“Grant us, in our direst need, the smallest gifts: the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain’s peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word.” — Lois McMaster Bujold from Paladin of Souls.
I went to a bicycling event this weekend. The last time I went to it, two years ago, it was with someone that I cared for very much. He had just moved here after completing his degree and we had managed a cross-continental separation for two years. I was full of hope for us, that my hopes to find a life-partner were being realized.
This past spring, we split up, under circumstances that were considerably less than kind to me.
This past several weeks, things with him have been flitting in and out of my attention, usually when I’d rather they left me alone. Grief stirred up at bad times, and too many of them.
I’d hoped for a good trip to replace my old memories with some good ones, but that wish wasn’t granted.
I found myself sitting alone on Friday night, face distorted in a rictus of pain, trying not to scream or cry out loud, since I was indoor camping, and others were about. I finally took some anxiety medication in the hopes that it would help, and my one small gift was that it did take enough of the edge off that I could pull myself together, clean out my nose and clean up my face, write to try to do something with all the jacked up emotions, then read and eventually attempt to sleep.
I wonder if anyone noticed. I think some walked by and could have, but my eyes were shut as I tried to breathe through the pain. Someone did inquire solicitously about my ride the next day. Maybe. Maybe not.
The line-up for the ride resulted in more of the same, but I managed to pull together again before I had to start pedaling. My ride was mostly solitary. But, fortunately, calm.
I hope that I was processing grief. Getting it out. Putting it away, at least, in part. Getting through it.
I dread more. I am not sure how much more of that I can take.
Surely by now I am an expert in that kind of grief. Relationships end, and it is time to pick yourself up and move on. Somehow, when I was small, I never thought I would have to spend my life alone, but every passing year, that looks like a more and more likely present and future. How do you face this with courage?
None of the stories you read as a child prepare you for this. Little girls grow up and meet men of character and get married and have families. That’s what I wanted for myself too. We don’t flounder and flop around year after year after year after year looking and hoping, or trying to look and trying to hope. There is no script for this outcome. I have to write it myself, and I don’t know how.
Or maybe I do. One foot in front of the other, one step, one task, one day at a time. Breathe into the pain. Breathe into the loneliness. Make myself like a fountain, giving what I want to find, keeping nothing for myself, since these gifts cannot be hoarded or saved for later. I do not get the choice in what I find from others. The only choice I have, anyone has, is how to treat everyone else, and how I react to what I am given.
It all seems empty. But at least for this moment I have calm.