Shipwrecked, But No Longer Concerned With Losing Myself To The Sea.
To my former boyfriend:
I apologize for calling you with every single epiphany I had following our breakup, hoping I could somehow patch us up so I could go right back to my comfort zone. I’m sorry for holding you responsible for my unhappiness and absent sense of self years ago.
I apologize for my neediness, petty jealousies, and insecurities. Like my role models, I poured every ounce of me into you instead of filling myself up, then blamed you when I felt empty and joyless.
I was so uncomfortable by myself that I couldn’t stay out of your grille, had to stave off the silence so I wouldn’t have to feel the painful and confusing emotions threatening to rise up and break on the surface.
I couldn’t let you see them, I was afraid you would see my scars and be repulsed with my imperfection. I couldn’t just be with you.
I couldn’t just be in my body with you when we had sex, I couldn’t give up that control or allow pleasure or deep connection because you might find me out if I showed any vulnerability.
I believed I was broken but I couldn’t admit it to you, so I projected my fears onto you as a distraction and wore my Ice Bitch face when you gently mirrored them back at me.
How could I have known it wouldn’t kill me to dip my toes into that sea of pain in me if I couldn’t see the bottom?
I didn’t know who I was without it or what I was here for, so I couldn’t possibly trust who you were, even though you demonstrated your integrity time after time, your kindness, patience, commitment, love.
I am sorry for not knowing what I didn’t know, and for injuring you from my lack of consciousness.
I understand now why you had to leave, why you couldn’t allow yourself to be absorbed by my pain. It must have been crazy-making; it must have taken so much out of you to marinate in that with me for so long, to be my friend while I treated you like the enemy.
It must have required incredible resolve to stand on your right to be happy and free and not wrong because I was incapable of meeting you where you were. What torturous bullshit you endured just trying to love me.
Your leaving shattered me. On that day, the tide came in and pulled me out with it. I was lost at sea. I trod water for most of a year, barely keeping up with my obligations at work, avoiding my friends and family, taking care of the bare minimum at home.
There was nowhere I looked that pain wasn’t. I cried every day for eight months straight. I wrote, I screamed, I beat up my couch, I sought out a counselor. I forgot to feed myself for days on end. I couldn’t sleep, the bed was too big without you in it. I felt discarded, useless, forgotten.
The pain seeped in through the cracks and I finally grieved my father after eight years; the one I no longer had as well as the one I never had; the one who wasn’t there to protect me or instill a sense of worthiness in his little girl.
I made my family talk about painful memories and answer pointed questions until I understood why and how. I received an apology I never expected. I howled at the walls and my abusers, my neglectors, and myself.
I heaved great gulping sobs, and when I was done, I gagged and threw up until I felt like I was turning inside out. I studied my ancestors. I read old letters. I read new books, hoping to find a key that would unlock the door to joy again. All I found were broken pieces, fragments floating.
On my counselor’s advice, I adopted my inner child and took her everywhere with me, so I could see my world through her eyes again. I cradled my innocence gently, and felt her tiny heartbeat. I watched her progress on wobbly legs.
She showed me the things that threatened her, the things I’d endured because I didn’t know I had a choice, the unconscious actions and projections of the adults around me, the times when her best interests weren’t respected.
I learned to recognize her tug on my sleeve when something didn’t feel right. I came to understand why I’d spent so much time with a sore throat as a child… I wasn’t allowed a voice.
I vowed to create a safe environment for her by not taking unnecessary risks with myself and my resources, and I protected her fiercely this time. I fed her nutritious foods. I cleansed and purged toxins from my body. I drank life-affirming water.
I allowed her to express all of her emotions — her deepest sorrow, her exuberant joy. I let her sing at the table if she wanted to, and I stood witness to her unbearable pain.
I forgave her for being smaller and weaker and for not knowing better, and she, in turn, forgave me for abandoning her. I rocked her to sleep, and was humbled in the silence by her resilience, her sheer strength of will. I honored her right over her body, and my own.
Together we practiced saying No, without guilt. I discovered new-to-me memories that changed old storylines, I presented her with new evidence from a more mature perspective. We learned to trust each other. She conceded Brussels sprouts weren’t that bad.
Then my warrior came to call, and he was offended and disgusted that I’d had him out fighting petty wars and dramas for me. He deserved a legitimate cause to campaign for; he wanted his dignity and honor back.
I acknowledged his grievances with humility, and gave him some well-deserved time off until I could find a crusade worthy of his skills. I dreamed terrible dreams of being stalked by shadowy men in trenchcoats. In the light of day, I looked my fears in the face and asked them Why.
Their answers seemed weak and insignificant against what we’d already come through, so I sent them to find something more substantial. They haven’t come back.
I looked for myself in the mirror every day until I found her, and thanked her for sticking by me all these years even when I didn’t see or acknowledge her. She assured me we would always be alright — even when we didn’t think so — and she would always be here for me. I softened.
I spent time with other wounded women who were searching for themselves, and discovered I was also worthy of my respect. They offered me validation, and lent me their courage and their stories for perspective. I let down my defenses.
I embraced being female and stopped carrying it like a burden, found my rhythm and learned to use my cycles to my advantage.
I went to introduce myself to the Goddess, but she knew I was coming. She met me at the door holding a severed head and offered me tea at her table. I accepted her invitation, offered my allegiance for taking vengeance on my enemies, and accepted her sustenance with relief.
I wrote, and I dreamed, and I cried until exhausted. I washed up on shore. I awoke with hunger pains deep in the belly of my soul, and searched around for something to feed it. It was good to be on solid ground, but I found no nourishment.
I combed the beach, scavenging scattered bits of my Self, and took stock. It seemed hopeless. I curled up and cried for some kind of relief. I held my head and screamed at the injustice of it all. I jumped up and threw stones until my body ached. I slept, exhausted, defeated.
At daybreak, I stood facing the waves and asked why I would have chosen this experience. At sunset, I heard the answer come back on the wind, “This isn’t happening ‘to’ you, it’s happening ‘for’ you.” My soul digested that and it was satisfied.
What a game-changing perspective! I needed a sturdier vessel that could withstand any storm. I took ownership of my new project. I enlarged my search and discovered stronger and better materials for the frame. I retrofitted some old ones for the sake of nostalgia and continuity.
I fashioned new tools. I reevaluated my inventory and set everything useful to one side. In a frenzy I gathered up armfuls of broken fragments and threw them into the waves, letting the tide take whatever didn’t fit my plan. I cut myself on sharp pieces and doctored them myself with salt water.
I forgave. I let go. I bled. I honored each piece like an old friend as I watched it hit the water. I found reasons to appreciate all of it. I said my goodbyes and then I started rebuilding.
I remembered my weak points and reinforced them with greater integrity, picked up joy and gratitude whenever I found any, and used them to patch holes. I framed in portholes to let in the light. At night I danced with my demons on the beach under the full moon and I was not afraid.
I used sand to knock down the rough edges on the bow. I stretched every part of my body in the sun and allowed light to flood my cells with new awareness. I bathed in the healing waters and floated on their surface, and was not swallowed by pain. My confidence grew.
I stood back and admired my work. I talked to the moon at night and stared into the sun when dawn came. I experimented with my creation and made adjustments as necessary. I tested her integrity. I built a more secure wheelhouse when the rain poured in. I laughed into the wind.
I honored the process and all the pieces — even the ones I threw away — knowing that all of them contributed to the outcome of my design… and I was grateful for the opportunity.
I have a fine boat that I’m still finishing. Sometimes I have to scrap some and start over, but I’m not afraid to put her on the water, and I’m no longer concerned with losing myself to the sea.
In deepest gratitude,
Erika Boyer is an apprentice of life, a navigator of storms, a student, a teacher, a writer, a consultant, a poet, a daughter, a sister, a lover, a child, and sometimes a mess. On a quest for the balance between striving and thriving, she shares her unfolding story and passion for learning with the intent to leave breadcrumbs for those who’ve misplaced their truth or need permission to lead with their heart of hearts. It is our stories that connect us, after all.