I said there were a few moments of real clarity for me while I was away in Costa Rica. Some were inspired by the beauty around me. Some, from my friends, some my family. I would catch a glimpse of a look of astonishment on one of the kids faces, or listen to us all sing happy birthday. It moved me.
I keep going back to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, "Eat, Pray, Love." A few lines stood out. One that did was a description of a soul mate.
“A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave.”
I don’t think it’s about a soul mate, completely. I’ve had people- a very few- in my life who have shaken who I am, what I see, so intensely, I had to change. While being infatuated with each and every one of them., I didn’t necessarily sleep with all of them, so the soul mate description misses a little- I think of it as a mirror.
And when I think of a mirror, I think of someone very recent in my life.
My mirror was someone who had the same stories to tell, different characters, some different scenes. Played together, they were a symphony of discordant sounds, perfectly engineered, mathematically entwined and awful to hear.
We were both abuse survivors. She had recovered her memories years before. She pushed me- like a jackhammer on cement, a great force against an unrelenting object- to remember mine.
She told me a story about her grandfather’s basement, and I was in my own grandfather’s basement, with the tools and the workbench and the deer carcass, at times, waiting to be butchered.
The terror rose in my throat while I listened to her own. The rage was my own, it was hers, it was going back and forth so quickly I had no idea where it started and where it ended.
She would say to me, this is an incest thing. You don't even know, you haven't done the work. True at the time. It's like an out of body experience, I would explain.
She would nod knowingly, You need a level of intensity other people don't...
At a certain point, I stopped being afraid and simply let it happen. Everything was so out of control, why bother?
It was destined to end horribly. We were like fire, pushing each other, unable to draw boundaries, fighting like we’d known each other for 30 years.
We consumed each other’s pain.
I knew she needed someone calm. Rest. Peace. She needed someone to love her with kindness.
I knew because it was what I needed.
The connection we had shook me so hard, the layers it revealed bled uncontrollably. It was fucked up. It was about unbelievable understanding, a golden light of acceptance and searing images neither one of us could stand.
We cared too much about each other. We cared too much about ourselves.
I never want to go back. It was like a storm on the ocean, the waves beautifully crested with whitecaps, rising ten, twelve feet off the ground. You can ride them in, with a tremendous rush, but eventually, one is going to crush you, take your balance and leave you sucking in seawater.
It was a mirror reflecting all my fears. I saw a person who was unable to change, afraid to open her arms to any lover, chased by her demons every day of her life. I saw someone in the same place years after her memories came back. Someone who would hold her hand up and say STOP. NO. I CAN’T.
I couldn’t bear being that person. If I had to remember all these things, I had to be able to come out on the other side. I couldn’t live my life with the dreams every night. I tried to throw her on my own back and make her see she could, she had to…
Because I did. I had to. I had three kids and I could not be broken forever. I could not be afraid of their touch or to touch them; I could not eye every person who walked by wondering which one would hurt a child.
I imagine the reflection would have killed her, too. Too much pain to hold, barely limping along and watching yet another copy of herself limping along… I brought back all the dreams, the fears. My stories made the wounds new again, stirred up images put away in order to make it through each day. My held out hand was a ticket straight back to the deep, dark hole she had worked so hard to climb out of.
When I read the passage by Gilbert, I put down my book and started to cry. She wrote what I knew. It was too painful. It could never have lasted.
It wasn't meant to.
And I was so grateful. A gift, I realized. I no longer am walking through the world with my hand held up saying STOP. NO. I CAN’T.
For a long time, I missed my mirror. I missed being able to share the stories- not just the awful ones, but the good ones. The success.
And I read on, to this part:
“Send him love and light every time you think of about him, and then drop it. … If you clear out all that space in your mind to obsess about this guy, you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot- a doorway.”
Instead of feeling like a failure for not being able to hold on, or that I needed her to know I was OK, how I made it through, I found that part of me filled with love and light, the part so grateful, the healed part, from my hammock in Costa Rica.
I closed my eyes and sent out my love. A joke I knew would make her laugh, and then I let it go. I didn’t wait to see the reaction, I didn’t imagine the response.
I just let it go.
I had let go of so much in the last couple years. The rage, the hurt, the betrayal all faded. But there was something so different in that moment.
I felt the doorway.
And I felt free.