"I am strong, I can get through this." "You're the strongest person I know." "This will only make you stronger." "Just be strong, it will get better."
Lately I've been thinking a lot about being 'strong' and what it means to me. I've always considered myself a 'strong' person - I'm kind, and make a conscious effort to be. I equate kindness with strength, because I believe it is easier to find reasons to hate - to hate life, to hate people, to hate your circumstances. It is far harder to love, to be gentle and kind. But right now, kindness isn't really doing much to ease the loss and absence I am feeling, that I can't escape from.
So, okay, let's put kindness aside for now. What else do I have? Well, I'm pretty good at avoiding pain. I have built a life for myself away from most things that hurt - I live in a cosy affordable apartment in the countryside, so I don't have to suffer the pain of ever being financially crippled and not being able to cope. I simply avoid the stress of city living, the hustle and bustle of people pushing through the crowds on their way to some destiny, by sitting in the fields miles away from it all, toes stretched and earth under my feet. I'm pleasant to everyone I meet so I don't have to deal with the anxiety that they might not have enjoyed my company, that they might not like me. I listen to my own music instead of the radio, so I can control the mood I'm in when I run my errands for the day. I only take on jobs that I will really enjoy with clients who seem like really decent people, so I can minimize stress and avoid going to bed with a defeated heart and a sense of emptiness.
And this is all working for me, it has worked for me up until now. I created a climate in which I could breathe, I made time for the small pieces of glitter that you catch glinting within all the grey stone. I have walked the sadness out of my shoes many times, run with tears rolling down my cheeks until I couldn't deny the feeling of being alive any longer. I have savoured the taste of the camp fires in the air and I enjoyed every moment I had with you, with myself. I allowed time to pass without trying to hold onto it. I thought I was prepared for this, I thought this had made me strong.
But I sit here, and I remain.
The first time I looked in the mirror that day, I didn't see my reflection. I saw me without you, a person I never wanted to see.
I do not feel strong, I feel carried. Time takes me to the next day, and the next, and the next. I just remain here in my body, powerless to fight it.
If strong is an attitude, then yes, I have moments of strength. But my motivation most days is limited to lying with a white mind, in my white room, on my white sheets, motionless.
When I moved in two years ago, I chose that bedroom because when the evening spring sunlight shines into it, and the soft curtains catch the breeze from the open window, it feels like heaven. And I lie there, in my self created heaven, not feeling much at all.
So I ask myself, how can I avoid this? I usually have all the answers. I could travel to a room bursting with colour down a side street in Morocco, but I don't think this sadness is something I can unpack from my suitcase. I could swallow sweetness and use biology - lift up my wilting mind with dopamine, sugar, a fix. But I think I am too aware of my own bad habits to fool myself any more.
The idea of filling the hole you have left with another is sacrilegious to me, my teeth crumble at the thought. The idea of loving again seems inauthentic, and I am convinced any feelings for another down the line would be a result of loneliness and a need for human contact, because no one will ever compare to you. No, I've had my fill of love for this lifetime. It might not have been for long, but it was enough, a taste was enough.
So I am left with this. This is now my Great Journey, there is just my shadow left walking down our road.
And whilst I do not "feel strong", I do "feel". And though this pain I cannot avoid, I must find a way to work it through my fingers, to add water to it, to turn it into some softness. I must learn to dance with it, to listen to it, to stroke it's hair, to love it. I must learn.
To be continued.