Park Stranger

These days, I walk for hours on end, surprised at my own ability to remain standing despite my lack of sleep or appetite. Once I get going, it’s hard to stop. I listen, re-listen, and re-re-listen to Tosha Silver’s Outrageous Openness. I seek comfort in spirituality as I amble, not knowing where I’m going.

The other day, I found myself at a nearby park with a child’s swing set. Relief swept over me as I swung back and forth. Nothing in my world makes sense anymore, and it felt comforting to actually have the outside world mirror my inward turmoil: the world whipping by as I swung, time speeding up and slowing down as my focal point changed.

I extended my legs and my torso, letting my head flop back as my body became horizontal to the ground, my hair dragging along bits and bobs of forest fall decay that I would later disentangle in the shower. I closed my eyes. I let my emotions wash over me: shock, anger, dismay, hurt, betrayal, sadness, guilt, regret, longing. The longing is the hardest for my mind to admit. It’s not that I want back what we had as that clearly was not working. It’s that I long for the feelings of security and comfort I had in our relationship. We really were best friends.

Throughout the day, memories of our former life will hit me and huge cataclysmic waves of sorrow rush forth, threatening to knock me into despair. Memories of us picking up trash together in the neighborhood. (Will I do this when I live there by myself?) Memories of walks in the park nearby. (Will I ever be able to go there by myself without the deep pain and knowledge of love lost?) These fears strangle me, and I feel a fight coming on to suppress them, so I write. I get them all out on paper so that they may no longer live in my head.

As I swung, so did my emotions. Listening to a curated Spotify divorce therapy playlist, some songs would make me laugh out of the incredulity of my current situation. Others would rile me up, and I seethed with anger. Others would soften my heart and wet sobs would erupt. Selena Gomez’s “Hate You to Love Me” came on, and I couldn’t help but belt it out. Feeling the lyrics and melody with every fiber of my being in what I would soon realize was my heartfelt debut to an audience of one. Out of the corner of my eye, a middle aged southern man who had brought his weights from his house was staring at me from the park tables nearby, transfixed, his face a mask of concern (over his safety or mine, who knows?!) and confusion.

But, I have no shame right now. What have I got to lose? I’ve already lost it all.

Billie Eilish’s “Ocean Eyes” came on next, and I continued my performance, allowing myself to be seen and heard by this stranger. Grief is meant to be seen, and this is my time and my space to grieve, damn it!

Then, I got up, and I walked on.