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on heartache.

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.


Unknown said...

You have a way with words that always leaves me head full, my heart bursting, and my mouth empty. Keep doing what you're doing.

Shawnee said...

Spot on. this... this. yes.

marialuigi said...

Absolutely stunning.
And, for your words...no one is exempt. All can read your words and all can relate.

Your best writing to date...in my opinion.

Jenna | The Eighty Twenty said...

This: "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. Or well, there's this here, and maybe it's scared men in the past, but that was their flaw, not yours." is flawless.

becky said...

This time last year, the boy I loved broke up with me. And it was horrendous--deeply, deeply horrendous. At some point over the course of the summer, he realised his mistake and he asked for a miracle; a miracle of my trust and my love and to see him how I knew him best. Foolish as I may be, I did, and we started back up again--ran with it, really, tried and persevered. We were more mature, now, in ways I hadn't quite seen as flaws before. Over Christmas, I noticed him slipping from me: his depression - his sadness - raised its fierce and volatile head, consuming him. And do you know what I thought? I thought: I can deal with this, I can understand. I may not be sure or certain of many of my capabilities or many of my merits, but I knew I could deal with this. About three weeks' ago, though, that love decided I couldn't--didn't want me to--found it easier to be alone, and my heart feels foolish and silly and annoyed at granting that miracle. It does not get easier--you are right. I only find them some people are a lot less forgiving second time around. How to get over heartache, eh? I don't think you do--and in fact, I think that scares me most: that I will hoard and protect this love of mine, that nobody will breach or surpass it. Today, that love of mine went away--travelling around Europe to find himself--and I have thought hard all day about getting over it; about when the light will come. Thank-you, Meg, for this, and especially so for it today. (I am sorry this is such a mess of a self-indulgent comment).

Clomofosho said...

This may be the most beautiful post I have ever read. I think, somehow, you've helped me understand so much about my own history with love. You sound like such an incredible woman, you're such an inspiration.

Brittan said...

I have felt these words, Meg, felt every one, lived it. (Right down to Shakespeare and Elliot Smith.) There is so much truth in what you've so beautifully written. I can't tell you what changes, but something does. Something clicks and you are finally allowed to relax into another person, love and be loved. It isn't a fairy tale and it doesn't end there, because you still carry around your damage, trust me. But you are finally allowed to push it aside a bit and live in a more peaceful, settled space in your mind. You can be vulnerable again, and think less about the pain you've felt, but be better because you have felt it. It does happen. It will happen.

Unknown said...

Captivating. Yeah, captivating.

Amanda Noel said...

Don't take this down...you write with so much passion and feeling...at some point, maybe weeks down the road, someone else will need to read this.

L.A. said...

Shit, Meg.

This post is timed perfectly with the rawness of recent heartbreak in my own life, a blow that left my heart feeling no longer bruised, but bleeding. It's moments like that, when the knife of heartbreak isn't just in place but twisted in deeper then you remember it ever being before, that you (or at I) feel most alone.

& then I come here and read this.

Thank you for reminding me that this painful ache doesn't make me crazy or self-absorbed, but human and beautifully flawed.


from lara said...

this is such a beautiful post. you really have the most amazing way with words...

we're all a little "damaged bad at best" i think. and you're right... there is always someone else. someone who will help us feel whole again and that we are worthy of love.

i hope you decide to keep this up. i think it will be comforting for so many...

courtneykearns said...

Seriously brilliant. And that is all there is to say.

Unknown said...

And all you have is enough, Meg. That's the whole point.

kahrot said...

You are exceptional. I've been reading your blog silently for the past few months and your words always seem to dive right into the center of what I'm feeling. I cried reading this post, not because it was sad-although addressing heartache always is-but more because it was beautiful. Thank you for being vulnerable and in doing so, inspiring vulnerability in all of us.

Brookette said...

i am so so glad you exist.

Jessica said...

"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."

That happened to me last night. It happened with small words that screamed volumes and emptied me, but there's something healing for me in reading this today.

As always, thanks.

Alexa said...

i am so grateful for this. of all days, today in specific.

lene b said...

you know. if you ever wonder if you do any good in the world, i can reassure you that you do. with this here blog of yours. a 'thank you' falls short.

Anonymous said...

I already finish reading your words just wishing I could hug you tight. Your words always seem to reflect the truest pieces of my heart, and its absolutely incredible.
Ad you are so worthy of all the kind things the kind people say on here, because you put your beautifully flawed humanity out there for us all to see, and its just remarkable. I always feel honored to see glimpses of your heart.

Unknown said...

My goodness. What a courageous and talented woman to shine a mirror of herself to the world. Thank you for speaking the truth in my heart I could not find the words to do myself. Thank you for being vulnerable and hopeful. Thank you for this.

Robby Spratt said...

Meg, this is very very good. I kind of want to print this out, frame it, and hang it on my wall...

colleen said...

i always feel like i have so many things i want to talk you about after reading a post, and posting all my thoughts here is almost impossible. either way, thought provoking and beautifully said.

Keiko said...

I just got over a heartache not too long ago. During my time studying in England I was healing, and the sadness that you carry around with you because of past hurts- I too carry my own baggage. But I must say, what has helped me is not to claim ownership over it. Because the sadness, though painfully beautiful at times- exposing your own humanity- as i'm sure you know, its weight gets so heavy at times...

Here's a post I wrote while trying to 'let go' of this most previous cloud. I hope it encourages you. You deserve to carry joy with you so much that it overwhelms the sadness.

Happy thoughts!


Kiersten said...

This post really hit close to home with me. I think we all sometimes look at ourselves and think how damaged we are, and most of us never tell anyone because "they can't possibly feel the same way. I'll scare them away."
But it's not just us - it's not just you or just me - it is, at some point, everyone. And I think that's important to know to help not make the pain worse, if not make it better.
<3 Kiersten

bells said...

I got chills reading this.

palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss

you have such a way with words

Christine said...

i cant even. no words.

beautiful, heavy post.

I'm still processing it... but
Thank You Meg
Thank you.

Kerry said...

palm to palm.. ugh is it not the best part of the whole play? well, no. all of it is. but i love that part so.

something changes. it just happens. the story you tell yourself about yourself and your worthiness changes. you get braver. i can't explain it, mine was waiting here in LA after six years of sobbing in NYC.

the paradox process. it's on w 27th. life changing. google it.

Anonymous said...

This is just so absolutely perfect. Your words are so perfect, and they clearly strike a chord in every single one of your readers. Love x

Anonymous said...

Just what I needed to read.

Anonymous said...

I saw on your Instagram that you said you weren't sure about this post, and that it would probably be taken down by the day's end. I'm so glad it's still here. I check your blog almost every day and I read it especially when I need comfort and compassion. Thank you for sharing what so many people (i.e., ME) do not know how to. It is so nice to feel like I am not alone.

Jandy xx said...

exactly what Brittan said...

9 years ago today (it's valentines day here in australia) i was getting married, 18 months ago he told me that he was seing someone else.... and it wasn't the only "someone else" over the years. i was broken and never wanted to be in another relationship ever again, never imagined i would be, i mean, who would want this (me)?

today i recieved the most beautiful box of long stem roses from the person who did "want this". the man who saw my sadness and decided that it was not bad... i don't know if he's "forever", but i sure do like the process of finding out....

meg fee said...

@Jandy: love that. it's all about the process. Happy Valentine's to you. xo

jill said...

this is so spot on. thanks! Happy valentines day.

Anonymous said...

wow, simply amazing. have you ever read brene brown? she's a researcher/counselor who works at University of Houston and who studies vulnerability and shame. She has a couple of compelling TED Talks if you google her. Her work and insights are all really powerful--she tends to not be a typical "self-help" generalist. I'm actually reading her book Daring Greatly now, and it's really amazing to think about the things you write about in relation to the importance of vulnerability and our hard-wired need for connection. if you read her or check her out, i'm sure you'd have some of your own strike us all right through the heart insights.

Unknown said...

Every one before the one now, I wasn't able to forget myself, forget those hidden flaws you think everyone will see. It's the one(s) that are so colossal that you can't think of yourself, can't worry because you are too busy being in awe, drinking up every bit of them, looking for their flaws only to come up for air confessing that you can't find it. I think that's the difference. And the difference is that you, unlike the unkind flirter, see that it goes both ways. That we are all hiding something we don't want seen, wishing that it will be seen but not seen as anything to be hidden.

Jenny McL said...

This is a really wonderful post. And not to take away from anything you have ever felt, everything we have been through is our own experience and we feed off of that as we chose, the older we get the less focus we have on what went before and the more we look forward to what is next.
May I suggest you listen out for the massive attack song - Protection.
This girl I know needs some shelter she don't believe anyone can help her

These words have remined with me for years - When my heart was broken, when it was ignoring where it needed to be and when it refused to let go of something that wasn't ever really worth holding on to and to now where my heart is just fine and I am not defined by any relationship-I am just me.
It is also worth listening to Ray Lamontagne Empty 'I never learned to count my blessings I choose instead to dwell in my disaters'

Unknown said...

Just happened on your blog through Taza... I would like to say that this truly is beautiful.

So much has happened in my life, so many things that should not happen to a 16 year old and as I grew up I just heart break, sadness that was the only thing i knew. Your words, I had them written through out so many things. I truly believed that I was unfix able.

I never saw the light at the end of the fog.

Now..yes I am married. But my husband often feels it now, when I go to feeling un fixable. I truly believe it is something that will stay with you for ever.

Jamie said...

This is so wonderful! Just discovered your blog, looking forward to following!

Unknown said...

Probably the most beautifully written and thoughtful blog post I have ever read. You have such a way with words. All I can say it wow. You've completely captivated me.

Take A Megabite said...

Thanks for this. It really is about moving forward despite feeling shattered. I needed to see this! Sadness keeps poppin' up for me too.

r a c h e l . said...

your words are beautiful.

you "emptied my body of all its air" when you stated your fear, that is subconsciously my own--
"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."

i relate to this terrible fear. though i have to constantly remind myself that fear is a liar.

I do believe with my whole heart that, "We love because we are human and it's the closest we get to divinity." and I will do my best to remember and invest in the truth over the lies.

thanks for your honesty.

elventryst said...

Meg, just wish their was a "Pinterest" where I could pin your posts. This one's another beauty.

Paula said...

Thank you. Thank you, Meg.

Captain Serenity said...

When she was seven I bought her a bicycle.
When she was 11 I took her to see Billy Graham at ND, she said it was the most important day of her life.
Time passed, years and years, never seeing or knowing.
Thirty some years later...Facebook.
A date to meet at a little cafe in Michigan.
In she walked, smiling, hair flying, and our eyes met, as if for the first time.
And it was all over for me...doors banging off the hinges, windows wide open, sirens blaring, fireworks. And in the ensuing tumultuous 2 years I never, ever stopped loving her, and there were never any conditions...I just f...ing loved her, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. If she was mean to me, I loved her; if we were kissing by the fireplace, I loved her; texting at 3 A.M., long emotional conversations, flowers, claddagh rings, sharing "You are the Love of my life" by Jim Brickman or Del Amitri's "Downfall" I loved her. There was absolutely nothing I could do to stop. It is as unexplainable as my relationship with the Mystery.
On Thanksgiving I brought her a ham from her favorite place,some potatoes, 2 pies and I filled up her freezer with her favorite frozen dinners. I told her for the numberless time I love you.
The following Tuesday.
The phone call.
And even if you really feel it (March 26, "The Book of Awakening") It never, ever goes away...and though you may move, you don't ever really move on. And I believe that the reason is that unconditional love is an event of the moment, of the eternal now; it is not confined to the length of a relationship, or to a history it is always NOW. I caught Josh Groban's "Happy in My Heartache" the other day and it spoke to me of being captured in the eternity of Love.
I couldn't save her.
And sixteen months later
the heartache continues.
And it is o k, and it is not maudlin, it just is. It will always be there, and it is a wonderful reminder of the truth of my being...that my purpose on this journey is to love, and I learned how to do so from her.
The saddest thought came when I realized she was now just a memory, and the happiest thought was how wonderful those memories are.
William Shakespeare, sonnet 116
I love your writing Meg.

Anonymous said...

Powerful, Intense and beautifully written.
"I can match you with the half-lies and small cruelties and broken promises of all the men before you"