The Soundtrack to Someone Else’s Love Story


My car stereo died a while ago but lately it’s been coming back on randomly. The only CD I have is the favor gift from a girlfriend’s wedding earlier this year. The soundtrack to someone else’s love story. I only ever get Track 1. Ed Sheeran starts singing Thinking Out Loud at the strangest of times. Mostly when I’m stuck in my head, in something that happened before, or when I go too fast over a speed bump. When it’s not Ed it’s the radio. A local station occasionally comes on and it reminds me of being in a coffee shop Googling Hawaii, how it was already snowing outside when I packed up all my books, when all I wanted was sunshine and other things I couldn’t have. When it was simply the wrong season for new things to grow.

In one of her Dear Sugar columns Cheryl Strayed wrote: I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.

I’m the ghost sometimes. It’s so easy for me to slip back into the old stories. I’m there at the shore calling after the ships. I’m screaming sometimes. I want it all back. I’m not done. There are so many things I never got to say. Acceptance isn’t my greatest strength. In a healing workshop recently I was asked how much of my feminine energy was left out there, how much of my beauty did I leave in these past situations?

Julia Cameron talks about metabolizing pain as energy in one of her books. The most heartbreakingly brutal question she writes - How can this loss serve me? Where does it point my work?

I’m learning that writing the stories of the sailed-away ships might be enough. At least one curious part of me still gets to live my sister lives. These stories can be gifts. Instead of calling for the past back, now I call only for the energy I left there. I’m not mourning losses anymore. I just want to collect back all the pieces of myself floating outside of me.

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder where the last bits of the old love goes. We’re taught to let go let go let go. Let it all go. Where is the energy of the getting-over, the moving on, and the forgetting once it’s forgotten? Where is the letting go when it is finally gone? There has to be a word for this in a foreign language. Something beautiful and hard to pronounce with an alien tongue. A word that describes the energy of what was once everything but is no longer. If this word had a color it would be Sprite-bottle green and it would look like one of those desperately hopeful roots growing through something impossible like a brick wall or a crack in the footpath.

I was asked to describe one of my weaknesses in a job interview the other day. It was supposed to be a hard question, the manager even stalled to give me time, told me two of his. I didn’t need extra time, I know myself too well. I told him I’m incredibly sensitive. I put on a really brave front. Though sometimes it’s not a front because I have learnt to be brave. And being sensitive doesn’t necessary mean weak. But they’re different things, and being brave in the face of feeling everything so much doesn’t come easy. I stole a line from Junot Diaz. I said I take to hurt the way paper takes to water.

Yesterday I prayed. I was trying to get an animal crate into my car in a parking lot and it wouldn’t fit. It was raining and I was impatient and frustrated because I just finished work and I was tired and I’ve stopped eating sugar so my nerves are always up. I asked for help. I said, God please please please. Usually my prayers are a little more abstract.

I did an exercise in a workshop once that I always think about. We blew up balloons with the intention of filling them with our most positive energy. I was surprised at how light I was. The balloon was orange. The heaviness was somewhere else, maybe out at sea, like a boat so far out in the horizon you have to squint to see if it’s really there.

Some version of God arrived at my car side almost immediately yesterday, he calmly helped me detach every zip tie. I kept thanking him as he clipped each one. If there was nothing to compare it to I’d say cutting zip ties in the rain without a knife is the hardest thing in the world. When I drove away, I had to face the honest-to-god so very literal truth that I had prayed and my prayer was answered. And then Thinking Out Loud came on again.