I Left Him
This isn’t a story about female empowerment. About me choosing to leave a man. This is a story about how I left someone behind. He’s my brother.
These days I think my biggest problem is not being able to land a job. And when I sit in my warm apartment that I share with my partner on my oversized couch — I forget. About the pieces of my life I’ve left behind. I’ve moved on from. But sometimes they come on overload. Like this time.
My biggest problem isn’t if I’m going to be able to find a job. My biggest problem is wondering if I’ll be able to manage some relationship with my father before he dies.
But these are things you don’t talk about. These are private things you hide behind closed doors. Because you have been told that people ‘can’t handle’ these things. You have to suffer in silence alone. And I believe that’s wrong.
I have learned so much these past three months, in the moments of time between my oversized couch applying for jobs and physical therapy. I have learned something strikingly empowering about witnessing your worth.
That when you value who you are, who you’ve become, maybe even, who you’ve always been — you don’t just recognize everything that you’ve overcome. You start to recognize all of the things you’ve done wrong.
While you reconcile the fact that you don’t have your shit together, you actually start to own your shit too. Face your demons head-on. Because if you were strong enough to run away, then you’re strong enough to stay. And I’ve been running. I’ve been hiding, and lying to myself. For a long time.
There is someone I love, a thirty minute car ride away, who I haven’t seen in two years. A brother I’ve buried in the recesses of my memory so my heart doesn’t ache.
A brother who’s diaper I changed. A brother who came to my defense when the fighting started. A brother who bothered the hell out of me. A brother who joked he was my ‘big’ sibling when he outgrew me. A brother who needed a sister to be there. But he got a sister who left him to save herself.
And I needed to. I’m not excusing the circumstances that led me to leave. Because I couldn’t breathe. Because I had no mind of my own. Because if I had stayed I would’ve lost myself completely. So I left to fully find myself.
We tried to see each other. We tried to talk. We tried to keep our relationship up. But it wasn’t the same. And when the tension escalated with my father, to a point I could no longer take, I stopped all communication. My brother became a casualty of the invisible verbal war. He got left behind.
And the longer a silence lasts, the harder it is to break it. The harder it is to pick up a phone. ‘He doesn’t pick up my calls. He doesn’t need me anymore. They’re telling him not to call me back. I’m the bad person.’ Your mind races with all of the possibilities. And the silence extends the miscommunications.
Until you’re too afraid to reach out. Until you forget their phone number. Until you bind up the pain and lock it away. Until you forget it completely. Until someone reminds you and breaks it open completely. And I’ve been breaking open over these past three months.
Facing what worthiness means. That my life isn’t tied up in a number of likes or the income statement I may or may not receive at the end of the month. My life is defined by the actions I choose to take each day to be better.
To live better. And it’s easy to be better for those who don’t know the intimate ins and outs of your existence. But that’s the thing that someone cracked open in me this week. That our private behind-the-scenes aren’t actually ‘private.’ That all of our experiences are shared. Are universal.
That what is happening to you right now has happened before to someone else. That it may be happening again to someone you don’t even know right now. That our experiences are shared across the barriers that divide us and aim to separate us. That we are connected in our humanity and when we see that we start to change our hushed mutter of ‘only me’ to a sigh of ‘me too.’
I share my life with you because my experience may be yours. And we are not alone in this. We need to not be alone in this. Because acknowledging the mess and being okay there is what actually comes to heal us. I will not speak for anyone else except myself here because that’s what is fair.
But when I was ‘living the dream’ making money from my laptop last year, I wasn’t happy. I was more isolated. I created this image that I’d ‘made it’ and now I had to upkeep it. I couldn’t open my skeleton-filled closet only to be met with gasps from those seeing my life as nothing other than ‘perfect.’
We are told and conditioned to believe that when we are ‘making it’ or ‘having it all’ our problems cease to exist. They fade away. But dear friend, our problems never go away. Shit will always hit the fan and the point of our lives is to not disconnect from who we are when it does. And it will.
Having the life I thought I wanted didn’t teach me any of this. But being an unemployed entrepreneur applying to jobs I don’t even know I want, on an oversized couch in a warm apartment I share with my partner, in between my physical therapy appointments is when I learned. About real life.
From the strangers on the internet I’ve been talking to. Because lo and behold, I will admit to you another fact I would have hid from you a few months ago. That I have been tutoring students in English online for just over a month now to make a little bit of extra cash as I wait this period out.
And the craziest thing about this ride is that I’ve done no teaching of English. Because when these beautiful strangers around the world read my profile they see ‘life coach.’ And we start talking about life. In fact, I don’t even know how it first came out of my mouth. Someone asked me, ‘So what is it you do?’ I thought about the encounters I’ve had the past three years.
I thought about my journey from life coach to business coach to copywriter and finally back to life coach.
And I said, ‘I help people express themselves. Be confident in who they are. Learn how to communicate and connect with those around them.’ To which I was met with nods and stories. About the human things that connect us.
About not feeling enough. About what success means. About caring too much. About learning to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. About wanting people to understand you. Every unique person in every unique country I spoke to shared a similar human experience and concern.
Because unique is universal. And I think about the timeliness and the deep personal meaning of the work that I’m doing and what these incredible human beings are teaching me about life. About our connectedness.
Why do we want to separate ourselves from it? Divide, judge, discriminate, run away and be better than that? I don’t get it. And I guess I never have.
My mother was Jewish. And even though I pray to Jesus, I know that my origins stem from Israel. I remember reading my college thesis to professors who were eyeing the sweat on my face as I tried to explain how connection and understanding could create peace (and perhaps?) solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. I don’t think they believed me but they let me graduate with a minor in Middle East Studies. Now I tutor individuals from Arab countries.
Life’s a circle and we are all interconnected. We are all webbed together. And it was one such individual I met who helped crack me open this week. Who shared his love of family. Who I felt comfortable sharing my story with. Who spoke the words out-loud I’ve had on repeat in my head. That it’s time and I’m ready. That somewhere inside of me there’s an unafraid part.
Ready to go the thirty minutes and see the brother I left behind.
I’m ready to recognize this space that’s been left blank in my life. My friend said it right. ‘You have a brother. You have someone who needs you. You have someone who’s looking for you.’ And the memories flooded back.
From the time I had to bundle up his toddler self after cracking open all of the windows in the dead of winter because I had caused kitchen smoke to envelop the entire house to the last time I heard him say ‘Hey D.’
I’ve been too afraid to go back and pick up the pieces of what I left behind.
But I’ve been learning from those who support and uplift me about the power I have inside of me. Sometimes we can’t recognize how ready or capable we are to do something. And more than creating my next steps or finding the right job right now, what I need is to say hello to my brother.
If my life and what I’m doing with it are so intertwined these days, then my actions have to reflect that. My heart is in it all. And if my heart is open to those around me, my heart has to be open to myself most of all. And my heart wants, it craves, to spark a reconnection with someone close.
I guess this is what this thing called life coaching teaches you. That more than helping strangers solve their own life problems, it puts you in connection with such amazing human beings who help you see who you are and help you put your life back together piece by piece. Not perfect. But in a way that highlights where it’s been shattered and where you’ve chosen to remake it.
That there is a beautifully infinite and undefined connection in all of our stories. In all of our choices. In the decisions we make to face ourselves.
Speaking of. A nonprofit came into my orbit last week, shared in a social media post by a former college professor, about that. About facing ourselves and the choices we’ve made. About fostering an environment of empathy.
And what I’m realizing is that it’s not just empathy for others but, also, empathy for ourselves. Maybe most importantly. Being able to grow ourselves up enough to put ourselves in our shoes and realize what we can do. What we’ve always been capable of doing. Being the bigger one.
Taking up the torch of connection and love strong enough to break down the walls and barriers keeping us safe and secure. Getting uncomfortable so that we can relish in the revelation that we are all interconnected. That we, deep down, are all wondering if we’re enough or doing it right or capable or making things better or worse? We all want to know and no one is sharing.
So before I write extensively on the topic of not having my shit together and how okay that is because no one else does either (sshhh!) — I’m going to let it all hang out. And be in the pre-mess of: I don’t know what is going to happen. Opening up my life in the midst of it all to let you in. To let me in. To let my brother in if he happens to read this. To let a little humanity in.
And maybe connection and understanding is possible. Maybe love and support can change things. Maybe not all at once. But one step at a time. With me. With my brother. With my father. We’re the first steps. So are you.
We don’t have to go out and create a business that changes the world only to lose ourselves in the process and forget what we were even after in the first place. And what we’re often after is to make an important change happen. The most important: in us. With what we choose to do. And I choose to stay. To not run away anymore. To go back and get who I left behind.
What do you choose? It can be the smallest thing. In fact, it should be the smallest thing. The slightest action no one notices but is so big it terrifies us in our sleep just thinking about it. A word, a note, a phone call, a hello.
And the most important thing we need to remember in all of this is that not a single one of us is ever alone in this. Someone else has been here already. Someone else has laid the path. Someone else has done the thing that terrifies us. And they have survived. Maybe we are a reincarnation of that story manifesting itself time and time again. We are all legendary stories.
We need to remind each other of that. That underneath our gender, race, ethnicity, sex, orientation, origin, income bracket, net worth, class, country, political affiliation, religion — we are all living entities of the human race. One world not united because we forget to remember. So will you start to remember with me?
That underneath the barriers and blockades we make we are all the same. Facing the same worries and harsh realities, possibility the same worries and harsh realities the person next to us on the train, subway, bus, car, plane, bench, sofa is facing. We never know until we start opening up and sharing our not-so-private behind-the-scenes. Let’s let our experiences be universal.
Interwoven and connected so that we can support each other and love each other whole. So that broken puzzle pieces stop walking around this world looking for their missing counterparts. So that women realize they don’t have to dominate their way to the top because they have no one to prove themselves to. So that men realize they don’t have to hide their emotions because they don’t need to shoulder the burden of stability for everybody.
So we can be all of who we were ever meant to be. Unedited. Stripped. Alive. Undone. Broken. Beautiful. Worthy. Especially in the mess of it all.
These days I am holding up the mirror. I am working on cultivating a message and creating a movement where we can witness the strength that lies in our willingness to be vulnerable with one another. To bear witness to the humanity that connects us all. Because it is there. It is real. So I’ll leave you with the words of someone, on the other side of the world, whom I had the pleasure of meeting this month. She put it all into perspective for me.
‘There are people out there who look at the world differently and see the bigger picture. People who use the gift of the mind to think deeper and see things differently, like the connection between us. People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world. They are the ones who do.’
It starts with us. Choosing to be different than the way we were told to be, conditioned to be. And we cannot do it alone. So will you hold up the mirror?
Because we hold up the mirror to see ourselves. The human in us all.