There we were, standing in his kitchen, just 6 weeks after we ended our 2 years together, when he announced his new romance. “I wanted to let you know that I’m dating someone.” At the moment that my brain processed the words, it felt like something shot into my chest and lodged there, inside my heart. Suddenly, it felt harder to breathe. I went home as soon as I could, to cry, tears that did not come as easily when we broke up, but now flowed. What a reality check: the person who still feels the closest in my world is moving on to become someone else’s closest and is entering the intimacy of her world.
I’ve biked to cafes, walked and talked with warm and thoughtful souls, danced my heart out, snuggled my dog, delighted at frog and bird song, laughed with my best lady friends, practiced French, planned my trip to Paris, and hiked in lush woods along waterways. I’ve watched puppets and b-boys dance, worked myself out into a dripping mess of sweat and endorphins, found a polka dot bikini that fits, and indulged in ice cream. I can forget, when totally absorbed in the present of these joyous and connected moments, the sensation throbbing in my chest. But then, eventually, I am back in my room alone, or quietly walking across town in the rain, or I catch a glimpse of a romantic card at the store, and I feel it. I feel that something wedged into my heart. When I go into arguments about how it shouldn’t be this way, or start questioning how true his love for me ever was, or picture him kissing another, or remember the sweet beginning of our relationship, the pain brightens. I try to catch my breath. I feel it as both a chasm, a bottomless cavity, and as a clamp tightening and closing around my heart.
There is no outer relief. No friend who can make it go away. Nothing out there that can fix the feeling. There is no story I can tell myself to make it better. There is no name-calling, no judgement about him, no critique of the situation, no complaints about how it is too soon, no pettiness about who she might be, that can dissolve that heart-constricting crater. It has nothing to do with him, or her, anyway. It is about the need to be loved, to feel lovable, and this is mine, a human, normal, mine. These are the fears and wounds that our relationships show us–not so that we can demand love from others to feel whole, but so that we may be that love for ourselves. Relief only comes when I move toward that which is causing pain, and then soften around it…to discover that the around it is infinite. That infinite, is who I am. That I am, is loving and open attention.
I sense shallow breathing, choppy air, tight hollowness in my chest, my throat closing, nausea, and what feels like an inner fight, a resistance, trying to push all of it away.
I stop holding my breath, and let the air flow naturally. I soften…soften around my chest, throat, jaw, gut. I keep softening and allow what is happening to simply be. I stop pushing the sensations away and move my attention outward yet not quite outside of me–I look from just behind my eyes, and feel from behind my heart. I feel into the back of the body, breathing in my 3 dimensions. There is an energetic field extending outward from my physical body. It has eyes and ears and awareness all its own. I shift into this bigger sense of myself: the field of consciousness that surrounds me. Instead of fixating on tight heart, lumped throat, and strained breath, I move my attention up to the top of my head, to the right and left sides of me, to my front and back, then down to the earth, holding my attention on the outer edges of my body. I quietly and curiously notice the many sensations in, on, around me. Tingles atop my head, cool air passing over my face, that bird outside is a high pitched chirp in my right ear, sweat feels slick on skin, and so much space all around me. From the shrinking of fear, grief, confusion, loss and strained breathing, I move out to inhabit that space.
Inhaling deeply, I fall with a relaxed exhale into the awareness that sees and holds all of it. I invite the discomfort to come closer, to show me what it really is. At first I worry that if I give it permission to be, it will grow and consume me. But then I am surprised by the lightness and soothing comfort that arrives when I stop resisting and let it be all that it needs to be. Beyond apparent boundaries of skin, bone, and muscle, beyond my 5’8″ 160 pound frame, there is an endless and expansive me–way more infinite than that crack in my heart. Way more able to love than small, fearful me could have imagined.
You, heart-twisting, lung-pressing, breath-gasping, stomach-dropping tenderness, thank you for bringing me deeper into my life, and inviting me to love more wholeheartedly: him, her, myself, and you, this pain.
I do still feel tender and short of breath at times. The tenderness comes up, catches me and takes my breath, and for a moment I am lost in a story of suffering and loneliness. Then I remember to soften. Again and again, I move into the space around me and soften. It may take days, weeks, or months to move through this, but I am moving through with lovingkindness.
And as I continue to show tenderness towards those tender parts, I also want to encourage the fiery, fierce, and focused parts to keep alive my dreams of creating a life of inspiration, beauty, integrity, and purpose. Indeed, I am already living that life in so many ways, which is why I had to move on from a relationship that felt in conflict with these dreams. Though I may forget and get swept up in my sadness in moments, staying in a story of despair or shutting down in bitterness are not options. As I heal this sense of loss, I will keep my heart open and ready to receive wild, soulful, and romantic possibilities! What about you? Where will you offer yourself space and softness? What happens when you show up for your tender places with a lot of tenderness?