You, gentle reader, have suffered and sorrowed and some of you have even snickered (I know who you are and it's cool) at my flaws and foibles. You've chosen to deal with the small string of broken hearts and a couple of big ones that I chronicled with, shockingly, more grief than words, which is a feat considering how I like my words. Today a confidante chuckled and said, 'Elaine, you do so love your analogies and metaphors.' It's true, I'm addicted but it's my medium. It's also my comfort.
As I spoke with this friend, the sunlight sparkled through the windows and she asked me, as she always does because she has impeccable manners, if I wanted to move (there are no curtains; the one wall is literally all glass and wood framework) to get the sun out of my eyes and I told her that it invigorated me. It does. If I'm radiant in my photographs, in person, I glow. The sun feels good on my skin and I soak it in deeply, as if I'm in bathwater. Like the skylight that sits over my former marriage bed, waking me every morning in a pool of light, it is a gift of simple bliss.
We spoke of many things as we do each Monday and she asked about a ring that I'd never worn in her presence before. It was notable because I'd sold nearly all my jewelry to pay for my divorce and other than costume pieces, I don't have much left. Any piece remaining would have to have significant sentimental value for me to keep and this was one. It was my grandmother's. And I remembered the lesson of that moment as if it were yesterday.
Two years ago, I weighed around 200 lbs. more than I do now. Five years ago, it was 400 lbs. I embarked on improving my health and saving my life due to illness, the acknowledgement that I was not happy at my size then, and that I wanted to be more active and could not be the person I wanted to be at that size. I celebrate anyone who believes they can and I know many who do. But it was not for me. I did something about it, I was blessed to be able to, although I made a lot of mistakes, some near-fatal, along the way. I also sacrificed a great deal. My health has been compromised. I have horrific scars on my body. My marriage did not survive.
The night of the ring, I was visiting my father and grandmother. My brother was still alive, so he was nearby. I was in poor health, even then, so I'm going to take an educated guess that it was a holiday since it was difficult to get around. My mobility had been affected by my choices. My former husband was there, because I remember not being able to fit through the small space between the entertainment center and the arm of the oversized sofa, to get to the bathroom, and on my return, I brushed my arm, hard, against the wood and cut myself hard enough for blood to drip to the floor.
Normally, when it comes to physical pain, I can endure it like a champ. Like my mother had, I've a very high tolerance for it. But this time, I cried out and sat on the opposite couch in the dark (my dad was watching the ever-present football game) and looked at my wound in a daze. It wasn't a little cut or scrape. I might need stitches which would be a first, and uncharacteristically, my ex ran to my side, and soothed me. He applied pressure to my arm, went into the bathroom to find bandages and antiseptic and I sat there more in shock at his kindness (as did my family) than at my own injury. He put the Hello Kitty Band-aid on it (which promptly fell off, but he got points for trying) and kissed my boo-boo, as I had done with him many times. I realized that yes, I had done that many times for him. The only time he would ever show any emotion was if he had a small injury, illness or slight, as if it was okay to be sick, but not okay to actually express feelings. With injury, he felt more free and because I'm a born nurturer, I would run to his side. Although he took care of me without complaint the entire time I was very sick a few years back, he would also always remind me that it was out of duty (and not love) which probably would have hurt more had I not been on strong narcotics for chronic pain. I would remember all of it, though, when I detoxed myself after my sister's death.
When I went to my father's to ask if I could stay with him because I was leaving the ex, he and my grandmother knew that we were having problems but I had spared them from the worst because I had hoped with all my heart that I could 'fix' my marriage. Their disbelief, however, was not something I was prepared for. I'd hoped they'd say, 'Of course, move in for as long as you need' but they kept bringing up the one and only moment when he showed me tenderness. And I felt terrible guilt for allowing it because here they were saying how could it be, how could it be, he was so sweet to you. I didn't know why I let him. I was in pain? I wanted him to acknowledge me? I wanted the rare kiss, even if it was on my bandage? I brought that up to my friend and she explained that it was completely normal for me to want love especially from my own husband and in the rare moment he offered, for me to accept it, even if the relationship was essentially over. This perspective, well...this truth, gave me the freedom to forgive myself for accepting love from someone abusing me and also the guilt for my family having seen this and assuming everything was okay, as if it were my fault.
Later, on the night I hurt myself, I was sitting with my grandmother and she was wearing a lovely pearl ring. Anyone who knows me knows that if I see something beautiful, I'll admire it. I'll gush, even. They also know of my affinity for pearls, my personal talisman, so it was no surprise to anyone that I'd tell her how pretty it was but she surprised me by saying that if it fit, I could have it.
I knew that it couldn't fit. I may have long tapered fingers, but she's very petite with a dainty build and isn't even five feet tall. I'm 5'8" and I'd say my build is slightly larger, somewhat taller than average. It was not going to fit. Still, I thought to myself, 'What the hell' and asked her if I could try it on and it slipped on my finger as if it were made for it. It was impossible and to this day, even taking into account how malleable skin and flesh are...it doesn't make sense but it fit anyway.
I told my confidante that it took a while to learn the lesson tied into that but I had to experience more for the big picture, for the puzzle to be complete enough to not be finished, but show me the form to continue the process. My grandmother had said that it was mine if it fit, but it, no matter what she intended and what I thought, had nothing to do with size. It was meant for me, so it fit. It didn't make sense, but it fit. And I mused on that and wondered at how much more this applied to my life.
How many times had I tried to force something to fit? Square pegs in round holes....I'd be so determined, I'd go so far to shave off the corners but it wasn't meant for that. I had to learn the meaning of 'no'. I had to also learn, a bit later, that 'no', might really mean, 'not yet'. No, my marriage could not be fixed. No, my husband was not my soul mate or twin flame. No, no matter what I did, I had to let go and move on. No, the beautiful house and that skylight bathing me in morning sunshine was only temporary, so it was lost but for memories. And no, nobody said there would never be love in my life again. That was a 'not yet'. That was a 'there's something and someone better for you'. My problem was, I was trying to make everything fit. That included some people and a lot of heartache on both sides, before I got the message to relax, breathe, live, breathe some more, enjoy now, give myself a break and love me exactly as I was. I had to be my own soul mate before he would show up. He's always been inside me, as Rumi says, and I think of him that way, wherever he is. I hope he's learning. I hope he's having fun. I hope he's happy. I know I am.
But what about the other side of the coin? What about all the things that we assume won't fit? The things we think won't work out and we dismiss out of hand because they're not practical or don't fit in with our plans? What if we pass up on rewarding opportunities, large and small, elegant and simple or grandiose and impossible because we limit ourselves? What if we overthink things so much that we let our lives pass us by, still remaining busy, but using that busy-ness as an excuse for actually experiencing joy? Is surviving really living? Is drowning really swimming? I think of that ring that should not fit. It's on my finger now, one of the few belongings I own and now, my treasure. I too am my own treasure and that's how I've come to approach life. Try everything that appeals to me. Shoot for the moon (if I fail, I still land among the stars) and give it a shot because unless I try, I'll never know if it fits.