English poet and philosopher David Whyte was once called on to give a friend some advice. This friend was in the middle of leaving a relationship. I’ve been there – in the position of counsel. Mostly it takes me straight back, like riding down a razor blade, to the times I’ve had to leave love myself. I don’t know that anything is harder.

Image by Maia Fore
Image by Maia Fore

There’s this: We think we are not just losing that person, but the part of ourselves that loved.

And this: We share dreams with this other person and we pivot our very selves on those dreams. When we leave love, we have to now give these dreams up too. Is there anything left? Is there a stable pivot point anymore? The last time I was in this space, I know I honestly felt that the ground had fallen out from beneath me and that I was left with nothing but thin air to try and tread through. Like a nightmare.

And also this: It all seems so arduous to start up again with our own dreams. Doesn’t it? Where to start from when your platform is a nightmare-like abyss of thin air?

Whyte wrote a poem for his mate that sums some of this up. I find it funny that previously my Poem of Comfort was a poem of the same name by Mary Oliver.

The Journey

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

I like this. Our lost loves are the lessons that wake us up to what our true selves have known for eternity and have been trying to tell us for just as long. Oh yes, at the grim end of a relationship, we just don’t hear our little souls whispering. Everything hums too loudly (with fugginess).

The scary abyss that we drop into when we leave love is the exact space we require in order to find the part of ourselves that will create new and better dreams. Because, I tell you, when a relationship goes stale, we lose our imagination. “Someone has written something new” – it’s a nice way to phrase things for someone in the throws of the razor blade ride. There is more than hope.

Don’t you think? Does this reflect your experience the last time you left love?

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Kat

    well…I certainly need to read this! a short lived tumultuous relationship I was in ended a week ago…..I could feel it coming, it needed to happen. feelings of failure were hitting me hard. He ended it…badly, nasty, name calling, not accepting of the reasons why it was happening. My mind has been buzzing all week with his horrid words….I keep replacing his words with mine….My life is good, fun, happy. this was another stepping stone to my dreams and more happiness. I am on the way up. I am recognising my own voice clearer as the other one fades.

  • Mini

    I often look back and think that if a relationship which I was in over 5 years ago that was very important for me had not ended I may not have really become the person I am today or learned so much about myself. I moved home to start again, took up running and changed my attitude to life a bit (deciding I was going to learn to make myself happy in life rather than rely on others to do it for me). I think this beginning just lead me down the current path I am now (and perhaps if I had not lost this relationship and taken up running and gained an interest in my own health and re-inventing myself I would not have discovered iquitsugar and this blog). I think sometimes when you end a relationship and you look to focusing on yourself and other ways to be happy and satisfied in life you learn more about the person you really are and I feel it made me feel for the first time in life I could really just be myself.

  • August

    “…like riding down a razor blade” – what a phrase! Precisely & exquisitly worded.

  • sarah

    How painful it is to read this knowing I also need to leave this toxic space I now stand. Thanks sare, for always writing what I need to read over all these years x

  • Melanie Greblo

    Beautiful. Both David’s and Mary Oliver’s poetry speaks to such universal human experience, I love them too.

  • Julie

    Elizabeth Gilbert sums it up perfectly for me…
    “People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…” ―Elizabeth Gilbert

    • Maria

      Wow that is such a powerful statement but so very true. I almost made it to 30 years but my heart too, was ripped out.

  • Maddie

    Sarah, I love these recent (and not so recent!) reflections of yours about love … I’m in a committed relationship but these posts always help me think, or think again, about the basis of that commitment, and the way in which I value myself, within and without the relationship. The task for those of us for whom the default mode (long-term, living together, kids, nuclear family reduplicating) doesn’t fit or eventuate, sometimes in spite of deep-held wishes, is to imagine alternative ways of affirming ourselves, and our relationships (still so precious and valuable, even if they don’t “make it”), and of celebrating and marking these values within our communities. So often the feeling at the end is of shame and failure, guilt and anger, but ends are so often positive landmarks in a life – even the ultimate end. Turning towards ends without fear, dwelling on the possibility (the cynic in me says statistical likelihood) of the relationship ending (I prefer to think, changing), can seem morbid or paranoid but so often I find it returns me to the present, to my self, and to decisions I am at peace with, rather than ones I cannot help but make.

    It seems like these posts don’t always get the comments or feedback they deserve, but I hope you keep putting them and yourself out there.

    • that’s an interesting comment re the comments…the quality of the comments always matters most. Thank you for yours.

  • eilish bouchier

    Great post Sarah riding down a razor blade – perfectly succinct. It’s hard to see the light when you are so deep in the tunnel that the end of a relationship brings. You can’t even see which way is out. It takes deep faith to know it will appear as David Whyte says when you are at your most faithless so for now allow yourself to feel it all after all it is the privilege of having felt great love to feel great loss. Love that Elizabeth Gilbert comment quote too, thank you Julie x eilish.

  • jolien

    Wow, I love the Mary Oliver poem you mention, the way she speaks of that determination really resonates. It’s helpful reading your insights into relationships sarah, thanks for sharing x