What Happens When Loss Shifts Our Story and How to Write a New One
There was a long silence in me that happened last year, a quiet that overtook my words and inspirations. I was lost in a failing relationship. If we were two trees in a forest, I was bent in a graceful arch always giving, while he stood tall and straight. There was no dancing in the breeze indicating an equal give and take. I felt lost, reaching for something that never swayed my way. Eventually, one last circle of arguments caused a snap, the bend met the break.
Though we were now free, the hopes and dreams I had waited for still hung in the air. I traveled through life under a cloud of what could have beens. Resentment over never getting the love I had wanted plagued my heart. The same story kept playing even though it had ended.
I stopped writing the day he stopped reading my words. Last summer, I realized he wasn’t my biggest fan. Even an article I had written him into, sat unread after my multiple urgings. It was a small thing, but spoke volumes to me. My long pored over blog seemed as insignificant as I felt. He was a great person, but his aloof demeanor and busy night schedule left no time for a relationship. As a photographer I worked art fairs over the summer and they were supported by my family and friends, but he never attended one. I spent many days isolated in my little northern home alone. I had moved my life to be closer to him, relocating 4 hours away from my friends and family. The closer vicinity oddly brought a bigger distance between us. We often just passed each other during those days.
The strong, independent world traveler woman I was, became a needy, small, shell of something else. From the outside, my photos of my life seemed like I was living the dream. Riding my bike to work on a beautiful island, walking through the forests by my home, swimming in Lake Michigan. My social media told a story of an idyllic life. In reality, those outings were few and far between. I spent most of my summer days working, commuting and many hours lost in my head. I don’t know why I stayed so long. I had seen the signs of imbalance early on. He was in my foreground from day one, yet I always felt in his background.
It’s hard letting go of a story. In the end that’s what it was. A dream of him and me living a life I had projected. Yet, without an equal outpouring of love, it dissolved. Now I am left with my solo self again. The fog slowly lifted and with spring has come a new beginning. I’m writing again. Poetry has found its way back into my vocabulary. Places have started inspiring me. A new home is on the horizon, untouched by a past and ready to make new memories in. It was hard to get to this point though and took a major shift in thinking.
I listened to an interesting episode from one of my favorite podcasts, Invisibilia, that really struck a cord with me. They did a study on thinking patterns in people after loss. Each of us walks around with a story and when something suddenly disappears from that story, it can affect it wholly. So the trick is to find our way out of the old story and into a new one. Some people do this with ease and others don’t. I’m one of the others. I tend to get caught in loops of the past especially when things fail.
In the study, they focused on vocabulary and noticed that a big change in pronouns happened in healthier subjects. In the beginning, thoughts are all starting with I, me or my. I could have done something. I feel so sad. I don’t know what I’m doing here. Some of the best people think like this and tend to be very self aware and honest. Yet, too much of this thinking after a negative event in life can quickly turn into deep depression. Great poets who used more I words were also more likely to have committed suicide. There has to be a shift from I to he or she and back to I to recover. A standing outside of oneself must occur.
Eventually, I was able to take that step out of my story and see a new one. I could see myself from the perspective of an outsider and how my behaviors were so damaging to my own heart. I took a break from all social media and started reassessing my life. I cuddled up with my cats and started writing. Changing my music habits and hanging out with friends did wonders. I called others I hadn’t seen in a long time. I went out on a whim to look at an a-frame home for sale and when I pulled up in its drive, I was flooded with a wave of positivity. I knew I had found my new home. I pictured having bonfires with family and friends in the backyard. I poured myself into a new beginning, the old book starting to close on itself.
I dreamt I was in love a few weeks ago. A fully reciprocated sweet love that made me warm and happy. I woke feeling good for the first time in ages, a weight lifted as I realized I can fall in love again and more importantly receive a full love back. I have a chance to dig my roots down again, grow new branches and sway to the summer breeze.
They say the healthiest trees move in the wind, less likely to break and uproot themselves in a storm. My new yard has a whole forest of trees and they all dance. I kept thinking I had to wait to write this post, that I needed to get to a place of revelation. Until one day, I spoke with a friend and in describing my present life, I heard them exclaim about how amazing it was. My perspective had shifted. I saw myself through their eyes as that person living her dream. She wad done with heartbreak and had regained her strength. Then I realized, I was already there. I just couldn’t see the forest though the trees.
To read some of my poetry please visit: Bare Bones Poetry
To hear the podcast that helped shape this article visit: https://www.npr.org/2017/06/30/593135007/podcast-i-i-i-him