I have to tell you – I tried so hard to make a funny picture using the “You have no power here, Gandalf the grey!” quote.
It just didn’t work out. It would have involved this picture and it would have said, “The past? You have no power here!” Or something.
Once upon a time, I had a bad broken heart. I mean they’re never really good, hence the word “broken” connected to the word “heart” but this was of the variety that lasted for more than a week or two, or three, as they always had in the past for me. Generally I either moved on fast enough to realize it was just a temporary infatuation, or more likely – I somehow convinced my exes that they wanted me back. I usually did this with ten page love letters or two hour phone calls, or once, September 11th brought a boy back.
This bad broken heart though, had as much staying power as I once thought our love had.
I would wake up at 3:00 am and I wouldn’t recognize my face in the mirror. I hesitated before having anyone over to my apartment, where I lived alone, because I was afraid they could see my sadness, like paint peeling off the humid walls. This was BIG. I could never stress that enough. I was ailing with my heartsickness. This was before the days of social media for the most part, luckily, but if I heard anything at all about him or from him I would curl up in a ball on my bed and cry and sleep for hours. For a day once.
And then one day, after a year or so and through a series of affirming and connecting events, I got over it. I really did! I uncurled myself from being balled up in bed. I dried my tears. I moved. I made friends. I fell in love. I was free from my pain. Free at last!
Well, sorta. He came back into my life after two years apart. Now we have two kids together. Oops on that!
This broken heart, it used to be my story. Long after the pain faded, I still wore it like a badge to show that I was a survivor. I could not see anything worse than romantic heartbreak when I was in it. When I healed, I had a new story – falling in love after heartbreak. Man, that was powerful. Then Mr. Heartbreaker came back into my life after two years away. “My story” shifted to one of romantic conflict and aching. A love triangle from hell. And from that unearthed a new story – falling back in love. No, falling into a new love.
With an old heartbreak.
In truth, there is no one story of our lives. We are not fully defined by these moments – these tragic and uplifting and ever-engulfing (but temporary) events. We tell many tales of love and pain, joy and tragedy. Our stories will not end until we do, if even then.
It’s the saddest thing in the world, and it’s the grandest thing in the world – that everything loses its power eventually.
And these stories that seem like everything all at once and that they always will, give way to newer, fresher stories. What I’m learning is that traumas eventually lose their power over me, but they never lose their power under me. Rather they give me lift, as if beneath my feet. They cause me to hold my head up high and walk into a place that once gave me great, great pain but now it no longer does. Last week I walked into the birth center that once sent my newborn son wheeling away in an ambulance; when the last the staff saw of me was the back of my head as I sobbed into my husband’s shirt, grabbed his hand, and ran out with the ambulance.
We brought them rainbow cupcakes and thanked them for their great care. We never got to say “thank you” or “goodbye” a year ago. This time we said both, while showing them the handsome one-year-old that they hadn’t seen in a year, and this time so healthy.
The doctor to have made the call was there, so that was nice. I have no way of knowing anything about him, but it seemed like he hadn’t changed at all. He still had a less-than-great bedside manner. He was still serious as always. In control. Wearing the same scrubs..
..as if nothing had changed and no time had passed. But it had and it did.
Two days later, I took Des to the annual NICU reunion at the other hospital where he had spent seven days. We were treated like minor celebrities – with free lunch and raffles and ice cream and gifts. A professional photographer and a newscaster were there. I was lucky to run into his NICU doctor who remembered Des (and me) quite well. And we talked about how something so traumatic and time-consuming can become just a blip in the radar of life. I still remembered every detail and smell and just..everything..about those seven days, but I imagine one day the sharp edges of these memories will blur. It’s already starting. That kinda breaks my heart..
..and also gives me new hope and strength to get through inevitable traumas. Most of life is the in-betweens anyway.
These creamy middles.
I am happy to have closed the circle of the last year by going back to both hospitals. I won’t be back, with any luck, I’m sure. Not for these reasons. Not for closure. These events have lost their power over me. And now that power is under me, propelling me along.