On Loss

I had a dream the other night that I was living in a house. A fixer-upper. The dream was very specific. I was making the house into what I wanted it to be. I filled bookshelves upon bookshelves. There were windows that took up an entire wall. I put a red sectional couch in front of the bookshelves. I painted the cabinets. At one point, I needed shelves hung, and then, Caleb was in my dream. He appeared quite casually. We were still married. He hung the shelves for me.

I stood back, surveyed my progress. The living room was stylish and beautiful. My awake self can remember this as well as my dream self. Then, Caleb’s new wife appeared. She was wearing a wedding dress. She looked beautiful. I told her as much. Then Caleb’s ex-girlfriend (the woman he dated before me, but who is now my friend) appeared. She was wearing the same dress, and it looked just as beautiful on her. I commented on how that dress looked beautiful on everyone.

Still in the dream, the ex-girlfriend who is now my friend, came to me, and together, we looked out the window. The house was at the top of a hill above a beautiful forested valley. I said to my friend, “This is everything I’ve wanted, but none of it is mine. It is all hers. I gave it to her.”

Even in my dream I wasn’t sad to lose Caleb, but I was sad to lose the dream of that house on the hill with a valley of greenery stretching out below it.

Even in my dream, Caleb’s new wife wore the wedding dress better than I had.

Book publication was a dream come true, but I didn’t experience a lot of the emotions that I expected to experience.

I had a book launch in NYC. I was on NYC public radio. The perfect friend accompanied me to New York, and we ate a lot of good food and went to The Strand where we took pictures of my book in the aisles. Everything had potential. So much potential.

It could have been that valley of greenery, but it wasn’t.

Writing the book was more beautiful than the release. The anticipation of the book was more beautiful than the release. To be honest, the release of a book is a bit like a wedding. The anticipation is such that the ritual cannot possibly live up to the hype.

I had tea with a friend the other day. She and her husband have a newborn, but her husband received a prestigious fellowship, so he’s away during the week and back on the weekend, which means that she’s single parenting a good portion of the time. She said to me, “How have you done this for so long?”

For a moment, I didn’t even realize that she was referring to single parenting. I thought she was referring to being alone.

Later, I said to her, “Are you lonely?” She looked at me with recognition. She said yes.

Loneliness is the great equalizer.

All of us get lonely.

I cut off contact with one of my best friends a while ago. I couldn’t have made any other decision. I had feelings. She dismissed them. I had more feelings. She dismissed those too, then made the discussion about her feelings. I was never allowed to have feelings, you see? Suddenly, I was left confronting the realization that maybe my tendency towards codependence wasn’t only reflected in my relationship with Caleb.

I still love her. I hope that we can reunite someday, but I know that I need her to come to me for that to happen. I know that I need her to tell me that she was wrong–not about everything necessarily–but at least about some of it. I don’t see that ever happening, so I suspect that she’s going to become part of a painful past rather than part of a peaceful present.

Another friend was visiting me from Seattle recently. She’s a therapist, but that’s not why I listen to her. I listen to her because she’s kind, and wonderful, and wise. She pointed out to me that we all get a little more defensive, a little more angry, when we’ve been pushed on something that we know to have some truth.

It’s rare for me at this point to experience hurt without anger, but I’m not angry with the friend I cut off contact with. She hasn’t pushed up against any of my raw spots. I believe, unequivocally, that she was wrong in how she treated me and in what she said to me. If I thought there had been some truth to what she’d said, I’d probably feel angry, but I don’t.

I’m just done.

There’s this other thing. There has been so much.

In July, after my book came out, Caleb put out a statement on Tumblr where he said that I abused him. It was an ill-written and ill-thought-out attempt to discredit me. It backfired on him greatly, but that wasn’t before it caused me a lot of hurt.

I went to a friend’s house–a man–and I said to him, “I think that I have only now acknowledged that he is never going to accept responsibility for what he did.” I broke into sobs, and my friend gave me an awkward hug.

Caleb is never going to acknowledge that he hurt me.

I cared about that male friend deeply. I let him into my home and my life. Later, I slept with a man younger than me, and I told my friend when he dropped off his dog for me to watch for the night. My friend said, “Well, you’re not going to see him again, are you?” I said that I thought that I might.

I did see that younger man again. And my friend grew petulant.

My friend didn’t want to date me, but he still wanted to have unlimited access to me. I walked on eggshells around him. One night, I cancelled plans with my friend to see the younger man, but I scrambled to make it up to my friend in the next day. Our friendship had been intense. It wasn’t romantic love, but I loved him. Looking back, I know that my codependence was rearing its ugly head.

My friend came to my house grumpy. He ate in silence. He didn’t express any gratitude for the meal that I had given him. And then he exploded.

Another friend who had dated him had cautioned me that he was angry. I had sidelined that caution, but she was right.

I haven’t spoken to him since that night.

Loneliness is also the great magnifier.

Take the consonants out of the word “loneliness” and it’s just “loss.”

Even now, I grapple with what I’ve lost. In his Tumblr post where he claimed that I abused him, Caleb also claimed to have left me. This is such a laughable claim, but there are obviously people who believe it or he wouldn’t be able to write it. His current wife must believe it, but more remarkably, his own family must believe it, though they were obviously present for the end of our marriage. What are his parents telling themselves in order to make this farce palatable?

My acknowledgment in my writing that I still loved Caleb must make him feel powerful. He can say “I left her” with confidence because he knows that I still loved him when I left him.

Abusive men are master manipulators.

Tonight, my son was washing dishes. He said, “Mom, can I make a joke that you probably won’t like?” I gave him the okay. He held up the bowl and said, “There’s a chip in this bowl. Did my dad do this?”

I started laughing, then said, “TOO FAR, DUDE.”

He said, “My dad would never let me make a joke like that, even if it didn’t have anything to do with you. He would say it’s too dark.”

I remembered how Caleb used dark jokes to charm me at the end. His dark jokes often disarmed me.

It doesn’t surprise me that he doesn’t let his own child make dark jokes. Dark jokes are best deployed when all hope has been lost.

I still have hope.

There was a rainstorm today. A gullywasher.

We all watch rain dump from a gutter on to a car. We all know how that feels.

All of us get lonely.