Time present and time pastT.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton.
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
Those who say, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” are sociopaths. Losing love — real love — is earth-shattering. It turns you in upon yourself — “What did I do to make them leave? To pull away? To let me go?” — regardless of circumstance or timing or logic. Allowing someone into your life is scary. For those of us who have been betrayed deeply by those who were supposed to keep us safe, it is paralyzing. We fight it. We sabotage it. We push back hard against it while wanting it so badly.
Because, come on. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone wants to be seen and to be real to someone else. Everyone wants connection and to be valued by someone they value. But sometimes, it comes at the wrong time: too late, too early, in the midst of crisis, in the midst of chaos. Unexpectedly, we are floored by something we realize we had never really known up to this moment. And then it’s gone.
And you find out what “alone” actually means.
When I had my oldest daughter, I realized I’d never, ever known love before. The intensity of that feeling that transcends emotion, the knowledge that you would do anything for another person, hit me like a freight train. I couldn’t fight it; this was my child, after all. You cannot protect yourself from your children. They need all of you, and that’s what you give them, at the expense of anything else — your health, your finances, your own happiness. Everything becomes secondary. This is how our species has survived.
When I lost her, I realized that I’d never, ever known heartbreak. All of the stupid drama in my life that had preceded that moment was erased. I saw it for what it was — ephemeral. Transitory. Illusory. Where my heart had been, there was nothing left but a black hole. I lived on the event horizon from that moment on. I’m still there, I think, in some sense — in between the illusion of safety and overwhelming, cosmos-shattering heartbreak. It’s hard to leave that place, physically impossible in fact. This is where you live when life attempts to destroy you: on the edge of the void.
There is a yawning, gaping wound inside me that will never heal. I don’t want healing, if I’m being honest. Learning to live around heartbreak is a feat in itself. I’m still here. Life goes on.
But love itself heals, a little. My children who have come after have mitigated the self-destruction in which I have often indulged. I love self-destructive April. She’s fun. She’s nihilistic. She does not give any fucks. She lives in the moment and never once worries about the future. But children cannot live with a parent who does not value herself enough to stay alive. And so again I find myself stable and mostly happy,
But there is that sense of never being whole. Living with loss is choosing to be haunted. It is accepting that you will be living with ghosts. And it’s hard. Knowing that things could be different if Fate had decided to be cooperative instead of being such an insufferable bitch is a bitter pill to swallow. Every so often you catch yourself imagining a different life, a life of potential and hope and maybe even joy — only to realize that you have that, but in a different way. A different life. A different kind of love.
There is loss and there is loss. And I am allergic to loss. Every death of potential, regardless of magnitude, wakes that brutal emptiness in me, reminding me of what could have been and what will never be. It grates. It is absorbed, like glass under your skin. It aches. It is unfair to have found love and to have lost it.
Footfalls echo in the memoryT.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
What might have been is an abstraction, but it feels real. And so we live, day to day, with countless lives unlived in our heads and hearts, knowing that all time is unredeemable. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. But it is the life we’ve been given.
Tell me again how God is good.