“So often we want to take this behavior and now reduce the entire person to just that.”
– Esther Perel
Nine months, seventeen days.
That is how long it has been since I heard C’s voice. It’s been several months since I’ve had any contact with C even by email.
I have one voicemail message left. I haven’t listened to it since New Year’s Eve but I know it is there. I just cannot bring myself to listen to it..or delete it.
C deleted every picture of us on New Year’s from files and our social media. She’s erased our seven years of history. She has denied our life together over and over. She claims our entire love and life was all built on a lie. She works to forget me.
Perhaps it is easier to believe everything I said and did was a lie. Perhaps it is what she believes. Perhaps it is what she needs to believe.
In defense of C’s behavior, my friend and a betrayed spouse said to me today, “Sean, you know if she could do something different she would.”
SIDEBAR: As I type that, I shake my head realizing, although true, no one accepts that as a defense of my behavior…the hurt and anger creeps back into my heart and I want to harden my heart. Instead, I weep over my keyboard. I don’t want to deny her meaning to me. That is to deny my own existence.
Nonetheless, I feel forgotten. My existence denied.
Yet I carry her every mile across 40,000 miles, sixteen states, nine months, hundreds of hotels, and twice as many restaurants.
I cannot forget her. I cannot deny her existence. I cannot deny my truth. Still, I feel.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a Twitter friend about how much we feel the loss of our former Partners. I don’t feel I can talk about it much because there is a vocal group of men and women whose perspective is summed up as simply: move on, get over it, and stop talking about how you feel. As if they are offering some magical insight that never occurred to me.
It’s odd, a lack of vulnerability is how I ended up living out of my car for nine months but people are uncomfortable when I am taking the risk, face the uncertainty, and speak in an emotionally vulnerable manner.
As such, I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about the loss and pain because it was self-inflicted and wounded C. Plus, you know, I’m a man and therefore my grieving doesn’t matter unless I decide to break things.
I should just walk it off. Seven years of my life planning the next thirty years with C and I’m criticized for talking about it and showing my heart. Few people actually care but still have an opinion.
When I said to the doctor I don’t post stories or images of my life with C she asked, “Why?”
I don’t have a good answer.
Partially because I was trying to make C comfortable, partially because the one or two times I have posted images of C and our life together well-meaning people tell me I should have a ritual and destroy them all in a fire. I don’t want to forget the past or delete it. I want to celebrate it because it did mean everything to me. Everything (and that is a different kind of problem).
Doctor Deb responded after a thoughtful pause, “Doesn’t that piss you off? Why do let others define how you act and feel?”
After some thought and reflection about my conversation with the doctor and my Twitter friend, I’m reminded again, if I want to heal I have to celebrate ALL my past and not ignore it.
I’ve spent much time and energy focused on my Ugly and working through my pain and loss. As such, I’ve stopped examining what was beautiful and good. It has created a myopic and unbalanced perspective on Our lives together.
The images we took together and our travels is a catalog of our celebrations together and of my own life. Deleting and destroying the images is a lazy way to grieve. It happened. It was good. And beautiful. And fun. And powerful.
It was the most wonderful seven years of my life.
Our life together was never a lie. We both carried our own lies into the relationship but our life and Love was never a lie to me. And it was never built on lies. There has been a great deal to celebrate and the pictures, both the personal and public ones, were always taken from a place of love and passion.
For the next few weeks as I focus on celebrating what was also true and beautiful I’m going to post some images of C and I together.
It’s my life too.
She can work to forget me but if I want to mature, heal, and learn to celebrate my life I cannot pretend the seven years with C didn’t exist. I’m not going to hide. I loved every moment with C and Our family. If I have to embrace the Ugly to heal I also have to embrace what was beautiful.
No one is all one thing.