“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.” - E. A. Bucchianeri
“I’m not attracted to you,” he said in a matter of fact kind of way. Void of any emotion, I had seen this face before. “It’s time to move on,” he continued, as if all relationships come to an abrupt end, and everyone just moves on. Would I have insisted on this conversation had I known my fate? His words left me stunned and motionless in the chair. To further plead my case would be death to self, I thought. The relationship was over. Weak kneed and feeling out of breath, I rose from my chair. “I will move out,” I whispered, hardly able to speak. As I left the room, a set of hardbound books caught my eye. I had just finished decorating the space in beautiful shades of blue, ocean blue. The colors brought warmth and character to a room that had been as cold as the man who now occupied it.
Once through the doorway of the spare bedroom, I reached for my phone and began searching for an inspirational talk. I had developed a routine of listening to TED talks and motivational speeches in the evenings. Although the speakers would be familiar, the circumstances were not. Tony Robbins, Tom Bilyeu, Joe Dispenza, I was sure they all had something to say to me, and I wasted no time tuning in.
I sat at the side of the bed and surveyed my surroundings, as Tom Bilyeu pleaded that I should, “never, ever, ever give up!” I won’t, I thought... I won’t. Past the one sided conversation going on in my head, I had no idea what to do next. From the bedroom a set of French doors opened up into a smaller room which I had coined the Sun Room because of its large east facing window; however, fate had given it another name, it would be Central Command. From here, I would plan each move and organize the dreaded days to come. But tonight, all would remain quiet in the little room. Work would come early, and I was desperate for a good night’s sleep.
“Quiet the Mind and the Soul will Speak.”
- Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
I reached for the clock, 2 am! I began to toss and turn
replaying the painful events of the evening. Sheets on, sheets off, feet in, feet out; somehow, I had to break free of this anxious state. What if I concentrated on being in a loving relationship instead of one falling apart? How would this feel, I asked myself? I began to focus my thoughts on the characteristics of a loving relationship, and yes...a loving man. My mind constructed a kind, compassionate, respectful, and faithful man. Within minutes, my heavy heart became lighter, and I began to experience feelings of love. As these feelings increased, the feelings of pain decreased, and I realized that the two emotions could not simultaneously exist within me. One would win over. Before long the tossing and turning ceased, and the feelings of love settled me back to sleep.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Close your eyes,” she said slowly, “and place your hands on your heart’s center.” Her voice was soft and soothing as she directed me into a deep meditative state. From this state I would be able to produce intense feelings of well being. She focused my mind and redirected my thoughts away from the stressful events that had so quickly come upon me. All the while tenderly leading me to the people, places and things that made me feel extremely grateful. These feelings of gratitude triggered my brain to release pain- relieving endorphins that comforted me and calmed my inner world.
I studied mind body medicine in college and had used meditation decades earlier to treat insomnia. Now, having just experienced the effects of imagining myself with a loving man, I knew it worked. The healing capabilities of meditation motivated me. I was prepared to do whatever it would take to relearn the techniques that would help me navigate through this crisis.
I left the Healing Arts Center with such an inner peace. I found myself remembering back to a talk Dr. Dispenza had given on emotions. He explained how our thoughts create feelings and our feelings create emotions, and those emotions go on to create our state of being. It was clear I had the power to create my state of being. It was also clear that I would have to work incredibly hard to sustain it. And so, my meditation journey began.
“The most difficult aspect of moving on is accepting that the other person already did.” - Faraaz Kazi
Every day brought forward thoughts and feelings about the narcissist that needed to be conquered. I began meditation in the mornings before work, a short session during my lunch hour, and always at night before bed. Every time I focused my attention on the idea of a kind, loving man, the pain would subside. I would often imagine him saying, “Stay focused, you’re doing great!” Deep within me, creating this simple dialogue helped.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
“You've got this!” she told me as we ended our phone conversation. She was older and wiser than I, with a strength and beauty that seemed effortless. Just the quality of her voice reaffirmed my ability to persevere. Unknowingly, her support was giving me confidence to push through an incredible amount of pain. Friends were my lifeline. I confided in each one and talked honestly about the relationship, all the while being very careful to limit the amount of detail I shared. It was not necessary to describe every injustice or recount every destructive aspect. Each girlfriend had their own supportive voice and a sincere desire to help me make it through the breakup. They had all seen his classic narcissistic behaviors and had become deeply disturbed. Even their husbands had expressed concerns after an evening out. I knew what they were saying was true, but I just wasn’t able to accept the truth. This acceptance required a certain type of courage, a courage I did not yet have.
“The Time is Always Right to Do What is Right.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
“I’m not able to talk about that right now,” I politely him. I deferred the emotionally charged subject to a later time with no intention of engaging in such a conversation without others present. I was at a crossroads. I could walk down the road of righteous indignation, or I could walk down the road of personal accountability. The red flags had been flying since our second date, 19 months earlier. Did I not make the decision to leave my condo, spend more than my share of money, and live emotionally and physically unfulfilled? I knew I could be deceived by the comforts of righteous indignation. “It would feel so good,” I told myself. “Yes, it would,” my inner voice replied, “right up to the moment he shredded your character.” If I aimed to hold the narcissist accountable for his behavior he would waste no time enlisting me in a series of cruel and calculated verbal attacks. The psychological effects of these attacks would cut deep and leave me bleeding, and I had no intention of being left for dead. I would take the high road.
" The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you're not going to stay where you are." - J.P. Morgan
After my departure, contacting the narcissist would not be an option, and any forgotten items would have to be forfeited. How would I negotiate the furniture and other pieces we had bought together? Did I really want to bring any of these things into a new life? It wouldn’t be easy to give up what I had invested my time and money into acquiring, especially when the narcissist was behaving in such a heartless manner. But, if I rose above the material aspects and focused on the psychological aspects, there would be rewards.
Repaying evil with kindness should be like heaping hot coals on an enemy’s head. Unfortunately, not in the case of the narcissist. He feels entitled to everything, so there is no heat in the coals. Nevertheless, I left everything right where it lay. In doing so, I was able to say, “I wasn’t so attached to any of this, and I wasn’t so attached to you.” And that alone, made me feel better. I knew the narcissist fed off seeing me in angst over him. I hoped my silent indifference would serve to suffocate his ego and reinforce those concepts in my mind. Instead of my decisions being fueled by anger and resentment, they were fueled by an intense desire for self- preservation.
I have lost and loved and won and cried myself to the person I am today.”– Charlotte Eriksson
As I took the gold picture frame from the wall, a tear ran down my cheek, losing its form when it hit the glass. It was my grandmother’s musical score, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the last song we had sung together. I had grown up sharing my deepest heartbreaks with her. She would always say to me, “Be strong honey. You’ve gotta be strong.” I pressed the frame into my chest and held it there. Oh how I missed her in that moment. The act of packing up my life’s belongings brought on an emotional firestorm. With great anticipation, I had unpacked my hopes and dreams. Now, 5 months later, those same dreams were going back into boxes.
The following week brought a new list of Must Do’s, another round of boxes and tape purchases, and a dreaded trip to San Francisco’s Municipal Traffic office for a parking permit. I kept the motivational talks coming, almost to the point of obsession. I formulated a plan and had written out my goals for each day up to the final move. It was the detailed preparation that gave order to what could have been major chaos.
I’m going to be a better person when this is over, I told myself. I had been running in the Marina and cycling in the Presidio, and they both inspired me. It was quite simple, exercise readied my mind to mentally kick ass. My sense of determination was heightened after exercise. I had always responded well to the endorphin release, and in times of crisis, I couldn’t exercise enough. I continued sailing lessons, as I had no intention of forfeiting that dream, and it served as the perfect distraction. It gave me a much needed sense of accomplishment during a time when I did not feel very accomplished. Fending off the feelings of failure had become a daily battle.
“ The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” - Ernest Hemmingway
Darkness met my eyes as they opened; moving day had arrived. Not yet dawn, I laid in bed and reflected over the entire experience. Even after two weeks of preparation it was hard to believe that everything would soon come to an end. My life would never be the same. In that moment of deep sadness, I knew there was a future I could create. I just had to hold on to all the wonderful possibilities. I held onto those feelings until my mind shifted toward the idea of coffee. So, I pulled back the covers, got out of bed and headed for the kitchen. Game on!
As the sun warmed the Command Center, I dressed for the day. Happy that the narcissist had slipped away before the movers arrived, I taped up the last boxes. I felt an unfocused angst creeping up inside me as I made my last pass through the house, and while the final items were loaded onto the truck, I returned to the spare room to pray.
Without a doubt, God had brought me to this day, and God would get me through this day. I watched the movers pull away as I got into my car. I made a final glance back toward the Bay as the engine warmed. And then, I took a deep breath,... and drove away.
" It is never too late to be what you might have been."
The heavy door closed behind me. There I stood alone in the condo with boxes stacked well above my head; a stark reminder of all that I had feared. There was the fear of being alone, the fear of losing friends, and the fear of not being able to create a better life for myself. All those had kept me captive to the narcissist, and now I was free to face these fears head on. In that moment, I realized the narcissist had given me a gift. As painful as that gift was, it was still a gift. I could finally be true to myself, I could build a more authentic life, and I could overcome the fears that had bound me.
With those thoughts, I began to unpack. I opened the first box, and removed all the paper. My grandmother’s musical score stared up at me and I heard her say, “Be strong honey, you gotta be strong.” I picked up the gold picture frame. To the words I had heard a thousand times before, I smiled and answered, “I am strong, Grandma... I am strong.”