A Woman in Search of Her Word…

I am 23 and nearly one half of my life has been intertwined and melted into a bottomless pool of infatuation for one boy or another.  I am 23 and one third of my precious youth has been unjustly claimed by the hands of abuse.  I am 23 and I am word-less. 

It was in the end of my 22nd year that I needed a life raft, something to pull me out of the quicksand of depression.  I was so deep into the core of a narcissist’s game that I wasn’t sure I could or even wished to ever reach light again.  Desperate, my mom handed me Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love,” a literary piece that may just have saved my life. 

 For nearly a year now Gilbert’s work has challenged me: “What’s your word?”  At an outdoor café in Italy, she was faced with such a daunting question.  Every city and every person, her newfound Italian friends explained, have a word that captures their very essence.  Naples, they dubbed as ‘Fight,’ New York City ‘Achieve’ and Rome?  Well, ‘Sex,’ of course.  After a year’s journey of healing from a divorce and traveling to three different countries, Gilbert committed to the Sanskrit word ‘antevasin,’ meaning ‘one who lives at the border.’  But, what’s my word? 

 Up until only a few months ago, ‘addict’ was my word.  I was a complete junkie.  Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, you ask?  No, my drug of choice was much worse, much more addicting and suffocating.  It was the L-word, the deep, complete infatuation of love.  Much like Gilbert, I was the “permeable membrane,” for any object of affection.  Meeting my man at the door with a cocktail and slippers, I acted as both the “Golden Retriever and barnacle” of pure devotion.

And once he exuded that overwhelming, heart-stopping, mind-altering substance of adoration for me, I was hooked–a strung out druggie begging for more.  Only it didn’t last, he began to loathe the very thing he fell in love with, and I began to experience extreme gut wrenching pain—I was coming down off my high.  The trip was over, the honey-moon period had ended and the love was gone.

Now 23 and I realize the stark truth of James Baldwin’s statement: “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”  And grown up, I have.  Thankfully, ‘addict’ no longer defines me and as I work my way through the journey of recovery, I struggle to find my word.  As I am presented with new stages of emotions—from anger and bitterness to resentment and raw pain—I find my word is always changing.  ‘Seeker’ one day morphed into ‘Surrender’ the next.  I cannot commit.

And just when I think I’ve stumbled upon a fitting declaration, circumstance comes in and alters my reality.  With the strong belief that ‘Beginning’ defined me and my new chapter in life, I let go of the painful memories for a day of holiday shopping on Black Friday.  On the last leg of our money-blowing-trek, my friend and I stopped into Banana Republic.  Checking out a sweater, I had a strange sensation to turn around.  As I looked behind me, I was shocked to be staring into the eyes of my ex-N.

I had not seen him for months, and was quite content to let time stretch between us, maintaining our continuum of separation.  Fate interfered and as I stared into the eyes of the man that inflicted so much pain on me, I felt nothing.  The love had faded, the anger subsided.  Just nothing.  I was looking into the eyes of a shark—dead, hollow, and emotionless.  I didn’t know this person, he was a stranger. 

As I left the store, it hit me that everyone has that awkward experience of running into an ex.  In my eyes, that night had brought an end to our story, a chapter had finally closed.  ‘End’ was my new word.  Two nights later I awoke in a cold sweat, gasping from a chilling flashback of my N’s eyes and an ugly abusive episode.  So much for my ending. 

It was then I realized, I cannot rush the process of healing any more than I can rush the journey of defining myself.  Maybe, as Gilbert said, I am “a woman in search of her word,” and maybe a small part of me hopes to never find that definition.  To be restrained by a single word takes away from the beauty of change life has to offer.  I think of all the people and experiences I have gained from this transition period in my life—I would not trade any of it for a single moment in time with my ex.

I would like to think that each growth stage we experience can be defined by a solitary word and like a mosaic, we can piece those descriptions into a beautiful, comprehensive image of who we are.  I am beautifully broken and shattered, yet those pieces signifying ‘Addict,’ Surrender’ and ‘Seeker’ are clearly defined, representing difficult, yet sweet growth stages in my life.  At 23, my mosaic is only beginning.

5 Responses to “A Woman in Search of Her Word…”
  1. Jaclyn Rae says:

    You write so beautifully. I am also 23 and can relate to much of this… Thank you for being so honest and brave. I hope that when I run into my ex someday, I feel nothing too.

    • jordanleah says:

      Thanks Jaclyn, I hope this helps… I think we have to believe that something better lies just around the corner for us. And 23 is a great place to start a happier life!

  2. Muji says:

    This is beautiful, Jordan. Life is a journey and you never know what, or whom may lie around the corner…you just have to embrace it all and give thanks for all the wonderful people that you’ve been blessed to have in your life-the people that will love you no matter what. Im so glad we met this semester 🙂

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