I am lost in the woods. I am caught out in the tall grass. I stepped on a landmine, no, a bear trap. I stepped in a bear trap, pried my leg free and now I find myself, limping and alone in a deep valley hidden amongst the mountains of madness.
I am, for the less poetically inclined, heartbroken.
Heartbreak is a remarkably different thing when you’re pushing 40, a divorcee, when you’re poly and have spent a decade of your life as a commitment-phobe playing the nickel-ante version of Poly Pokemon. Heartbreak is a familiar chasm of despair. I know when the brief respites of sunlight will come. I can see scratches in the walls from my previous attempts to scrabble out. I do not hasten down the dark corridors of regret.
I may be lost, but I have been lost this way before.
Sometimes, I come to a crossroads in my grief, in my yearning to clutch at precious things pulled beyond my grasp. So far, they have been familiar crossroads, and it is not a choice of trying something different this time. It is a choice of which way to walk *again.*
Shall I take the low road and protest her flaws and faults, scream violent promises in the dark and empty coldness of my bed? No, I haven’t the strength just now, and the path leads to the same way as this other choice. Besides, so much of the language of angry rejection is steeped in misogyny, and I grew tired of spewing angry overly-inclusive epithets long ago.
Is it the high road for me, then?
I could split the difference and push my way into the thicket, try and forge a new path down the middle, but then I would have to constantly watch my footing, lest I slip and fall to the low road or even beyond.
Perhaps, some coldly analytical, mirthlessly cynical part of my mind suggests, I could just fall to my knees right here, paralyzed with indecision. Just here, in the twin indents mark where my knees have fallen so many times before.
Sometimes, I think about setting up camp, right here, in this country full of ghosts and shades of recrimination. Oh, I know that if I forge on ahead, I’ll find these very same shades, only less bitter, less angry, eager to show me the path ahead and remind me that I am worthy of love, that I have struggled in earnest and that although we parted ways, it was not because I was less than some mythical Other. I know that those reminders lay ahead. I’m just not there yet.
I’m not there yet, and I don’t know that I feel like getting there. I don’t know that, given a choice down all these familiar paths from heartbreak to wounded to healed to trying to find love again, that I want to particularly try any of them.
I could set up a little campsite, right here. Dig myself a lean-to, or a grave. I could just let myself dwell in bitterness and anger and incomprehension.
I think these things, as I almost always think these things when I walk down this stretch of it, and before I can decide, I see that I have already walked on. “Shelters,” I think. “That’s what I should really be making along these paths.”
Tiny, solidly built shelters. Sanctuaries from the rain and needless extra suffering. Stuff it full of medical supplies for my gorram bleeding heart. It would take time, though, and the belief that I was going to walk this way again.
Somehow, on this familiar journey, I can never quite bring myself to believe this. Oh, certainly, sometimes I think the road is endless and I despair of ever breaking through the canopy of unspoken regrets that keep the road dark and full of stumbling blocks. But never, while I walk the path back from heartbreak, do I manage to say convincingly, “Oh, I’ll get better and someday I’ll fall in love again, and when she breaks my heart, I’ll get back to this spot in just a day or two.”
It used to be that I would keep an eye out for others walking this same road. I’d convince them to spend a night or three with me, and share warmth, fluids and the desire to heal. But I just can’t bring myself to make that mistake again. I used to wonder why, in the movies, exiles from wartorn cities never lent each other a helping hand, but now I understand the weariness that they felt.
I pause at this thought, wondering if this entire gorram metaphorical forest is actually some bomb-blasted city of dreams that I’m trying to escape from, instead of a forest I’m working my way through.
Soon enough, I will get to a high point. Someplace where I get enough signal past my own gorram noise that I can reach out and connect with a friend. They will ask how I am doing, and I will tell them. My voice will be a tired monotone, and I will recite an empty list of facts.
I am eating at least one meal a day.
I am getting outside during daylight.
I am spending time with friends.
I am not drinking and driving.
Am I daily drinking to excess? Well, define “excess,” please.
Don’t worry, I’ll stop. Eventually.
Yes, I am getting my shit done. Bills payed. Commitments met.
It’s all bullshit, of course. I can say that I am eating, but the truth is that I am waiting by the phone. I can say that I have left my house, but the truth is that I am waiting for the phone to ring. I can put my body in the physical space that my friends occupy, but I’m not Here.
I can make metaphors about journeys and forests and walking through darkness, but the truth is that I, meaning the most real part of me, am still having that last conversation. Over and over again, the words that we said and variations I could have tried instead. As if I could fix it all in one last effort. As if finding the exact right way to phrase my feelings would have changed everything.
I can make all the metaphors about growth, healing and taking the good from the bad, and I can make them because I know that someday I’ll be better, and these things will be true.
But the truth is that right at this moment, I am sitting in the dark, clinging to my regrets like they have some kind of value. Like they’re worth more than the mistakes I made and never owned up to. Like they are some kind of true and accurate representation of the inexplicable validation that is Love. I am sitting in the dark and I am clinging to my regrets.
I know it is pointless. I know it won’t help me move on. I know that my friends think I am torturing myself pointlessly.
That’s just how I do this, okay?
I’ve done this before.