So, you know how I told you I'd put up a link to my Globe and Mail podcasted piece today? Well, um, I'm feeling kind of shy about it. All I will say is that I would have read it very differently. Some day, I'll figure out how to record me reading it and I'll redeem it. Till then, you can read it (again) if you like, but you've got to imagine me talking slow and straight. No bullshit. All straight up.
The Evolution of the Heart
Once upon a time I was in love. I was married and in love. But then there was a death - of a marriage, not a man - and I am not in love anymore. I am not in love with the man I was married to. But here is the thing, and you should lean in close because I am about to tell you a secret, I love the man I was once married to.
Once upon a time, eleven years ago, we were madly in love and married in June, because that is what you do when you are madly in love in the month of June, which everyone knows is the month of weddings. But our madness only lent us seven years of marriage, and it has been four years since we walked away from it - took off the rings and split up the debts- but here I am four years after the end of a seven year marriage, and still, I look around at myself, and at my life, and at my heart, and my heart says to my self, "Self, you love that man." And so I do. And so does he: he loves me, too. I have heard those words from his mouth.
Now you, dear reader, do not jump to conclusions or illusions: There was no gentle fade to black here. It was a glorious end, the death of our marriage: full of tears and anger and betrayals: no slow and gasping sickness for us, no silent suppers, no bored conversations, no pulling teeth for communication. It ended in a flashy show of gory blunders: the kind that leave your liquefied heart oozing out your eyes and mouth while you lie dying: the kind that remake your soul so that it is unrecognizable to itself.
And as our marriage died there were lists of furniture divided, the rising bile of custody panic, the sickening ache of love replaced, cold sheets, empty seats, long nights, metallic mornings. There was no gentle easing into a new version of life: only a crash course (with blood and guts) on moving forward and learning how to walk and hold a soup spoon again. There are scars.
Once, I gave money to a woman to tell me how to make all the dying hurt less. Once a month I sat in a chair across the room from her and she asked me questions and wrote on a lined pad of paper and said things like, "But do you think he ever really loved you?" and I tried not to vomit on her ugly office floor. She determined that the answer to my grief lay in amputation: to slice out that festering wound of a heart that had been in love with him and toss it in the trash with all the other un-recyclables. To begin again.
I tired. Really, I did, but I'm a bit of a pack rat and I hate to throw things away. And if I threw that away, I would also have to throw out our first kiss, the way my fingers felt threaded through his, the softness of the skin on the inside of his arms, our first Christmas together, our sixth Christmas together, all those birthdays in between, mornings drinking coffee, Saturdays reading the paper, road trips to Vancouver, bottles of wine, random driving, walking along train tracks, swimming naked in the river, "I love you, I love you, I love you." I am not willing to lose those things; there has been enough losing.
So in the end, there can only be no end, only forgiveness for the loss of a future as planned. Because really, there are no new beginnings, only becomings: adaptations and evolutions into different ways of loving. I loved him once for his blue eyes and his kindness, his wit and his patience. He is still blue-eyed and kind. He is still patient and witty. A broken heart does not change these things; it only sometimes changes the ability to see them. But if I stop seeing them, if I look at that man I was once married to and only see him through the hurt and the bitterness I have felt, then I will be saying to the girl I once was, "It was all a waste. You knew nothing of love." And that is not true. Because there was real love once. On a rainy day in June, eleven years ago, we stood in a church and I was beautiful, as beautiful as I've ever been, and he was noble, as noble as he's ever been, and we held hands, and my father cried, and I meant every word that my young heart said: I will love you till death do us part.
And I do.