This was the question presented to me and my yoga retreat peers during our New Year’s Eve ritual. We were asked to share with the whole group. I knew without hesitation the most challenging thing I went through in 2011, but in that moment I was unable to open my heart, unable to make myself vulnerable before the entire group. Too painful, too hard. Sharing, putting it into words, would have required bringing a deep pain and sadness to the surface. And identifying and naming the feelings, their source…this was something, in that moment, that I had not fully processed intellectually or emotionally. All I could say to the group, while staying true to myself, was, “the most challenging thing I went through in 2011 was emotional stuff.”
New Year’s Eve ritual the previous year: same yoga retreat destination, same teacher, many of the same peers, same question, different year. I sat face to face with one of my peers. My mind was blazing with the answer, my throat was tight, my chest felt constricted, tears welled up in my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. For the longest time, I couldn’t speak. My hurt, my pain, had such a tight grip on me. I felt unable to break through the barrier, to speak the truth searing in my mind. In the final breath, the final moments, I uttered one, maybe two sentences. I spoke of the conclusion of my relationship, but there was sooo much that went unsaid.
These kinds of exercises, sharing with a community or one on one, can be really growth inducing. These exercises stretch us on the inside, they challenge us to come face to face with our feelings, our struggles, our deepest pain, hurt, regret, disappointment, etc. These exercises ask us to be completely emotionally honest with ourselves and with others. We are asked to share from the depths of our core, from our hearts, to speak the truth. We are asked to verbalize, with sincerity, the truth that resides within us, and depending on the question and how honest you allow yourself to be, this can be incredibly hard to do.
My greatest challenge of 2011 was “matters of the heart.” For much of the second half of the year, I was plagued with heart ache and sadness, a sadness I could not shake and that I still cannot fully shake in these early months of 2012. Lately, when this feeling comes to the surface and the sadness takes hold of me, I try with great earnestness to step out of the feeling and observe it and try to understand it. Very recently, I had a moment of insight into my sadness, but first allow me to share why I feel sad, why my heart aches.
Last spring I met someone. I knew from that first night that I liked him, that he was special. I was twitterpated and at one point, I was so delirious with excitement that I smacked my head into a door, twice! The dancing began. (When I get excited, I dance). I felt a connection with him, a genuine and effortless connection. I enjoyed every minute with him. Talking with him and getting to know him was such a pleasure. Every single thing he shared with me about himself was, and remains, a special gift. I was completely open with him, my most authentic self. I felt safe with him. The three C’s were there: comfort, connection, chemistry, along with a little magic and a healthy dose of magnetism :-). He was and is so attentive and kind, so tender-hearted, smart, talented, passionate, so adorable, such a cute and endearing personality. Our time together filled me right up and I felt deeply contented and nourished. It felt so good to connect with another soul, to open my heart, and to get a few glimpses of his heart in return.
I knew I had found something and someone special. I knew this was one of those rare connections, the kind you don’t find every day or even every year. I found someone I could push up against intellectually, physically, and emotionally and with whom I felt a push back. I found someone who could match my strength of mind, body, and spirit, but with a kind of strength very different from my own, strength grounded in tenderness, yet fueled by a passion for life.
I found someone amazing, someone truly special, but the stars have not lined up for us, the timing is not ripe. I am ready for love, I have room in my life for love, I have room in my life for him, lots of room, but he’s not in the same space, he’s not ready. He has other priorities, other concerns right now. He is trying to figure out where he fits and what he wants from his life. I’m sad that he’s going through a difficult and uncertain stretch, but most of all, I am sad that it means right now, and maybe not ever, that we don’t get to explore the great potential that I believe exists for a meaningful and special relationship.
I have had limited contact and interaction with him during this season of his life and it’s hard. I miss him. But then, like I have done many times, I pause and ask myself, “Do I really miss him? How can I miss someone that in the grand scheme of things I don’t know all that well and who has only been in my life a short time?” Yes, I do miss him. I am totally clear about that. But what I realized in my moment of insight is that these feelings, this perpetual longing and sadness, this feeling of being stuck, of feeling unable to move past and out, is about something so much bigger.
I got a taste of intimacy, of a deep connection, and I want more. This beautiful, tender-hearted soul reawakened something within me that is so powerful and so strong – the desire to love again and to have an intimate connection. This reawakening revealed to me that I have a great capacity to love. This energy, this desire to love, flows within me every day and with no outlet for this energy, I am left with a heart that aches with longing, I am left feeling incredibly sad.
In my moment of insight, I saw that this sadness is about something quite big, quite significant. My perpetual sadness is about loss and how the losses in my life have affected the emotional climate in my heart. My feelings of sadness are fueled by loss. I have lost several close family members through death. Other family relationships are weakened or non-existent and this is a loss too. I have also lost many close friendships. My most recent loss has been the loss of my friendship with my closest friend of 15 years and I still struggle with the way it ended. The most deeply felt loss of my life was the loss of my person, my deepest intimate relationship. This loss was extremely emotionally traumatic. In the absence of that intimate relationship, there is a giant void in my heart and this void amplifies my longing for a new intimate connection.
My feelings of sadness are also fueled by emotional deprivation. I have been emotionally deprived of a lot. I was deprived emotionally my entire childhood and now in my adult life by my parents’ inability to meet my emotional needs. I was deprived emotionally in my relationship, a relationship that spanned 10 years, by a person who was unable to give the emotional support needed for a nurturing and sustainable relationship. This history and current climate of emotional deprivation has left me feeling emotionally starved. My body and heart craves emotional nourishment and these cravings fuel my sadness and my longing. My body, heart, and soul, my whole being, craves for the person who filled me up and gave me the nourishment I needed and still need.
Even though I continue to sit with sadness and longing, I know that despite what happens or does not happen with this special someone that I was given a gift – a desire to love again and an awareness of my great capacity to love. For this I am grateful and I choose to celebrate love.
“To love and be loved will be the greatest event in our lives.” ~ Rousseau