when my mom died i felt pain like a needle-sharp rainshower, like when you get caught outside and you can't find shelter from an intense storm. i had nowhere to go, no one who could come close to comforting me. i was assailed on every side by little truths that tried to slip into my skin like a mosquito's stinger. she was gone, forever. this huge wax sculpture, with all the tubes and monitors finally removed, covered by a replicated red rose quilt, this was what was left of my mother. the biggest presence in my life had left the building and i was left with a rotting pile of devastation. it stung so badly that i couldn't open my eyes, i couldn't breathe, i couldn't move. i couldn't leave her side because of the weight of the pain. it kept coming in waves, the rain pelting me and then easing up when i forgot she was gone. then it would assault me again, just in case i had started to recover just a pinch, just a second, just a tiny bit.
when my kids left the pain was like a jawbreaker. it was lodged in my throat, dripping regrets and sadness down my throat so it was all i could digest. i left out a spongebob table covered in poptart crumbs for six days. i couldn't wipe it off or i would choke. any time i thought of recovering my life, it was like the candy would swell and all my air was gone. if i so much as turned my head to examine the sippy cup bag or the pile of toddler plates and spoons and knives, i would almost collapse from lack of oxygen and my stomach would fill with the bitter and acidic liquid of pain. it began dissolving, though, after time. much time. it is still there, always there, and occasionally, even in its marble-sized form, manages to lock up my throat for a moment. but it's less frequent, and the intensity of the liquid pain has diminished. the initial sour coating has melted away.
when i have to leave a man behind, my pain becomes something totally different. it's the pain of lost expectations, because in every man that i allow into my life, i see a glimmer of hope that he's the one that will change my life and be my husband, the one who will be the father of my children, the one who i will retire with and be with forever. none of them are able to offer anything of the kind, so this pain is like a lightbulb being switched off, violently, suddenly, and without warning. i fear this darkness and isolation that i am left with. i scream out for help, but there is no one there. eventually my inner eye adjusts, and realizes that there is nothing here that will hurt me, here within my own self. it's just me again, but that's okay. that's when the light starts to filter in through the cloudy lens of anger and resentment, and i realize that there will be a new day, and other lightbulbs to screw in.
pain is never the same. it is always changing, and always different from the last time.