Of all the feelings we are meant to feel, and thus accept, I think heartbreak is the hardest. Harder than grief even, as in the death of a loved one.

For me, grief carries with it a finality. The person is gone, never to be again. Perhaps they have transcended to another world, or perhaps the light of their unique life force has no further existence and is merely extinguished for all eternity.

One way or another, death and grief signifies an end with a non-negotiable permanence. In that is the cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless, of certainty.


Heartbreak has no such certainty, for the other carries on. They are out there in the world, living a life that no longer includes me. They will experience joys I cannot share, pains I cannot soothe, mundane moments I cannot laugh with them at, and ultimately love and attention from others I can never know, but who feel like the inverse of all my inadequacies.

Every limitation I feel in myself, the next man will not have. Every weakness that marks my character, the next man will not share. Every trauma and shadow, he will not carry. He will create happinesses I never could have, despite my greatest efforts. I wilt in the face of that.

And in that moment I collapse into my own emptiness, a hollow feeling that rests just beneath my heart, into which my heart sinks despite my desire to keep it aloft for a world that seems to tolerate no sadness in its demand for joviality, however superficial.

So I smile to strangers with my face, because my heart cannot. I feel a sleepiness cascade down over my eyes, like warm cotton, because sleep is preferable to tears…

Until that moment when I wake alone, whether in the morning or the dark, and reach out with my energy body to feel a connection that once was as natural to me as the rhythm of my own breath, but that now is amputated. Love like a phantom limb.

And what can I do then but exist? Life doesn’t stop. Meanwhile the pain turns in me like a wheel. First rising with these thoughts and sensations in a panic, running and bumping into each other with no route of escape, save perhaps a wail.

Then the pain turns again, descending first to numbness, then to nothingness.

The space it leaves permits a forgetting, a temporary immersion in the moment, something similar to normalcy. Until the next turn upwards rips through me trailing a thought, a sight, a smell.

So as this wretched wheel, which I helped build, turns silently inside, I must put one foot in front of the other. Breathe in, breathe out. Go do a thing. See a friend. Move, and stay in motion.

Repeat this until… will it be always? Can I tolerate the idea of it not being? Is it possible to entertain the thought that someday that same non-negotiable permanence of grief will lend its certainty here, and that It will truly be Over? Then the unimaginable will have come to pass. I feel ashamed to want that, because in this moment is at least Something, the last crumbs on the plate of a delicious meal. Morsels not big enough to offer a sensation of flavor, but still maintaining a texture that conjures the memory of when things were Good and Real, nourishing and rich.

Future Me echoes backwards in time, “This is right. It will be alright.” But fuck him. I want his empathy and he offers advice. I need a warm heart and body which wisdom cannot replace.

And all I want to say is, “I am sorry.” For the little boy in me remembers the times when love was withheld, or withdrawn. Losing love now touches the pain from then, and the little boy only knows how to apologize to bring the love back again, as that worked before.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry! Come back.

If only it were about apologies. If only it were so simple. If only it were about making wrongs right, and mistakes uncorrected. But it isn’t.

So I am alone, inside myself but without myself.

And once again I find a new companion, this feeling, heartbreak, the hardest which we are meant to feel, and thus accept.

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The Lost Pilgrim


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