I remember walking around the Met as things with the-last-man-I-really-cared-about were unraveling. Surrounded my such immense history and such immeasurable beauty and there was but one thought:
There is a great, gaping hole in the middle of my chest.
Someone asked me about heartbreak recently--about how to get over it? And it's not the first time someone has asked this question so I started thinking about it and found I couldn't stop. I thought about it on the subway and in the shower and at work. And I thought about it as I listened to Elliot Smith.
I'm damaged bad at best.
Five words in a song. Five small and true words.
I am in a debt to Elliot Smith for those five words and that perfect truth.
I'm damaged bad at best.
I think about those words now as I meet men for the first time. First dates in which we sit at a bar and sip wine and I wonder just how quickly they will see my sadness.
I wear it differently now than I did at eighteen or twenty-five or any of the years between. I'm more comfortable with it--more at ease with the notion that it's an accumulation of all the lives before this one. It is my history and my inheritance. It is the truest part of who I am. And the most terrifying--I imagine to others looking in, it is the most terrifying.
But only from the outside. Only when not understood. Because for me it is a sadness that simply is--that is so telling of what it is to be human and alive in this world.
But sometimes it is more immediate, closer to the surface.
And I'm okay with that. It's an altogether not-so-bad feeling, sadness.
I'm far less comfortable with the sense that every time I turn around I'm face-planting into a brick wall--that's a sensation far less bearable. And I keep wondering when this phase of my life in which I go out with girlfriends and end up crying as I attempt to explain that just-as-soon-as-I-think-I've-turned-a-corner-I'm-face-first-in-brick will end.
I'll take the sadness. It's the frustration and sense of failure and the nagging notion that I'll never be enough that I find altogether less than pleasurable--the math of too much somehow adding up to not enough. Too emotional, too honest, too demanding, too picky, too much of too many things. Altogether, not enough. Somehow, still, not enough
My mother said something recently that I can't stop thinking about. With great love she said, You're afraid that everyone will figure out you're a fraud. You're afraid that everyone who comes here to read these words--all the kind people with kind things to say, will somehow figure out that you are not worthy of what they say. And that's on you.
When what I'm really afraid of is that I am something that can only be loved in the dark--hidden and away. That to love me would be a shameful thing.
And what a terrible truth to hold.
That is part the-story-I-tell-myself-now and part the-story-told-to-me-by-every-man-I've-ever-cared-for. And it is the inheritance of the-next-man-who-undoes-me. That's the worst of it--that it is someone else's inheritance.
I'm damaged bad at best.
Just the other night there was a guy and he wasn't terribly kind and he delivered dig after dig and after a few minutes I realized he was flirting. Low on patience I turned to him and let him have it. And he, through slurred words born of early morning hours and too much booze and quite a bit of hurt said, I've been burned pretty bad--I've been hurt so badly by women. As though that was both explanation and reparation. And I looked right at him and said, You think you're the only person who's ever been hurt? You think you're standing here talking to a woman who hasn't felt that same sort of pain? I wasn't really insulted until just now, until this moment. So please, go ahead, let me have it, tell me your story because I can match you pace for pace on this one. I can match you with the half-lies and small cruelties and broken promises of all the men before you. I can match you with each and every man who's shown me just how easily that wedding band slips off.
We're damaged bad at best.
I've never once said anything honest and true to a man I've cared for. I lost years of my life to loving a man and the closest I got to telling him was with seven words: I think you're a pretty fine guy. Seven words when I only needed three. And a bit of courage.
But I am not a courageous person. And I'm damaged bad at best.
And I get to a point on those first dates when I think please don't let this man tell me I'm beautiful. Please don't let him reach for my knee. Please, please don't let his hand touch my hand because palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss--and hell, it really is my favorite part. Because should those things happen I'll begin to worry that he'll stumble upon that one thing that makes me unlovable. That one thing that I can't name and can't see and can't place, but I'm sure is there.
But there is a truth greater than the one I now comprehend.
There will be a person that will see the sadness right away and will know it's not so bad. There will be a person who will touch my knee and my hand, who will trace the outline of my curves and connect-the-dots of my moles and he will come up for air and say, I can't find it. That thing you're convinced that'll make me run--I can't find it.
I am worthy of love. As is the boy who flirted so unkindly and fears he is not. We are all damaged bad at best. And we are all still worthy.
I don't know how we get over heartache, only that we do.
And the best and worst and truest and saddest thing that no one ever really talks about--there's always someone else. There will always be someone else--even if the best love we've ever known somehow, in some way--inexplicably falls apart.
The heart goes in search of love. Always it does. Even--and most especially--when we don't want it to. The heart never breaks--we call it heartache and heartbreak, but it is not the heart that is damaged. It is always new and unscarred and perfect and we wrap it in memories that are broken and fragmented and cutting and we confuse that with a damaged center from which to love.
And the war is a silent one. Fought on the home front. Between a heart that propels us forward and a body that doesn't think it'll survive another hurt.
There is no roadmap. Of when to fight. And when not to. Of when to look like a fool for love. And when you just look like a fool. No clear marker of the moment a love begins. Or when it doesn't.
I don't know how to get over heartache other than to really feel it--and let it run its course. We don't get to hurry it along.
And I certainly don't think it gets easier--only harder. Each one worse than that before. Which is one of life's small cruelties. The movement of each man from a maybe to a no has taken something from me. Has cut a path wide and deep through my core. Has added something to that wellspring of sadness.
But getting over it. Or not. Well, that's not the point. Continuing on, that is the point. Investing in one's worth. Believing in the face of overwhelming doubt. Radical hope--that is the point. Because that is what it is to be human. Because the heart is the human story and that. is. the. point.
this life, already wasted and still strewn with miracles. Small words that I read on one of the subway banners not too long ago--part of a poem by Mary Ruefle. Small and perfect words that emptied my body of all its air.
Already wasted and still strewn with miracles. Damaged bad at best and still worthy of love.
Better for the damage and the waste and all that damn sadness.
We love because we are human and it's the closest we get to divinity. And heartache or heartbreak or whatever you want to call it is part of that story. So we get over it by getting out of the way. And letting life happen. And acting courageously even when it's not in our nature.
That's what I got. That's all I got.
Posted by meg fee at 12:59 PM