One and a half tickets……
The envelope antagonized me.
Stared back at me from a bulletin board as a reminder of what was lost, and what still had to be found.
Such is the geography of a broken heart.
As a psychologist, a consistent theme that comes into my office or from friends and family who come seeking advice is the most universal plea – “Doc, help me get over this broken heart….it feels like it will never end.” And like most health practitioners, we are great at fixing it for others and when faced with the ailment ourselves -we fold.
And so lots of well-intentioned people write books about broken hearts – but write them as a long delayed post-mortem. After they are firmly ensconced in new comfortable love, after they have recovered. Not in the confused, conflicted raw grips of it. Not interesting, I want to read the words from the trenches, not the afterparty.
The envelope. It contained tickets. Two. For a concert. Purchased a time when the relationship was real, and life was still being shared. When the tickets were bought I still believed – that he would be here, move forward, that we would share this together. The tickets marked those hopes. Apparently, Ticketmaster doesn’t seem to have a heartbreak clause – you have to purchase the damned things WAY in advance, and the lead up to the show lasts longer than the remainder of the relationship. No refunds due to a broken heart.
I was in denial for a long time, had myself convinced that the tickets fell on a night that I would be out of town so I could nobly give them to a friend as a gift or that he would come back. But they didn’t and he didn’t, and it was just another Saturday night. As the night approached, I pulled the tickets off the bulletin board, stared at them, reflected on my hopes, reflected on my hurt. Knew that the heart would not heal quickly, but life had to begin again. Knew that I could still give them away, but felt that if I succumbed and stayed home again, I may never get back up. And cheap as I am, I hated the idea of wasting the money.
I felt that attending would be an “intervention”. So I took my tickets, dreading the evening. These days LA feels like Noah’s Ark – and I am asking for a cabin for one. I handed over the tickets, the usher looked at me quizzically and tore the stub off of one – directing me to my seat. Two perfect seats. My backpack took one, I took the other. The concert was pitch perfect, and he would have loved it. I listened, at times I cried, the lyrics would often hit me in the chest, but I also felt a little emboldened. I sat next to a lovely older woman who kept asking me if I enjoyed the show – and it was sweet and comforting. All night I told myself – you can leave at intermission, you are brave, you did it, but cut your losses. But I pushed through and the music soothed me, and the people around me didn’t care. And I made it til the end.
That’s the geography of a broken heart – I am still in it, so I don’t know if the next curve on the trail is a mountain, valley, flat track or boulders. It’s easy to give in and stop living. But there is still music, and art, and nature, and travel – you just end up taking it in differently. And I avoided rebounds, booze, doughnuts, social media, and familiar restaurants, and instead focused on trying to find answers in Rilke, Rumi, May, and Neruda, exercise, sleep (lots), books, movies, and travel. Everyone has their own therapy, and antidepressants don’t fix a broken heart, they just mask the symptoms.
As a psychologist, I do nurse and mentor people through broken hearts, and I have found that time may be a better psychologist than I am. Hurt can’t be rushed. Mourning takes its own time – but Didion nails it when she says “Mourning has its place but also its limits.” The magic is when the broken hearted person, having walked through his or her own geography says that “today I woke up, and it was finally ok, and I started walking/running/writing/cooking/traveling/living again and it didn’t hurt.” As though a muscle healed. When that happens for my patients or for my friends, no one can take credit for that but them and time. I take solace in knowing that the day will come.
I gave up writing for a while because being in my head hurt and a broken heart isn’t pretty while it is happening – perhaps that is why people wait til they are over to share them, but that helps no one. Broken hearts happen, disappointment happens, dreams get dashed, hopes get re-rendered. TS Eliot notes that “to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from..”
The two tickets sit on top of my desk – one stub and one full ticket. The stub a reminder of persistence and courage, the unused ticket a reminder of hope and disappointment. A new envelope also sits atop my desk for a show in June.
Only one ticket resides in that envelope – perhaps a symbol of wisdom.