dear hilary: don’t live in an abandoned house

Dear Hilary,

What would you say to someone if they told you that they had trouble moving on after the end of something? What would you say, if, say, someone told you that they had trouble moving on after a breakup? What would you say, if, say, someone told you that they kept wondering if it was even possible to find what they’re looking for, or if it just sailed away?

Love,
The someone

Dear The someone,

I’m so sorry that a beautiful thing ended for you. And I am so very sorry that one ended in your life, that it was one that made you happy or excited or terrified or all three. I’m sorry for the times it made you lie in bed awake wondering if you were absolutely the most unloveable thing to walk the earth. I’m sorry for how it made you narrow your eyes at the beautiful Ralph Lauren clad couples holding hands while drinking cappuccino out of tiny cups at Eastern Market. I’m sorry for what it made you think when you saw more engagement announcements or baby shower invitations or “generally taking the next socially approved step into adulthood!” posters plastered all over your friends’ lives. I’m sorry for the small seeds of bitterness that it left behind.

I was talking to a wise woman in my life the other day about just these things, and finally, after going around and around in circles, I finally blurted out – “Look! Doesn’t it prove that I’m not worth it? If I put myself out there, if I risked it, if I was there, caring, and he didn’t want it? ISN’T THAT THE FINAL MEASURE OF ME, AFTER ALL?”

And that stopped me, Someone. It stopped me dead. Where had that self emerged from? Where was that voice whispering in my ear that all those Ralph Lauren couples and socially approved Facebook statuses and altogether enviable people in their gleaming kitchens and offices and parks throwing Frisbees with their beautiful children – they got it right, and me, well, where is the next open cat adoption agency and bottle of cheap wine?

When a beautiful thing ends, we often do one of two things: we blame them or we blame us. Sometimes we blame both. We tell ourselves that if only we were cooler, groovier, more fabulous, they wouldn’t have left. It’s a flaw inside us. Or we tell ourselves that if only they weren’t such a jerk, a tool, a massive loser, they wouldn’t have left. It’s a flaw inside them. Or we tell ourselves, as we sit in front of the mirror thinking, “there can’t be anything worse” – we say it’s just both of us in this mess: I’m not worthy, and you’re a tool. And the cycle goes round and round until we can’t breathe for all the lies in our heads.

The beautiful thing ended because of both of you and because of neither of you. The beautiful thing ended because it was not what is. It ended because, well, it ended. Don’t go too near that abandoned house just yet. Let it stand for a little while. Let it have its winter, and its summer, its falling leaves and its budding peonies. The beautiful thing that just ended is your abandoned house. Don’t drive by it every day, sweetheart. Don’t live in the abandoned house, wandering its hallways, telling yourself that this was where he said he loved me or this is where we kissed  or but if I had just… or if only he… You’ll only drive yourself crazy looking for answers where you can’t find them.

What you must tell yourself, even if you don’t believe it yet, is that this is not the end of your worth. This is not about your worth. This is not about your wonder. This is not about your gorgeous, glowing, terrible, messy, miracle self. This is just about two people who met, who loved, who fought, and who, ultimately, abandoned the house that was their relationship. Maybe forever, maybe just for a time.

That’s what this is: your beautiful self and their beautiful self, not living in that house anymore. There isn’t an answer about your ultimate value in that house. There isn’t an answer about what went wrong and who did what. There isn’t an answer about whether someone will love you tomorrow or the next day.

There is just you, bending beneath the weight of this new experience. There is just you, building something out of what has happened to you. There is just you, not living in the abandoned house anymore, but walking forward, into the world, into the light, into what lies ahead.

I believe you’ll wake up, many mornings from now, and find that you see the story a bit more like that: two people, who loved, and left, and who are transformed but not undone. I believe you will glow more because of it. I believe you’ll be radiant walking forward, and you’ll kiss the abandoned house goodbye. Because you’re worth so much. And you’ll know it.

Love,
hilary

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