Saturday, January 05, 2008

Opening a Wounded Heart


About two and half years ago, I received a card in the mail from an ex-girlfriend, the first woman I had ever really loved. We had spent six intense and challenging years together beginning in college -- when I was 23 and she was 19. At the time the card came, I wasn't prepared to open my heart to that period of my life, the pain seemed to intense to welcome back into my consciousness. I blogged about it at the time.

Even then, after all the time that had passed, I still blamed her for hurting me and couldn't really accept that she probably wasn't the same person she was when we were together (just as I am not the same person, either). Even more, however, I blamed myself for all the ways I hurt her and broke her young and tender heart.

But blame is destructive. Neither of us intended to hurt the other. We were young, wounded, and simply did the best we could at the time -- and no matter how much we wish it otherwise, it happened. It can't be undone. And there was nothing, in retrospect, that we could have done differently.

Looking back now, I think the experience, as painful and filled with regrets as it was, propelled each of us to become better, healthier people. This is one of those dharma gifts that comes wrapped in shit. So often in life, the painful experiences are the ones that help us grow, that force us beneath the wounding to discover the true compassionate nature of who we are -- if we are willing to face the pain.

Last week, I decided to reconnect with her, initially just to request a poetry submission for Elegant Thorn Review. She recently completed her master's degree in writing and has had a chapbook published. One of the things we shared was poetry, and I always knew she would become a successful poet.

Sometimes we make a choice without quite knowing what will come of it. She isn't the young woman I knew -- but it turns out that she is the adult woman I always thought she might become. Maybe being married has helped her find her way, or maybe she did it through her poetry, which like mine, is always a mirror to the content of her psyche. However she found her way, I'm so glad that she is happy.

Even in the brief exchange of emails we've had, the decision to contact her has opened a deep well of grief. I didn't expect that. I thought that I had moved through those feelings in therapy a few years ago. But still the waves wash over me. What has changed, though, is that I don't feel the need to escape them -- I can sit here in the surf and let the feelings come and go with whatever natural rhythm dictates these things.

Sitting with grief has always been hard for me, but the more I do so, the more I can literally feel my heart soften, open, return to its tender nature. I didn't expect this gift to come out my decision to know her again.


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