“Grief changes shape, but it never ends.” ~ Keanu Reeves, aka Neo
So here I am, in a Starbucks in Boulder. Yes, I know, there are so many more places to get a better cup of coffee. But there aren’t many more to get better wifi.
When I walked in, I saw a spot at this community table. After purchasing my obligatory cup of coffee, I headed towards the stop I picked out. Walking around the corner of the table, I was able to see the face of the blond sitting at the corner. I smiled right away and said, out loud but very faint, “Little You Know Who.” I have refused to say or write her name for several years now. I don’t know why. Maybe it because she broke my fucking heart.
Anyway, this young college girl is the spitting image of You Know Who. She’s about the same age as her when we met. Same blonde hair, same hazel eyes, same long cheeks, same freckles across the bridge of her nose, same big hands. This is hilarious because You Know Who hated her hands because she thought they were so big. She also hated how tall she was. She was 5’9”. Like that’s that tall at all. Because of her height, she refused to wear heels. I bet you this young lady is equally as tall. (She was.)
So what happened when I saw a girl who looks like the girl who broke my heart. The girl who broke up with me while I was in Iraq. The girl who said she loved me and was “almost” ready to get back together with me for about ten years or so. The girl who told me she was going to hit the road with me and then fell off the face of the earth until I got a random Facebook message that said, “What is the sitch?” and then disappears again forever. The girl that I dream about only to wake up next to someone else disappointed that we weren’t together. That girl? What did seeing this replica of the love of my life who doesn’t want anything to do with me do to me? It made me smile.
I sat down got situated with my laptop and my coffee. Every time I looked up, I smiled. This is a big deal. I rarely smile these days. But I did. Real big, genuine, ear to ear smiles.
For a brief second, I did feel the tears come. But no, not on this day. Maybe not anymore. I say this is a big deal because I am learning to choose how I feel and in this instance, I was able to do so. (More on this in a future post.) I chose to think about what it was like to be so in love and to be grateful for it. I chose not to dwell on what I lost, on how hard it’s been on me since it happened.
I haven’t loved anybody as much as I loved her. I have lied to myself, though. I have repeatedly told myself, “I love ____ more than I love You Know Who.” Lies! Every. Single. Time.
I recently befriended someone at the gym. My “Train Naked” t-shirt sparked the conversation, as it often does. We clicked right away, and he disclosed that he was getting over a breakup. I told him I wished I could say something encouraging, something to help him but that I was trying to get over my own breakup and that it’s been ten years. I could see the disappointment on his face.
I told him the story I heard of the Dalai Lama. I think it came from The Art Of Happiness, but I’m not sure. I paraphrased then just as I am about to now. A monk came to his holiness and asked him about taking up the practice of Hath Yoga. The Dalai Lama’s response was that maybe the man was too old to start such an activity. Being a Buddhist, the monk believed in reincarnation, so he killed himself thinking in the youth of his next life he would be able to practice yoga. The Dalai Lama felt responsible for the monk’s death and grieved. Years later when asked when did the pain of the monk’s death went away his response was, The pain never went away. I just learned to deal with it.
The pain NEVER goes away.
That’s when my new friend said the words, “Aww, man. That is not what I wanted to hear.” It’s not what any of us want to hear. But I am finding it true. We just learn to deal with the pain in our life. The deaths of my Grandmother and Godmother are no less painful for me today then they were the moment I was notified of their death. One was 30 years ago. The other was 15. If I allow it, thinking of them will bring me to tears. But instead, I am grateful for them being in my life. I am happy to have had them in my life. They still have the power to make me laugh and feel their love. The pain didn’t go away. I’ve just learned to deal with it.
We have to learn to deal with it. If we don’t, then we end up one of those people waiting at the bottom of a bottle or under a pile of donuts. We’ll end up bitter, sick, diabetic, and maybe even alone. I think this may explain all the sad people in the world. They are waiting for something that will never come.
The answer seems to be: Deal with it.
Had a bad day? Deal with it. Girlfriend left you? Deal with it. Lost your job? Deal with it. Got VD deal with it! (Please!) You might be thinking, easy for you to say. Well, it is easy for me to say. It’s not that easy for me to do. You might want to recall the fact that I said I was dealing with a break up that happened ten years ago. So yeah it might be easy to say, but it’s defiantly not easy to do. Regardless, dealing with it is the right course of action, easy or not.
In trying think of some relatable examples of people who lost something and dealt with the pain. I came up with Bethany Hamilton, Nelson Mandela, and John McCain. In these cases, we are talking about the loss of a limb and freedom, but the pain can come from any loss. The loss of a loved one, a partner (death or divorce), or one’s car keys; it doesn’t matter. You have to deal with the pain, or the pain will deal with you.
At the age of 13, surfer Bethany Hamilton got her arm bitten off by a shark. Let me repeat that with emphasis. A fucking shark bit off her arm! What did she do? She dealt with it. She got sponsorships, became a surfing champion, wrote a book, and starred in a movie based on her book.
John McCain was shot down over Hanoi in October of 1967. Let’s just assume it was unpleasant. Never mind that to this very day he can not raise his hands over his head because of the injuries sustained and subpar medical treatment. McCain was released on March 14th, 1972. Over five years later. What did he do? He dealt with that shit! He recovered from his injuries, got his flight status back, retired from the Navy and became a God dang U.S. senator.
Nelson Mandela was arrested and held prisoner by the South African government for 27 years. How did he deal with it? He became the President of the very country that imprisoned him.
They say writing is therapeutic. When I started writing this, it was just for that purpose. I had to tell someone, so I wrote. But then, my words put things in perspective for me, and I had to share. A girl breaking up with me sounds minuscule compared to a shark biting off one of my favorite body parts much less being held prisoner for several years. I guess, I should just deal with it. And based on how I reacted to the little You Know Who, I think I am.
This article originally appeared on The Primitive You
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