Hands

On Three.

I dragged myself to my second-floor window, and clung to the sill with white knuckles—my lungs laboring against the thick, hot air. Tears poured from my ducts like unhinged floodgates, and choking back sobs, I watched as he reluctantly backed out of his parking space, and out of my life.

It was over.

My phone blared on the nightstand, its ring assaulting the silence like a scream. I reached for it—his name staining the screen—but stopped myself, knowing well if I released my grip, the weight of the world would pin me to the floor, and crush me. Gravity thrashed against me—I held on tighter.

I returned to the pane; it was empty. I pressed my palm against the glass, and braced myself for the inevitable blow. Head and heart collided, grappling each other with grit teeth, fueled by reason and feeling, trying desperately to overcome the other; heart with empty protest.

The ping of a voicemail pulled me from my nightmare, then shoved me back under. I lifted the phone to my ear and listened, nearly broken, to a sobbing, desperate plea for reversal.

“Please don’t do this.”

But it was done—I was done. I collapsed against the wall, hysterical, and wept with the force of 1,000 oceans. I was overwrought with sadness, and crippled by the sting of lost love. I pulled my knees to my chest, paralyzed by loneliness, loss, and total uncertainty, and bawled. Hurt devoured me like poison.

In that moment, recovery felt impossible. I was unreachable.

But amidst my violent emotional outpour, the tiniest part of me felt peace—I’d effectively freed myself from two years of emotional abuse. And that speck of hope was shouting something above my madness; a prayer for strength. A declaration of strong will and perseverance. A promise of healing and wholeness.

While I writhed in anguish on my apartment floor, some higher power quietly prepared me for the hardship ahead, and nursed my wounds. Then life spun its dial, and my countdown to restoration began. “Ready, go,” it cooed.

The days that followed were laced with misery and second-guessing. Despite my knowing that my decision was just, nothing felt okay. Suffering to end suffering? Life has an interesting sense of humor.

After pulling myself from the floor, I retreated home to my mother’s couch; a dependable safe haven, no matter my age, proffering tenderness, warmth, and homemade mac. But Velveeta barely stirred me.

My heart was wrecked.

Fast-forward two months, and my ability to cope with newfound singularity was failing. I lacked a proper outlet to settle myself. So I broke out an empty hand-bound book I created in college, ripped the cap off a fine-point black Sharpie, and tore through its pages with the rage of an angry ex-wife. I’ve written this before.

Eleven months later, I filled “Just Keep Swimming,” which I so desperately penned behind its cover the day I committed to stocking its pages. But I wasn’t finished writing—there was so much left to say. So I bought another journal.

Now, four pages remain. “Just Keep Swimming, Vol. II” is a mere entry (or two) away from completion, and I’m astonished by both the quickness of time and the tenacity of my pen. I’ve saturated 336 pages with 19 months of life’s highs, lows, and in-betweens. Rereading my journey from my own perspective is a humbling experience.

I’m proud of myself.

For having the courage to move forward. For pouring myself into positive outlets to keep myself well. For being patient. For understanding love was lost, but more existed in the hearts of those who carried me. For embracing that notion. For identifying my value, and setting it high. For owning moments of weakness, and choosing to protect myself. For greeting new experiences, accepting fear, and doing things. For being brave.

For growing.

Flipping now through the pages of these journals, I’m reminded of that titanic emotional rollercoaster, and my overwhelming sorrow. Break-ups are not for the faint of heart; they require endurance. But eight months following our end, wholeness consumed me when I stopped paying attention, and I felt free.

At the root of everything was my conviction that I deserved the greatest possible love, and it needed to start with me. Courage and faith revived me, and I made myself full; with life, with love, with peace, with joy. With every good noun that one can breathe.

“How poetic to end these pages on the first; a whole 11 months after my first entry, and a mere 30 days from a full year of healing. I can say, with all of my heart, that I am the strongest, most whole I’ve been in so very long. And I owe all of this strength, and sass, and courage to myself.

I am so unbelievably proud of my wholeness, and thoroughly impressed by my bravery in saying ‘yes’ to so many new experiences. I’ve learned to navigate my loneliness, take comfort in doing life alone, find peace with my singularity, and fill my heart with love.

So fist-pump to you, self, for kicking life straight in the sack, and moving forever forward, knowing that for the 5% of time you’re allowed to not have your shit together, it’s totally fine to run home, drown yourself in some vodka, and cry on your dog.”

—Just Keep Swimming, 9.1.14

Commence volume three.

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