11.11.12. – INSTEAD

by angeliska on November 11, 2012

One year ago, today, we went to Marfa instead of getting married. My love and I. We went out there, to the big sky and dry desert to try to heal, to connect, to repair our bond. We had an amazing time, a beautiful journey. I thought that something about being under those bright stars, huddling together out in the cold wind, seeing so much beauty, exploring it all – I believed it was a magical spell that would bind us closer. I had so much hope for us, then. Despite everything that was going so wrong, I honestly never, not even for an instant, imagined that a year from now we’d be split apart. We had been together for seven years. Seven years that went by so swiftly, so (for the most part) very sweetly. All over now in a flash – poof! It still seems like a bad dream, an alternate reality from the twilight zone – a possibility that I’d never even really considered: that we would not survive this intact, that we would not be spending the rest of our lives together, happily ever after. Contemplating this current bizarro-world reality is like looking at my life through a broken funhouse mirror – skewed and strange and seemingly impossible. I’ve been waiting for the day when I can fully accept it, fully understand that the person I pledged my heart, my life and my future to has walked away from me, from all that I held in my open arms. That he chose something else.
I made a wish, a true wish, with my whole heart.
It was not granted.
We, who were supposed to be joined so completely on this day, are sundered, separate, alone. How could this be? My mind still doesn’t have the ability to comprehend it. What is this – this loss? Empty spaces echoing out where something used to be: a warm hand, the most familiar face, a body stretched out warm beside me all night long. What is this emptiness? I walk around all day, going through the motions, choking on that void, that hollowness that builds up in my chest until I feel as though I might crumple in on myself, fall apart. I don’t have answers. I don’t have much – a sinewy shred of survival instinct that keeps my head up, keeps me walking. I have love, still – for myself, for my good friends and family, for my animals, my plants. Oh, and I have memories. Memories that seem fresh as yesterday, memories that stop me in my tracks and make me want to fall to my knees: the way he used to look at me – so in love. I miss that. I miss it all, so much. I have these little snippets, a handful of cast-off snapshots from a vacation that was meant to be a happy recollection one day – we’d tell stories when we were old about how we went there and were saved, how we remembered how much we loved each other, how we found in each other the best company, the eternal companion.
But that’s not what happened, in the end.
Like Sugar says, “Acceptance is a small, quiet room.” I visit this room every day, several times a day. I repeat those words to myself like a mantra when my brain boggles, when my mind feels like it will break, trying to understand what the hell happened to my life, to our love. I go to that empty room and I sit with it, this thing that has happened. Sugar says, “Acceptance asks only that you embrace what’s true.” Not that you like it, or want it, or ever wished for it – but that you sit with it, stare at it directly, acknowledge that it exists. This has been very difficult for me. I read the words I wrote one year ago, today. I look at the pictures of us, and I just can’t fit it all together. It’s like a puzzle with too many pieces gone missing. It doesn’t make a picture anymore. I meant every word I wrote, I meant them with everything in me, everything that is me. How could that wish not be granted? Every time my mind goes, “What!? How…? Why?” I have to lead it by the hand back to that small, quiet room. My mind and I, we have to sit in time-out a lot, sitting with this ugly thing, this huge sense of loss. Somedays, I feel like an Alzheimer’s patient who has to be reminded every day that their spouse is gone, is not there with them anymore. My hands reach for him in our bed in the mornings before I’m completely awake. I still save articles that I think he would enjoy reading. I have to stop myself from buying him presents when I see something I know he would like. We’re not there yet – we’re really not anywhere. I have no idea how to enter that particular transition. It’s not something I ever wanted, or imagined I would have to do – to disconnect myself from someone who had become part of my heart. It seems so unnatural – an alien concept, a shard embedded deep in my palm. It’s one I cannot seem to unclutch. I am trying, though – to let it go. It is so, so hard. I don’t know how to do this.
Maybe it’s not necessary to know right now. I have to trust that the knowing, the understanding might come later. Maybe it’s only necessary, for the moment, to endure it. A very dear, very wise friend of mine told me something else I try to remember on a daily basis, from a text she sent me in the middle of the night, in one of my more desperately unhappy moments – she wrote:
“Keep your head down. This is not the time for analysis or big picture thinking. This is the part where you eat good food, exercise, read, watch movies, hug your pets, buy a new dress, cut your hair, put hours and days behind you and before you know it, you get stronger and far enough from ground zero to see the big picture. But for now, you’re in the thick of it, so keep your head down. Time is your best friend – but most definitely not your only one.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lain awake in the dark, scrolling back through my texts to find that one and reread it, remember it. It’s among some of the best advice I’ve been given, and I’ve been trying to follow it to the letter.
In the meantime, I mend holes in my clothes, I glue together broken teacups, I fix wonky table legs – as if these small repairs could somehow symbolically add it, to help me heal the broken parts of me. I walk around most days feeling like one of those gory cartoons where the cat has a giant shotgun-blasted hole through their torso that everyone can see through. When people ask me how I am, I get confused, because I forget that they can’t see it. I’ve come to really hate answering that question, even though I know it’s always well-meant. I want to answer honestly, and then I don’t want to. Don’t want to lay my tragedy on anyone. I usually go for something noncommittal like, “I’m happy to be here!” or, “I’m happy to see you!” Those things are true, and speak to what’s happening in that exact moment. Right? Ugh.
Recently, I discovered that though some reprehensible technological loop-hole, I’d (hopefully only temporarily?) lost years and years worth of photographs from my archives. So, so many years worth of memories. Gone, just like that. I’m praying for a solution/miracle that might allow me to recover them soon, but right now, they are out there floating in nothingness. All the photos I took on our trip to Marfa, our pre-emptive honeymoon for a wedding that never happened – all vanished. Like it never happened. Another hole, a lacuna – a space where we were, and now, are not. All I have to show we were ever there are these pithy instagrams, cheery snapshots that don’t really tell a story. We went here, we saw this, it was pretty, it was funny, we laughed. We held hands. We wandered down empty streets in ghost towns at sunset, drinking scotch out of fine cut-glass tumblers, like real outlaws. We drove on rough dirt roads in the black of night into the mountains in search of hot springs. We nearly set fire to our hotel room. We held each other. We whispered secrets. We missed our train because we were hunting for rocks. We enjoyed each other completely. Each day and night we spent in West Texas was truly a magical adventure, and I will always treasure the time we spent there. Maybe next year, I’ll be able to tell these stories. Right now, they’re lost to me, in so many ways.
Here are some of the things we saw:
Adios, Motel Bien Venido!
Oak-leaf datura seedpod
Amazing bank vault door, minus the bank.
La llave
Every hotel room ought to have a fireplace!
The year of my birth. Translation, por favor?
Los angeles y el ojo omnisciente! Clearly, I am in the right place.
Door sentinel
Skull made of skulls
White buffalo
Ridiculous bobcat.
Hunter's embrace
A beautiful cowgirl & her walleyed friend.
Train bridge over the Pecos
I’ll spend this year’s 11.11 high up on a hill, alone. Instead. Instead of walking down an aisle in a white dress with tears of joy streaming down my face as I prepare to marry the man I love. This year, too, there is no magical cave filled with all the people we love and cherish most gathered around us. There is no majestic valley where we will dance and celebrate into the night. Those things live in a box, a hope chest filled with cobwebs and dust collecting on a veil and wax orange blossoms slowly disintegrating. Instead, there is this howling sound. Instead, here is me and my heart. Still here, still beating, but not joined. Instead, I came out to the place where I come from, the land that has always welcomed me as its child, despite being harsh and forbidding for most but the hardiest of creatures. My plan is to camp by myself out at Enchanted Rock – to do healing rituals for myself, to listen to the wind blow, to embrace this newfound solitude I never asked for or desired. Despite my resistance, I have found that there are aspects of it that I have come to treasure. This past year has been repeatedly forcing me to face all my worst fears head-on, and one by one, I have been meeting them on the road. They leer and jabber and spit at me and I walk through them, dissolve them, pierce and pin them with sharp swords. I sit with them, too.
Offer tea. Breathe deep. Let them go.


I know this room you speak of. And I see you. I witness you, there, in that room, and outside of it. What a beautiful way to express what happens when the bottom falls out. I wish you much peace, and much joy, in that order.

by emma on November 11, 2012 at 9:54 am. Reply #

Lovely photos as always but after reading what you wrote I can’t help but feel the bitter sweetness in them.
I’m sorry for all this, it’s always very confusing and hurtful but know that you will come out on the other side a stronger person.
Much love to you.

by Mrs D on November 11, 2012 at 10:11 am. Reply #

I’ve been there, not just to Enchanted Rock, but also to that place in your mind that won’t stop reeling from the involuntary break from a life I wanted to continue with someone. My moment of pure acceptance was swigging a bottle of champagne alone on a beach along Puget Sound at sunset, January 2005. That year ended up being the best year of my life. I have quite similar visions for you.

by SimpleA on November 11, 2012 at 10:42 am. Reply #

Raw and lovely as usual. Be well. You’ll get better, dear Angel.

by Camille on November 11, 2012 at 11:06 am. Reply #

I have nothing but great expectations for your life. After my parents’ divorce I put the idea of happiness out of my mind. It took a while to figure out that love operates on a separate plane from marriage, or plans, or desires. There will be light whether or not we have light bulbs. Broken hearts don’t heal, you just incorporate the break, but luckily love doesn’t depend on a perfect match or soul mate. I think you are amazing and a very strong person and I hope you can love yourself as much as your army of buds love you. A million kinfolk kisses to you Angel baby.

by ethan on November 11, 2012 at 11:19 am. Reply #

i love you so much.

by lau on November 11, 2012 at 11:20 am. Reply #

I feel this. I’m in fact in the same place, or more like same exact time, as you.

by V on November 11, 2012 at 11:50 am. Reply #

Enchanted Rock has held many fond days, and especially nights, for me. But it is special to me because years ago I made a similar pilgrimage there for similar reasons. There was a noise in my head that wouldn’t stop until I sat up there and lost track of time, and simply tracked stars. And coyote howls. Please say hello to it for me.

by Jason Glass on November 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm. Reply #

Love you, Angel. Keep putting those hours behind you. Let me know if you want to talk to someone about recovering lost files, I might be able to help.

by Wiley on November 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm. Reply #

Hold on tight midear x

by Misha on November 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm. Reply #

Thank you for writing this. Sending you love and strength.

by Christine on November 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm. Reply #

Such incredibly beautiful, bittersweet writing. It’s transporting; your words somehow express so many things that I am feeling. Keep on.

by BB on November 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm. Reply #

My heart breaks in reading this latest missive, but my soul fills up. What is it about reading about others’ tales of sadness and loss that somehow soothe our own broken bits? Maybe it’s your bravery and the beauty and truth of your authentic expression. It gives me hope. Hope for me. Hope for you. Hope for all of us. You are such a treasure in this world and I wish you soothing moments of calm and sweet laughter in the midst of this healing time. Thank you a million times for sharing your journey with us. It is healing and it is powerful. xxooo

by Tristy on November 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm. Reply #

So sorry Angel. My heart is heavy reading this, but I know great things will unfold for you on the other side of it. Michael and I split for a while several years ago, and I remember it as the hardest thing I went through–I remember looking for his hand in the morning, every morning. I found this quote (and it was only the first part of it, but it was solace to me):
“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.” In retrospect, that hard time led me to lots of growth and understanding, a ton of new friends and interests, and greater compassion. So, I wish those same things for you. xo

by Shanna on November 11, 2012 at 8:12 pm. Reply #

I am keeping you in my thoughts today and sending you as much love and strength as I can.
Enchanted Rock has long been both a symbolic and physical life landmark for me, wherein I celebrate victories or come to terms with the undesired. I hope you find a bit of peace on your journey there; time, however, is the only true panacea.
Remember that you are appreciated and loved deeply by many across the globe “and remember, far maiden, should you need us…”

by Monika! on November 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm. Reply #

“When things fall apart, consider the possibility that life knocked it down on purpose. Not to bully you, or to punish you, but to prompt you to build something that better suits your personality and your purpose. Sometimes things fall apart so better things can fall together.” -Sandra King
I was married to another man once upon a time. Getting divorced after the wedding and promises of marriage and children? Hardest time in my life. Harder even than losing my father to death.
I know your heartbreak. I’m so sorry for it. Time will help. Too bad we don’t have a time machine…
Music will help.

by Bean on November 12, 2012 at 1:02 am. Reply #

Ach, I feel for you Angel, this is sad sad news.
You honour us by writing of it here, and to be able to paint your artful words and tell us your truth speaks of a determination in you and a strength deep underneath all this pain that wavers not.
Time does change things. After a deal of it has passed, you will start to feel excited for the unknown coming days again, even if it doesn’t seem like it now.
Here’s what I wrote when I was going through a similar thing: http://intothehermitage.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/melted-snow.html
I had to leave my beloved wheeled home, though – be glad of your home 🙂 It’s a solace.
And just months after writing this, my world was filled with the best and most beautiful love I’ve known, and which I couldn’t have dreamt would be waiting there. Life brings us the best of surprises after the worst of times.
With much love and fists of earth
Rima x

by Rima on November 12, 2012 at 2:37 am. Reply #

Dear Angel,
I have no words of wisdom. I know nothing.
I’m just so sorry this has been such a weird, difficult year for you. My hope is that things will shift now toward better days. I offer my support & warm wishes.

by Amy on November 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm. Reply #

We don’t know each other that well, but I wish I could offer you solace. I hope some prayers offered up will be good enough.

by Stephanie on November 12, 2012 at 8:06 pm. Reply #

Much love to you. Breathing. Time.

by Julie on November 13, 2012 at 10:40 am. Reply #

I wish there were more I could say to offer succor, honey, but I am so sorry about your hurt. I believe it wise that you spent time in a place of beauty and solitude. Such rituals should assist you along the path of healing. Keep nurturing yourself.
Much love,

by April Violet on November 13, 2012 at 11:35 am. Reply #

Angel, I know about trying to piece together a shattered puzzle, and missing so many pieces. I used the same phrasing when my relationship recently disintegrated, incredibly quickly and without warning. Having been through the typical process- growing apart, fighting, losing respect, losing purpose and sense of fun, I wasn’t prepared for something that was so GOOD for so long to be over in an instant. There is nothing anyone can tell you to make it better. But I’ll repeat words from someone who is much more adept at them than I. From Papercutter Jack W. in New Orleans:
‘How fine to think the thing that’s coming will make this calibre of good look so shabby and impoverished. You’ve seen nothing of love’s riches. And what second best for you will be richer than the likes of me shall ever see in this life. You are destined for a love that is so rare and fine, few ever get it. I wish you were a rich woman and doubted me, that I would be rich when I won a wager with you on the fortune that awaits you. You have only to choose what chocolate to first eat from a rich assortment. Only your aching heart forbids you to see this. There is nothing holding you back.’
I hope you too take these words to heart, because they are true, true, true.

by Bridget (lanternamagica) on November 13, 2012 at 11:44 am. Reply #

Sending all my love to you, wonderful woman. So sorry for your big hurt.

by Susan on November 14, 2012 at 12:43 am. Reply #

You have such a beautiful open spirit. I relate so much
to your sadness, as I’m going through the same thing myself. Oddly enough my world came crashing down around the same time it happened to you. Your words so eloquently express what I feel as well. Thank you for opening your heart and I hope we’ll both soon see a glimmer of light in the darkness.

by Jmor on November 14, 2012 at 12:45 am. Reply #

The Henry James letter, as I call it, is good to consider:
“Don’t melt too much into the universe, but be as solid and dense and fixed as you can. We all live together, and those of us who love and know, live so most. We help each other—even unconsciously, each in our own effort, we lighten the effort of others, we contribute to the sum of success, make it possible for others to live. Sorrow comes in great waves—no one can know that better than you—but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us it leaves us on the spot and we know that if it is strong we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes and we remain. It wears us, uses us, but we wear it and use it in return; and it is blind, whereas we after a manner see. My dear Grace, you are passing through a darkness in which I myself in my ignorance see nothing but that you have been made wretchedly ill by it; but it is only a darkness, it is not an end, or the end. Don’t think, don’t feel, any more than you can help, don’t conclude or decide—don’t do anything but wait.”

by Mildred Crow on November 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm. Reply #

I know all too well how you feel.

by Eker Shrift on November 21, 2012 at 9:31 am. Reply #

“Keep your head down…” that whole text sounds like some of the best advice to live by I’ve ever heard. I think I’ll try to integrate that more often into my life. Thanks for sharing the wisdom.

by Gabriel on November 30, 2012 at 9:47 pm. Reply #

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