What I wish I would have known when I called off my engagement.
I realize that the things I am about to say could apply to a multitude of situations, in addition to calling off an engagement. And, I also realize that calling off an engagement is one blip on the screen of a huge and amazing life.
But, I will focus on calling off an engagement, and I will focus on how it hurt me, deeply, because it deserves this attention. It deserves this attention because you, whomever you are who has called off, or are thinking of calling off, an engagement—you deserve this.
I manifest many of my greatest fears in my own life.
Maybe it’s God’s way of showing me that what I focus on creates my own life, or maybe it’s God’s way of giving me that extra little shove to confront my deepest anxieties, and grow through the process.
Maybe it’s a little of both.
Maybe it’s neither.
My mother called off an engagement before she met my father. It was a story I knew little of, and had always embellished it, in my mind, changing the characters and plot with my expanding cognizant abilities and deepening world view as I grew.
When I was a little girl, I wondered if she ever wished she had married him, instead of my father. I imagined myself, complete with her beautiful, magical smile that I had inherited a glimmer of, and her eyes, but with different features than my fathers chin, nose and stature. I had a hard time conceptualizing that I simply wouldn’t have existed if she had not married my father.
I will never forget the morning my mom entered my room to sit next to me and rub my back as I slowly woke to consciousness. Yellow morning sun draped the blush walls of my room, and seemed to cloak her words as well. Slowly, carefully, pedantically yet with great relish, as one would savor something they are eating for the pure pleasure of tasting alone, she began to tell me a story.
I had my back to her, so as she spoke I imagined her face, the look it would get, so kind and beautiful, edged with a certain sweet sorrow I am only beginning to understand.
“I will never forget the mornings I would wake up next to your father,” she told me, “and know, it doesn’t get any better than this. And things change and we fight and our lives get busy, but that feeling, it never leaves me.”
I understood then, at fifteen, that she had no doubt about being with my father. I also understood that I wanted that same understanding with some person of my own one day.
I called off my first and, to this point, only engagement. It was difficult and messy and I fell apart completely. It was as if I were a purse that someone had just dumped on the ground, lipsticks and pens rolling in different directions, receipts and lists fluttering away in the breeze. Exposed, from the inside out. Naked, unstable, unravelling.
After I called off my engagement, my mother and my father told me all of these things I am about to tell you through their actions and unconditional love.
But, if I were to go through it again, I would not want to have to make the leap before discovering whether or not that support existed. I would want to read these words, again, and again and again, until they were sealed upon my heart, in my mind, on my lips, cloaking my naked, exposed, unraveling body before I even had the courage to decide at all.
So I am writing them for you, dear lovely soul. Maybe, as I did, you are staying up alone, in the dark, googling calling off an engagement and looking for some peace.
First things first:
You are okay.
You will be okay. Money or convenience or obligation is never a reason to stay with someone. Guilt will not ever stretch far enough to cover the chasm left by a lack of love. You are not bad. You are not weird. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You have nothing to explain. You are not behind, desperate, alone, scared, marked, lacking, or failing. In any way.
Move forward, strong, sweet, dear one, with your head held high.
Do not waste another moment.
Love is a gut feeling.
You cannot talk yourself into love. You will feel it some day, but if you are wondering now, if your gut says no, say no. Walk away.
Do not wonder one moment more. Life is hard and love is preserved through the little decisions every day to honor and respect your mate, but those initial stages of love, that all-knowing powerful understanding that draws you to someone in the beginning, that is a gut feeling. It may not be a gut feeling of lust and fireworks, it may be a gut feeling that this is okay, this person is okay, I trust and am safe. It may be a quiet peace of knowing you are home.
Whatever it is, do not force it. Do not force it for one moment.
When you are with someone who is not what your soul deserves and desires, you are slowly losing precious parts of yourself. Giving them away, ripping your heart apart, treating the greatest gift you have been given with disrespect and indifference. Honor your soul, honor your desires, needs, and wishes. In doing so, you will honor others, as well.
Do not feel obligated to offer explanations when people ask.
I still run into people, with good intentions, from my hometown who ask when my wedding is, and aren’t I engaged? I used to stumble over a one-line explanation, but now I don’t. I just shake my head, I smile, and I say no. The perplexed look that comes over their face is priceless, but I do not have to comfort them for their confusion, or offer an apology. I am not engaged, I am not planning a wedding. That is all.
Cut your loses.
Move on. I sold my wedding dress on eBay.
Sit with your sorrow.
After a period of intense and intentional mindlessness, I slowed down and the guards around my heart softened just enough to allow my mind to feel the pain I was hiding. It hurt, deeply. Yoga helped me move through my pain and heartache, it helped me confront it face on, and sit with it, and move as I turned it into something beautiful.
Take time alone, for yourself.
There were many days that I came home and locked myself in my apartment. I would put on my favorite t-shirt and did yoga in my living room. And danced. And cried. And stretched. And cried. And cried. And burned sage, and sat with my face buried in my dog’s thick coat. And there were days that I wanted to be anywhere but in my apartment, so I would take my dog and walk and walk and walk and walk. There was a chasm in my heart and I don’t know how I would have moved on and grown without this period of intense mourning.
Don’t try to make your grief appropriate.
Sometimes I felt as if I should quit grieving because it didn’t make sense, since I was the one who called it off. Sometimes I felt as if I should quit grieving because it was weird. Sometimes I felt as if I should quit grieving because it had been long enough, as if I had been appointed some divine period of grieving that had extended past its bounds.
I now firmly believe that to experience the beauty of life, the heart is always in a stage of grief. Grief is part of beauty, it is part of love. Grief weights on our chests as we breathe in and out, grief dances through our dreams at night, and envelopes us in the still quiet of the morning. Grief is not bad. Only grief is bad. But grief, coupled with life and love and yearning and understanding is not bad; it is necessary.
Don’t contain your grief to when you are alone.
Grief is wild, it is beautiful, it is free. Cry when you need to cry.
Don’t be afraid to slip out of grief and into joy.
As explained above, grief never leaves, grief makes us beautiful. Joy does not mean a lack of grief, and joy never leaves, either. Cry, and laugh, and cry. It is symbiotic, it is natural, it is the essence of life.
Don’t be afraid to love again.
You are perfect, you are whole, you are wise, you have grown.
You have so much to offer.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock / Editor: v
Photo: deviant art