Sitting alone on the beach at night, with a note in my hand, I took out my lighter and watched it slowly burn away in the cold wind.
The song that has defined 2022 for me, No Time to Die by Billie Eilish instantly floated into my mind. The whispered lyrics rang out in my mind as clearly if Eilish herself was next to me.
I should’ve known
I’d leave alone
Just goes to show
That the blood you bleed
Is just the blood you owe
We were a pair
But I saw you there
Too much to bear
You were my life
But life is far away from fair
Was I stupid to love you?
Was I reckless to help?
Was it obvious to everybody else
That I’d fallen for a lie?
You were never on my side
Fool me once, fool me twice
Are you death or paradise?
Now you’ll never see me cry
There’s just no time to die
I felt like crying, but no tears came running down my cheeks.
I was dried out. But that’s OK, because I was still grieving though, in my own way.
Tears have never truly been my outlet. To me, the big emotional waves that manifest itself physically though heaving sobs and tears, have never truly been big enough to threaten such a reaction from me. I genuinely do not know if I am capable of crying any more. I have regulated my emotional responses so much over the years, that it is difficult to tell if I can actually experience such extremes.
Which is why I’ve noted that whenever I am suffering from distress, I resort to the one thing that has sustained me for the entirety of my life.
Anger has always been a defining element to my personality. I’ve learned to tap into that source of energy a very long time ago, when I realised that anger can be used in a healthy manner.
Being angry all the time, meant that I could channel a certain amount of aggression into everything I did.
But it also taught me how I could sustain it, hold onto that anger and really power through obstacles that would stump others. And if I did it right …. that anger could keep me going through the toughest of shifts, the hardest of work, the most menial of tasks.
There is no end to anger’s utility and usefulness. I can take so much, because of how angry I can become.
So, in this case, my anger was turned against me. I used it on myself. I couldn’t cry, couldn’t break down … so instead I got furious at myself. I shouldered most of the blame, understood that I was the architect of all the pain I’ve caused to others and myself and squarely deserved to feel shit.
There was no redeeming this, no apology big enough for the hurt I’ve caused, the time I’ve wasted and the grief I’ve designed.
No escape from the immense guilt I feel.
This is what it means, to hurt someone and I can’t really forgive myself either.
However, just because I can’t forgive myself, doesn’t mean that I will let this poison me.
My anger won’t allow it.
For you see, I was furious at myself for being so selfish, so unbearably cruel, but then I realised that I will never truly get over myself for this and that this awful feeling was now going to be a part of my life forever.
I had chosen to accept this guilty cross as part of luggage that I will carry till the day I died. That was the consequence for hurting someone else, in return for me being unbearably selfish and being freed from a healthy relationship that wasn’t quite enough.
I didn’t know that, of course at the time, that the burden of this guilt was initially far too heavy for me to carry, let alone walk.
But that is where my anger comes in. Because it forces me to shoulder the load, to learn to accept the load for what it is and find a way to make it feel lighter.
I was now angry at myself for throwing too long of a pity party.
I needed to get over myself and really start the process of healing.
I made my decision, faced the consequences and now it was time to move on.
To delve too deeply into this pain, meant that I couldn’t do anything. It was time to go back up for air. I was sick of drowning.
It’s why I wrote a note to her. Because no words, no essays, no speeches would be enough to convey how terrible I felt.
On that note, were two words that I knew would never come true. Forgiveness is an element that is beyond my own control. To be forgiven, needs to the blessing of another.
I am never going to get that blessing. But that is the curse I chose when I broke things off with her.
Even now, nearly 2 months later, I am still reeling from the effects of what I’ve done. A casual joke can sour my mood instantly and cause me to relapse into a fugue of sadness, guilt and regret. It opens an internal floodgate where feelings I’ve thought I put to bed, come rushing back and threaten to overwhelm me.
In many ways, this experience has taught me how impossible it is to truly hold onto happiness when you are threatened constantly by negative emotions. They will sour every moment, poison your thinking and threaten your sanity.
But that has only galvanised me to work harder to fight against the wave of sadness. I now hold onto my happy moments even stronger; I force myself to shoo away those negative thoughts and I am actively striving to ensure reflective moments are more positive than negative.
It’s the only way for me to hold onto sanity and really allow myself to move past. It takes a conscious effort to ensure I am not constantly threatened by sadness, whenever my friends want to discuss my former relationship or there is a light joke made about a break-up. But it’s something I have to do, because anything else isn’t healthy nor rational.
Being able to let things go to me, isn’t so much about forgetting nor ignoring the past. It’s very much an acknowledgement of the past and ensuring that I don’t look back on it with malice, regret or anger.
Letting go, means I need to leave behind my anger, my pain and my guilt. It’s a slow process, and in many ways, with no destination at the end. All that matters, is the journey itself and whether those negative feelings truly abate with toxicity over time.
Much like nuclear waste half-lives, this is an infinitely slow process, but it is the only way to rid myself of these feelings properly. Without forgiveness to lighten the load, this is something I have to come to terms with slowly, carefully and with proper examination.
It won’t take another relationship, nor some fancy mental trick. Nor will meeting her again solve anything.
This is a cross that needs to be taken apart piece by piece, splinter by splinter, nail by nail, over many, many hours of reflection and examination.
This is the only way I can look back at my actions, my relationship and my choices without feeling an overwhelming amount of pain and guilt. Those feelings will forever remain, but I will be able to look at myself in the mirror and be at peace with what I see.
Writing that note and burning it alone at a beach, is just one tiny step in that journey to letting go.
It may take months, years, a decade even … but in many ways, when it comes to self forgiveness, there isn’t really any other way of dealing with it.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy, nor carefree. I can still enjoy the moment, embrace the present and get excited by the thrill of a new journey.
It’s important for me to remember that, and truly acknowledge it.
I’m not beholden to my past, my choices and the consequences that came with it.
As long as I learn from them, and never repeat such an error again, I know that I can shorten the journey a bit.
Life is a marathon but there is no real clock timing you.
All it takes is some careful application of will, self-belief and a desire to be better and eventually I’ll cross the line.
In a lot of ways, I don’t regret anything. Everything that has happened has made me stronger and that is really all I can ask for, when I am on such a long journey.