Wednesday, 1 May 2013

the beginning is a good place to start

I'll start with myself. That's only fair. No one wants to read love advice from someone who's never had their heart crushed underfoot, right? I was twenty four and sat on the bed in the house I shared with the love of my life. He was sobbing and so was I. My heart was out of its mind, rummaging for scraps in an unknown place, unsure of what was safe and what was lethal. I have never felt, before or since, such a complete and total lack of centre. If you know what I mean then you've probably lived through something similar. My future became a black hole during that time in our room. We ended our relationship that night.

He went to stay with his parents. The house was a shell. It creaked with tears and it was always cold. I couldn't sleep in the bed so I spent every night downstairs on the couch wrapped up in a blanket with the heater on for comfort. This resulted in a £600 heating bill which I ignored for months - red letters didn't mean a thing to me. Friends came around to make sure I was eating and sleeping, but pretty soon I noticed that they could only be around me for a couple of hours a stretch. Heartbreak is a lot like bereavement - people seem to feel that it might be catching. It could infect healthy hearts and make them hurt just as much. Like bereavement, heartbreak is awkward for people. They don't know what to say. They don't know how to help and so the situation quickly becomes frustrating for them. They might insist that you lighten up or they might talk about their own life relentlessly without mentioning your predicament, as if to kind of drown it out. One friend of mine whom I had considered close had moved in with me temporarily to keep me company but then moved out a week later, admitting that being around me had triggered her depression issues. It was a seriously dreary time.

That relationship was my square one. My port in every storm. Meeting him was the moment the serpent eats its own tail, and on that basis I never thought we'd part ways. We did everything right, and still we couldn't stay as we were at our happiest - we couldn't honour that fixed point in time. Oscar Wilde once said that a woman ruins every good romance by trying to make it last forever. Maybe he was being fickle and cynical or maybe he had a grain of truth there. Either way, I just didn't think of a future without him in it, and suddenly I was being asked to do just that and it was like being asked to imagine a completely new colour.

Following this demolition, a few crazed, lovely, lonely years passed. And I did have high points and the low points were low and the good stuff came and went and some of it was a blur (intentionally). Recently, my little brother broke up from his first serious girlfriend only months after they moved in together. I suddenly realised that all the stuff they say about being the older, wiser sibling actually counts for something if you've lived through something. So, I sat down and I wrote him the longest essay I could. It was a war memoir. It was a battle scar from me to him - I showed him how I lived through it, step by step. I told him everything his life was about to become - the lessons he'd learn, the ways in which he'd come to love himself, the incredible ability he would now have to appreciate a sunset - just him and the fading light.

He told me that my words had made him cry from deep down because reading them gave him the first glimpse of the new chapter he was about the start. He accepted that there really is more hope to come after your hope is lost.

Heartbreak was my greatest gift. To look back on the timeline of my life, people could cite much more traumatic things which maybe should have affected me more. But truly, nothing was harder than losing my rocking chair buddy. I now know that there was no way I could have learned how to love someone properly if I hadn't have experienced that kind of loss. I speak candidly and clearly to my new boyfriend about what I went through and where that experience took me. I have told him that I plainly and simply wouldn't have been the woman he fell in love with if I hadn't have been so badly hurt. It was the absolute making of me.

I'll end this post the same way I ended my letter to my brother - with a quotation.

'I have been to hell and back and let me tell you, it was wonderful..' 
- Louise Bourgeois