The tough stuff. The parts of Mitch that not very many got to see. The never-being-wrong parts, the won’t-stop-till-I-get-my-way parts, the fiery-temper parts, the emotionally-guarded parts (that I rarely got to see), the free-spirited-let’s-move-all-the-time parts, the fiercely-independent-gotta-retreat-into-the-wilderness parts (that quite frankly, I never really knew, only witnessed from afar). All of his parts crashed into my parts, the-worried-what everyone-thought parts, the always-trying-to-change-him parts, the insecure-never-enough-love parts … Well, it made for a fiery, roller-coaster of a relationship.
And then he died, suddenly and unexpectedly. And all of those relationship difficulties seemed to die with him. Except I was left with the guilt of it all. Because when he died, I felt like for the first time, I knew the essence of Mitch, I came to grow intimately connected to his spirit. I saw the love and the light in him. But I still saw all of the human flaws in me.
And then 4 years later, I got engaged to an amazing man named Kevin- and our relationship was all harmony (for the most part)- until I broke off our engagement. I didn’t quite know why at the time, but could only articulate that my heart was moving in another direction. He was heartbroken, but used it as an opportunity to do his own growth-work and healing. He let me go.
And suddenly I was faced with all the challenges of my marriage- all of my angry outbursts and guilt that would follow, with all of my self-doubt in the face of all of his never-being wrongness. I was flooded with the realness of my experience in the marriage, not his, or how it appeared to anyone else from the outside. I stepped into my actual, lived experience at that time, that I had shared with very few. I had kept it hidden, believed the angry things he’d say to me in our fights. And so I wondered, why did I stay? Why didn’t I spare us the crashing into one another, and set us both free? And why oh why did I silence my voice, and my experience like that? Why wasn’t I strong enough to say no when I needed to say no. Why didn’t I believe me? Why did I always believe him instead?
And then on a Friday night, I found myself with my husband’s best friend, talking about the Mitch that only his closest people saw- the developing parts of Mitch, the shadowy parts. And suddenly, validation! I wasn’t alone in my experience! We both knew the same Mitch that we never talked about, that I didn’t post blogs about, the parts of him that were hard to live with, that struggled, and that were far from perfect.
And then his best friend invited me to his friend’s house- a mutual friend of my husband’s too. I talked with a few of the friends there about how I was liberating my voice- and then, another friend by the name of Mitch, asked me if I wanted to sing in the home recording studio.
And I think, this is my moment. I am flooded with all of the times that I choked on my words, that I couldn’t connect my heart with the sounds of my own voice, memories that were made long before my relationship with Mitch. And it just so happens, I am passionate about singing, but have lacked the courage to express my voice. I say yes. The lyrics of Eminem come singing into my mind, “You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go, you only get one chance, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo.” I am scared shitless, but I know this is the only way.
I make my way into the sound booth, slip on the headphones and begin to move my body with the beats that are there waiting for me. And all of a sudden, the words of Mitch’s favorite song come pouring out of my heart and through my lips, “Walking on a dream, how can I explain, talking to myself, will I see again? We are always running for the thrill of it, thrill of it, always pushing up the hill, searching for the thrill of it, on and on and on we are calling out and out again, never looking down, I’m just in awe of what’s in front of me.”
And then another song, and then another, and another. Fiona Apple’s, Criminal. Annie Lennox’s, No More I Love You’s. City and Colour’s, The Girl. Maddona’s, Frozen. And a poem I wrote in 7th grade. Moving all the feelings through my voice, through the lyrics, directly to Mitch, for Mitch and for me. Finally, I could feel and say all that I never could, and this time, he listened. He was proud of me. I stood in my own truth, and I sang it to him, and I could feel him there- in awe- proud- and loving me. I sang through the anger, I sang through the guilt, I sang through the sadness, and I sang through the love. And then suddenly, that was all that was left after those 2 hours in the booth- the love. I had finally found my voice, I hadn’t choked on my words, I didn’t lose the moment- I owned it, and I felt pure joy expressing myself through song. Singing was a long-forgotten passion that was only expressed in fleeting moments. I was forever changed.
And suddenly, it became clear that the path my heart was taking would lead me straight back to Kevin. But a much more cleansed heart- a beating, feeling, connected-to-my-body heart. A truly-ready- to-love kind of heart.
And it was only through seeing and feeling my true experience in my marriage, healing those difficulties, honoring my experience- remembering not only the beauty of Mitch, but also the in-progress Earthly Mitch- that I was set free. I forgave us both. And It freed me to love wholly again- it freed me from the chains of anger and guilt and denial that were holding my heart hostage. And I remembered too the love, because as tumultuous as our marriage was, we loved each other. So much. And the love lives on through our two daughters.
And it was only through that excavation, walking through the fire- that I was able to let that chapter of my life rest in peace, and let it live in my heart as love. Only love.
It’s never too late to heal your relationships- even after death, those wounds can be felt, and healed. Start with telling your stories- write them, speak them- listen to them. Believe them. Those stories are your real life experiences. And then forgive. Yourself and the other person. For your own peace. Do it for your own peace, and then by doing that, you gift them with peace as well- because pain is pain, and the less pain in this world- the better. And love, keep on loving. Please, for the love of all of us, keep on loving.