I’m not sure how it happened.
I could blame “Eat, Pray, Love”. The idea that, when faced with a devastating loss or unyielding heartache of epic proportions, the most courageous thing you can do is to leave. To run. To flee. To explore new lands and discover new people. That anything less than a dramatic exit will not suffice, will not illustrate to those around you just how absolutely crushed you are. That unless I smash plates, book trips to exotic lands, get ill-placed tattoos, take up chain smoking and jeggings- that my sadness does not have a home, isn’t grounded in something real.
But isn’t that what makes us feel good? Provides a temporary relief? We cultivate new habits. We devote ourselves to new people. We start big projects. Crave everything new, nothing that can be tied to the sadness that we can’t shake, a sadness that lingers and at times smothers us late at night when the world sleeps and you feel like you are the only person who has ever been this sad. The only person who has ever felt 100% alone. So we book trips. Take cooking lessons. Pick places to travel and declare ourselves free. And pray that one day the heart that still beating inside us will lift to meet a smile that took far too much effort to muster and your brain will believe all the things you keep telling yourself is true.
We claim that yoga saves us. That red lipstick and high heels and big hair and new dresses have turned everything around. We twirl in the glow provided by tans to warmer climates and hide behind sunglasses we deem glamorous. We sing to new songs we’ve discovered, songs that aren’t tied to heartstrings and a thousand memories of late night sing-a-longs with a voice you no longer hear. Songs that don’t conjure up a thousand memories of a life you will know you will never lead. We claim that time heals. That everything will be better with a glass of wine and a good sleep.
But you know what?
Yoga will not save you. Red lipstick gets washed off at the end of the night and wine always gives me a hangover. Trips filled with the best intentions are distractions that will never be a mistake but will never be permanent. New songs will always conjure up old memories- despite your protests. Glamorous sunglasses hide the tears that well up when you see someone in a baseball cap that is exactly like you bought him. Sleep, if you’re lucky to sleep, provides a comfort of a better time that ends abruptly when you wake up and realize you are alone.
You know what does work?
What will save you?
Courage isn’t always running away, it isn’t packing suitcases and fleeing to discover a new life because the old one is in ruins. Sometimes courage is staying. Staying when you are alone. It’s being single in a world that feels like built for couples. A lone stray on the Ark. Sometimes courage is staying when running is the only thing that makes sense. When running is the only thing that feels right because nothing, absolutely nothing in your life feels like it’s yours. Courage is sitting in a doctor’s office every week and through sobs trying to recall the precise moment that your life began to unravel. It’s listening to marriage plans of your dearest friends when your heart is breaking. Courage is allowing yourself to feel joy at the idea of other people’s happiness. Because nothing, nothing is harder than letting yourself go far enough to experience a moment of happiness for someone else before realizing that as quickly as that feeling comes, it will leave and you will be left with only an echo of the happiness. A joy you miss so much you ache.
Courage is getting up everyday. Every goddamn day and doing what you did before. It’s driving the same route to work you did when you were happy. It’s eating the same dinner he used to tease you about. It’s watching the shows that he used to watch with you. It’s living the life you led with him, alone. It’s staying where you are, taking a magnifying glass to your sadness and being brave enough to sort through the tangled mess you’ve become. It’s being brave enough to realize a dramatic exit won’t cure your heartache and there isn’t a distraction big enough to make you forget the life you are immersed in. Courage isn’t always running to somewhere new, fleeing to someplace exotic to start over.
When everything is moving fast, when your sadness is palpable and the only thing that feels right is fleeing, sometimes courage is standing still. Even if it means you are standing alone and petrified.