Category Archives: recovering

The room in my heart

There was a room in my heart
its walls stained by the tides of tears
and the jagged graffiti of hurtful words
its floors sagging from old expectations
and cluttered with the lead-grey jetsam
of our broken hopes.

I spent a year cleaning the room in my heart
Scrubbing the walls with shredding tissues
soaked in the tears and snot brought up
from the deepest secrets of my heart.
Separating out what was mine to repair
from what was yours.

Now, outside the room in my heart
Sits a bag full of the clutter that you
left behind you, said you did not own.
If you dare to open the zip, you’ll see
the parting gifts that my hands have made
from our love’s flotsam.

Your private door to the room in my heart
has vanished forever. So you’ll have to imagine
how freshly the colours gleam. How the walls
(stripped back to stone and plastered anew)
are damp-proofed and caressed with sun.
But not for you.

For the room in my heart is at last swept clean.
And its new door is ready to open.

A few days ago I sent my last message in the recent e-mail exchange with my ex. Gently, and affectionately – but also firmly, having set my boundaries and said what I needed to say. Which actually was surprisingly little!

I’m now pretty sure that he won’t respond. Which is absolutely fine with me. There was very little chance we could regain anything meaningful. What I wanted was to express some things I had been unable to say at the time. And feel that I had brought the messiness of last year to an appropriate end. An end that is fitting for the spirit of the good times rather than fraught with the pain of the bad times.

For several hours after I sent the message I felt a deep sense of peace and joy. And this poem tries to capture some of that feeling.



In the reunions my mind choreographs
I’m wearing that new red dress
(which flatters my figure so well)
and dancing my heart out. My feet
whirl around the axis of my heart
in the balance and joy of my return
to the centre of my self, to my confidence.
Perhaps even dancing with my new lover
(who of course has none of the flaws
of my old one.
And no flaws of his own either –
the way it is in all the best fantasies!)
Perhaps – but however gorgeous he is, it is
my own swift feet that bear me across the floor
with a sensual elegance (that in real life
they are still working on learning!)
And from the centre of that blissful spiral
I glimpse him again – that once-beloved,
half-forgotten face, watching, wistfully,
from the sidelines, seeing in a moment
the beauty and kindness and strength
of the woman he rejected. (Qualities that are
so vivid – how could he have failed to see them
even for a moment?).
He sees what he threw away.
But knows it’s too late. And as I dance on
there is compassion for him in my heart
even as my skirt swirls red and bright
with my happiness for myself.
(and maybe it’s just a dream –
but it’s a good dream!)

For weekend wordsmith’s prompt of “reunion”

The photo is red swing, originally uploaded to flickr by educated rabbit.

Coming home

The road twists and turns beneath my weary feet–
(I have to walk, it’s too steep to drive)
Until finally, against all the odds,
I arrive.

I have never seen it before
And yet this strangely peaceful space
immediately feels like home.
My place.

There’s something homely in the warm gold
of the light, quietly softened by mist
The cushions waiting plumply
to be squished

Here I can be myself
Here my soul learns how to rest
And I can walk out bravely, knowing the safety
of my fortress

Is always there for me to retreat to
When the world proves unkind.
Out of darkness I have found a safe home
in my wandering mind.

Partly for One Single Impression, but mostly to express the feelings (discussed more clearly in this post), about coming home to my sense of myself.

The photo is another image from my recent travels

Enthralled heart

I look back at memories blurred by long-ago tears
And cannot recall why my heart was so eager
To trap itself in a cage of hopes and fears
In the hope of a reward that now appears so meagre

Locked up my willpower, threw away the key
Abandoned my self esteem for the poor substitute
Of glittering compliments that seemed as true to me
As the later criticism I gave up the power to refute

And peering back at those tear-faded remembrances
I feel pity and anger for him as well as for me
For the fear and confusion that were such hindrances
That they ended our love short of what we dreamed it could be

But even after months of working to free my heart from pain
Still there’s a part of me that longs to be enthralled again.

Why is it that, even when we know how painful being in love can be, we still want to fall in love again? Of course our wants change – I certainly don’t want to end up feeling so trapped and helpless again. And I’d happily swap the dizzy happiness of love’s intoxication for the stability that was so lacking in my last relationship.

But still there’s part of me that hankers for that intoxication. Those days when the world just seems brilliant with emotion. I don’t know how to explain its attraction – but I know that while the wiser part of me is cautious, there is still a part of me that longs to be enthralled again. (Enthralled seems the perfect word for this blissful imprisonment!) I suppose part-cautious, part-hopeful is a good position to be in, given the pain and the happiness that relationships can bring.

For the monday mural at poefusion – artwork by Brian at photobucket.

The mind sends a love letter…

Gentle heart, ………….naïve as a child
beating quietly so as …. not to disturb anyone
I love your wonderful foolishness. Your strength
not the strength of a tree, or a fortress, or a prison
but the strength of the fragile walls of a termite nest.
So easily breached, but in the very moment of damage
your healing hordes start scurrying to patch the breach.
the tear-wet mud dries fast, and leaves the wall stronger
than ever- yet still able to breathe. I try to protect you,
but you are wiser than I, and my blundering attempts
to protect you often do you deeper harm.
But you do not blame me – you heal
and then simply forgive
my gentle heart

Untangling the last knots

One by one I have been undoing the knots of my last relationship and turning each source of pain and anger into a lesson learnt, a new strength to live by. Most of the knots were undone several months ago, and I have not been feeling miserable about the ending for a long time. But always there has been something hanging on at the back of my mind, something that I had to face before I could let go. Unfinished conversations haunting my mind like ghosts.

I think I am, at long last, reaching the core of that now. It is not easy to face, but I have been coming to understand the extent to which I was responsible for hurting myself. Yes, he abused the trust I placed in him – but I had placed that trust in him too freely, more unconditionally than was wise, and I did not withdraw the trust until it was too late. I need to forgive myself for being so foolishly and wonderfully heart-open.

And more. I don’t want to say this, and I keep dodging away from it, but I can see now that the state of vulnerability I ended up in was genuinely unbearable for him. When you are confused and hurt yourself, the last thing you need is someone who is wide open to your words, and hurt by your confusion. Sometimes things you’re going through make you lash out, and it makes it harder when someone is standing close to you, even if that closeness was welcome in happier times. I can see how difficult it must have been for him, how suffocating my vulnerability must have become.

As someone who has tended to be too independent for most of my life, I really don’t like to see myself this way – but reading some of our old e-conversations again, it’s undeniably there. I have made a huge journey in my life from separateness and independence to openness and the willingness to trust. The fact that, in particularly difficult circumstances, I went a little too far does not in any way detract from the importance of that journey, or of the value of the trust and openness that I have learnt.  

I have been resisting seeing this because his accusations of neediness were so painful to me, because they confirmed the longheld fear that, if I expressed honestly who I was and what I needed, I would be rejected. So to have my trust and honesty rejected so abruptly was deeply painful. To begin with I took his criticisms to heart. Then I learnt to see that his criticisms were vastly exaggerated and unkindly expressed (it was fairly obvious to friends of mine, but took me a while to accept because I didn’t want to think badly of him). It has taken rather longer to be able to accept that there was a small amount of truth to them.

But not much. A few weeks where I had an increased and uncharacteristic need for reassurance of affection and respect (which was rarely forthcoming) lasting a few weeks. And a heightened sensitivity to his comments about my personality and reactions that led to some angst-ridden e-mails and two evenings where I cried a lot, once in public. OK, he was a vulnerable person in many ways, but to claim he was traumatised by that to the point of being unable to cope with being in touch with me seems just a little excessive!

Of course there are also reasons that explain why I got into that vulnerable state, which wasn’t characteristic for me at all. I can’t ignore the ways in which he increased my vulnerability, encouraged me to need him, nor the way he treated my trust and my love with harshness, and certainly not the way in which he projected so many of his own difficulties onto me.

I don’t think it is fair for me to accept more than a small share of responsibility for the failure of this relationship, but I think it is vital for me to recognise the share I did have, and forgive myself for that, so that I can move on. And, even more importantly, to learn how to stop myself repeating this pattern.

One important part of not repeating the pattern is changing the way I relate to other people’s opinions, as I said in a recent post.

Another, perhaps paradoxically, is to be more explicit about my needs and wants, based on acceptance that it is OK for me to need and want them. Spending time with my parents recently, I noticed how rarely we express what we want – our family tends to negotiate in a much more indirect way, each tending to argue that others should receive a benefit that can’t be shared equally. And if someone does express a want clearly and explicitly, that’s generally unusual enough that it gets immediate action. So I grew up not really expressing what I want.  I tend to feel that, if I explicitly say what I want, I am in some way binding other people to deliver what I want, and so am responsible for the consequences and for depriving other people of the pleasure. So I end up reluctant to say what I want – indeed sometimes I’m so busy trying to predict other people’s wants that I end up not paying attention to my own.

As a system, this works fine when everyone plays by the same rules, but leaves me trailing when surrounded by people who are used to much more direct expression of wanting (a bit like the game of Prisoner’s dilemma!). I think I need to adjust my behaviour so that I can be on a more level playing field. I’ve already taken some important steps in this direction. By being more aware of my needs and wants, I’m more able to take conscious and appropriate action to meet them, and so address them before they grown too difficult and painful for me to deal with appropriately.

A third and related dimension is to accept that it’s OK to want things, even if those things are impossible. I notice myself not even asking for things I want because I suspect they may not be possible. For some bizarre reason I catch myself thinking that even wanting, let alone asking for, something I can’t have, is somehow ridiculous and shameful. Rather than just a fact of life!

Yet again the aftermath of this relationship has taught me a huge amount about myself, and about relationships. It has been a long tail of processing for a quite short relationship… but it had an intense connection and an exceptionally painful ending, and the brevity in many ways made it harder to deal with.

I hope that processing my reactions slowly, patiently and in its own time will ensure that all the emotional baggage is turned into wisdom!

And I hope that it won’t be long before I have the opportunity to put these lessons into practice….

Six months’ worth of writing, living and learning

To celebrate six months of blogging (over 200 posts and nearly 100 poems!), I thought I would share thirteen things I have learnt in that time, many of them directly from blogging:


  1. Hearts can heal, and a thoroughly healed heart is stronger than one that has never been broken.

  2. Creativity, particularly new creative projects, is a great way not just to recover from a broken heart, but to grow immeasurably from the experience.

  3. Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary activity – and sharing drafts with an understanding audience is a great way to keep motivated.
  4. Writing things in a public forum, even to a small audience of people whose faces I have never seen, is different from just writing them for yourself – and it can be much more healing.
  5. Sometimes the things I don’t want to say are the ones I most need to say. Sometimes the things I don’t want to say are also what others are most interested in hearing

  6. Free writing practices often produce some of my best writing… and paradoxically often my most structured writing too. And I’m increasingly realising that the ideas and experiences that go into my poems are strong enough to stand as free verse. I enjoy playing with different structures, but I can have more confidence in the interest of my own voice. 

  7. It’s better to say too much than to be too vague to be understood – even if you have to clarify what you meant, or soothe someone’s agitation, you’re communicating. And being so tolerant of other people’s views and beliefs that we don’t express our own is almost always counterproductive – and leads to much less interesting discussions.

  8. It’s far too easy to accept arguments and evidence that supports your conclusion, and not notice the obvious flaws. Reading and participating in the debates in the blogosphere has made me very aware of this, and hopefully made me a more honest debater!

  9. There are some wonderful people out there in the blogosphere…. as well as a lot of people who can’t string a coherent sentence together. Many people out there have had lives incredibly more difficult and complicated than mine has been. I’ve been touched and moved and shocked by some of the things I’ve read. I don’t know whether bloggers are more likely to have trauma in their past, or whether it’s just that in the blogosphere, people tell stories that you would normally hear only from your closest friends. Either way, thank you all for increasing my awareness and understanding of what it is to be human.

  10. Finding my own words to express myself is, right now, more important to me than singing the music and words written by others, however beautiful and powerful.

  11. Always follow your dreams can be a good principle, but it can also be a trap that leaves us struggling and miserable, feeling like failures or forcing ourselves to do things that just aren’t right any more. So it’s important to leave room for both you and your dreams to change and grow.

  12. This last year has been an intense time – difficult in many ways, but I don’t regret a moment of it. I have learnt so much and grown so much, that it’s a hundred times worth all the tears and the pain of heartbreak.

  13. Writing means far less without readers – so thank you all!