Guest Posts, healing

On Being Left.

June 22, 2014

On Being Left by Shari Simmons.

I am left handed. Very left handed. If I had a stroke and lost use of my right side I would still function fairly well. I guess I would consider myself a left thinker too, although lefties use their right brains, as I understand it. I’m not sure what a left thinker is exactly but it seems to fit how I feel sometimes.

I like being a lefty, minus a few inconveniences like right handed computer mice, and scissors and having no one want to sit next to me at a crowded dinner table. But it’s part of who I am; a little quirky, a little left of center if you’ll pardon the pun.

But that’s not really the left I’m referring to here. There’s another “being left” that is also a big part of who I am.

When I was eight years old my dad left. Well, he left my mom, and technically not my brother and me. At least that’s what they told us. But the fact that he packed all his stuff and moved out sure felt like he left to me.

He left my mom for another woman, and two years later he left me for another state. California to be exact, which was 3000 plus miles from my house in Maryland. Again he said he wasn’t leaving me. He had to go; had no choice.
“For a job.”
“There are jobs here.”
“I looked and couldn’t find one. California is beautiful and it’s warm and sunny all year round.”

I’m sure he had said he thought I was beautiful at some point, although I couldn’t admit to being warm and sunny all year round. That was a tough one to compete with. That and all the movie stars and palm trees, which California was also full of according to my dad.

“You’ll come visit every summer. You’ll love it. We’ll miss you.”
And he left. And I cried. Again.

And so my brother and I hopped on our first airplane by ourselves that next summer. My mom cried and loaded us down with about eight peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each and various snacks for the five and a half hour plane ride.

He was right. It was warm and sunny and there were palm trees but as hard as I looked I never found a movie star.

At the end of the summer, as we headed back to the airport to go home, it felt as though he was leaving us all over again, even though we were doing the actual leaving this time. And so we left. And I cried. Again.

I got used to the summer visits but never to the leaving part. Every time I cried and every time I felt as though I was being left again. What did California have that I didn’t? Well, my dad, for one.

I grew up and went to college and fell in love and got married. I took all the precautionary steps so that I wouldn’t get left by my husband like my mom had. I communicated my feelings about not wanting to be left. He said the same. I became the wife I thought he wanted me to be and the mother I knew I could be.

And in all the precautionary steps I took, I missed the biggest one. I left myself. I lost myself. And he left me anyway. He didn’t leave my children though. That’s what he told them. He left me for another woman, and because we weren’t right for each other, according to him. I think that’s better than being left for another state. Better than being left for a piece of land with sun and palm trees.

Alone, I found myself buried just beneath the surface, and told myself never to leave again. My mom, who had always been my brave inspiration and rock and best friend in life, helped me through being left by my husband, just as she had been there when I was left by my dad.

I could see the physical pain on her face of not only watching me go through what she did, but reliving her own pain of being left.

I poured my feelings out to her and she poured hers out to me, as though we were sharing the same pot of heartache tea. And life had a way of finding a new normal. The empty spaces were filling in and raising my two daughters were the main fillers.

If I were to be asked what my biggest fear in life is, one would think it would be being left. In actuality my biggest fear is the fragility of life. Being left may be a part of that, but it’s the bigger thing that anything can change at any moment. The train can be derailed by the smallest crack in the track.

My own train derailed one December afternoon in the form of a phone call from my mom where she painfully forced herself to tell me she had pancreatic cancer. I sucked all my breath in and I don’t remember it ever coming back out.
“That’s the bad one.”
“No I think it’s early. I can beat it.”
The crack in her voice betrayed the conviction of her words.
I cried. I didn’t want to but it just happened.
“I will beat this. I will.”

And she certainly tried. For a year she fought and fought and then, in the simplest of terms, she lost the fight.

And in the most incomprehensible of all situations I could imagine, she left me. I know she didn’t want to or even mean to, but that is still what happened.

She left. She left her husband. She left her children. She left my children. She left me. And left or right, everything in my brain felt wrong. A pain in the left side of my chest, where my heart should be felt like an empty, gaping hole.

And so, as it so often happens whether you want it to or not, another new normal formed. One without my mom but with my beautiful daughters beaming light out of the darkness. People say only her body left me but not her spirit. I think that may be true because I feel her at times, but it doesn’t make me feel any less left.

A few years after my mom’s passing, my stepdad who was kind and loving enough to raise me as his own during the non-summer months and in the absence of my real father, left me as well after suffering a fatal stroke one summer evening. He had promised my mom that he would look after the girls and me (a symbolic gesture as I was in my 30s at the time), but I suppose the pain of my mom leaving was too much and he went to be wherever she was. At least that’s what I like to believe.

The loss of my stepdad brought on a feeling I wasn’t expecting at the age of 40. Despite my father and stepmother still being alive, albeit 3000 miles away, I suddenly felt orphaned. The two parents who raised me were gone. I felt alone. And sad. And angry. And left.

And so I’m forced to think and write, with my left hand and my right brain, why have all these people left me? Did I do something wrong? (Ok, my ex-husband may have something to say on that matter.) Sure, there are some positive things I’ve done with my life that perhaps I wouldn’t have done had all these people not left, but in the case of my mom and stepdad, I would hate to think they had to sacrifice themselves in order for me to stop procrastinating something. Certainly that would be a high price to pay for laziness or unseen opportunity.

But I’ve also noticed that although people have left me, others, while not taking their place, have entered my life in a way that perhaps wouldn’t have been possible before. Lovers and parental figures who, for good or bad, have kept me company during a sometimes lonely journey. The pain is still there, but so are the smiles, the laughter, the love.

And so I have stopped asking “why?” because one, I don’t think I will ever get an answer, and two, if I did, I don’t think I would like it.

I’ve just had to learn to accept this as part of who I am: I am a mother, a lefty, a writer, a massage therapist and a health nut who has been left more times than she would care to count. However, this also means that there are a few empty seats next to me if anyone would care to take a load off, and casually discuss the abstract and obtuse topics of life, love and yes, being left.

Shari Simmons is a freelance writer and massage therapist who enjoys writing about personal journeys and holistic health issues. She is a self-proclaimed health nut who isn’t afraid to admit to occasionally putting gummy bears and Oreos on her fro-yo. She lives outside of Philly with her two daughters.

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen leads  her signature yoga/writing Manifestation retreats all over the world. Next one with availability is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Next Manifestation Workshop is London July 6. Book here. Seattle July 26/27.

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No Comments

  • Reply Judith Hoppes June 22, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Its hard to be left alone i was a latchkey kid sort of orphaned by my mom didnt hav a father

  • Reply Victoria Beaulieu June 22, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Thank you for this. My dad died a year and a half ago – I can relate to this – being left and feeling orphaned. As a mother and a daughter and a wife. Thank you so much – I don’t feel so alone after reading it. You are a beautiful writer and from your picture, a stunning woman. Thank you for writing.

    • Reply shari July 1, 2014 at 9:42 am

      I’m so sorry for your loss and your thoughts mean a great deal to me. I don’t even know you and yet I feel less alone too. I find it helpful to focus on the blessings. I hope you have many.

  • Reply Charity June 22, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Shari, this made me cry. I know exactly what you mean. I too have been left more times than I care to admit. Spent most of my life wondering why no one stayed. Foster homes, being given up for adoption, adoption by foster parents, sudden strokes, sudden congestive heart failure, premature delivery, loss of twin baby boys, divorce, commitment-phobes, one loss after another, with thankfully some really great gains too.
    We have rich souls, steeped in resilience.
    Thank you for speaking my truth.

    • Reply shari July 1, 2014 at 9:45 am

      You have truly lived and survived much heartache in your life it seems — thank you for sharing that. Expressing our truths is always difficult and always somewhat courageous. You sound very courageous and my wish for you is that you are saturated in spiritual “glue” so that the beautiful people you come across stay with you.

  • Reply T Lewis June 22, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Thank you for this! It certainly pulled a chordae tendinae.

  • Reply Anne June 22, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Profound. This spoke to me — as a lefty, as one left behind by her mother at the age of 12, and as one having lost both my parents. Thank you for speaking my truth.

    • Reply shari July 1, 2014 at 9:48 am

      Thank you for sharing part of your story — never easy. I feel blessed to have many wonderful people still in my life (including my real father and my stepmother). I hope you have special people in your life who have chosen to stay.

  • Reply sallyj48 June 22, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    We are all still, that child who when they experience that first betrayal, remains confused and lost. Thank you for a lovely piece of you.

    • Reply shari July 1, 2014 at 9:49 am

      You are so right. Understanding things academically is so different than how they affect our hearts. Thank you for your comment.

  • Reply barbarapotter June 24, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Shari, this was so beautifully written. It really resonated with me.

    • Reply shari July 1, 2014 at 9:51 am

      Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • Reply Cara June 27, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Thank you Shari, I loved this! It was beautiful; and like the others who have commented before me, it connected to me and I am grateful to you for having written it and that I read it. That makes me think that though we may be left, we are never alone when we connect to others.

    • Reply shari July 1, 2014 at 9:51 am

      Thank you for your kind comment… and yes, despite loss and being left, I still feel very blessed for the people who remain in my life. Although loss affects the course of your life, I prefer to focus on the gains rather than the losses.

  • Reply numerousthoughts July 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

    That was a beautiful post. I’m sorry for your loss and I’m sorry that you had to feel that way, Shari. If you ever see this comment then I want to be able to tell you that if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here for you. Have a lovely day.

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