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I’m grieving the death of the possibility of something really wonderful.



January 23, 2023


I drove to Portland for my consulting job yesterday. Often, when I’m doing that hour and a half drive, I’ll be on the phone with a friend. Yesterday, it was Adrian.


Adrian met someone. They had awesome chemistry, he believed. They spent some time together, had a meal, had a bit of physical, then parted on an upbeat note. That was last week, and Adrian hasn’t heard from him. Adrian is sad.


Adrian has been saying he’s not ready to get involved, to get serious with anyone, to date exclusively. We talked about how saying things like that is kind of silly, because it’s the person that dictates how you feel and what you want. It’s entirely dependent on the person you meet.


Then we talked about why it hurts so much when things don't work out.


“I think we’re grieving the death of the possibility of something really wonderful,” I said. Adrian agreed.


There’s a traffic circle in Portland with a golden statue of Joan of Arc on a horse. It's beautiful and so seemingly out of place. A random channeling of history, or perhaps myth, in the center of this busy traffic circle in Portland that thousands of people drive round each day. David and I have driven round that statue many times, now. It’s become a thing that connects us, that bonds us.


I spent yesterday afternoon with David. He had gotten the 1928 film Joan of Arc from the library and had been talking about watching it together for quite some time. It's a beautiful film. The actress was lovely, incredible, and she basically cried the entire 80 minutes. Not basically, she did cry the entire 80 minutes.


Joan of Arc is a hero of mine. Not her cause so much, but the fact she was so young and so certain of her beliefs. She was 19 when she was burned at the stake. Even if you’re not inspired by the spiritual basis of her convictions, it’s impossible not to grieve this child who was sacrificed for the egos of men, in the name of God, the God who shuns violence. I cried through the whole movie.


I was a bit frustrated with myself for watching the film with David, because I knew full well what would happen. I knew it would put me in a dark, sad place for quite some time after. But we both love old movies; he loves the art of them; I wanted to share that experience with him.


I covet his ability to detach from the story, to view a film for the sake of its art. But it's silly to think that's possible for me. It's not possible for me not to enter into suffering when I see it, whether in art or in life.


I know I can’t watch those kinds of movies without being deeply affected for hours, sometimes days following. It was not a wise thing for me to do, particularly given the status of things between David and me. I’m already fighting a serious melancholy, I’m fighting my natural tendency to fall into the dark of my mind.


After, we went to his Sunday afternoon haunt, the Lucky Horseshoe. He’s particularly fond of Zach, the bartender. It has always been encouraging he brought me into his Sunday routine. I believed he was proud to be with me, proud for Zach to meet me, to get to know me. Maybe proud isn’t the right word. Pleased to bring me into his circle of familiarity and comfort? I wouldn’t say excited. He doesn’t get excited. Or else he doesn’t show excitement. About music, about film, sometimes. But he's pretty subdued. The opposite of me. Regardless, his including me gave our relationship a sense of longevity and permanence. It gave me peace.


We both had a bit to drink. I’ve been drinking a bit lately. Not a lot at a time, but a few at a time and more frequently than usual. It’s not wise for me to drink with David when we’re on this sort of uncertain ground. But it feels good, alcohol always feels good. But alcohol always opens me up, all the woundings, all the triggers.


Walking back to the car, all the emotions, all the fears that have lain just below the surface of everything the last two weeks, they bubbled up and took over. I was consumed with fear and pain and I cried. I sobbed then caught myself; pulled back to streaming tears. Then I'd sob and pull back again. I scare people when I sob. I scare myself.


I said a lot of things, things that I’ve thought, conclusions I've drawn. Some things were things I’ve already said but felt it important to say again.


“I really wanted this. I thought you wanted this too. You did want this too! You told me you did!”


“I think you were incredibly lonely after your divorce. I think you wanted to be with someone, someone you loved who loved you back. And that happened! And then you realized you liked being single, that you liked your solitude, AND YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND!”


“Do you realize you have a terminal heart condition? Do you know that? You say twenty years. But have you done the research? Because I have.”


“I signed up for that! Being my mother’s caregiver, knowing full well what I was signing up for, I still signed up for that! I wanted to be the one! I wanted to be there with you! For you!”


[Picture me wildly gesticulating – pointing at an imaginary contract in front of us.]


“I SIGNED UP FOR THAT! LOOK! DO YOU SEE MY NAME RIGHT THERE? I SIGNED UP FOR THAT!”


And then, finally.


“Don’t you see I have to break up with you? Don’t you see that? I have no choice."


“You have to be true to yourself. I want nothing else for you. You don’t want this. And if you said you did now, how could I trust you weren’t doing it just to make me feel better? Because you’re always trying to make me feel better, to make me feel good, to take away my sad. And that’s very sweet. But none of that changes the fact this isn’t what you really want.”


And then, after a bit of silence, he got up to go to the bathroom.


And I left.


And he didn’t come after me. Because it’s not in his nature to fight, to chase. It’s just not. And there’s no use wishing he was different than exactly who he is.


And would I want him to be?


I went to the hotel, slept for a bit, woke at midnight and thought and cried and thought and cried until 3:30. Then forced myself to sleep again until 7. Now I’m at breakfast, writing this out because I must. It must come out and get down on paper, or it stays inside of me and eats at me and puts me in great danger.


I check my heart over and over. Am I being selfish? Am I a spoiled, entitled woman, to think I deserve this with David, to believe I can have this with David? And the answer that comes is no. This is real, and honest, and I must honor my time of grieving. It’s not selfishness.


I’m grieving the death of the possibility of something really wonderful.


I Persevere. And life goes on.

David's rendition of Renée Falconetti from The Passion of Joan of Arc

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