The Ricochets of Abandonment
When someone abandons you, it’s usually forever. Well, that is my experience. It’s quite like no other experience I have ever had and it’s actually very difficult to describe. It feels like my brain is frozen in time, in some kind of shock sensation. You know how it is when shock leaves you reeling? When this happened to me, I was reeling in disbelief and devastation. Like a boxer who had been knocked to the ground and as the umpire is counting down, the boxer shakily regains his standing position but he is all starry eyed. Although he’s on his feet, the boxer is wobbling across the ring, incoherent and mumbling in his defeat. This is how it was for me, a confusing and bewildering experience. Falling Down the Rabbit Hole Soon after the abandonment, I fell down the rabbit hole. My journey down this hole took me to places that I’d rather forget. First destination was the land of self-doubt, a place of constant questioning, where uncertainty filled my every waking moment. My brain was trying to make sense of something it had no control over. Once the other person has left, it’s like a vanishing act and so I was left alone with the endless chatter of my thoughts. As I continued falling down the hole, my next destination led me to the land of denial. This is where I tried to dust myself off and give myself plenty of pep talks: “The situation can’t be that bad, time will heal right? Surely this is temporary? Things have a way of working out, it will be okay.” I denied the magnitude of the situation simply because I couldn’t comprehend it. I denied the repercussions because once again I couldn’t make sense of anything. Somehow, for reasons that I did not understand, my actions had contributed to a seismic tearing apart of two humans. And now that other human being had disappeared from my life! The grovel road As I traveled further down the rabbit hole, tumbling in a seemingly endless period of darkness, I arrived at an unusual next destination. Suddenly I was on my hands and feet, grovelling on the ground, in tears and sweat: searching for forgiveness! I was sorry for EVERYTHING in an effort to make everything right again. My sole mission became doing whatever it took to appease the abandoner. In actual fact, I grovelled with not just the abandoner but also every other possible person that I thought I may have upset. Caution became my closest friend as I tentatively navigated new relationships, forever worried about upsetting anyone. But here’s the painful truth - as most abandonments are forever, the grovelling got me nowhere, except further down the rabbit hole. The 'new normal' life Eventually, I realised that normal life was still continuing outside of the rabbit hole and I very much needed some sense of normality again. As I clumsily made my way back up the rabbit hole, I knew that my life had been forever changed but nonetheless life was still there, waiting to be lived. Getting on with life in the shadows of an abandonment doesn’t feel ‘normal’ but it’s called adjusting to my ‘new normal’ life. As birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries past by, I am reminded of the loss of this person. The loss never goes away, because our innate human desire to be together is written in our DNA. Hence, long after the event, deep within the brain, the subconscious mind does not forget. You deserve your own love Living life ‘post abandonment’ for me has nothing to do with the actual abandonment. It’s more about coping with the ricochet effects of that initial painful experience. Just like when someone shoots a bullet and it ricochets off an object, you can survive the initial shooting only to be caught by the ricochet itself. This is much the same for me, so many years on. Although I survived the sudden departure of someone in my life, I can still experience unexpected ricochet effects of that trauma. So how do I nurture myself through the ricochets of abandonment? Firstly, it's an ongoing practice of forgiveness. This is something that Jesus has taught me. Forgiving once was not enough to free me. To stay free, I personally have to practice ongoing forgiveness; that's what keeps the calluses of bitterness away. Secondly, I nurture myself through love. I surround myself with people who love me unconditionally; there seems to be a healing power in love that holds my heart strong.
Self-love is also a new practice for me where I'm learning to be gentle and kind with myself. As the Buddha poignantly says: "You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." By nurturing myself in these ways, I am more able to smile at the future even as I wonder at the complexity of simply being human.
Natalie is passionate about human rights issues, matters of the mind and interfaith insights. When not in deep thought, Natalie loves to travel, drink good coffee and keep fit where she resides on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. See all previous articles by Natalie Alexander