One of the most unusual things is to allow yourself to sit with—and feel—your conflicting emotions.
Right now, I am swimming in a pool of guilt, sadness, relief, and hope. One part of me contains my sadness, the other my guilt, and yet another holds my relief, and somewhere else my hope is resting quietly within me, waiting for its time. There is love and fear and anger sitting in me, too. These things are burbling around a dark, soupy, saccharine point near my heart. It tastes bittersweet and feels like rubbing the wrong side of a fake velvet cushion. It makes my head hurt, my stomach ache, and my sleep poor.
I think this is what grief feels like, when grief is the product of doing the right thing for yourself, even when it means sacrificing something else important to you & your life. I remember feeling this way when I left my ex-husband and drove 900 miles to Minneapolis, to be close to my family while the rest of my life in Denver caught on fire. I remember feeling this way when I broke things off with my first fling post-separation. I felt this way when I got sober. I felt this way leaving jobs, leaving apartments, leaving friends. I’ve felt this way so many times, in so many ways, for so many reasons.
It is the strangest thing, to contain these contradictions.
Right now, I am grieving the loss of what I would argue is the best relationship I’ve ever had. It is not a perfect relationship—we have differences and points of friction—but it is a wholesome, satisfying, comforting, and safe relationship. And it’s going away soon. Very soon. On April 4th, my partner is going to drive onto Highway 94 all the way down to Indiana, and he’s not coming back. I am staying here. He is going back to a life that needs him there; I am staying for the life I need here. Our paths crossed in a beautiful way, for 1.5 years, and it’s now unwinding itself and diverging again.
I am losing a partner, a friend, a comfort, and a source of stability and security.
I am losing this again. For what feels like the hundredth time. Except this time, even though I don’t want it to end, I am making the decision to stay here instead of following him there. I could easily pack my bags and head down that long stretch of road beside him (rather, a few months behind him), but I’m choosing to stay here.
I want the relationship to continue, yet I am choosing to let it go. Contradictions and dissonance. Am I here, or there?
In my grief, I try to remind myself that emotions don’t typically mix with logic, and that it’s OK to be mad and sad and relieved and excited at the same time. It’s OK to be a little terrified of what’s going to come after he’s gone. It’s OK to be protective of my future, even if means not sharing it with him. And it’s not much use to try to pick this feeling apart logically—I know I can, but why? To find some way to bring myself back into reality? To make the feeling go away?
That’s not how that works, and I know it.
It is uncomfortable at best to face down my feelings of guilt and fear and anticipation. When I get caught up asking myself, “am I making the right decision?” I try not to answer myself too quickly. There are infinite paths in this life and for now, in this moment, at this time, this is the path that I have chosen. This path might change or fall away. I don’t know what’s going to happen. And it’s OK to feel queasy about that because nothing about the endless unknown is comfortable. The only constant is change, and the only true comfort is knowing that this feeling—like every feeling—is temporary.
Right now, I am trying to remind myself that these emotions are reasonable, and understandable, and expected. They have a rightful place in that dark, syrupy, swirling puddle near my heart and they are not going to kill me. My emotions are important data for myself at this time in my life. The fact that I’m choosing to stay on my own course despite feeling so sad and contradictory says something remarkable about where I am in my life. The fact that I continue to give myself permission to let go, even when it hurts, is a beautiful thing.
It is odd, though, and sometimes disorienting to feel so many things at once. Even more so, to feel these things and welcome them all in, give them all a seat at the table, and give them room to speak. My despair is bumping elbows with my optimism. My grief is passing the salt to my hope for the future. Anger is being held by forgiveness. They are all here and they’re not confused by one another. They know what to do. They know that things will turn out alright, eventually, someday.
They know this. And so, I guess that means I know it too.