The Boston Skyline (Or, From My Heart to Yours)

The last time that I found myself on the train from Providence to Boston, the sight of the Boston skyline made me break down in tears.

It was early November and I was making my way to London for a work trip. Less than two weeks before, I had made the difficult decision to end my relationship after a particularly tumultuous year.

The sight of the Boston skyline hit me hard because just two weeks and three days earlier, the skyline was one I reveled in alongside my former partner and her {our} dog. We were there for a short weekend getaway for an intimate concert with a musician she adores. It was a tiny show at a strange bar that was poorly run and ill-lit with unflattering acoustics, all of which seemed out of place to host such a talented singer and performer visiting the area from Nashville.

We had a lovely night.

Altogether, it was lovely weekend.

On the day we left to go home to Rhode Island — three days before things came undone, when I hit another breaking point, when I again said that I couldn’t do this anymore — the Boston skyline shone vividly in the late autumn sunlight. I remember it fading in into the horizon from the rear view mirror of my car. Her beside me. Lola, snorting all the while.

Three days pass.

Full of the kind of gusto that is born of brooding frustration and resentment and defiant anger that fuels “breakees” forward and out of the crushing reality of their heartbreaks — at least for a little while, until the fever wears off and the true hurt and mourning and pain all come rushing to the surface — I was able to navigate the days following my break-up by busying myself with work and looking ahead to my upcoming travels to London.

Forward focus, I told myself.

Usher in the new.

Rebirth. Renewal.

You’ve been here before.

You’ll be better than ever.

Keep going. Keep going.

I would have told myself anything if it meant keeping my mind away from my heart, my hurt, and my slow but certain breaking.

Then, on a slow train approaching Boston’s South Station… that skyline.

I was already feeling vulnerable and exposed because for the previous two years of relationship with my partner, she had become my travel partner as much as my romantic partner and best friend. Despite traveling the world being something that I done mostly on my own for years previous, now, without her there, even the idea of traveling on my own felt foreign, strange, and uncomfortable.

She had been there with me on trains and airplanes, shuttles and buses, taxis and Lyft rides, in rental cars in Norway and Los Angeles, at Airbnbs in Portugal and Italy, at hotels in Atlanta and riads in Morocco, and on, and on, and on.

If my first journey without her had already left me feeling naked and uncomfortable — without my companion, my trusted partner, my safety blanket, my love by my side — the sight of the skyline let in a whole rush of heartache that I had been trying to bury.

At the sight of those buildings, I truly fell into the gaping wound of her absence.

I felt the impossible emptiness of her not there with me just two weeks after she was there with me — same skyline, same town, same vivid posture and color and shape and angle in the late autumn sun.

The sight of that skyline crushed me.

What I had done crushed me.

Even though I felt it was right.

For the following hours and up until boarding my flight, I felt like a broken ghost of a man, empty and vacant. I was lost, even though I was heading in the right direction and on schedule. I was without a soul, without purpose, without meaning, without, without, without… her.

I fought off what felt like an impending panic attack: out and out anxiety, knotted by sudden second-guessing and a rush of memories that launched a harder and faster undoing of all the dreams and plans and fighting for us that we both had done for months and months.

Launching myself, in that state, across an ocean?

Even if all I had to do was sit, or sleep, and try to not fall apart, it felt like the hardest thing to do. The loneliest task.

It was as if saying goodbye to that skyline on that day meant admitting a final goodbye to “us”, and to the memories of us, and to the possibility of us.

Leaving the skyline behind felt like leaving the whole two years of us behind; and the years prior when we were first together, and when she first said goodbye to me, and the long and deep heartbreak that was our first ending.

I never thought I would get the chance to be with her ever again.

I thought that our ending the first time was the worst ending; the hardest ending. It was one that I felt was my mistake, my great regret, that I would never get the chance to undo.

When she suddenly came back into my life four years later, I called her “the memory I get to live again.”

I said that I would never go a day without telling her that I loved her.

Then, the skyline.

The memory.

It’s over, now.

For good this time.

There will be no more I love yous.

It has been four months since the sight of the Boston skyline drove home the weight of the difficult decision that I made to end my relationship; a relationship that I thought might be the last I’d ever be in. I wanted it to be. I really fought hard to make it so. So did she. She fought really, really hard, too.

And now, as I write you, I am on that same train — in a similar seat — pulling into Boston.

This time, the skyline is obscured by nightfall. But I don’t need to see it to know it’s there. I remember how it looks. I remember what it feels like to see it; how the sight of it made me feel the weight of the loneliness of my choices.

Have you ever done what you thought was right, and resided fully in the truth that it was — and is — the right choice for you? And still felt your heart break, and break, and break, for it?

I’m sure you have.

I know you have.

From my heart to yours, today, I just want to say that I see you for it. I feel what you are feeling, even if I could never know the whole feeling; even if I could never see or know or possibly appreciate the whole entire story.

I’m sorry that you’re feeling it.

Here’s what few words I can try to offer:

Time has the effect of providing ever-greater distance from the past. For “what was” to feel less a burden, all you really need to do is to endure time’s passage. Give it time, people say, and you’ll feel better. Maybe they’re right.

But I don’t want to just endure the passage of time for a hurt to feel less hurtful.

I used to want that. I used to try to just survive it; to make it to the other side.

Now I try to reside within the breaking. I try to hold my wounds, and mend them with soft words, and cry when soft words won’t do, and get angry, and sink into my shadow, and write a lot, and pray to the Goddess and to Source and to Abundance for reprieve and kindness and blessings. I try to acknowledge the whole of the loss; the sorrow of the tragedy.

I’m not saying that this is what you should do. But, at least for today, I can say that the sight of the Boston skyline did not destroy me again.

Maybe that’s because the passage of time has made the hurt feel less hurtful.

Or maybe it’s because residing within the breaking changes the breaking, itself.

Less broken down; more broken open.

If I had a guess, I’d say that’s helping, too.

From my heart to yours,

PS: Looking for more to read? Here’s how I described this wave of change back in December.

PPS: For something totally different, check out my adventures (and failures) in amateur baking, inspired this winter by the Great British Bake-Off series. My Instagram also has more.

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