Sometimes, as a relationship ends, there is a moment when you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. The wind is knocked out of you and you’re simply stunned and wide-eyed. It’s before the flood of other emotions overwhelms and takes you down. It’s a bright pain, like a band-aid being ripped off, and you feel suddenly raw and exposed. And then comes the feeling of ground falling out from under your feet, of your world collapsing, and the tightness in your throat cracks and brings you to your knees and the tears come like they’re never going to stop.
Sometimes, it’s like that.
And even within all that heavy, dark, wild emotion — the sharp and sour churning of grief, betrayal, rage, despair — there is a warm glint that is untouched by all the rest. It’s like a heavy gold coin, or a brilliant stone. Its beauty and purity is unmarred by the surrounding storm.
That treasure is yours to keep.
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
Tis better to have loved and lost,
than never to have loved at all.
Tennyson wrote that in a poem which took him 17 years to complete. The poem came following the sudden death of his good friend.
I think of it this way: Every relationship holds a treasure, and no matter what else happens, no matter how you part, that treasure is yours to keep. It’s not forced optimism, or looking on the bright side and ignoring the sucky part. Sometimes the net result is a devastating loss. Sometimes things just deeply suck.
And: even when that’s true, it is also true that there is a treasure and that treasure is yours to keep. There was some experience of love, some light or insight, something incredibly dear and precious in the course of knowing that person. A moment of feeling fully alive, seen and understood, of being completely loved and delighted. That part is all still true, no matter what came after.
Here are some of the treasures I have collected:
- My first persimmon. (It was November, at night, and I was skeptical. It was delicious.)
- The beach in Marseille when I was 24 and the way he looked at me as he tucked a stray curl behind my ear.
- When we laughed so hard it hurt.
- That afternoon in LA with the sun streaming through the window and the words he said and the words I said back, and then the kiss.
It might take some time before you remember about the treasure. It’s taken me years to even notice this much. Sometimes it’s hard to see. It might be buried in the mud beneath murky waters. There’s no rush. You can take your time. Do what you need to do. It will always be there for you.
Savor all of it.
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