I’ve heard people talk about feeling an actual warmth in their heart that they call love. My heart feels small and crunchy. My heart is a geode: hollow, jagged on the inside. I feel love in the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet. It’s not safe to feel it in my heart like a normal person.
I feel the sharpness so keenly now that I’m writing about it every day. I wake up very early, and usually that’s when I write. It’s safer to feel these things when I’m alone. It’s only in silence that I can know what I know, that I can truly feel the jaggedness of my insides.
When I hear my husband getting out of bed, the blades turn outwards. I have to hurry to put them away. It won’t do to be attacking him as soon as he comes downstairs, just for daring to exist in the same room as my pain. None of it is his fault.
It’s only recently that I’ve learned to observe myself doing this. To say to myself: this is the grief, like a many-bladed pocket knife. It’s been with me so long that sometimes it’s hard to remember the grief is not my Self. It’s hard to imagine that I could be any other way.
I am not a knife. I am a walking tree.
Late last year, the blades cut away the last of my roots. “Roots, shmoots,” they muttered. The deepest kindness I can show myself these days involves not engaging at all with my family. If they can’t accept this part of our shared story, then we have nothing worthwhile to offer each other. If I want polite superficial conversations about weather and cats, I don’t need to drive 200 miles or pick up the phone. There are plenty of neighbors and cashiers in my life.
“I know,” says my husband. “There’s nothing there for you. I’m so sorry.” And I sob into his bathrobe for a few minutes.
The unanswered emails, the unreturned phone calls, the birthday cards ripped up and thrown in the trash. Do I regret my inability to behave better? Of course I do. I’m doing the best I can. I wish it were better.
I also wish that their best had been better, forty years ago. I wish their best was better now. I wish they had something better to say than “These things happen, and people get over them.”
When did they get over it, and how? I would really like to know.
Every morning I put the blades away and clothe myself in love. Over and over, choosing not to push my husband away. Over and over, forgiving myself for not quite being able to forgive my parents.