Have you ever noticed how, in our pursuit of the perfect home or job or relationship or image, there’s usually this one problem in life – some offshoot of annoyance that’s so close to being right, but it just isn’t? It steals our focus, and all of our accomplishments and potential blur into the background.
Some problems can be fixed, others can’t. When they can’t, we need to let them go. Yes, it’s difficult and we will hurt. Maybe a lot. Yes, we’ll feel empty for a while, and there will be this hole in our hearts in the shape of that thing we’ve released.
But not forever. We will start to enjoy the freedom that comes with unburdening ourselves, and one day something beautiful will blossom and fill out that empty space.
Grey-blue waters lap cold against the snow-covered shore, and white flakes brush the seam away from the horizon. I cannot say where the sea ends and the sky begins.
Snow swirls down on the island through the evergreens. Fragrant smoke curls up and out of a chimney, whisked away to an ethereal dance floor. It’s beautiful and perfect except for the two empty chairs sitting side by side on the hillside. They remind me that somewhere beyond the obscured horizon is the sliver of mainland…
The Bonnie Raitt song has been stuck in my head all day (and now it will likely be stuck in yours):
Hey, hey, have a heart, hey, have a heart.
If you don’t love me, why don’t you let me go?
Have a heart, please, oh don’t you have a heart?
Little by little you fade while I fall apart.
The lyrics got me thinking about some terrible break-up experiences I’ve had in my 30’s. I believe a man’s true character is revealed in the way he chooses to break up with a woman (or whatever gender combination you’d like to insert here).
How NOT to break up with someone
(All but two of these actually happened to me. I’ll let you guess which ones they were.)
Ignore them until they go away
Send a text message
Shoot off an email
Have a friend break the news
Sneak out while she’s getting ready for bed
Go to the beach while she waits outside of your apartment and then pretend you’re not you when she calls to find out where you are
Change your Facebook relationship status to single
How to be a mature adult
At the very least, CALL her
Meet in person and have a conversation (preferred, man-of-the-year method)
I know it’s not fun looking into the eyes of someone who is still very much in love with you and breaking her heart. I know you are worried she will make a scene and ask you a bunch of questions. I know you would rather get back to playing your video games (even though you are in your 30’s) than answer them. But, man up! She may cry now, but she’ll respect you later.
So concludes my dating advice and Valentine’s Day rant for the year.
Love is an unreliable lens through which to look at a person. The same can be said of vacation. The viewer is left with a romantic memory of an experience, bereft of all its glaring imperfections.
Memoir writing has caused me to confront my romantic notions of Ireland and to be brutally honest with myself. I look at the pictures I took during both of my trips and think of some of them – that was such a good day. I wish I could go back there and relive that moment. But then I put pen to paper and I remember that a photo just represents one moment, and it is suspended in a perfect grace in which the before and after are unknown and irrelevant.
I now question the past – before and after the shutter clicked. How happy was I really? Why, when I returned from vacation, did I feel like one of the crumbling ruins scattered across the Irish countryside? Why did I allow myself to travel so far for love only to lose it? Maybe I was looking for something I never really had in the first place; was my experience really as perfect as I remembered? Finding answers to those questions can make for some great writing. However, the process is painful to the writer.
Memoir can be summed up in an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.” I am in a perpetual state of Ireland. I don’t want to be, but in order to write about it, I have to continuously think about it and examine every last detail and all of my actions. And I fall in love with the same person, over and over again with the sad knowledge that my heart gets broken. Who, except for a writer, would voluntarily subject themselves to so much pain?
Some people pay for therapists; I write. And through the therapy of memoir I discovered the error of my thinking: Ireland hurt me because I held onto the microscopic pixels of memory like they were living things.
As I write my first book The Parting Glass, I am learning to be thankful for my Irish experiences and the opportunity to learn from the past instead of wallow in it. I love that I can now view my photo albums with the full color spectrum of reality.
The word “poetry” elicits a wide variety of responses from people, but the most common one seems to be exhausted disinterest. Asking someone to read a poem is like asking them to complete a math problem. I understand, I really do. But, I took a course in American Literature last spring and developed a new appreciation for it – although more for the free verse style of Walt Whitman.
This weekend I decided to write a short poem with the intention of taking a picture to go with it. I’m not normally poetic – I prefer writing short stories and am steadily working on book about my Irish adventures. However, there was a vision in my head I needed to somehow express this weekend. I have absolutely no idea what title to give it.
Thank you, Ronna for helping me put together this shot! Here is the yet to be named poem.
In this journey, he is the kicked-up dust on the road that settles to the ground moments after I pass by.
The wind lifts the fading footprint into the air, and it becomes a swiftly diffusing memory across the ethers.
And you, my love, are the phantasm of a wandering spirit. You flicker across the horizon, pulling my heart forward but never closer.
Love is an explosion of life and beautiful expectation. Every second is quiet rapture.
The wrong person can elicit feelings of trepidation. While it’s good to take chances, not every threshold is meant to be crossed.
There are some people I’ll love my whole life, no matter how many years pass and no matter what rises and falls around me. Every time I hear their voice the years crumble, and I find myself living in yesterday.
A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it. ~Dogen
There’s something about Jess’s wilted flowers that I have grown to appreciate. They’re a gentle reminder of the capacity of the heart to heal despite the greatest hurts – that new life can grow from death.
And when it does, we learn to rip the weeds from the flowerbed before they choke the roses.