I had a friend once who told me about her mishaps in dating. Her husband died and she’d been raising her daughter for years on her own. Every once in a while, she’d go out on a date, for practice, she said. Sometimes she’d get involved in a relationship. But after the first two relationships ended badly, she decided she was going to swear off men altogether.
“I just refuse to end up crying on the floor again.”
I thought a lot about her words. I understood where she was coming from. The way I looked at it, the women in my family had endured a lot of pain from failed relationships. My grandmother was divorced in her twenties from a man who wasn’t faithful, and she had three young kids to raise on her own. My mother was single and alone when she decided to have me. And then there was me in my mid-thirties, separated from a husband who had been my best friend, with no job, not sure where I’d end up living or how I’d support myself and my kids.
So one day, early spring, I cracked. I was reading something on my computer, a message a stranger had sent me through my blog, and it was kind and unusual. I had been holding everything up for my kids, keeping myself together, staying true to the belief that I could endure, that all good things would happen in time, that one day the mess of my life would be behind me and I could move on. But the stranger’s words gripped me, and I fell onto the floor and cried. I cried as hard as I could ever remember crying, my tears hitting the wood, my palms sweaty, my butt in the air. I cried until I felt empty, until I felt all of it had come out, and then there was a release. I sat on my knees. I prayed to God that I just wanted love.
Minutes later, I got a text from a man I soon fell in love with.
I laughed hard, knowing the timing was not a coincidence. Then I went out in the garden to get my hands in the dirt, to weed, to water the flowers. I felt cleansed, like everything was going to be okay.
That was not the only time I ended up on the floor, but now I know not to resist the wave when it comes. Each time I fell down, each time the tears started to come and the release forced its way through me, I prayed and handed all of it to a higher power, to God, to Goddess, to Spirit–whatever you call the divine. And each time I got an answer. I got comfort, and I got love. Sometimes there were whispers, assurances. Sometimes there were messages from friends or family. Sometimes the messages came from within me, in my journal or through my writing. Those experiences taught me that as much as we don’t want to end up on the floor, as much as we don’t want to admit we’re vulnerable, being vulnerable is often the exact right place to be. By being vulnerable, we empty ourselves of preconceptions, of expectations, of the illusion of solidity. Maybe strength is in the vulnerability, the willingness to ask others for help. Maybe it’s in recognizing that we’re human, that we can break sometimes, that we need something bigger to hold us up. I can’t carry the world. I can’t carry all of my kids. I am not limitless in my body. But I am limitless when I discard the habitual frameworks of my mind, when I embrace what I can do, when I find balance.
Almost a year after that first episode, I found myself on the same spot of my dining room floor again, right between the table and doorway to the kitchen. I had just packed up my house, and I had boxes in my car that needed to go to Goodwill. I didn’t want to leave. I had loved so much in my house; I had been loved. But I prayed again, and all the energy drained out of me until I was empty. My body shook. And the motherly voice that is always there—even though I don’t often hear her—said, “There is so much goodness in you.”
I wiped my eyes and went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror at myself. And I saw the goodness of that woman staring back at me, a woman who was eternal, a woman who could be knocked down by life but would still find her way back up again, over and over, no matter what happened. I would get through the change. I would get through the pain. I would remember that sometimes, being on the floor was exactly the place I needed to be.