The house is quiet this morning. I have time to wake-up slowly and drink coffee without leaving an inch of it cold in the bottom of the mug. Workdays without the rush of kids and school buses feel like a luxury.
But I cried yesterday for the first time in a long time, and I am not even certain why I did. Some people believe that crying releases all that stuck energy so that you make room for the new things that are coming to you — new feelings and new experiences. I’ve had such a good few months; 2016 has been exponentially kind to me. But I do feel some restless energy bubbling up to the surface and an itchy desire to make way for the new. Life is like this always, I guess. You peel away the layers to see what is next as you grow and change.
I worked late yesterday, and I opened the door to my quiet house around 7 last night. I tended to the dog for a while, made my dinner for one, took a bath, and settled in with a book. I bought Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet last month after hearing so much about it from a number of different people. It is a series of correspondence between Rilke and a young poet and it’s full of advice on life, art, and creativity. I think I will return to it again and again.
This happens to me all the time. The right words make their way to me on the written page at exactly the moment that they need to be heard. It’s that divine spark of human connection I’ve written about before. Words never cease to amaze me, how when you get them in the right order and they make their way to you at the right time, they can really change you in the smallest but most crucial ways.
As I feel the layers peeling away in my own self, Rilke explains, “Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding and in creating.” I’m also making my way through Rob Bell’s How to Be Here, and it discusses how we are all creators, in a sense. We are all charged with the task of listening to what calls us and creating the life we are meant to lead. I’m starting to see things this way. I see that my writing mirrors my life in that they are both works in progress, and sometimes I don’t gain that conclusion or clarity or insight until I get to the very end of a certain process. I get to the end and sigh, oh, that’s what I’m learning here. That’s what this did for me.
I feel a major shift lately that surprises me when I least expect it, and I’m not certain what it means. But for much of the past two years of my life, I’ve felt no stirring or envy when I see people coupled in pairs. I’ve done the work (so much work) of a relationship that didn’t give back to me in the same weight I put in. I have spent so much of the past year or two of my life completely heart sore and exhausted from that process. But I feel a stir now. I guess it’s a yearning for a partnership, which is a totally normal part of human existence, but it feels so foreign to me. It’s surprising me, and though I should be used to surprising myself by now, I am not.
And maybe this feeling will ebb and flow, maybe it will come and go in the years ahead. Or maybe it will build and pull at me in ways I don’t even understand yet. Maybe I will be in this chapter of solitude for a long time, and maybe I won’t. There are so many questions, and though I try to follow Rilke’s advice to “live the questions,” it is hard. And I am tired sometimes.
This present moment is where the gold is. I know that. The present season, without moving to the right or the left. The present feeling. Paying attention to all those tugs and whispers I feel in my own heart. Paying attention and then letting them go. I know that is the work that gets me somewhere. I know because I can see how far I’ve come by letting that happen in the months behind me. I know all of this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard.
Rilke’s advice in the fourth letter is to “love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you … but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without stepping outside of it … your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.” I’m finding my path now in ways I don’t even fully understand yet, and I think this love that is stored for me can come by way of lots of things – not just a romantic partnership as we all seem to hope for. And it already has come for me in many ways I didn’t expect. The whole universe has given back to me twice as much as I ever could have expected. But I think I am just finally at the part of my own journey when I can ponder what if, what if, what if. Maybe one day.
I follow Becky Vollmer on Instagram, and she posted something recently that resonated with me so much.
I have seen firsthand how genuine self-love brought me out of a place no longer serving me. But for every bend in the road, we have to keep reminding ourselves, don’t we? It’s always the answer. To love yourself out of whatever moment you are in, to peel back the layers, take a look at the softening heart, and make way for the future – whatever it may bring.
It brings both the ugly and the beautiful, if we are paying attention and open to it. I wrote a little essay stringing together some travel reflections over on Sweatpants and Coffee if you want to read it.
For now, I’m moving on with the things that have brought me this far: paying attention, holding space for all of it, and loving it anyway.
8 thoughts on “peeling the layers”
I’m just three months into a separation which is going to be a divorce. I have just barely discovered some of the women-who-write that are dealing with the same problems, and slow learning curves, and dinner-for-ones… I’m very grateful to have found your writing… it feels friendly in the midst of all this recognition of loneliness. and, rah! to the rilke… 🙂
Thanks so much, Kate. ❤ Friendly reaches across the big internet are such a great thing. Love to you and thanks for reading.
Katie, I found your original story on Huff and felt strongly compelled to write you, although I’m no longer actively blogging or even commenting. And then I read this entry, and I felt even more connected with you. I just wanted to give you the other perspective if it would help. My husband “almost” left me last year. He said similar words to me — words that broke me and made me feel like I wasn’t enough. We have no kids; in fact he hasn’t touched me in over a year, going on 2. What’s keeping us together right now, I’m not exactly too sure. He says I’ve changed, and I say he’s getting better. It’s taken months of therapy and even him having to go on anxiety/depression medicine for him to understand why he did what he did. My own therapy has revealed my own issues that I brought to our marriage. I guess the point of this is that we both are on our own journey of healing. And it’s taking so much more work to keep the marriage together. It’s just as painful or maybe even more so than if we separated. Don’t you just love the what ifs? I struggle with that all the time. I just know that with or without each other, we will become stronger and better. Katie, you are authentic and strong amidst the very things that would destroy someone else. You picked up the pieces and are on your own journey. You write with heart. I don’t know you, but I offer you my love and positive energy.
From a sister.
Thank you so much. ❤ And everyone has her own story – No one answer is the answer for everyone, and no one scenario is harder or easier. The important thing is that we find meaning in the madness, that we use heartbreak to grow bigger or stronger without covering it up and shoving it under the rug. I've grown so much – in authenticity, in clarity of purpose, and in self-awareness. Now that I am a year and a half out, I can see that clearly and be grateful for all of it. Even the heartbreak. Love to you and thanks for reading.
I stumbled into your words in the Huffington post. I felt very moved and a resonance in your words, I have had and am having a similar journey, although not due to infidelity. You sound like a kind, strong, centered, wonderful woman. Keep on growing. Reading your words has helped me take a little step. James
I’m here from Huffington Post and I can relate to your experience with infidelity. I’m not sure if you’ve looked into this, and it might be completely inapplicable to your situation, but are you familiar with narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic abuse? I’m of the opinion that people who cheat often display narcissistic traits. Learning more about narcissism was very helpful to me in processing my experience and validating all the red flags that I saw (but ignored) before my ex cheated. I highly recommend that anyone who has been cheated on do some Googling on narcissistic partners.
Hi, Lana. Thanks so much for this. And yes, I have. A few things written by Melanie Tonia Evans on that subject have helped me immensely. Thank you for reading and for commenting. I wish you the best in your own healing process. ❤
Katie, you are just gorgeous! You deserve someone who appreciates you…