We were sitting on her floor.
It was evening in winter, the cold outside held at bay by a sturdy house and a warm fire burning in the stove in the corner.
She looked so tired; I’m sure I did too. Our bodies told of our weariness, but our minds kept persisting stubbornly certain, each of our own position.
Truth lingered somewhere in the corner, probably enjoying the fire and waiting for us to be quiet so it could speak. Though we may wish it, Truth never raises its voice, and it never interrupts.
Round and round we went, chasing the tail of an argument that had run us ragged countless times before. We both thought we knew the problem, and, of course, it was always with the other person. I couldn’t understand how two people in love could clash so violently.
Hours passed, and snow fell outside. We circled our contention a million times, wearing a ring in the floor with our words, but grew no closer to resolution.
Still, truth waited quietly, seemingly in no hurry to speak up.
Eventually, I left, speeding away in anger, but mostly in pain. Tears stung my eyes and screams of anguish filled the cab of my truck as I struggled to drive the miles to my house across town.
I didn’t need alcohol to feel like my head was spinning.
We tried to reassure each other a little later on that night over the phone. We still loved each other. She’d tried to run after me, but I hadn’t seen her. Still, the pain of being misunderstood and the frustration of feeling unable to span the growing gap between us remained. No words could bridge the canyon; no sentiment could soothe our souls.
Neither of us slept that night.
A few days went by with tense, transactional communication.
Then we ended it.
For the first time in years, we went days without talking. Missing her voice in my life was like missing a limb. Phantom pains from where she used to be seared through my body. I’d hear her laugh or imagine her response to some menial thing that was happening in my life. I’d wake to find my bed still empty, my arm over a pillow, and I’d feel as vacant as the cold sheets beside me.
There were times when I couldn’t breathe. But we’ve all been there. I need not words to explain these feelings of loss, and indeed no words could ever do them justice.
Then, one day, less than a week since the deathly silence had begun, I heard a new voice, and it spoke in a whisper.
Slowly, and sporadically, I began to relive the moments of our greatest tension. Slowly, gingerly, this voice led me through each one in slow-motion, vividly recounting what had really occurred.
The stories Truth told me were so different from what I’d imagined. It was as though I was watching a movie in which I was not the main character.
And largely, I found my past actions—even my past perspectives—deplorable. Had I really acted that way? Had my expectations and demands truly been so unreasonable?
Yes, mostly they had. With Truth as my guide, I was able to see these realities without judgement, but to feel the gravity of my necessary growth nonetheless. Of course, I saw clearly the aspects that were hers to own as well.
I do not mean to claim that these realizations revealed me to be a wholly terrible human, unfit for love and terrorizing a stainless relationship.
No, her trauma and wounding had proved a worthy adversary of mine.
But the picture I began to piece together had less to do with blame and more to do with revelation. Because when one begins to see the truth clearly, there is no fault, no room for blame, and certainly no room for shame. Only the chilly recognition of a terrible mess made, and the possibility to do better next time.
In his book, Narcissus and Goldmund, Hermann Hesse entertains the idea that love itself should never be discussed, for words almost always fail to provide clarity.
As a writer, I have struggled to embrace this concept because one of the personal agreements that has allowed my life to function lies in the belief that words can heal.
But through this experience, I’ve begun to dismantle that agreement, and in its place adopt a new one:
Words may strike the heart when the time is right. But in love, silence, presence, and action deliver more clarity than words ever will.
As many in my generation have been accused, I am guilty of severe impatience. Nowhere has this inability to wait shown up more than in relationships.
Whether out of a desire to fix or to connect, I often fall prey to the urge to speak more, to strive to be understood. Words spew from my mouth, and, more often than not, they serve no purpose in the end.
In fact, I cannot recount a singe argument that has resulted in positive resolution in spite of my best linguistic efforts.
But the experiences of the last month—my failed relationship, my realizations afterward, and my new relationship with the whispering Truth—have delivered me into a renewed commitment to practicing the art of waiting.
I’ve been discovering the importance of striving to understand rather than to be understood.
I’ve been putting space between my perception and my response—between my triggers and my voice.
And in my newfound silence, I’ve found Truth to be a talkative friend with a wealth of helpful advice.
The extent to which these lessons will aid in my journey toward greater peace and sovereignty remains to be seen. But I know now that if it’s Truth I seek, it will only ever speak once I, myself, have stopped speaking.