I awoke early this morning, March 26th. 6am before the sunrise, well before anyone else in my home wakes to greet another day. I quietly crept around downstairs, gathered my purse, shoes to throw on the seat beside me, the keys, and snuck myself out the door by 6:15 – coffee reheated from the day before steaming in a big mug, mind wide awake way earlier than what is normal for me.
This day began with a single thought at the forefront of my mind and one image behind my eyes as I decided to discover the early morning hours on the quiet, darkened road: Life long ago, days long ago, love – long ago. Some days I just wake up with it front and center and I can either run from it or run towards it; I chose, today, to run straight back – in reverse… 15 years and another lifetime ago.
I’ve written about that time more ways, more nights, more words than I can ever count. For a long time, I kept it to myself. I felt off, somehow, strange that I would acknowledge this one period of my life above all the rest – and surely I felt isolated – nobody else does “this”, do they? Surely other people do the standard ‘move on’ thing and just forget, right? So I must be strange – keep this shit to myself, I thought. Well, these days, presently – maybe it is that I am so close to 36 years-old, or perhaps too world-worn and weary to care regardless of my age; I will write about “that time” again, and how it still finds me here, now.
There are mornings I wake up and the first thing I am conscious of, the first thing in my awareness, is a face I can never forget but rarely intentionally conjure anymore because it has always stung too much.
He comes to me in dreams, he comes to me in memories, he comes to me before my eyes even blink their first of the day. I have questioned it, and believe me I’ve chastised myself for it – years of comparing myself to how others “do this” left me quite sure I am just a freak who cannot get over shit. I have hidden it, even from those who know me the best, because who carries this type of burden for this long, on purpose, who feeds it in any way when life has moved on?
I’ve realized the most precious resource we have in life is honesty, authenticity; if it makes ME the strange one to intentionally run into the difficult, the real, the deep honest truth, then so fucking be it.
I have put a lot of concerted earnest effort into working through my history. The most notable momentum happened last year, in 2019, when I did the MAPS MDMA Protocol 3 times and participated in four Ayahuasca ceremonies – each experience lending itself to facilitating some fascinating, healing, and productive insights into my path, my story, my history – what I learned most of all through all of this, and even the 14 years leading up to now, is that I can only “heal” so much this side of heaven, the rest comes purely from acceptance.I am learning now to accept that he is just a part of me. I am working to accept that “trauma” is just part of, integral to, and important for the growth and evolution of the human spirit and experience. I can reframe it, and I am trying to now.
Before, when I would awaken from a vivid dream of Tim, I would be melancholic all day, sulk around and miss this boy I used to love. Now, I stand tall, I conjure his handsome face to my mind’s eye, and I thank God that I was given the gift of such a love. The sadness and longing has subsided so substantially since I realized how I feel about it has every thing to do with how I think about it.
Now, I choose to celebrate the many different avenues and journeys life provides. I never would have chosen the hurt, the devastation, and the drastic deviation from my “plan”, but I never would have chosen to love this person in the first place; I never saw it coming, to love so well, and so too never saw the ending. Life does that, it surprises, and these gifts are the bread and butter of what makes it all so grand. To hurt, for me, is to live. Maybe that is my Enneagram Four showing, but I am most alive, most myself, when I allow myself to truly feel this life I’ve lived, and that means honoring when it began for me as an adult – when I first ever learned how to truly love. It was him, it will always be him, and that is not something I should be ashamed about for acknowledging – it was beautiful, even in the pain. It took me a very long time to get here.
I’ve got a cluster of old photographs I saved from the proverbial fire – digital pictures of pictures. The paper copies are literally ash now, burned in 2018; the box of mementoes went up in flames as I relinquished each memory to billowing smoke and weeping tears – an intentional ceremony of forcing the past into darkness. Today, I spent about ten minutes shuffling through these old photographs, they are saved in a file on my phone that takes just a few clicks to get to when I need it. I was 19 when we met, he was 22. We look so young, but I swear to God we were “grown-ups” back then. We knew all the things, so we thought – we knew one thing for sure: Love was the purpose for all of this.
His face so handsome, his eyes sparkling, his cheeks puckered into a dimply smile. Scenes of the tool-filled garage where he built things with his hands and tinkered with a wood lathe and the precious belt sander. Scenes of dinner cooking in the kitchen, the fire burning in the pellet stove, the wood of the bedframe he put together for us one year after a brief snowstorm knocked branches down in our backyard so he used them to make me a present. Scenes of the guitar in his hands, his lips singing along to Seger and Dylan and the Stones. Scenes of laughter, scenes of intimacy, scenes of two young kids thinking their 950sq ft home, crappy car, and empty bank account didn’t matter because we were full on love.
Today, I allowed myself a moment to feel it. To see him, intentionally, and feel however I felt as the memories came back. Too often we suppress our truest self. Especially when it comes to what most consider trivial things, like “the past” as an idea in general.
Most people would easily quip that in life the best thing to do is ‘live in the present’ and I would agree that as a rule that applies for most people, most of the time. But also, I’ve learned by simply being true to who I am, that it is much more productive to honor the hard things as they come up (that’s what she said). It is so much easier to address the emotions that stem from waking from a dream of his face than it is to wake up and pretend I don’t remember the dream, or that it did not affect me in some meaningful way. So, I’ve learned to be authentic and honest even when it is uncomfortable or difficult, in myself or with others I have to interact with – the older I get, the more I realize how valuable this skill is to achieve a meaningful daily life experience. Honesty, even when it sucks.
Sometimes it sucks that I remember him so well. His face. His smile, because it hurts not to be able to see him anymore. But then, damn it, reframing comes to mind once more, and I have to say that differently: I appreciate the opportunity to have these memories, and to have known that love, and it is okay to miss him. (I felt like I channeled Pam and Jim there).
Life moves. It goes…
It takes us and changes us. Refined like sea glass, once rough and dangerous, tossed about by the waves, now polished and beautiful from the chaotic journey.
He was my love, once. He was the ocean and I was the vessel atop the water – at his mercy, but completely willing to succumb to the journey. A young woman, in love, for the first time – it was perfect, even in the shipwrecked end. Even when I died, a thousand times I died after we parted, yet I know as life has gone on and I’ve experienced so much else, he was the treasure buried deep at sea. The remnants lost to the cold blue waves when the storm was too mighty; I still hold in my heart the love he gave me more precious than all the lost gold in the ocean. It was not meant to be that we would know life the way we hoped, but now I finally realize the beauty is in being able to remember him at all.
I take heart in carrying him with me, now, even when it still feels heavy. Love, even when it hurts you, is worth the effort, worth the pain.Life is full of this anyway, might as well suffer for a noble cause; I know nothing more noble than love.