Broken, but Better
It was around 11:47 when it happened.
I used to expect these more often, when I felt my sins were too large and needed more repayment, more penance. I kneeled and took my place, asking, pleading for forgiveness.
I owed her that much. I owed her more, too, but in my debtor state, I could only lend my ear and my apologies. It was the repayment I could afford — perhaps still selfish, yes, but at least the main thought was still around servicing my debts.
In the beginning, I used to look at them like contrivances — sure, I “owed” that, but I would grit my teeth and frown.
It was November 25th, 2013 when I came around as I should have — began to, at least. I sat in my car, which used to be ours, and I cried on the phone to her. I needed her advice, I needed that which was not in me. I needed her forgiveness — the excusing of my broken husk as I professed that I loved this new woman, who just two days earlier had rended my heart deeply with her callous words and shallow insensitivity.
The next time I would advance as I needed was April 2014. I made a longer drive, simply to gift and to provide company. I needed nothing, I thought — but I needed forgiveness, still. I came, humbled, accepting the gift of time. I ate a bowl of froot loops, sobbing into it about the broken shell I had become. There was no other woman anymore, no looking for advice or seeking help — just the final, sobering realization I needed to make years earlier — that I was broken.
Broken is a difficult thing to be sometimes. To have things so well, and yet to feel emptiness. To be given a tremendous gift and to shun it because you are not sure how to receive it.
This is perhaps overly harsh to me — I made my mistakes but I also held up well over time. It would not hurt had I not done so, no? There would be no pain if I had not accepted the gift to some extent. I did well enough by the gift I was given that my spurning of it was a painful act.
Anyways, I was broken. I still am, in many ways, because this right here, this recording, is not the act of a solidly built person. Then again, maybe that’s alright.
I sobbed into those froot loops, seeking the one thing I was sure I would never have — her forgiveness. I had caused pain, received pain, but I spent nearly a full year with my head held high, marching onward as though nothing was damaged and I was still a complete, whole individual.
This was the turning point for me, in so many ways. I admitted at last what I hid from for so long — over the years, I had become broken. Pieces of me shattered off whole, left behind, embedded in the hearts of others, scraps left in the situations and times that challenged me. My response to adversity was to leave behind the piece of me that was hurt or damaged. Leaving a job where I was no longer cared for — a piece of me behind. Leaving the rebound when I regained my sanity — a piece of me, behind. Leaving that house, the one that would have been…a piece of me, behind.
On that Friday night in April, 2014, I accepted what I had long tried to deny.
I was incomplete. I had spent nearly a year flailing in different directions to add meaning and significance where there was none. I spent decades before that trying to mend missing patches of my life — a broken parental relationship, the gap left behind by my dead father, the feeling that I would never amount to anything, and the various betrayals and heartaches of my early adulthood. The rotating roommates, the nearly decimated friendships, the barely-present husks of friendships I had outside of the lonely life I chose and built for myself.
I spent my early twenties believing as an article of faith that I had not chosen those paths. The people that left did so of their own volition and hurt. The relationships that shattered did so because of others.
No. In some cases, the scales tilt more to one side than the other, but I play a role in each case. I chose to live like a hermit, too tired to live the life that eventually woke me up. I chose to hide in my fantasy worlds when real life was too hard to deal with. I chose to let the people that were confused struggle on their own, and when they found their way out without me, I let them go on that path.
But life is funny in that way, you know? Those paths quite frequently crossed with mine again. In many cases, they came back around, and at a time when I was better equipped to handle that.
The truth is, I gave up many of my best years to my own stupidity — because I felt I had everything figured out and that if the world wasn’t playing by my rules, well, then fuck the world.
It took losing everything to realize I hadn’t lost everything.
I lost a job and a romance. In 72 hours. To top off a year in which I had lost the love, a home, and my sense of belonging within the structure of my family. Not since I was eleven years old had I lost so much in one go.
It took that for me to appraise my life honestly. I have a good life — did then, still do now, in fact — but I had lived it in such a broken way that I allowed myself to ignore the good things I did have.
I ignored her, the life we built. I did that. That was me.
I could no longer hold my head up high and pretend to be moving down the right path, but you cannot step backwards either.
As I sobbed into those froot loops, I looked up at her — the only one who has ever, to date, returned my love and affection with the same degree of reverence, respect, and intensity, I could see the pain etched there on her face. I did that. I was the one crying, but she was the one that should have been. She was hurt, by me, because I allowed the downs to drown the ups and I took that into my hands.
I uttered the most sincere, heartfelt apology I had ever spoken. I asked for forgiveness I needed more than the pretend-blessing of a false idol in church.
I was broken. Could I ever be forgiven for it, for my behavior because of it?
She told me it could be done, that we had understanding and within us there would always be that piece. I was broken, but then again, so was she, and so was everyone else on this little blue rock. She did what she always did — not repairing, not fixing, but accepting. What I always valued but could never put into words — she accepted me, my words, my feelings, and gave them the room they needed to breathe so that they did not strangle me in my sleep.
I’d like to think that gave her some solace too. I’d cried to her that cold November night, parked outside of Brewer’s Cabinet, about Melanie and the pain I felt that I loved Melanie and only she could tell me that I would be okay, no matter the outcome. Only she knew me well enough to say that, and only she, even with the burdens I’d saddled her with, would accept that and give me that room to breathe.
She’s the only woman I’ve ever cried in front of, truth be told. I would have done so with Melanie, but well — she made it clear the space between us was unsafe. The one time I got close, she tried to smother those feelings in their sleep, before they could awaken, and I let her.
So when 11:47 rolled around and the bottletop popped from my phone, I let her breathe. I tried to, at least. Because I’d had a good, but hard week, one full of progress forward on relationships, and yet some stumbles due to the digital era in which we live.
I’d been thinking about it a lot. I always have, but now properly. In the intereceding 500 days, I’ve come to accept my place. I was broken. I still am broken. Some of my relationships do nothing one way or the other to change that. Some of my relationships, the ones I put my faith and trust in, have only made that more true.
But at least, for now, I can say that I appreciate there is that one relationship. The one where my brokenness didn’t make me any less. The one where my neuroses didn’t make me a monster. I was just hard to deal with at time, but that could be ok, and accepted.
In a world where I don’t get to feel that so often, I do often miss it.
And I’m ever more appreciative for the gift of that understanding and acceptance now that I realize that it was what I was being offered that whole time.
I still regret not being able to seize it as I should have, but in the end — it is what it is.
And some days, I think to myself that it’s bullshit that I couldn’t have accepted that sooner.
Hindsight is 20/20, and in the end, I own what I did.
I was broken. I still am, but at least I can hold my pieces up and believe that someday, someone else will come along and make me feel like she did — that turning one over wasn’t a mistake.