Far Better Things
There are some days when I’m walking down the street and I wonder whether people can tell that I’m a walking wound. Of course, I’m more than that, but can they see? Can a stranger on the train or sitting in the park or at the grocery store see that my heart is still tender, that it’s raw and bleeding? Can a friend?
Thankfully, those days are happening less and less. But they still happen, because wounds take time to heal, even when you take care of them the best ways you know how.
But six months ago, when I’d first moved to Boston and I was still feeling my way blindly through every day, I think I was mostly wound, even though I tried to prove otherwise. And it was that wound that wrote a letter to my favorite advice columnist, Ask Polly. I’ve read her weekly column for a long time, and her words, always cutting and honest and funny and poignant, resonated with me, no matter what the issue she was addressing. I wanted to know what she would think of my situation. I wanted to know what a stranger would say. I wanted someone to make me feel better, to make me feel less alone and flailing and confused. So I wrote her a letter.
Reading my letter, six months later, was almost as much of a shock as seeing it published. I am not cured. I am still looking for balance, but that balance is not only between anger and sadness. I still have questions that will never be answered and that leaves a gaping hole in me. There is still a part of me that gnaws, the part that shoulders the blame, but I know it’s nothing more than a demon. Mostly.
But if I wrote a letter to Polly today, it would be a very different letter. I’m not sure it would involve Joe at all. Of course, everything does, still, at some level, but it’s not everything.
The whole truth is not the letter, or Polly’s response. She gives some good advice, but a few paragraphs from me couldn’t possibly sum up the whole situation. She’s never met me, and she’s never met Joe. She doesn’t know the particulars, the countless tiny things that added up to the now. Because no one does.
I’m still processing seeing my words on the screen, without warning. I’m still trying to remember the place I was in when I wrote the letter, trying to think about what I was looking for. I’m wondering if he will read it, I’m worrying that he will read it, I’m wanting him to read it. Because when someone you loved the only way you knew how, and then some, cuts you out of their lives completely, there is no response but becoming a wound. But time and friends and family and love and generosity and wisdom and acceptance and words all have healing power, and together, they can start to heal that wound, and I’m so fortunate to have an abundance of all of those things in my life.
There are some parts of Polly’s response I don’t believe are true. There are some things in my own letter I no longer believe are true. But there are true things in both. The most important takeaways, though, for me, are that I am more person than wound. I am stronger and more assured and more hopeful and less scared than I was when I wrote that letter. And in six more months, I will be even better.
I struggled with whether to “go public” with my letter and Polly’s response. But, in the end, I believe that we learn from our mistakes, and my mistakes, as well as my achievements, are all a part of my experience. And I need to write about my experiences in order to fully process them. So I’m owning this experience, claiming this wound. I was there; that happened to me. But I’m not there anymore. I’ve moved on. And there are far better things ahead than those I’ve left behind. (Except Chief–he’ll always be the best.)
I’ll let Polly sum it up:
This tragic turn in your life gouged a big scratch across you. Own that scratch, the anger and the sadness there. Tell the truth about what it did to you. Because it was a gift, this premature exit from a fantasy world. It was your passage to a better life, lived among real people with heart and substance, where tarnished things are good enough, where you are good enough. You are good enough. You are good enough, right now. You are good enough. You are.