The Pit, Part II: Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above

but all I’ve ever learned from love

was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.

-Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen

There should be a statute of limitations on old relationship pain, and it should probably kick in when the length of time since the relationship’s demise is equal to or greater than the relationship itself. You dated someone for three months, you get three months to forgive, let go, and move on. One date with the dancer who took your number at Salsa Under the Stars? Let’s be generous and give you a week.

Letting go has never been my strong suit. I can purge old clothes, books I do not love, even letters and photographs that spoke to or captured my younger self. Though I would never choose to do it again, I know I could lose most of my possessions in a fire and recreate my life out of the love of family and community.

But my attachment to pain is different.

I can call on old relationship pain, remember exact conversations, what I was wearing, the way the light blazed on the flamboyant blossoms outside Santo Domingo Church/washed out that desert path as we walked/bounced off my wine glass as I left the table. I remember slamming down a public phone in Oaxaca, storming up an arroyo in El Paso, running to a bar bathroom in New York. There’s a quality to that pain that made me feel alive.

But there’s something deeper.

Love heals us. This love with Henry heals me.

So why does the old stuff still hurt sometimes, even if it happened years ago and only lasted a few months? Why is it that when this relationship bends me in a particular direction I am once again that woman walking away from the Mexican payphone, kicking rocks out of my path under the El Paso sun, blowing my nose into a scratchy paper towel in that bar bathroom?

Healing is hard work. It’s the manual labor of the soul. I have been doing some excavating and heavy lifting this summer, going deep into memory, holding my beliefs up to the light and watching some of them shrivel. One belief in particular was embedded in me so long ago I thought it was truth. It has shaped my view of men and my relationships with them. It has protected me, and for that, I am grateful. It has also made me resentful and incapable of releasing the past. Maybe I could have come to it on my own. But I think I needed this relationship with this person to feel safe and loved enough to allow it to surface.

Here it is: He has power over me; I don’t have power over him.

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Published in: on July 31, 2013 at 7:38 am  Comments (9)  
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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Truth

  2. Powerful. Makes me want to hug Henry. So glad you’ve committed to doing the manual labor of the soul. It is inspiring to the rest of us couch potatoes.

    • My friend, you’ve done your share of hard work. We’ve both earned a little couch time.

  3. 1 John 4:18 says this: “Perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.…”

    We have the responsibility to heal our souls from past hurt, and yet, as you point out, a large part of that healing can only come when we experience perfect love–when we are loved unconditionally by someone. When we are loved in that way, it is so much easier to let go of past pain because love has taken away its sting.

    • “Perfect love casts out fear…” Thank you for this.

  4. This brought me to tears. For many reasons. Because I can sense the sweet relief it must bring you to be in a healing relationship. But also because I’ve been asking myself similar questions lately. Like why the hell I have to *remember* so many details of past relationships. The exact words he used. The texts following the day he first said I love you. The way his eyes looked on the night we broke up. Those first surreal hours after breaking up and all the coping mechanisms. You are giving me courage to write again. And maybe, *maybe* even the courage to keep my heart open to a healing relationship. (Still too soon.)

    • It’s so hard to ask those questions from a place of love rather than judgment, to accept the answers as information rather than condemnation. I’m writing these posts partly as an exercise in self-love. Writing is an act of self-love. Write, querida. Write.

  5. “Healing is hard work. It’s the manual labor of the soul”….how true indeed…and when the practice is with the intention to not give up on love…then you have truly been set free…


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