At the age of 28, our break-up ritual almost burnt a festival down.
My lover and I sat in a dust-dry straw meadow, in heat-wave England, outside a hippy day-dream called Unicorn Voice Camp (no joke!), and lit a handmade candle we’d been given on our wedding day. I was leaving for a castle in Slovenia, going to a gathering for global transformation. She was staying at camp. With her new lover.
We shared, wept, giggled.
The handmade candle melted almost instantly and the straw began blazing. My lover was flustered, but I've always felt friendly with fire and I jumped up and stamped out the flames with my bare feet. If we’d been distracted, left it for a minute, the whole field could have lit-up so easily.
As I walked away from our messily beautiful, deliciously agonising goodbyes something lit-up in me deeper than ever before, - a knowing that it’s okay the world is the way it is, and also okay that I feel the way I feel. This wasn't a new idea filling my head, it was a sudden inflation through the cramped, needled places in my chest. I felt like a giant had just given me mouth to mouth and made my lungs twice as big.
It was okay we were separating. It had been my choice in fact. And it was okay I was heartbroken, terrified, raging. It was ok that I felt abandoned, even though that made no sense whatsoever.
If I held both truths at once, there was nothing to reject, nothing to fight, nowhere to run; nothing to break my world into pieces.
I’ve kept coming home to that simple knowing since. It’s not a revelation; we all know it. But to live by holding both truths at once has often saved my sanity, often made the difference between being clenched-up and wretched and being able to remember, in my body, the greater holding that life offers, to know that heartbreak and wholeness are inseparable.
It sometimes becomes my prayer:
"It’s okay my voice has been strained, sometimes lost, for years now. Okay I’ve often been grief-stricken, scared, furious.
Ok people barely look each other in the eyes on the street. Okay that it’s heartbreaking.
Okay that the ridiculously exquisite woman who works in [XYZ] has a boyfriend. Okay that I ache for her when I see her.
Okay I’ll never love a fraction of the bodies I could love that way. Okay I’ll never write a fraction of the poems, climb a fraction of the mountains, be cradled in a fraction of the waves, help a fraction of the people, heal a fraction of myself on any given day.
And it’s okay that it breaks my heart. Heartbreak is a gift. Love and grief are carved from the same depth of space within us. Our capacity for love expands in exact symmetry to our capacity for loss.
Okay I don’t know who I am or what I want. Okay it sometimes drives me crazy."
It sometimes becomes my prayers for everyone:
"Okay we don’t always get the job, win the day, find the answer, get heard, get seen, find our way.
Okay that it fucking hurts. In fact, either thing can only be okay, when we remember that both are okay.
When we hold both truths at once. Only then can we heal fully. Only then can we live fully."
That is the magic trick with emotions - to never fight, flee or freeze what we feel, or what we see out in the world. To stop waging war within, and without. It’s okay.
What would be your prayer, if you chose to pray this way? Let us know in the comments, we can make a thread of acceptance together.
"There's nothing heavier than an untold story."
So many forms of untold truth weigh us down; the great tragedies of history, family secrets and the unspoken truths of each moment. Each story wants to be 'told' in some sense, to be given back to the greater holding of life, released from our bodies and our psyches. If each of us can find safe, sustainable ways to release more truth back into the greater holding of life, more healing and transformation becomes possible...poetry and storytelling are just some of the many wonderful ways to do this. This poem is one of endless attempts to play my part.
Coming to Light
Maybe, when history’s rewritten
from the beginning,
to tell the stories of all women,
people of colour, labourers, slaves,
creatures and elements
whose backs paved the way
for each famous white man’s fame…
Maybe, when we stop pretending
anyone can be free, be equal,
be whole, stay alive, in isolation,
or that anyone’s hurt is theirs alone….
Maybe, when every profit ever registered
is measured in the balance with its loss…
Maybe, when every victory is weighed
in the same scales as its costs…
Maybe, when the last ‘unbaptised’ child
is raised up from their unmarked grave,
into light, and blessed,
not by the same carrion sacraments
which proclaimed their bodies profane,
but by being returned a name,
being washed in the tears
held in limbo’s decades…
Maybe, when all the disappeared ones,
and all the still disappearing,
are spoken of in the same breath
as the race for quantum computing,
AI and star-colonisation…
Maybe, when in one choking leap
we speak the terror and grief swallowed
from throat to chest to gut to grave,
just to keep our heads up on this
Maybe, when in a single blink
we catch sight of our own raised fists
and admit, first; we’ve only ever waged war
against ourselves, we’ve all played our part
in this world that we’ve made,
second; how much we love, want to love,
all those whom we claim to hate…
When the last lie
which breaks life into pieces
comes to light…
When the last love
we sought to protect
We’ll be able to say it:
“I dwell here on this Earth.”
PS: I first wrote this poem in response to a specific tragedy, the Tuam Babies scandal in Ireland. An underground chamber, a sewage tank in fact, was discovered to hold the bodies of 800 babies which had been secretly 'buried' there. There is still an ongoing struggle to have the full history of these children, and those from other Irish institutions, made public.
PPS: Though my posts have had thousands of comments on Facebook, I'm only now adding them to my site, so they may be a bit lonely, without your words to keep them company. Comments are a thousand times welcome.
Dave Rock is a prize-winning spoken word artist and storyteller, and a conscious writing, speaking and performing arts teacher. He's worked with thousands of people, including award-winning comedians, actors and inspirational figures.