If you’ve read Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love,” you already know where I am at the beginning of my own story. Divorced four years ago (although in my case not by my choice), with a string of heartbreaking relationships piling up afterward, I had become “a murky hole of bottomless grief,” seeking someone who could love me enough that it would fix everything wrong with me and with my life.
As you probably can guess, it didn’t go so great.
A few weeks ago, a meltdown ended my relationship with C., a man who I cared for — and still do — very deeply. I had spent all summer pushing him away, as he tried again and again to persuade me to let him in. (In fact, it was only after I ended things with him on a prior occasion that I realized, a few short days later, that I had made a massive mistake and missed him desperately. To my shock and joy, he took me back.) But this night, he told me sorrowfully, as he could barely raise his eyes to look at my face, that I didn’t trust him and he didn’t believe that I ever would. I begged — I nearly groveled — for another chance. He told me, “I’m sorry.”
Later that week, I got a beautiful email from him. He told me he cared for me deeply, that he missed me tremendously, but that he simply could not do this anymore. That I was clearly still healing from my divorce and subsequent relationships, as anyone would be in my shoes, and that he believed I needed to take a year or two off dating and learn to love and care for myself. He followed with a request not to hear from me for a while, as he was also grieving and needed time to heal and couldn’t do that if we were in constant contact.
Of course, I emailed him back right away and asked if we could talk one more time, for closure, which was the first sign I had some shit I needed to work on.
There was a lot of grieving. I spent a lot of tearful days on my neighbor’s couch or texting my girlfriends. The day I found a bottlecap from his favorite beer and the thermometer from that time he thought I felt feverish, I cried till I had no tears left. I barely ate. I went to the gym every time the kids were gone, because I couldn’t bare to be in my house alone.
But the thing I didn’t do was bounce into the next relationship. And that’s why this story is different.