She said, “My heart has three chambers: one for hurt, one for hope and the other for love.”
Perched on the bamboo bar stool, Jen sat proud, yet fragile. It seemed to be me she felt doomed to be misunderstood. I had known her for years, but there was a part of her she kept to herself- an aching guilt shrouded in defensiveness and well-thought-out justifications.I sat back in my Muskoka chair below her and took a sip of my white wine. The sun was a burnt orange through the trees behind her, descending slowly.
Jen looked out beyond me, not yet willing to meet my eye. “What he doesn’t understand is that so much of what I did, I did because I was hurt. I was mad at myself, mad at him…”
I took a breath as she trailed off. Clearing my mind, I could feel her, could feel her longing. I had four close friends going through separations. Jen’s was the most recent, but it had still been over a year. “What is it you wish he would understand?”
She shook her head and scoffed. “He won’t understand anything. He only cares about himself.”
“But still…” I countered.
Looking down into her glass, she sighed. “I wish he’d understand that it was a mistake. I realized too late that we were wrong for each other. And I didn’t want to hurt him, but he hurt me. I felt so alone in it all, like I could never make him see. We could never meet each other in a peaceful place to let it all go. We were always fighting and wanting to be heard, but no one was listening. And then the distance became this unbreachable impasse. It became our normal and I couldn’t breathe. The hurt in my heart made me cold. I kept hoping and hoping, but it was gone. My love for him was gone…”
She was holding in tears. I could see it. My mind switched between wanting to let her cry and wanting to comfort her. Putting my hand on my heart though, I felt it better to be quiet- to let that moment settle on its own. After a minute, I said:” You know, I had a professor in university who shared a lot of personal things with us. She spoke of her former husband and how he was unfaithful. She said they had been growing apart, she knew it, but she kept her focus on the kids and she felt like she and her husband would find their way back to one another. She said they were so close, inseparable really, when they were dating. They shared everything. She said they were so connected, as if there were plugs at the head, heart and gut between them.”
Jen was looking at me now. I had her attention. She nodded in understanding.
I continued. “But she said what she didn’t realize was that, over time, her husband had unplugged from her slowly. First from the head, then the gut and lastly the heart. By the time she knew it was over, he had separated himself from her. But she was still plugged in. It took her years to let go.”
Jen stifled a sob. “I get that.”
“Can I ask you something, honey?” She let out a quiet affirmative. “Have you ever apologized for the way it ended?”
She shifted in her seat, visibly uncomfortable. “No,” she said sharply.
I was expecting it. And perhaps the questions was unfair, but I could see she wanted relief from the guilt- relief that he was never going to be able to give her until she started giving it to herself. “Okay,” I said softly. “But it still feels unsettled between you?”
Jen considered that. “I mean, it’s over. But I still feel hurt. And even if I said sorry, he’d throw it back in my face.”
I took a sip of wine and stared down into my glass. “I see. And that would be uncomfortable. To show vulnerability and have it thrown back at you would feel awful. You’ve probably been down that road with him before in other ways.”
“Oh yeah,” she replied emphatically.
“There’s a quote from A Course in Miracles that says: ‘Would you not go through fear to Love?’ Meaning, you are unsettled. It’s hard to look at all of this and not feel shitty. And he reminds you of all of it. When can you begin to forgive yourself? By looking at all that has happened with your loving Inner Guide- God within you, you can begin to heal. This isn’t about rationalizing it, it’s about letting go. No more blame, no more reasoning- just loving yourself through it.”
I got up and sat on the stool beside her. “Those three chambers you spoke of? They mean something different to me. The hurt is the past: all that happened- the good and the bad and how it all confuses and blurs the present. The hope is the future: a tunnel out of feeling all the shit that makes you so uncomfortable. It is a way of not dealing with what’s in front of you. And finally Love. Love is the present. Love is where the healing happens: right now in the present moment. Love is all there truly is.”
Jen let some tears fall and smiled weakly. “I kinda like that,” she said. She grabbed my wine and took a long gulp. “So you think I should apologize?”
I shook my head. “No, I think you should forgive yourself. Once you do that, you’ll know the kindest thing to do. It may be to apologize and it may not.”
Jen leaned down to pick up her purse. “Thank you,” she said. “I sometimes forget that I am kind.”
The sun tucked itself below the rooftops surrounding us and the twinkle lights on the patio came on. Light found us. It was there all along.