Listening to the messages of pain.
Most mornings, I wake up married.
Then after a few minutes, I remember. I’m not married anymore.
I spend mornings watching my marriage dissolve yet again as I adjust to this newly separated life. Remembering why my marriage didn’t last. Remembering what went wrong. Watching everything change in the blink of an eye.
On nights when my daughter is sleeping at my ex’s house, I reach for the baby monitor and turn it on. Total panic. My baby is not in her crib. Then, sadness settles in. My baby is not in my house. I remember I share my child now. I share my child with someone that I don’t share a house with. I remember how a few nights a week she sleeps under another roof that isn’t mine. Up until the separation, I had spent a total of 4 nights away from my daughter. Now I spend 3 nights and 1 day away from her every week. The separation from her feels unbearable. I set up a small altar in her room and light a candle when she’s not there. A small gesture, but it brings a feeling of presence and warmth to her room.
Late at night, I come home to my sadness. It settles like cold into my bones. It rests heavily on my lungs and tightens around my belly. My heart empties out all of its contents into my sheets. I toss and turn in bed and keep rubbing up against my pain, my despair, my grief, my anger. It won’t leave me alone. I remember dumb things. Moments that at the time were meaningless that now feel imbued with prophesy. I stare at the ceiling as the hours pass by.
I know this will pass eventually. Everyone tells me I will be ok. Everyone tells me that once I get through to the other side, there will be room for better things in my life. But, right now I am in the thick of loss. I’ve been handed the death certificate for my marriage and am struggling to understand this new reality. My family as I’ve known it, the family I have committed myself to building is no more. My family as it was is gone. And the family I’d hoped we’d become is gone too. The traditions I’d hoped we’d establish. The family dinners, pizza and movie nights, big Sunday breakfasts, family trips to the ocean, and matching family pajamas on Christmas Eve will never happen as I had thought.
This is hard. No amount of kind words, meditation, yoga, prayer, or anything else can lessen what is here now. I just have to wait it out and hang out with this pain. Pain is different than other emotions. Anger, you can rage out. Sadness you can cry out. But, pain is just there. It’s an alarm bell of sorts. When you experience physical pain, it tells you something is wrong. It tells you to stop functioning as you usually do and pay attention because some part of you requires tending.
I am trying to see my pain this way. Slow down. Notice my wounds and see what they are telling me. I imagine asking myself the sorts of questions a doctor asks about pain: Where does it hurt? What were you doing when the pain started? How would you describe the pain? On a scale of 1 - 10, how would you rate your pain?
When you have a physical wound, you don’t spend the whole time thinking about how eventually the wound will be a scar. So, I’m trying not to do that with this emotional pain. I’m resting. I’m nursing my wounds. I’m changing my habits to accommodate my new reality. I’m asking for help. My life doesn’t look like it did when I was married, nor should it. I’m trying really hard not to prove anything to anyone, including myself. I am attempting to be real and vulnerable. There is hurt and pain and I am piecing my life together so that I can feel those things in their wholeness.
When I am able to pay attention, the pain seems to come with messages: Slow down. Steady yourself. Lean in. And it comes with questions too: Are you willing to stand in the center of your messy, lovely, painful life? Will you be powerful enough to care for yourself fully? Are you ready to disturb everything you thought was settled in order to listen to the callings of your soul?
I pay attention when I can. I zone out when I can’t. More than knowing that this will pass, it helps to know that this matters. All of this pain. All of this shittyness. It all has meaning. It’s changing me. There’s a metamorphosis happening. I just have to commit to sticking it out until the part where it all blooms.