As I sat there at a family funeral, six plus feet apart listening to Matt share the moments of his father not being there to take him to the park, or teach him how to drive his first car, I could feel chills throughout my whole body. Matt felt alone and unloved, due to the lack of emotion from his quiet parent who primarily communicated with silence.
Raw and beautiful tears fell onto Matt’s shirt. A huge lump in my throat formed as he described how he would give anything to turn the corner, and see his dad that following Sunday on Father’s Day, sitting there in that dark, cold house in his favorite chair, tuning into the news.
Shifting my weight, I listened to “Taps” play, and watched them meticulously fold the flag with honor, stars, and stripes. I wiped my sopping face underneath my leopard printed face mask. Every moment matters.
That lump twisted into knots as it moved from my throat to my stomach. On that memorable day, I just knew there would not be a call or text from Jay to check in on how I was feeling during bereavement.
My heart was heavy. It was beating fast, and then I could feel a tightness in my chest.
Instead of driving seven hours north of the Hollywood cemetery to get dumped by Jay, I took my girlfriend Tracy’s advice to take control, and fight for myself.
I decided that I do matter. Amidst a pandemic, a new job, and in the aftermath of a family death, if I can show up for someone that I care about, why can’t they show up for me? Wasn’t I deserving and worthy of love? Is it that difficult to send me a text in my hours of grief?
I pulled up Jay’s contact and asked over the phone if he had a few minutes to talk:
Wishing him well, I hoped that he would take good care, and that he had a nice time with his family this past month.
And then something happened. My inner silence surfaced. I was grieving the loss of the idea of Jay, a potential partner, rather than wanting to face my own reality: I was actually alone.
The closer I got to his heart, the more emotionally unavailable he became. Even in a breakup, I realized in that moment Jay was protecting his heart–and choosing to suffer. At age 35, he was too scared to let the possibility of love in. Sigh.
I reflected on the passing of my step grandfather, the relationship regret of a son and father’s missing dialogue, and the rewind vignette of myself feeling not seen or heard, as Jay would hide in the bathroom to speak to his family on video chat so he wouldn’t have to introduce me…and suddenly a wave of fresh blood began to flow through my body.
I do not want to look back on my deathbed saying — I wish I would have said this or done this differently. I wish I wasn’t living life small and scared.
I wholeheartedly and vulnerably shared my full self with someone. That takes real courage. In grief, I mustered the strength to remember that I do have a choice.
I have the choice to dive deep into vulnerability. I chose myself. I matter, and am open to receive the right kind of love in return with someone new.
As I tapped the end button on the call, I cranked up the volume to number 35, played Lizzo’s “Good as Hell”, and turned onto the I-5 South smiling, while tears streamed down my face.