We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in
– attributed to Ernest Hemingway#
We split up at the beginning of August. But my heart broke last week.
These things never happen at a good time, but this really wasn’t: mid-morning, mid-week, no news stories in need of coverage as distraction.
We’d been talking every now and then, trying to work through our issues. At the very least, I wanted – needed – a proper goodbye if we couldn’t sort things out.
I don’t understand how we went from me explaining as gently but firmly as I could the previous week that I needed to give him space for my own sake as much as his, to his being apparently inconsolable the following day, to then asking where my Sinful Sunday was, to the distance stamped all over his reply on Monday when I messaged to say I’d apparently blown another interview, to him being “great, thanks” on Wednesday morning.
I’m terrible at taking hints, but I realised quickly that meant the attempted reconciliation / farewell was off.
He said it just wasn’t going to work, that we kept returning to the same point.
It felt like he was giving up, for good.
I’d known this was probably on the cards, that at some point we would have to say goodbye for real… and replying to that effect almost did me in there and then.
I spent the rest of the day wearing a groove in the floor between my desk and the toilet, crying just enough to get the pain in my chest and belly back under control, to let me get on with work.
The moment I got home – the very moment I opened the front door – the feeling I’d been trying to keep down all day wrenched itself free from my gut with a roar, pulling my heart and lungs with it.
That was how I spent the next hour, howling as my insides ripped themselves to pieces. You know those distraught Middle Eastern women you see on the news? Like that.
It comes and goes.
I spent Thursday wearing an even deeper groove in the floor, smiling weakly at the people who asked who’d made the fabulous chocolate brownie in the kitchen. I don’t remember much of Friday, other than having a gnawing dread of a long weekend with no plans or distractions ahead.
I’m not ready to let go yet. I can’t. I just can’t comprehend a life without him in it – even though that’s what I’m supposedly in now.
I’m not so much letting light in as letting out a lot of pain, disbelief, and dark feelings about myself.
Any other week I’d have told the story of my favourite work mug – dating from my days as a fresh faced work experience girl in a friendly, hard working, local newsroom.
It was a reminder of who I was and where I came from, and of the people who had taken me on in the first place as a favour – but had asked me back because of my ability.
Whether it got fed up of being used for a shift’s worth of cuppas between washes (an average of one an hour), it had absorbed some of my capacity for hamming it up, or I was just carrying too much from my locker to my desk that morning… It flew out of my hand and bounced across a desk and the floor, narrowly avoiding taking out a colleague on the way.
It actually bounced. The body stayed intact but the handle came off, in a couple of pieces.
I think the colleague I nearly brained with it was more bothered by the breakage than I was. I’ve repaired, adjusted, bodged enough things to know when something’s fixable, and this clearly was. So I apologised profusely to said colleague for the shock, collected the pieces, got out my spare mug, and made us both a cuppa. Of course.
The whole time I was relaying this story to my therapist, she had a wry smile. “But it survived,” she said. “A bit scarred, but it survived.”
Her point was that the mug was more like its owner than perhaps it first seemed, beyond the melodramatic leap for freedom. It had, she pointed out, coped with something that might well have damaged lesser crockery beyond repair. The breakage wasn’t the end of the world, for me or it, and with a bit of time (and Dad’s industrial strength superglue), it was restored.
I am not a mug.
The damage, the scars, aren’t quite as obvious, and don’t make for quite such amusing anecdotes – unless I’m in the right mood – and it’s going to take more than 20 seconds of being held together for the repairs to take.
I feel in some ways like the worst is yet to come. When I do let go, it’ll mean facing up to that fear again, the really deep one that my therapist and I never got around to discussing – that I’ll never find someone (else) who gives me hope for my future; that I’m deceiving myself when I dare to believe I have.
I do know I’m not alone in feeling that way. That helps, a bit.
There’s a difference between being broken and being open. Being open lets the light in. Being broken can distort that light. I’m aiming for being open again. But it will take time.
As I tried to say to him, and I wanted so much for him to say to me: Bear with me?
# It turns out the actual quotation is:
The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places
It’s from A Farewell To Arms.