And then something dawned on me…a thought as enlightening as though someone had turned on a bright, illuminating light in the middle of the pitch black room I had been living in for FIVE LONG YEARS. I scooped up my Blackberry and began tapping out a text.
“For years I’ve been beating my head against the wall, trying to figure out what I could do to make myself worthy of you,” I wrote.
“Tonight, for the first time, I realized that YOU’RE not worthy of ME.”
Without hesitating, I hit Send.
About a week after I sent that text, I received a phone call from him. Then another. Then another. All went unanswered. Then…an email. Which, considering this was not a guy who went out of his way to express himself to another human being via the written word, was somewhat astonishing. It read:
“I do hope that you are doing well...and I miss your voice...”
Then, almost as an afterthought, a second email came through less than a minute later.
“And for the record…I think you are mean for breaking up with me again.”
Still…I didn’t respond. I couldn’t. I had used every word in the English language trying to express myself to this guy over the past five years, and had given my heart to him only to have it handed back too many times to turn back now. “You break it, you buy it” didn’t exactly apply to this relationship. And while I always encourage women to be vulnerable and open and to take risks when it comes to love…this relationship has taught me that if you keep handing your heart to someone and they keep handing it back, or worse, breaking it – it’s okay to protect yourself and your emotions by removing yourself and your presence from their life. And if someone keeps spitting game AT you but bringing nothing but the same TO you, it’s okay to forfeit and walk away. The right one for you will ALWAYS handle your heart with care and treasure it for the precious gift that it is. The problem with some people is that you hand them your love in a Tiffany’s box and they treat it like it came from a Cracker Jack box. And those types of people are simply not worthy of your time.
After his numerous attempts to reach me went unanswered, he finally stopped trying…and fell silent…leaving the space between hanging on and moving on a little smaller.
And as fate would have it, about a month A.B. (After Big) – it came time for me to move.
As I mentioned in Part 1, the house I had been living in belonged to my best friend, Jason…who also happens to be the best friend of Mr. Big. And Big and Jason were roommates before Jason and I were, so the room I was moving out of was once Mr. Big’s. Yes, I had been residing, on and off, for nearly three years, right smack dab in the middle of my X-Files. And Big’s spirit permeated every room of that house. The hat he left behind in one of his many departures from Nashville to “greener pastures”…the giant Webster’s Dictionary he liked to reference during reading and writing to expand his vocabulary (he is a voracious learner)…the memories, both good and bad, of our times spent there together…and apart.
Many of you have written to me, telling me your own stories of love and heartbreak and loss and the #1 question you always ask is: “How do you move on?”
I was lucky in the “moving on” department, because while I was working to move on emotionally, I also had the good fortune of moving on physically, which I feel is a key ingredient to the moving on process. You can’t TRULY move on and get excited about new opportunities life has in store if you’re still physically living in a time capsule of everything that has come before. But here’s another key to moving on, one that is often overlooked or ignored in the attempt to outrun the pain of letting go. YOU MUST ALLOW YOURSELF TO GRIEVE IT IF YOU WANNA LEAVE IT. If you wanna heal from it, you’re gonna have to deal with it – plain and simple. There’s a quote from “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert that I think sums up this process perfectly:
"Someday you're gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You'll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing..." ~Elizabeth Gilbert
You can’t move PAST something until you walk right up to it and move THROUGH it. You must confront your hurt, and your loss, and your sadness…sit down with them…look them dead in the eye…allow yourself to feel every emotion without judgment…and before long, you won’t have to worry about letting go of your heartbreak, because it will have let go of YOU. Or in other words – What’s done is done. You can’t erase it, so you might as well face it. Take your heartbreak to dinner, allow yourself to heal…then leave it with the bill!
In my situation, I was afforded the rare opportunity to take one last tour through the museum that was mine and Big’s relationship. Everything in the house I was leaving behind was another relic…another piece of history in the long, run-on sentence of Us that could never decide how it wanted to end. And I knew this was, perhaps, my very last opportunity to really sit down with my broken heart and unresolved feelings and allow them to dance among the memories of what almost was one final time.
So I did.
The place on the couch from that day three years earlier when he sat down directly across from me on the loveseat and told me earnestly how he knew he had made a mistake…had “swung at the wrong pitch,” as he put it…by running from my arms directly into the arms of another during a moment in time when we had gotten particularly close and he couldn’t take the heat. Problem was, by that time he realized the error of his ways, I had already moved on myself…proving that once again, our timing couldn’t be more off. Still…that day I got to express to him for the first time how much he had hurt me, and I saw the remorse in his eyes…but as always, it came one moment too late.
I sat in that space for a long moment, recalling every word of the conversation that day so long ago…then I moved on.
The front door that I stumbled to sleepily one early May morning in 2008 to find him standing there like a lost puppy, in need of a ride to the airport. I was already in another relationship at this point…had “moved on”…and yet, when he needed a friend, I couldn’t find it in my heart to leave him out in the cold. So I watched him swing his one lonesome bag into my car and drove him through the crisp spring air to the airport to watch him chase another pipe dream to the City of Angels. I never told him this…never told anyone this…but after dropping him off at the gate, not knowing if I would ever see him again or not…I cried all the way home.
With the image of him standing on the front stoop, duffel bag in tow, I walked out the front door and closed it behind me for the last time.
And finally…the driveway where in November 2008, I would find him loading up the last of his belongings and leaving the city of Nashville for the final time. L.A. hadn’t been kind to him…he felt had nothing left in Nashville…and he was packing up and moving home to South Carolina indefinitely. I was still in another relationship, but the sight of him preparing to leave Nashville in his rearview mirror for the last time was heartbreaking. There were so many things I wanted to say to him...send him off with…let him know I felt about him before he vanished from my life, possibly for good. But since I couldn’t find the words to say…I said nothing. Neither of us did. For a long moment, our eyes met as I got out of my car and he got into his U-Haul. Almost as though time gripped me in its hand and refused to let me move on…I was frozen next to my car, unable to speak, unable to wave, unable to move. We held the moment in complete silence…our eyes never wavering from one another’s…before he finally began to slowly back out of the driveway, leaving me behind. Though not a word had been spoken, I could physically feel the sheer weight of his goodbye. I wouldn’t see him again, wouldn’t speak another word to him, for a year and a half.
No time or distance or miles between us had ever really quite separated us. The thin gossamer strand of “what might have been” bound me to him, despite my best intentions.
Until April of 2011 when I stood in that very same driveway for the last time, with my own U-Haul, with everything but his memory packed and ready to go. It was usually him that did the leaving, but not this time. This time it was me driving away, and he wasn’t there to witness it, but the Ghost of What Might Have Been was...and the look of resolve on my face and confidence in my step quickly silenced its chains.
I had done the grieving…now it was time to do the leaving.
So I did. And I didn’t tap the brakes once.
Sometimes you just KNOW it's time to let go…so you do…and every day after is a little bit better than the day before.
Do you ever REALLY let go of a Mr. Big? Many of you have asked.
Here’s what I know.
You hurt, you cry, you say goodbye…you move on, you grow strong, you remember how to fly.
And one day, you find yourself so far removed from what once WAS…you look back and realize that somewhere along the way, his memory LET GO OF YOU.
To love someone for five years is a powerful thing…and I am forever changed by the time I spent loving my Mr. Big. He hurt me, challenged me, refined me, disappointed me, strengthened me, infuriated me, motivated me, polished me, and inspired me. He taught me both how to let down my walls and be vulnerable and to set boundaries to protect my heart. He taught me to embrace my spontaneous side and to follow my heart instead of my head and to live for the moment a little bit more. And he taught me how to love myself too much to stay connected to someone who doesn’t love me enough.
A song from the musical “Wicked” that was featured in a recent episode of Glee sums up my feelings about Mr. Big better than anything I could ever hope to write:
“I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.
Who can say if I've
been changed for the better?
But because I knew you…
I have been changed for good.”