The Cemetery

Yesterday I conducted the last rites/funeral for my most recent breakup. This ritual differs from breakup to breakup – I do different things each time to make the loss official and to help process my grief and hurt. This time, I removed his belongings from my bedroom. He had a couple of drawers in my bureau where he kept his things. I had also made space for him on my desk to do his paperwork, and a few of his things were hanging in my closet. Initially I hadn’t had the heart to remove those things from my bedroom – I think I was hoping against hope that he’d call and we’d somehow put things back together. But he hasn’t called, hasn’t returned my calls, and my coming to terms with the way he has dismissed me continues. (It’s funny – that’s something he and my ex before him have in common, and something my most recent ex used to make fun of my former ex about. My most recent ex thought it was very silly that my former ex wouldn’t speak to me; he thought it was crazy and even said as much. But now he’s doing the same thing.)  Part of accepting his absence from my life meant removing these things from my bedroom; I had to get rid of his things I was looking at everyday, reminding me of how I’d lost him for good. So I packed up the two drawers of his belongings, took his custom-made suit and carefully packed it into the box it came in, and gathered up the stack of papers he left on my desk. I put these things into boxes and took them down to the basement, where the rest of his belongings were stored. I left them there. I briefly thought back to my younger days when I might have taken a blowtorch to his stuff. But I’m not that chick anymore, and I haven’t been for years. As I put his things in the basement I briefly wondered if he’d even come back to retrieve his things – truthfully at this point he has no reason to come back to Baltimore, and everything he has stored in my basement can be replaced. I also wonder what it will be like for me if he does return to claim his things. Will I cry when I see him? Will I be angry? Will he try to reconcile with me? Will I even want to see him – will I just direct him to come pick his stuff up while I’m not there? But that’s a long time down the road I reminded myself as I put the boxes away with a sigh, looking at the huge pile of boxes and bags and steamer trunks full of kitchen supplies and clothes and military paperwork and such. It looked like a huge tombstone to me – a big headstone marking the death of what we had, or what I thought we had. His stuff is stored right next to my washer and dryer, so I still see it occasionally. In a way it makes me mad, because he still has a presence in a way in my personal space because his stuff is in my house, but he has nothing with him to painfully remind him of me – no drawers of my clothes, no closet of my belongings. He has nothing to prick his memory where I am concerned, whereas I am faced with pieces of him every time I wash clothes. He has nothing of me; nothing to remind him of anything about me or us. He has erased me from his memory. But its okay; it is a reminder not to allow this to happen again with him. Now my memories of him are transported to a place in my mind that I call “The Cemetery”.

JONATHAN TOMBSTONE

“The Cemetery” is the place in my head where I keep the key memories of my exes, and where I put those  memories and relationships when they end. There are certain things I associate with each ex, and when those things are mentioned it brings to mind that person. I keep these things in The Cemetery, representing the things associated with each person and the death of each relationship. For example, in the case of my most recent ex, one of the things in the cemetery is a heavy woolen sweater. He loved sweaters and had lots of them – beautiful supremely warm sweaters. He even gave me a couple of them, and they were some of the warmest garments I ever owned. They were my salvation during the winter months, and wearing them made me feel close to him. There are all kinds of odds and ends in The Cemetery – digital cameras, microphones, American flags, keyboards, Jeep Wranglers, police uniforms, football jerseys, etc. Certain places remind me of certain people – South Beach, New York, Texas. Whenever I find I have visit The Cemetery, I visit the other relationship graves while I’m there. I’ll look at the things I’ve left at each grave to commemorate that particular relationship’s passing. Sometimes I’ll feel sad and melancholy. Sometimes I’ll laugh. Sometimes I’ll feel uncomfortable. And since I was putting this last relationship to rest (In my head I placed a bunch of carrots and kale at the grave along with one of my corsets instead of flowers – he loved carrots and kale), I decided to visit some the other graves, reminisce a bit, and revisit some of the lessons I learned from each relationship. In fact even the kind of grave that the relationship has in my head says something about the relationship.

Cemetery

This is sort of like what my ex cemetery looks like in my head. But without the bird.

The remains from my relationship before this last one is in a mausoleum – a huge granite building adorned with shiny brass doors and marble pillars. It is very grand looking and fancy on the outside, which is a huge contrast to the coldness and loneliness inside.

masoleum

I put this relationship in a mausoleum in part because the over-the-top grandeur of it suits that particular man’s his tastes in things.  It is fancy outside, just like he was, and still is. I also put this relationship here because it taught me A LOT, so there are a lot of things that need to be stored in memoriam – and in my head these things are all over the room inside where the remains of this relationship are kept. Things like microphones and keyboards and pointed shoes. But also stored there is a copy of my first CD. It is there because more than anything this represents the most important thing I got from this relationship – the formulation of my artistic/creative voice. My first CD represents that more than almost any of the things I’ve done before it because it was the first time I really gave a lot of thought to who I wanted to be creatively, artistically – what did I want to say, and how did I want to say it? I got a chance to incorporate many of the things I love into my voice – like music, like sensuality, like love, like lust, like beauty and just everything that is in me – all of those things found their way into my first CD more than any of the work I’d done previously. And because of that CD, I allowed myself to blossom as an artist and I fully began to step into my power. And I would have not created that project had it not been for this relationship – more importantly I wouldn’t have allowed that project to carry me as far as it did. It is not my best work, but the point at which it occurred in my development was crucial for me. So it rests here, with this relationship.

I have been engaged a couple of times in my life, and one of those failed engagements resides in a lonely grave on top of a mountain.

mountaintop grave use this one

I placed him there to represent several things that our relationship was. It definitely was a high point in my life outwardly. I was doing very well from outward appearances – living in a very nice townhouse in White Marsh, driving my minivan, both of my kids in good schools doing well, and I was dating a wonderful man who loved me, and we were planning our future together. He lived in New York, so we had been doing a long distance relationship for quite a while. But now, finally, we had decided he would move to Baltimore, and we’d make plans to be together. I loved him very much, and even my children cared for him. I could see my life coming together beautifully and perfectly. But notice the mountaintop is far away from everything. That was one thing that was part of our relationship too – when I was dating him I was very isolated from my extended family and friends. I was also very isolated from my creative self. During this period I rarely wrote and had not started performing yet, and whenever I would mention writing he would gently discourage me, telling me I needed to focus on my career and things that would build our future together as a couple; he didn’t want me to take time away from that with things that would be a “waste of my time”. I went along with that for a long time. I was working a lot to maintain my life, and at first it was easy to lose connection to people, and to that creative part of me. This grave is far away from the others in the cemetery, representing the physical distance that existed between us during our long distance relationship. But one thing about something that is up high – there is a very real chance it will come tumbling down. And that’s exactly what happened with this relationship. It was very exalted in my eyes; I put it up high on a pedestal and tried to be Miss Perfect Girlfriend/Wife To Be. But that didn’t leave any room to be me, and when I finally started becoming who I really was, he wasn’t too happy about it – the real me had some real problems about how he handled certain issues in our relationship, including his infidelity. In memoriam of this relationship near the grave I put books of matches and lighter fluid (long story), pizzas, a beautiful lacy nightgown, and a miniature sailboat. The most important thing I learned from this relationship was to stand my ground and know my heart, and I started to know who I really was really was enough. This man taught me the importance of knowing myself, knowing my limitations, knowing what I needed in a relationship and demanding it, no matter what.

My very first serious boyfriend has two markers in The Cemetery, each representing a distinct part of our relationship. The first marker is a large, beautiful black granite stone surrounded by tons of colorful flowers underneath lush, gorgeous trees.

grave with fresh flowers use this one

This grave is here because it was in this relationship that I bloomed and began becoming a beautiful woman, a lush, sensually alive woman. This was the man to whom I lost my virginity, when we were both teens. This was the relationship that opened my budding heart to love, because he was my first love and I was truly devoted to him as a teenage girl, and he was equally devoted to me. And even though it died, it died a very natural, organic death that I can genuinely mourn.  It deserves a special resting place that represents natural beginnings and endings – a place that honors a relationship that, while it was not perfect, was beautiful. It was full of genuine love, genuine devotion, and genuine affection that was pure and unadulterated because we were both so innocent and inexperienced at the time. We were young and full of hope and joy for our future. It was the first time for both of us in every way. In my head at The Cemetery, there is a little granite bench near this grave where I can sit and think about this relationship, and all the good that came from it. Yes we had issues and it was rocky at times, but I still feel blessed and happy that this relationship was how I learned about sex and love.

The other grave for this relationship looks more like this:

LONELY GRAVE

It is in a barren dry place by itself, isolated from everything else. Some twenty years after our first breakup, my first love came back into my life. He sought me out and found me at my job, saying he was divorced and had moved back to Baltimore. I agreed to meet him for dinner one evening, and quicker than it takes to tell, we were fully involved in a relationship again. It felt so wonderfully sweet to me, like a long-overdue homecoming. He was the first man I ever wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but we hadn’t been able to. And now, somehow, fate was allowing us another chance to be together! It was so wonderfully romantic, and we spent hours getting reacquainted, telling each other all the things that had happened in the past twenty years to bring us to where we were. I let my most foolishly romantic fantasies run wild during this period, and I was very happy – right up until the time I discovered he was still married, had only recently left his wife, and was involved with at least three other women in addition to me (I still wonder how he found the time!) When I confronted him about this, he physically assaulted me and broke my left hand, and I had to have surgery and physical therapy to repair it. It hurt more than I can say, especially coming from him. My beautiful memories of our young love affair were forever tainted with the awful revisiting. I wished with all my heart that I had not allowed things to get so far. I hated that I had allowed my romanticism to run the show. I hated how unrealistic I’d been, how foolish, how full of fantasies that I really expected to come true. And it was not the first time a man in my life who I was seeing was violent with me. The redux has a separate grave – it was very hard for me to separate the sweet memories of the wonderful boy I loved in high school from the dishonest, hateful man I allowed into my life. But I did by separating them in The Cemetery. So our youthful first romance gets a beautiful grave, and that last painful episode – well, gets something that reflects its ugliness.

My cemetery has graves of all kinds. Some have simple markers. Some have more elaborate ones. Some I don’t visit much. Some I stop by pretty often, maybe because I’m still looking for answers regarding those relationships. In my head I change the things I place at each grave, as I recall different things about those relationships. I guess all of this sounds rather morbid, but to me it really isn’t. This is just how I deal with the loss of these people in my life, and it helps me eventually remember the good things and let go of any pain or bad feelings I may try to cling to about the person.

Today as I put my latest relationship in the cemetery, I made a few stops at a few graves. I laughed a bit, and I cried a bit too. But as I left, I was glad to say that in spite of all the deaths and all the loss all around my heart, my heart is still alive, pumping loud and hard and strong, giving me the will to continue to live and love fearlessly. The deaths make me appreciate the life my heart has. I appreciate the miracle that I have somehow continued onward, and will continue onward. And these deaths, while tragic, were all necessary to make my heart the strong vessel it is.

And I hope your heart is too.

Until next time,

Tula

“I think it is lost…but nothing is ever lost nor can be lost. The body sluggish, aged, cold, the ember left from earlier fires shall duly flame again.”  –Walt Whitman

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