By Tim Lawrence.
Our relationship ended in a myriad of contradictions, with love and uncertainty.
She had been my closest confidante for several years—my companion, my lover, and truly my very best friend. This was not a pairing of superficiality, it was the most profound love I’ve ever experienced. Prior to meeting her, I did not fully grasp just how extraordinary another’s happiness and wellbeing could become to you—how inextricably linked you could become to another person.
It was a gift I had avoided most of my life, never really allowing my romantic relationships to move into the territory necessary to achieve the sort of undeviating commitment most of us hope for. But this was different. And it awakened a part of me I had no idea even existed.
An understanding of a lifetime, found, cherished, and cultivated slowly.
That’s what I wanted. And I had found it.
Until I lost it.
We loved each other dearly. We communicated superbly. There was a tender, generous energy when we were together. But something was amiss.
We were both wounded.
I had a very difficult time letting her in fully; something she very much wanted. Although I felt naked in what I revealed to her, years of cultivating my false self—the image of privacy and mystique and caution—did not allow her to shatter those walls I had built.
My walls inflicted pain upon her; a pain I deeply regret.
She had experienced profound heartbreak repeatedly, and was terrified of encountering that again. As a result, she was emotionally fragile, sometimes distrusting, and deeply insecure.
We knew these things about each other and accepted them graciously. Though it caused a strange sense of misalignment—a feeling that although our love was strong, the trust required to take our relationship the distance might not be fostered. And in the end, I wasn’t ready.
I wanted to marry her. I had never wanted to marry anyone prior to meeting her.
But I was not yet “ready.”
Thus, I lost her.
I longed for her. I felt as if part of me had been amputated. I dreamed about her almost nightly, often awaking to find myself terrified, tears streaming down my face.
She was gone and nothing I could do would reverse the consequences of this.
I adored her. The love so potent I would gladly have sacrificed everything for her. Including my life. And it haunted me for over a year.
There was no upward. Or forward. There was only regression, as the pain enveloped everything I had thought I knew to be true.
I was stuck in the past.
I had lost the love of my life, and I desperately wanted to suspend time itself.
I felt it was my fault. How could love like this not persevere? Had I failed?
And the dreams. They were endless. One recurring dream haunted me in its vivid, catastrophic, and gorgeous visuals. I would see her walking along a beach, and reach out to her. She would reach out as well, look back at me, and smile. Her eyes would meet mine, but no matter what, she would keep walking.
Then she would fade away.
This happened relentlessly for months. I couldn’t make it end, always awaking to find myself weeping. In those moments, for the briefest of time I would be convinced that perhaps she had died.
It was incomprehensible to me. I was inconsolable.
One evening I had a dream I was married to someone. Natalie Portman. The perfect fantasy woman, at my side. We were walking along the Pacific coast.
Yet I still longed for Kira.
If Natalie Portman wasn’t going to suffice, who would?
I realized then that I was asking the wrong question and something was awakened in me.
I had allowed my happiness to become inseparably linked with hers. Her happiness, or lack thereof, was mine. Wasn’t that the way it was supposed to be? Was I not supposed to lay down everything for her?
I needed to let myself grieve, and in so doing, realize all that she had given to me.
I wish I could tell you that this was easy, that this process was foreordained to make me a “better” person. But it wasn’t. This wasn’t guaranteed at all, and my depression and self-destructive behaviors in the months after I lost her were indicative of that. If I wanted to heal—to find some solace in what I had experienced—that was on me.
It would not happen quickly.
The fact that it was an amicable, tender breakup did not lessen the pain. In many ways, it worsened it, as I was confounded at my inability to understand. I desperately hoped that some sort of rational explanation would bring her back to me. Though that was a foolhardy attempt at seeking to mend something that could not be mended.
I realized that the releasing of her—the letting go—was the ultimate expression of my love for her.
So through an incremental, imperfect process, I began the work.
I hated it at first. But I committed to it, if for no other reason than the fact that I had to save my own life.
Depression can destroy. So I confronted it, with love.
I had to experience thankfulness. I had to find peace in knowing that she had been a gift, one of the greatest gifts I had ever received. I had to channel all of the tenderness I had given to her toward something larger than myself.
I had to allow the pain to swell, to cultivate, and as a result, to allow grace to be engendered.
I am not special.
Millions of other people were experiencing similar heartbreak at that very same time. The allure of self-pity had taken its toll. It was too easy to feel sorry for myself, and after months living paralyzed by feelings of deafening loss, I had to find my way.
The clichés provided not an ounce of consolation. There’s a gazillion other women. You’ll get better with time. She didn’t deserve you. You’ll move on soon enough. I heard this nonsense over and over again, mostly from well meaning but ultimately completely unhelpful people. Those that helped me the most in this period didn’t provide advice at all.
They just listened. They were there. They heard my rants, my complaining, my idiotic analyzing of the why of it all. They allowed me to weep, to expose my rage, my utter lack of understanding of what had happened. And for them, I am most grateful. They loved me in my darkness.
In that love, I found a clue. I found that I, too, had to learn to love someone in my darkness.
I was that person.
In losing Kira, I wasn’t merely grieving or unhappy. I was overcome with shame. I had come to view myself as a petulant loser, my opportunities shattered. I was no longer Tim.
And I didn’t matter anymore.
Except I did. Though I had lost her, I had gained more than I ever could have imagined. She had become part of my story, a beautiful tale that would remain with me for the rest of my life. I had learned to love in ways previously unknown to me, and I had learned to share the man I am, without fear.
After the breakup, my empathy rose, my capacity to listen blossomed, and I found myself more connected to those I loved. That connection kindled long-dimmed friendships, and provoked a deeper willingness to grieve with those around me who needed me.
I had learned that suffering—particularly as it relates to relationships—can bring out the very best in us. If we allow it to.
It is an abstruse paradox, but it is beautiful.
Heartbreak is often the greatest purveyor of our humanity.
She made me a better man. I cannot thank her enough for that.
Knowing I had loved with as much abandon as I could at the time, I’m deeply fortunate to have consummated a connection so true, so gentle.
These people I have loved have not come into my life often. I know that I can never predict what will come of my time with them but I can choose to give of myself. I can open myself and expose my brokenness. I can choose to not hide.
Tim Lawrence is an adversity strategist, researcher, copyeditor and author of The Adversity Within, a blog exploring loss, adversity and resilience. Tim’s work is deeply rooted in an intensive study of post-traumatic growth; his research interests include neuroscience, philosophy and monasticism. A life-long performer, Tim has performed on some of the world’s great stages. Tim also lives with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and is a tireless advocate for the suffering and isolated.
*Featured image courtesy of Simplereminders.com