It has been the longest goodbye I have ever endured.
I’ve been saying it for 22 months and now it’s become nearly as consistent as my tired, weakened heartbeat— goodbye…goodbye…goodbye…goodbye…
The pain cuts deeper with every repetition. Grief. Not for the loss of him, but for the slow and steady diminishment of my own strength, my own resolve, my own self-respect.
There was a brief period of time when we first met I thought he might be the one. He came along after a shocking life change where separation had been chosen, my divorce was certain and my foolish heart wanted nothing more than to be loved again.
When we met, he was everything bright and new, exciting and open. He was fresh hope and possibility for my weary, broken heart. I held on to that hope long after the curtain fell.
I’ve been saying this long farewell since the first time he abused me: when he told me I was ugly and unappealing because my body didn’t meet his standard of a woman without stretch marks on her belly or her breasts. I gave in, convincing myself that I agreed with his assessment—my body does have its flaws.
I said goodbye when I knew clearly we were not well suited for partnership: because I knew what I really want in a relationship is monogamy not polyamory. I gave in, convincing myself to be open to exploring new ways of relating. It would be a certain route to growth I told myself.
I said goodbye again when he starting seeing other people. I gave in, using the distance between us as reason enough to justify his loneliness.
I said goodbye when he started using my needs against me. I gave in, persuading myself that his need for space outweighed my need for ongoing communication.
I said goodbye again when I discovered that it was in my best interest to recommit myself to my nearly broken family and begin the long road to recovery from this tumultuous love affair.
I have been repeating this goodbye through the months and years of trying to heal my heart. It is the goodbye that has not been good at all.
Sometimes holding on to what hurts us gives us something to push against as we build the resolve to love ourselves more fully.
Little by little our interactions devolved into fighting and heartache based in mutual unmet expectations. How lonely the distance, the longing for something that never existed between us.
After firmly declaring my choice to rebuild my marriage, we tried remaining friends—both of us wanting more from the other than we were capable of giving—because to say goodbye felt like smothering the hope of everything beautiful we lied to ourselves about. It turns out this just made the suffering more potent, the sting more penetrating.
The latest and final goodbye came on the heels of the recent vow I made to love myself completely. To love myself enough to let go of what no longer serves me.
I’ve learned through this experience what self-love offers: Love that is devoted to growth. Love that is based in action. Love that is purely self-inflicted self-developed, self-revealing. Love that is not romanticized but is rather fierce and unyielding. Love that demands I take responsibility for my own feelings, my own choices, my own life. Love that celebrates the natural rise and fall, the ebb and flow of all of creation. Love that holds space for momentary recognition between hearts and also contains gaps for endless farewells.
I’m learning that perhaps the longest goodbye has given birth to an essential awakening, a true and welcoming invitation. My eyes remain open. My heart will not be closed.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: elephant archives