Blessings & the barren places: What I know of letting go.
With permission, I have posted the email below.
I just discovered your blog like a week ago, I couldn't even tell you how it happened, but I definitely needed it. You probably get a million of these emails all the time, but I am writing you because I am just in the worst place right now. I feel like I have the world's hugest broken heart, and I'm constantly fighting it, day after day.
My love story, if it were still intact, was truly a fairy tale. In short, I reconnected with my best friend from middle school over the internet, we quickly became best friends again, 6 months later decided to date, had our first kiss 2 months later on a New Year's vacation, and eventually he decided to quit his job to move and be with me in the town where I am currently finishing graduate school. He got here, he struggled to find a job, realized that he still had a lot of self-searching and passion finding to do, and he left this town, and left me.
Rationally, I understood it all. It's been about 2 months now, and I've always understood his reasons. But he never said that he didn't love me, and he still hasn't said that, but there is NO WAY that he is coming back right now, and perhaps not ever. You said in one of your more recent posts that when you had your first heartbreak you tried so hard to fix things and bring him back, and in a lot of ways I feel like that is where I am right now. And I AM becoming more embarrassed of myself as time goes on. But it is so so incredibly hard to let go. Especially because he truly was my very best friend, long before we started dating. Anyway, you don't need to write me my own letter or anything, but I feel like you have to have written something that explains how you let go. And if you could somehow help me, I would really appreciate it. Because I am just a horrible wreck right now.
As I get deeper and deeper into the trenches of what it means to be a writer, I realize more regularly that words fail. They’re never going to be what I truly want them to be. I can’t morph them and make them into tables and chairs. I can’t turn my words into a plane ticket to fly across the states and just sit down beside you. If I had my way, my words would be a canopy. A canopy of white silk, or something very pretty like that. And we could sit for hours & hours & hours together. And I wouldn’t talk if you didn’t want me to. I don’t have all the answers anyway. But we could just sit there. And you would not have to feel so alone.
The truth is, you aren’t alone. It’s hard to swallow that. It’s hard to admit that. Because last night you fell asleep remembering someone who is like a ghost to all the parts of you. And that will make a person feel very lonely. Very lonely and very alone. But count me as one of the people, one of the people who just said a prayer for you. And I drove around my neighborhood breathing in your story and listening to music I think you would like. And then think about all people who will read this letter next. They're with you too. We all are. When you showed in my inbox, I whispered to you, "Babycakes, you are so far from alone. Let's tackle today together."
I am not coming to you as a writer.
I’m not coming to you as an expert or some advice columnist. I’m simply coming to you as a girl who once heard her first “I love you” on a Christmas night and it sounded like a cross between Elvis and angels. A girl who once thought she could give someone a yellow sweater-- a dumb little yellow sweater-- so that she could call him up from time to time and ask if he was still taking care of that sweater. She thought that maybe there was a way to tie herself to people like him forever. That’s who is writing this letter. I’ve turned the page over to her.
People will tell you in tandem and in chorus: Let him go. Let him go. Let him go.
You don’t have to.
That’s the best wisdom I have: You don’t have to let him go. You don’t have to let him go until you are the ready one.
For the longest time it hurt me to do anything but hold on. And maybe that’s silly, and maybe some would call that weak, but I am human and I won’t pretend like I could do much of anything else at that time. He was my best friend. He was my safer spot. He was every bit of “I want to put you inside of box and keep you there forever and believe we will never need to change. That’s where I want you to stay.” When they told me to let him go, I wasn’t ready.
I did all the basics. I got rid of his Facebook. I deleted his number. I got rid of his clothing. But if someone tries to tell you those are the ways to let someone go, don’t listen. It’s not true. That’s just the introductory steps within an instruction book that doesn’t exist. The real work is how you’re gonna learn to sew a song out of all the broken music notes inside of you.
I kept the memories of him tucked in my oversized pockets. I turned on “our song” just to cry and feel something. I wrote him letters from time to time, though I never sent them. I carried thoughts of him with me. To coffee shops. To libraries. To meetings and walks home at night. Every part of me was an anthem of not being ready to let him go and there was some sort of strange freedom in realizing I didn’t have to. I could hold on. I could hold on. And eventually, eventually, my fists would grow tired from all the clenching and I would let it go.
It would happen naturally. It would happen melodically. And though I could never control all the left hand turns I wanted him to take when he went right & right & right, loving him-- and learning how to unlove him in a way that made me saner-- was in my control.
At the crux of that breakup that ripped through me with the strength of an Alabama Roll Tide, I trudged through the mess of me with Elizabeth Glibert by side. As she traveled through the lands of Bali & India & Italy, I traveled with her and I swallowed parts of her wisdom like Kinder Bueno. Her memoir kept me stitched like a sweater quickly gaining holes that needed constant patching. And at one point she wrote this. And it changed the game for me. Read it carefully, my friend. This is a game changer.
“But I love him.”
“So love him.”
“But I miss him.”
“So miss him. Send him some love and light every time you think about him, then drop it. You’re just afraid to let go of the last bits of David because then you’ll be really alone, and Liz Gilbert is scared to death of what will happen if she’s really alone. But here’s what you gotta understand, Groceries. If you clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using right now to obsess about this guy, you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot – a doorway. And guess what the universe will do with the doorway? It will rush in – God will rush in – and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed. So stop using David to block that door. Let it go.”
There it is. There it is. Part one: the sending off. Part two: more love than you ever dreamed.
When I loved him, when I really loved him with my whole frame and being, I wanted the world for him. I wanted laughter. I wanted joy. I wanted success. I wanted everything he wanted since he was a little boy. A heartbreak. Two people changing. Life throwing around unfavorable circumstances-- these should never be the things that make us stop wanting goodness for someone we once loved with our whole body. That's maybe childish. That's maybe the first step in loss but not the final landing point. Who wins in that case? No one. No one.
You need to reach the point in your steps, and your conversations, and your everyday everything's where you are ready to wish him light and love and then let him go. Not bitterness. Not hurt. Not questions. Not a quest for closure. It probably won't be a final thing. It will probably be an everyday, every time he comes to your mind, kind of thing. It might still hurt. It might still sting.
But when he pops in, say hello. Wish him well. Say a prayer. Ask for blessings to go straight to him. Then let it go, let it, let it go.
You could keep him there forever.
You really could. They make movies out of those kinds of stories. The "ones who got away." But your fists clenching rocks of what-used-to-be eventually defeats the purpose of two hands that were created to throw blessings in barren places.
Stop looking at the world and look down at your own two hands. People will tell you how to drown your tears in chocolate ice cream. They will tell you how to get bitter and seek revenge. They will tell you how to get smaller and smaller and burn the belongings of another to ashes to make you feel like you have “let them go.” But no one spills out the secretest secret of them all: To let things go, really let them go, open up your hands and bless others by the fistful.
You get decide if you want to be the empty cup that needs refilling or the full pitcher that overflows into all the other cups. That’s on you, babycakes.
But I know there is something, wadded & beautiful & glittering inside of you, that would give anything to kick down doors to let other people in. And I think you should go with that. Go with that dream of yours to be a blessing. To help someone. To open up your eyes to how God would use you in the moment. I don’t know about you, but I believe in a God who lets us use our tears to harvest. He lets us use our pain to make a feast for someone else. Don’t wait for the sadness to clear to be the blessing you’ve always wanted to be. I’m afraid you’ll miss out. I’m afraid you will miss out.
When I finally learned to open up my hands, it was all there waiting for me. And I thought of that boy-- the one I have filled with too much light and love for his little lungs to handle-- and I pictured him smiling. Because he had a great smile. And I stopped regretting how we broke. Because look at me now. I'm standing. Look at me now. I'm more stretched, and brilliant, and whole than I ever was before. And because of him, my hands throw blessings in barren places.
Open up your hands, babycakes. They were made to do the same.
I would appreciate if we could keep the conversation going for K. Please post a comment of blessing, a lesson, a mini love letter. Whatever you please. She is reading and I know she would appreciate it too.