Ten years ago, I was studying creative writing at USC. Times were good: my professors spoke highly of my talent, I imagined a bright and creative career, and I was in love. I still remember the day he came over, it was a Sunday in May, ten years ago last month. The golden afternoon light poured in the western-facing windows of my small studio, expanding it beyond its humble white walls. I was sitting on the floor, and he touched my shoulder. I was happy when he said my name.
When I looked over to him, he said: "I don't love you anymore. I'm not sure I ever did." I think we all ask questions at times like that. I know I did. But there were no answers. He left a few minutes later.
Hours passed. The sun had set, and I had not moved from the floor. Between sobs, I made a promise: If this was how the world worked, I would accept, and I would never write again.
I remember that moment so clearly; the same way I remember car accidents or where I was when the towers fell. It has that same quality of memory. I looked down at the gaping hole in my chest, and pulled out the part of me I loved most. I placed it cooly on the floor of that dingy studio, and left it there in the gathering gloom. Something beyond my comprehension had occurred, and I struggled to make sense of it. It was the only kind of suicide I could muster. It would have to do.
I painted for a while--dark, brooding nightmares in black and red, peeled flesh and gaping mouths. They were lovely. I framed them in gold and hung them all around me. I got an internship at a brokerage house, and thought, I could do this. I finished my degree, and told my stunned professors that I was going to work on Wall Street. I was not unhappy.
Years passed. I had--and lost--other loves. I had run-ins with the One Who'd Left. I had become very successful at my career, and imagined a new life that did not include writing. Friends encouraged me to write; I would smile, pull my Armani suit coat a little closer, say something polite and think, No fucking way. There have been Halloweens, and suntans, and friends' weddings, and lots of laughter. Over time, I healed as best I could--not from any wound he'd inflicted, but from the deeper betrayal: that the world gives us what it gives us, and that it mixes ghastly wounds with glorious treasure.
I know what changed, but I don't want to admit it, for fear that you'll judge me: I broke my heart again. It wasn't a long relationship, but it was enough.
Aha! you say, I know what he'll do! He'll throw another decade-long tantrum!
Only this time, I didn't. Instead, I went within, and found the thing I feared, and I grabbed on to its fiery horns for dear life to drag it into the light.
From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I battled my demon. I reestablished contact with the One Who'd Left, and found we'd both changed. He couldn't hurt me anymore. I was still beautiful in his eyes. Our meeting completed old karma, and I began to wonder what that would mean for my old vow.
I found healers of the first order on a weekend retreat recently. It was terrifying, and I was reborn, filled with light in places that had been dark for years. I am strong, and happy, and whole. Radiant.
That sounds funny, looking at it. So cliche. But the possibility is real, and I experienced it then. A scene from a movie kept running through my head as I struggled to describe the shift to my friends:
Fortunately, they didn't need much explanation. They can see the change. I can feel it. That you are reading this now means the change is irrevocable.
So this is how I got to where I am: 1am and writing. Breaking old vows and wondering what the future will bring. I write. I shine light into dark places, and I wonder if the things I find there look like the things other people find within. Do they?