Tag Archives: emotional work


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.

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Several months ago I wrote about yearning for the untethered existence of my youthful poverty. Having nothing and therefore everything to learn and gain. Missing that freedom.

My fortune at this moment is to have been set afloat emotionally. All my stability feels like a curse, like I was sent backwards a year but I’m missing the bravado I carried with my independence then. Because I’d added someone I became deeply attached to into it, that same life, without that person, feels empty even while full of the same old good things.  Nothing else has changed; the one new special thing I had is gone. I feel lost, and it’s not that romantic feeling from when I was twenty three.  I’m lost inside this structure that took years to build up.  It just feels very lonely.

The lessons of this particular heartbreak won’t be clear to me for a while. All I can think now is I have a ton of work to do that I was scheming in the background when the most important thing to me involved whatever would make my new best friend happy. Somehow that made me feel very happy, and important, though never exactly secure. But also never bored – which is what I feel right now.  I’m so bored.  And now the idea of all this work I must do… well it just seems dismal.

My life over the last few years has been marked by death. My Dad. My nephew the next year.  My Godfather this year.  I’ve practiced these forced goodbyes.   I’ve proclaimed that life is too short to protect your heart from everything that might hurt it and also bring you joy.  I tried so hard. You can’t regret that, because it’s what you have to do, right? Or you’ll never get anywhere, and you’ll never feel anything.

I got to the point of being able to let myself feel such nice, potentially temporary things. I become healthier and more balanced in a relationship, and I continued to grow and evolve individually, a lot, in this last one.  I’m so scared of backtracking into pointless bullshit.  I have so much time now – I can’t remember when I had this much time.  Life for a while was a blur of travel and work and dating.  I now have copious moments to play guitar, write, work on personal projects, plan for the future (the thing I’m most anxious about), make and save money, sleep. I know how to do this – including the hangovers that come with a single girl’s social life – I have been amongst the best at it for years.  But I’m so over it.  None of it seems particularly exciting, or important, and it’s hard to feel motivated about building your future when you just feel kind of sad.  Being in love felt important and progressive.  Especially sad is the thought of potentially going back to dating guy after guy after guy.  I just want someone to force something on me now like the breakup was decided for me.  It seems unfair that I have to make this part happen myself.

I have to change my patterns and get off the hamster wheel of meaningless social interactions to fill time and supposedly create opportunities for more significant connections. I had stopped, and I was truly content in myself and my life.  But that was before I knew what I was missing.  Now that I do, I’m not sure I know how to be me alone anymore unless I rewind to a less evolved self.  At least that’s how it feels today, almost a month in, now that my heavy grieving period is over, and I’m recreating my life, and it’s sinking in a lot more that there was someone beside me who’s gone for good.  The hardest thing to manage is just being by myself.

Any other break ups, I still had all this growing up to do. I’m always learning, but real maturity has me in a different spot.  I know the next lesson is a new kind, something that I can’t expect, maybe harder than anything else, like the emotional work I’ve done because I couldn’t live not doing it anymore. I’ll keep working, and slapping my own wrist when I reach for instantly gratifying noise.  I’ll keep looking for healthy ways to make myself feel better.  There’s just a space that I’d created, and he’d walked in, and right back out.

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