© 1993 Michele Toomey, PhD
Information on purchasing Leaving as a tape

She knew the feeling only too well. The wrenching ache that came with every leave. She had first been left, but now she had left...many, many times. It always took the same shape, the tearing of the heart, the ripping of the skin, the searing behind the eyes.

This time she thought it would be different. Leaving without being left. They had planned it for years. Painstaking preparations for traveling together, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, and heart to heart. The wonder of joining and being joined. The joy of traveling as one. For one fleeting cherished moment she pushed the reality aside and felt the sweetness of hope.

Then it was gone. Her eyes began to twinge, they burned and began to sear. Tears were pushed to the front. They didn't fall, just filled to the brim. Her vision blurred.

She was never sure what happened after that. All she could see was pain. All she could feel was dread. Then it seemed to appear out of nowhere. A river of red, flowing over her face, washing over her body. She began to shiver and quietly she cried, "I cannot bear this pain. My hopes were far too high. My trust too deep. The loss is just too great. What could I have done? What ever will I do?"

She was becoming immersed in the river and no longer able to breathe. Overcome with uncertainty and self-doubt she slipped into oblivion. She sank into the stream of nothingness. She felt nothing. She saw nothing. She knew nothing. There was nothing.

Time passed. Still nothing. Then, as quietly as she had left, she found herself awake. Awakened by a clattering sound. Looking down she saw only bones. Her bones. They were blowing in the wind, rattling in the breeze. "Had she left for good," she asked. "Am I actually dead?" She tried to stand, but her skeletal frame had very little strength. With each attempt, it clacked in an eerie sort of way, but it responded more to the wind than to her. It was a scary time. It was a scary sight. Yet, she felt nothing. Her life blood had all been drained. She was not really there. No eyes to cry, no heart to tear, no skin to rip apart. She was only bones.

So strange. She had really left. She was devoid of feeling. She was devoid of pain. "Is this what I wanted?" she queried. "Is this the choice I made?" "No," she answered, "I didn't make this choice. This just happened. I was swept away."

Could that be true? Was there no choice in death? Did nothingness prevail? She lay for hours, then for days and finally for years. She didn't move. She didn't care. She searched to know the truth. Was there no choice? Must nothingness prevail? Years passed, but nothing marked the time. "Would she ever understand?" she asked. "Would she ever know?"

The unending nothingness seemed to loom forever. "Was she destined to spend eternity like this?" she asked. "Was this to be her fate?"

"I am tired of this," she sighed. "I do not want it anymore." With that she felt a twinkle, a twinge behind her eye. Startled, she felt another and yet another still. "Oh, what a wonderful sensation," she murmured. "Whatever can it be?"

Again she didn't understand. "How did this happen? What did I feel? O, What is going on?" As quickly as it came, it left, this twinkling of an eye. "O no," she cried out, "Please don't leave. Come back and be in me." No sooner were the words out of her mouth, than it was back. The twinkling shed a light and gradually its beam shone clearly from her eyes. She grew to realize that this light came from eyes that were open and when she lay very still she felt her eyelids blink.

With great effort, timed with the wind, she slowly moved her arms and fingers toward her face. "I need to feel my eyes," she thought. "To know if they are there." but what if her boney fingers slipped and put them out? Frightened by her lack of control, she stopped. It was not worth the risk.

Time passed. Only the twinkle remained. "I am tired of this," she sighed. "I don't want to lie here anymore. I want to know. I want to feel. I want to live again." With that, she felt the strangest sensation, a vibrant surging through her bones, a beating in her chest. It warmed and soothed her spirit. Her eyes filled with tears. "O yes," she cried. "I'm coming back. I haven't left for good."

Now she brightened up. "Whatever shall I do?", she asked. "I do not understand." Time passed, and as she slept she pondered what it was. Why had her life been lost and why had it again begun?

She thought back to her pain and how she'd lost all hope. She thought back to her longing before the pain had come. She longed for the wonder of joining and being joined. The joy of traveling as one. As she embraced the wonder and the joy, her heart began to soar, her voice began to sing, her body began to move.

Startled, she felt her warm flesh, as arms were hugging her body, as hands were holding her arms, as desire was touching her heart. Suddenly, she sat up and pulled her knees up to her chest, rested her chin on her knees, as tears of joy flowed down her rounded cheeks. She was alive again. She had returned. She laughed, she cried, she sang until the moon rose in the sky. And then she fell asleep.

She was alive. She had not left for good. She did not choose to die. She'd pay the price of longing and of hope. She'd hope again. She did not choose to leave. And left, she would survive.

Commentary on "Leaving"

As I wrote this tale, the pain of lost relationships, whether through death or betrayal or change of heart, emerged as so devastating to hope. I would ask you to consider the bond between trust and loving and hope, and betrayal and loss and despair. Since we are not able to control another unless we violate them by chaining them in some way, either physically or emotionally, then we are always at risk when we love them. And they, in turn, are at risk when they love us.

A broken heart is accompanied by a painful face to face encounter with the price of intimacy and the cost of yielding to desire that ends in loss. One very real alternative to this price is to never choose intimacy and to keep distant and apart, safely protected. Another is to dare to risk to be intimate, but then become lost in the other so that once a leaving occurs we are nothing more than the painful devastation.

Both of these alternatives are devoid of integrity and of hope. Both leave us as "living dead." The human spirit's need for hope in order to embrace life is intertwined with its need for intimacy. Both are essential. We are left to choose whether we will choose to live and "pay the price of longing and of hope."

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