Who Are We When We Fall:
Ruptures and Swamp Tours, and Not Pulling the Heart Away Even When It Hurts
I look at the rows of shoes, the duffle bag stuffed fat, engorged with my winter clothes, spilling over, tucked under the hems of hanging dresses, the blue carpet nearly exfoliating my face with its tiny synthetic edges as I lay cheek down, the artificial light spilling bright and warm onto my tear-streaked face. I take a big breath as I wrap my arms tightly around myself, clenching my whole body as small as it will go, into a ball of tense sadness.
I am 38 and still hiding in my closet. And you know what, I am perfectly okay with that.
When my partner and I have a rupture, I need a place to sob freely. I don’t want to hurt him with my sobs, I don’t want my sobs to be sobs that beg for his love. I don’t want him to feel bad for me and come comfort me out of pity. I wanted to sob freely and privately in the only space that seems the most soundproof, the gentlest, the most like a tomb, or cocoon. There I lie, amongst colorful fashion and soft fabrics caressing me. I can let go there, and not feel like I am an inconvenience, or a victim, I can cease to be strong. I can melt into the carpet. I can be alone.
As much as I want to be alone, I am learning it is not always fair to ask for this within a deep connection with another. When one heart is pulled (often quickly and violently) out of connection, the other person is impacted. The pain we cause when we rip our hearts away is an invisible aggression. We can be soft speaking and say: “I just need to be alone.” And yes, of course, we have every right to do so. But a heart pulled out of a loving bond too quickly causes damage. Trust is broken there. If the bond is old and deep and anchored in roots that reach way under the topsoil, it will likely withstand the force. When a bond is newer, and someone retracts the heart without explanation, that effect can be long lasting. Trust can be broken. Because that bond has taken time to form: sweet texts and afternoon hangs and walks and laughs… the roots are just starting, and the bond needs such care.
My Beloved always comes to fetch me out of the swamp I am in when I have lost touch with my heart, when I am choosing me over the bond. It is a pact within sacred partnership… “If you lose the way home, I will come for you. If I lose my way, you will come for me. If we are both lost, someone must find a way to outstretch a hand and come back to the heart.” And this last piece is where the practice really is.
Where the ego must die. Where someone must reach a hand out first, through the deepest pain, and stories, and “rights” and “wrongs”, someone must accept the crucible of going first. Of putting one’s ego down on behalf of the bond.
When I am lost, far from the heart, sinking into a swamp, slimy swamp mud sucking on my toes, dark waters lapping at my ankles, I begin to fade away, and I will admit, I cannot reach my hand out most of the time to come back to the bond. Sobs that start as cathartic can quickly become a slide into the deep, a visit to the bottom of my pain. And he comes to make sure I stay on the ground, to see that I don’t drown within the swamp and spend days walking around like a sad zombie, with new swamp companions, leeches sucking at my blood, thick black water moccasins with poisonous tongues wrapped around my legs, ready to pounce on whoever comes close.
He reminds me who I truly am in these moments. His eyes are a light within a world that is turning to dark around me as voices in my mind flare up, protectors inside me show up with battle cries, and everything in me says: “GIVE UP! RUN!”
What feels most important in such a moment, is learning to stop identifying with every voice we hear within. Especially when the voice arises in moments of conflict and upset. ESPECIALLY then. Learning to discern, and pick apart the voices, to be a detective and wonder what they are protecting us from feeling, what they are scared of… this is the work. If we listen to them, they will keep us where we are. This is why we get stuck. We want love, but can’t receive it. We want success, but we are blocking it. It is so simple, yet so complex.
Sometimes this process looks innocent, like crying on the bathroom floor, or in the closet, or like slamming the door, or like staying in bed all day, or avoiding calling someone back, or eating a bag of chips. None of which seem too terrible on the surface. But, underneath the behavior, there are the patterns, the voices, the protectors, there is a move away from our hearts… so, we wise up to seeing what is under all of it. The practice is to remember who we are, who we really are. Which underneath all of it… is love.