Gina Penn, unabridged.

Archive for November, 2018

le coeur de la mer

Another year has come and gone. Another spring, with its new blooms and promise of new life. Another summer, both hot and exhilarating. Another fall, with leaves of fire and crisp evening breezes. Winter is now coming and even though it’s only November, it already promises frigid temperatures and the white stuff a little too early.

The year has been a docile one for me. A lot of quiet evenings due to too much time on my hands. Now that my life is more in order than it ever has been, at least in the physical sense, time is the result.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Alone time is great for unpacking your thoughts and putting them in order. It can help one reprioritize and figure out what the next steps are. Usually people who have a lot of thought unpacking to do are those who have had a metric ton to store away. We tend to store away extra furniture we don’t know what to do with. The trick is remembering it’s there and doing something with it before the bugs find it and start destroying it, one nibble at a time.

I’ve been unpacking the same room for six years.

Mental unpacking can also be slow torture. This may be why so many people avoid it. Unpacking means confronting unpleasant things. The things that happen to us, things that are done to us, things we do to others, and things that change our lives forever. As a student and lover of psychology, I always come back to the why. One thing that’s taken me six years to realize is that we don’t always get the why, no matter how hard we search for it. That’s when we have to try to move on. It can be hard moving on when there’s no explanation to a why, like trying to walk with a broken pinkie toe. You can still walk but that toe will constantly nag you.

Six years ago I went through a divorce and the beginning of a long hibernation. The divorce was sad, the end of something always is, but it wasn’t the reason I went into long hibernation mode. My hibernation mode for the last six years was due to someone else. A man I was with during my separation that I fell very much in love with. If I’m to be honest, and where else can I be honest but here, I’ll admit that me falling for this man was very much like sinking into the Mariana Trench. The deeper I sank, the darker it got. And it’s taken me six years to get to a point to where I might see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Six years. But I am not out of the woods yet.

That’s how hard I fell.

Love can be a great thing. When it’s happening to you, the world is softer, brighter, happier. When you’re with that person, and you think the feeling is reciprocated, there is nothing quite like it. Those sweet conversations until the wee hours of the morning. Those little gestures, like making a meal or tiny kisses for no reason, are both treasured and cherished all day. Learning new things about that person and trying to use that information to make them happy becomes a goal. I cherished every single moment I was with him and really believed it would go somewhere if I worked at it. I had known him for years, and never did he display the type of behavior that would indicate what would befall my future. I truly believed that I had found a good man with a kind heart and warm soul.

Boy was I wrong.

The feelings were not reciprocated. Turns out that for most of a year this man put on a very good charade, Oscar-worthy, in fact, and once he found a new girl (and by girl I mean just that; a young girl of 21 and already with a kid when he was in his thirties), he had no problem ghosting me out of his life. Ghosting is a new term for simply disappearing from someone’s life without any explanation, warning, or goodbye. And that’s exactly what he did. After ten months of seeing him almost every single day, going on dates, cooking and eating meals, gifts, holding hands, grocery shopping together, truck rides, parties with other couples, long conversations about nothing and everything, he simply disappeared. Gone. As though we never existed. I got one text that said he had a new girlfriend who was now living with him and that was it. He never even bothered to give me my stuff back.

After that, life didn’t get any easier. I lost my home and my car died. I had just moved into a house I was renting only to be asked to move out (due to the landlord’s own divorce, seems the fever was contagious) less than a year later.  Then, several of my family members died all within a year. My aunt in early 2013, my uncle a few months later, another aunt about a month later, another uncle a month after her, my own mother in October of 2013, then my cousin a few months after her in early 2014. 2013 and early 2014 was the time of death for certain. At the time, I was living in a tiny, 500 sq ft apartment with my dog and my cat and trying to survive day to day. I was broke and terribly unhappy. I look back on it now and still wonder how I made it through. At the time I did not have any friends or family I was close enough with to talk to and was literally down to my last few dollars and shreds of sanity. I contemplated suicide every day.

I went on like this for months. I turned into a zombie. I even attempted to date someone and it lasted almost a year but I never really scratched the surface there. To be fair, neither did he. I think we both needed each other for the same reasons and once the well had run dry, we were both more than happy to find the exit. We’re still friends to this day and I have no ill feelings toward him. I have only had one other relationship in the last six years and it ended two years ago. I have dated no one else since then. Nor do I have the energy to, right now.

During the last quarter of 2012, all of 2013, and most of 2014, I basically existed. I was an empty shell, left to rot on a filthy beach. I was alone a lot. I couldn’t write anymore. That passion had left me the way he had. I tried to write but the words wouldn’t come. It was like calling an old lover who answers the phone but won’t speak a word, only the sound of their breath on the other end of the line. I contemplated constantly about what I did wrong and how I deserved to be tossed aside like a piece of garbage without one single word from him to offer closure. Fits of tears were not a daily occurrence but an hourly one, making work difficult. Long, ragged, hysterical bouts of sobbing were had a couple of times a day, usually at the beginning and end of the day when I was not at work. These hate-filled sob sessions always left me feeling more angry, bitter, cynical, and empty than ever before. Sometimes a good cry will clean you out the way you toss food gone bad from the refrigerator. I never felt cleaner or better after those cries. I only felt myself sinking deeper into a dark depression, with terrible thoughts I’d never had before. Dark, angry, murderous black thoughts that would leave me feeling both terrified and ominous. It took every drop of energy to get through each day, from sun up to sun down. Dragging myself to work, failing my desire to not think about it anymore, to just get over it the way so many people seemingly have. Nothing to come home to, no one to talk to, no plans after work, no people in my life to help soften the blow. When a person has no outlet for these thoughts, they become filled with bitterness and despair. The fire simply burns until there’s nothing left but ashes and the faint smell of smoke.

The only saving grace I had didn’t come until around mid 2014 when my friend came into my life and we started making plans and doing things together. What began as a casual friendship turned into the life vest that kept me from drowning in a turbulent sea. I finally had something to look forward to and a reason to not simply give up. She was the open window where the fresh spring breeze comes in, turning a stale, moldy house into one that’s bright and airy.

I began to surface from these depressions more and more often. At first, it was only occasional. After a long season in the dark, the light is not only hurtful but scary. How can I trust this person? Do I really want to risk going through another loss? Why should I even try to have a friend when it’s just going to crash and burn, the way everything else does? And as I held my breath in anticipation of the other shoe dropping, I found the other shoe simply wasn’t dropping. During those early outings of meals and museums, I kept thinking, today’s the day she’s going to decide I’m not worth the trouble. She’s going to stop returning my texts and move on. Find somewhere else to dig that’s a little less rocky. But she didn’t. And still hasn’t as of this writing. She’s my best friend and the best human I’ve ever known.

As I previously stated, I’m still not out of the woods yet. I don’t think I’ve unpacked all my furniture. There’s still some big pieces with sheets slung over them in the dark recesses of my mind. I’m not sure I ever will. As I also stated earlier, I am obsessed with the why and to this day, I still haven’t received one. I doubt he’s given me a second thought in six years. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him though, in one way or another, and whenever I do, I still feel that sharp pinch of hurt in a place that hasn’t yet healed. A bruise on my soul that’s turned from bright purple and blue to a faded yellow but still very much there. I’m a slow healer and the fact that when he disappeared he not only obliterated my sense of self but also my one passion-writing-makes it even worse. I had one thing going for me, one thing that made me different and unique and he took it from me, the way a rapist will tear away not only a girl’s virginity but also the naive belief that people are basically good inside. If any good is to be learned from the last six years it’s that I can be painfully alone without other humans for very long periods of time which will come in handy if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse. I won’t deny it’s stripped my sanity just a little bit but I haven’t murdered anyone so there’s something to be said for that.

If you’ve read all this to the end, thank you. Thank you for hearing the journey I’ve endured the last six years and thank you for being patient. I’m not sure if there’s any wisdom here, probably not, but I hope at least one person reads this and can at least relate. We are all floating alone in our own sea, but occasionally an island appears and offers at least a temporary escape from the isolation. All I can say is don’t stop swimming.