreamed with me and planned with me, who made me laugh, who held me when I cried and picked me up when I fell, the man I supported, and fought with, and loved without hesitation, the man who had become my world, was gone.
I stayed on my knees that night for a long time, trying to breathe. There was nowhere to go. That bed felt like a prison, but so did everything else. No one was there to dry my tears or hold me. I was in a secret hell that few people live in and I resolved that night my own secret hell was better than making it anyone else’s, so it would stay that way. I would love him enough to bring him back to me. He would find his way back because he always did.
But he didn’t. I’m not sure the moment the shift happened for him, when he became okay with dreaming differently than he told me he did. I don’t know if it was weeks, or months, or even years before that moment when he said his final farewell to me. Sometimes I wish I knew. Other times I am at peace that I don’t know.
A friend told me recently, I did all I could and I loved him the way I should. I have that to be proud of and carry with me. I wish I believed that. I wish I could say that my loving him far longer and far beyond his capacity to love me was enough to make me proud. But it doesn’t. Not right now.
I do know that I had to give him every minute of time and energy I could to see if he’d find his way back. I don’t regret that, but I do know now, he never could have been mine the way I wanted him or needed him to be.
Heartbreak is an interesting thing. The pain of it comes and goes, it ebbs and flows. Somedays I have the very incredible and amazing world at my fingertips. Other days I want to lay in bed and die.
As I listen and learn, both to God and to those in my life who are helping me through the darkness, I know something I’ve never known before. I won’t settle. I spent a life pursuing someone who could never love me the way I deserved and needed to be loved. I didn’t see that in the darkness, I see it now, the light has been shed on it. I lied and told myself if I just loved him enough in the right ways he would find his way to me. He never did. I never achieved what I set out to do so many years ago. Twelve years came and went. There were incredible times and horrific times together, but I don’t remember a single day that I didn’t pursue him with the belief I could love him enough to make him love me.
I miss him, and I miss my dream of him, but I want more. I want the love that my heart needs. I want the peace that I should have. I won’t pursue love, when it doesn’t pursue me right back. I don’t know how that will happen in my life, or where, or with whom. I do know I will defend my heart and my life. Now seems like a good time to start.