When things fall apart

How to survive a soul-level devastation

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by Neva J. Howell unless otherwise noted

The end of life as I had known it and loved it

It was September 13, 2001, just two days after the horrific events of 9/11.

I was sitting at the kitchen table. Across from me was my partner, with whom I shared a monogamous relationship we both considered a spiritual marriage for the past seven years. I had just learned he had been intimate with another woman.

It was so normal, I couldn’t believe it. Sitting at the dining room table, the way we had for thousands of mornings over the years, it took a moment for reality to shift. It was so normal, that moment when my world shattered. I heard a half-laugh jump from my throat. I sat stunned. I did not believe.

I heard what he said. I just simply could not believe it. Then, I believed.

Just two days after September 11, sitting there in the normal kitchen table, I had a vision of myself as one of the towers, crumbling to dust. It was over. I was over. Ground Zero.

Impotent rage followed and then despair so deep that I felt it in my bone marrow.

I lay myself down to die. If this was not my life, this that I had lived for the past seven years, then none else would be my life.

I was not suicidal. I did not have that much energy. I just lay down.

The first words out of my mouth, when finally I could speak:
“I have to leave”.

Yet, I could not leave. For days, I just cried. I lay in the bed and cried. Who was this woman, crumbled and demolished? I didn’t recognize her as me. In fact, I would never have thought that the end of any relationship could have devastated me to this degree.

In the midst of this soul-level devastation, I got a phone call from a friend. I had not talked to this friend for many months and her call was rather out of the blue. Looking back on it now, I know it was a God Send.

God Sends a Messenger:
I told her what was going on and she listened with compassion as I wept yet more where I thought there could be no more tears. I told her I didn’t know how I could find the strength to leave.

There was a pause on the other end of the phone and then, a reply I neither expected or understood. She said simply

“I think I’ll clean out my closet.”

My first reaction was anger. Why was she talking about closets when my life was falling apart around me?

Then, even more oddly, she repeated it:

“I think I’ll clean out my closet.”

In some sort of telekinetic wave, I got it. I saw what she was giving me. I looked over to the closet in my office, and felt something shift in me.

She then said that whenever she had a task that was too overwhelming, like cleaning the house, she would start with something that would not overwhelm.

That day, I cleaned out my closet. Then, I packed a box, then another, then another. And I left.

So, if you find yourself realizing that you have to leave but feeling unable to do it, start with something small. Clean out your closet.

What I discovered, as I cleaned out each little corner of our space together, is that I began to retrieve parts of myself. It happened as I chose what to keep, what to leave, and what to throw away or donate. I threw away A LOT. I donated A LOT. And what I ended up taking, mattered to me.

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