A couple weeks ago I saw my therapist. I was excited, because the last time he’d seen me I was mere days past hitting rock bottom in grief, just beginning to claw my way out of the scary, dark place I’d been living in for two months – eight pounds lighter, raspy -voiced, and high on rage. I knew he was going to be impressed with my progress. Even if I did gain four pounds back eventually.
“You’ve rebuilt your life,” he said. “Good work.” God, I wish my parents had ever talked to me that way.
I have a totally new life in many ways. It involves new people, a new part time job, and an actual savings account. This part I’m really proud of, and dreaming of what to do with, when, and how (and of course, continuing to grow). My new life involves opportunities, completely uninhibited by anyone other than me. And yes, my new life involves loneliness. Frequent loneliness. But, I’ve managed, for the most part, to not fake my way out of it.
I can think and talk and act my way around most of my bad feelings. I’m working on telling myself I’m not my thoughts, and while I always welcome my teary, nostalgic, joyful emotions, I can now let the bummer thoughts and memories in for a moment, acknowledge them, tell myself it’s okay, and move on. Not easily, but I can do it. I do my best to not just look for constant external attention to avoid that acknowledgement. I do my best… But I haven’t broken up with my ego quite yet. She’s gotten me many places with her bravado, and I know I need her to some extent. It’s my ego that makes me brave.
Since summer, my refrigerator kept breaking. In the heat of August the freezer stopped working randomly. I can now admit I was in the rapidly deteriorating end of my relationship when I drank melted ice cream that was going to go to waste. I had just seen Julia Louis-Dreyfus do it on Schumer so it seemed cool. I was tense, and I wasn’t letting myself get angry. Within a few months my walls would break completely.
Almost six months and another broken refrigerator later, I ate out of a cooler on my back porch for a week and finally got a kind of new, empty one the night before I had to go housesit for ten days. I was kind of stoked to get out of my place. Life had already been inconvenient, many dairy products and condiments having perished, so the timing was good to be away from home.
I got lonely in the big house I was staying in after a few days and started moving my mountains of laundry back home. I was sparked by the clean of my small, efficient apartment without me in it, and particularly by the spotless refrigerator. Once again I’m overcome with the urge to discard as many of my belongings as I can and go someplace else, or be someone else. Or at least spend a lot of time other places, really being myself.
I’ve always loved new beginnings. It was so easy to move states when I wasn’t successful – I did it after almost every breakup. This time, I wasn’t able to run away. I’ve been forced to deal with myself, what I want to change, and my life as the sum of my choices thus far. But I realize, even with all the new pursuits and people and goals, in addition to the spiritual and emotional work I’ve done in the gaps, all of the somewhat desperate doing, I’ve been scraping myself clean for months so I can really start over. From broken to empty, I’m now dealing with the emptiness more than the brokenness, and emptiness is a painful freedom. It’s a lot more work to get there when you have so much built. You have to decide how much you are willing to throw away.