I awoke this morning to a pillow wet from my own tears. Tears I was not aware of having shed. Tears that had fallen as I slept fitfully, tortured by self-recrimination and regret.
Sorrow is so powerful, she takes my breath away, and I’ve no idea how to battle her.
I remember when I was 14 and my first real boyfriend and I broke up. I was spectacularly devastated. I hung up the phone with him, threw myself on my bed, and sobbed until I had no tears left. My mother sat beside me, stroking my back and urging me to “get it all out.” When I was done, I rolled over, looked at her, and said (quite dramatically, I’m sure), “I’ll never fall in love again. This sucks. I’m never going to hurt this way again. Ever.” She sighed and replied, “Yes, you will. Yes, it does. And honey, it never gets easier.”
I hate it when my mom is right.
It seems that no matter how old I get, or how much I learn, or how hard I try to be guarded, I end up holding the shards of my heart in my hands, confounded by how they got there. Again.
I remember being in my 20’s and wondering aloud to my friend Katrina if maybe it did get easier as you got older. I mean, it had to, right? In every other area of life, you learn a lesson and apply it the next time to your benefit, avoiding that pitfall. Surely, as you went through relationships, you must learn enough lessons that the intensity of the pain subsided and you finally reached a place where you could say, with a large measure of equanimity, “Well, that just didn’t work out,” and move on without Sorrow taking you behind the woodshed for another beating.
Wrong. Sorrow buries me alive every time. It doesn’t get any easier, no matter how many times I cry or how many times I’ve loved or how many times I’ve thought it was going to have a different ending. It doesn’t matter whether I end it or he does, whether someone behaved horribly badly or love just died of old age, whether I have another set of arms to run to or not. Every single time I’ve had my heart broken, it has felt just as bad as that first time, and sometimes worse, if we’re being honest.
Last night, at Annie’s New Year’s Eve party, I spent a fair amount of time talking to a man I’d never met before. Our conversation ranged widely, and fairly quickly our discourse passed from the mundane — “So, how old are you children?” — to the intimate — “Do you think you and your ex expressed love in the same fashion?” At one point we were talking about sorrow and this idea that it doesn’t get easier. We agreed that we’d both thought that the end of our marriage had to be the worst it would ever get. Surely anything after that would feel like a mere bump in the road compared to the complete devastation of the divorce cyclone. But again, we were wrong. It doesn’t get easier. It just doesn’t.
Sometimes, if she’s feeling particularly malicious, Sorrow will bring her friend Regret along for the visit. Regret is a brutal teacher. She brings me to my knees again and again and again. She reminds me of the dangers of being open and taking risks. She whispers how stupid I’ve been to have trusted. And now that I’m a mother, she blasts me for dragging my children through my idiocy. Fortunately, I am enough of a Pollyanna that Regret usually tires of me quickly. But her short visits are cruel indeed.
So, this morning I woke up in bed with Sorrow. Regret, seeing that I was awake, began her tirade in my head. I shooed them both away and picked up the phone and called Katrina. But they will undoubtably be back again before this pain subsides.
Eventually, their work here will be done for now. Hope will reappear and send Sorrow and Regret packing. And I will once again start down that long road, in search of the exit that will take me to a place where I’ll never, ever have to see them again.