Earthquakes And Aftershocks: Learning To Find My Balance.
“I can’t commit to you the way you need me to,” he said. I read the text five more times as the knot in my stomach tightened.
The night before, we had dinner, we held hands, we made love for hours, and fell asleep in each other’s arms. He whispered “I love you” as he moved inside me. But taking me to get the results of my next CT Scan? Too much of a commitment.
AJ and I had been together for a very tumultuous year. Just coming out of a 14-year relationship, I ran straight into his arms. He was over a decade younger and a world apart from the life I was leading, but I fell hopelessly in love immediately. How could I not? He was young and fun and beautiful.
We meditated and practiced reiki. We took long road trips and sang together in the car. We spent our days wrapped in bedsheets, exploring each other; I slept soundly in his arms.
A month into our relationship, the effects of four years of chemotherapy hit, and I was as close to death as I’ve ever been. Emergency surgery was required to repair a hole in my left lung that had ruptured, drawing my entire stomach into the lung and blocking my airflow.
He was with me every night, helping me walk, making me laugh, reminding me that a soul lived inside this shell of a broken body. I was released after two weeks, and we became inseparable.
In so many ways, AJ brought me back to life. Meeting him was like the power coming back on after a long period of darkness. He brightened everything, he made me feel alive again.
My marriage was never a strong one, but it provided what we both thought we needed. For years, we pretended that what we had was enough. We filled our days with work and trips and accumulating lovely things. Over time, the void grew ever more expansive. Two broken people looking to the other to fix them.
After 14 years and countless arguments, the marriage finally collapsed under the weight of the emptiness we both felt.
Leaving my husband was one of the hardest decisions of my life. He stood by me when, in 2011, I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. He provided everything a patient could ever hope for — nurses, chefs, alternative treatments.
He gave me everything while I was sick, but as soon as I recovered, he would retreat; his shadow leaving me cold and alone. In our final argument, I recall telling him I didn’t want to be sick for him to love me. As those words hung in the air, we both knew it was over. He moved out shortly afterward, and I was relieved.
After years of coping with earthquakes and aftershocks, I was hoping this would be the reprieve I needed.
And then I met AJ.
When things were good, they were amazing. But when things were bad…
… our battles were epic. Screaming matches in the streets, texting wars, and long stretches of silence. Our fighting was matched only by the intensity of our desire for each other. I couldn’t get close enough to him, he needed ownership of every part of me. He didn’t like my friends, tried controlling whom I spoke to, where I went, what I wore.
Yet, I couldn’t walk away. After years of numbing myself to the cancer and pretending everything was okay, it felt good to allow my anger to flow like a river; unfortunately, he was the recipient of that bottled-up rage, and it slowly chipped away at our connection.
He grew tired of my outbursts, I grew resentful of his control over me. I expected him to take care of me as my husband had. He was just starting out in life, in no way able to provide as my husband once did. We fought over money and the future. He wanted children my chemo-ravaged body could never provide.
We decided it would be best to part as friends. But I couldn’t let him go. Scared of being alone, I hung on to the hope that we could work it out. Until the night I asked him to come with me for my CT Scan and he said No, I truly believed we would get back together.
But at that moment, I realized it was over and whatever the future held, I would be facing it without him.
I was terrified. I cried for days, and fought every urge to reach out and beg him to stay. Countless times I held my phone, fingers hovering over the call icon by his name. Once again, I felt broken.
Lost and confused as to how to ease this pain, I meditated. For the first time in my life, I didn’t run. I didn’t pretend, and I didn’t shut down. I sat with the pain, and I felt it all — the fear of having a recurrence and going through it alone, the anger at myself for once again falling down this rabbit hole.
After a lifetime spent searching for someone to save me, after yet another night crying on the bathroom floor wondering how to stop this pain, I’d had enough. The pain didn’t begin with my broken relationships. This pain had dwelt inside of me for as long as I can remember, always looking to attach itself to something external.
I started to notice my patterns, my comfort in playing the victim. I sat there in silence, and felt the void no one could ever fill — the one that drew me to relationships that were doomed to fail. But we always fall in love with the right person at the right time, when we are ready to see what they have to teach us.
I learned I’m not alone. I have friends and family who love and support me. I am strong. Numbing myself served its purpose, and got me through grueling chemotherapy. I learned that the appearance of happiness isn’t actually the same as being happy.
I learned that inner peace is a choice, and no one can give it to me or take it away. I know I am worthy of a healthy love.
There may be more earthquakes and aftershocks ahead, but I’m learning to find my balance.
Kathleen Emmets is an avid music lover and Yoga enthusiast. Her articles have appeared in Mantra Magazine, Positively Positive, MindBodyGreen, Do You Yoga, themanifeststation.net and Elephant Journal. She writes about her experience with cancer in Cancer Is My Guru. Kathleen lives in East Norwich, NY with her son, and dog, Dean Martin.