For over a year, I've been enmeshed in what I'd call a really long tortuous break-up from a relationship that never existed. There's no better way to explain it. We met, we swooned, we fucked, we fought, we ended. All within two weeks. And then, we repeated.
Swoon, fuck, fight, end. Every two weeks. For over a year.
At first, it was captivating. The entire thing was charged and dramatic and beautiful and big. I wanted to eat him it was so big. I was certain that he was one of my soul mates and that we were meant to run into one another in this life at this exact time. So for a really (really really really) long time I went with it, committed to the routine, accepting that what we were doing to one another was some cosmic unfolding that I was meant to explore. I rationalized it this way. It was spiritual.
But as the insanity of it played out, as I heard myself repeating the sad epic to my friends and I watched their concerned expressions betray what they wouldn't dare say to me (YOU ARE ACTING FUCKING CRAZY), as I watched myself engage in something that was so disrespectful to core of my being I could literally hear the scar tissue on my heart thicken and my self-confidence crackle, I found myself desperately wanting escape from it entirely. To commit to the ending of it and stick with it. To quit him like I'd quit all the other things.
Except, I couldn't. No matter how hard I tried. No matter what I did. I could not quit this man.
Each time I walked away, I was sure I had finally broken the cycle. We would sink to a new low, exchange some hateful verbal vomit, I would die a small death, suffer a small depression, come to some amount of forced peace within 24 hours and feel terrible for the hateful verbal vomit, text an apology for the hateful verbal vomit, wish him a beautiful life and "love and light, friend!", and I would vow to myself to never ever ever do this or do him again.
To ensure I would never return, I would change his name in my phone in a "note to self" kind of fashion and then move him to the blocked list (just in case he wanted to come back after I called him a self-obsessed sociopathic deluded fuck-hole). Over the course of the year, his number was saved under various pseudonyms.
- You Are Better Than This.
- He's A Disgusting Mother Fucker.
- Sweet Little Baby, Please.
- Jesus girl! NO.
- Respect Yourself.
- You Teach People How To Treat You.
- NOOOOO HOLLY. No.
- He Called You Psycho.
- Love Yourself.
- This Is Embarrassing.
- You Are Here To Serve God.
- We Can Do Hard Things.
- He Said You Have A Personality Disorder.
- Dad. He's your fucking DAD. (<-- my personal favorite).
Then like clockwork, two weeks later I would forget the anger, the threats of never talking to him again, the toxicity, the depression, the shame. I'd fancy the (very few) good moments. I'd delude myself into thinking it wasn't so bad, and think crazy fucking things like "aren't soul mate stories epic like this?" and before I knew it I was digging through the phone to the blocked caller list, unblocking whatever name I had him saved as, and texting.
"I miss you."
"I miss your face."
"I want to sit on your face."
"Have you read this book?"
"Want to fuck?"
"Why can't I quit you?"
"The funniest thing just happened and…"
Approximately 4 hours later he would be in my bed. And approximately 48 hours later, we would be right back to the hateful verbal vomit.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
A few months ago, in the silent period of one our cycles, I was watching the movie Wild. It was a Friday night and I was in bed, eating Red Vines and drinking fizzy water. The scene came on where Cheryl is on a beach and writes her ex-husband's name in the sand one last time and then erases it. She writes him a letter describing this scene and tells him it would be the last time she ever wrote his name in the sand.
She releases him. Just like that.
I bolted up in bed and paused the movie. How did she do that? Just like that? This was her ex-husband - there were VOWS in place at one point. This man and I had never been on a proper date.
It was in this moment - this exact moment - that I noticed I was wearing my college-era boyfriend's t-shirt to bed (and further realized I had been doing so since 1999.) And then I noticed other things. Like the teddy bear snuggled next to me from another past love, the Buddha perched on the nightstand that the most recent ex had brought me from India, the books on the bookshelf from still more, a piece of art from a long ago fling, a few framed pictures of previous "soul mates" stashed behind other frames. Even the socks on my feet had man-juju (because every guy I've ever dated also wears Champion socks from Costco).
I stood up, trying not to vomit, now topless and barefoot, and went to my closet to take further inventory. There were boxes of notes and pictures and other memorabilia that one cannot throw away. There were sweaters and t-shirts and earrings and hats and bags and dresses and THINGS. Things from all the dudes. Everywhere.
I felt like that woman I saw on TV once that had 50 cats in her apartment and didn't see what the problem was. Except now I clearly saw what the problem was. I was living in a vigil to every past relationship.
I was the fucking cat lady of ex-boyfriends.
This wasn't some silly pattern of being able to let this one person slip from my life. This was My Pattern, period. Fuck Buddy was just the most recent incarnation of it. And if I didn't do it right this time, if I just buried him in some explosive dramatic parting, even if he went away there would be another incarnation. And then another.
I didn't need to release him. I needed to release them all. So I could release me.
The next morning I walked around Union Square and left the man items next to sleeping homeless folk. The Buddha for the woman on the grass. The marble box for the man outside Starbucks. The teddy bear and earrings for the couple on the stoop. I came back home and threw away the rest.
I was certain this would do the trick. Clean closets. Clean life.
This time, I held up my end of the bargain. I stayed away. So naturally, he came charging back. "Just one kiss." "Just this once." It seemed harmless. It seemed romantic. It would be different. It was more of the same but some how accelerated and worse.
I fell further into it and further away from me. I fell so hard, I blew past my bottom, into negative space. With no where else to go, I went the only way I could see to go.
Through it. Nuclear style. With an arsenal of weaponry. On my knees.
I skipped the blocking and the name changing and went for the deletion. I began to tally the days away from him like I did the days away from cigarettes and booze. I meditated more than I have ever meditated in my life. I surrendered more than I ever have in my life. I called on my psychic. I called on my reiki healer. I called on my astrologer.
And finally, $1,000 later, on a Thursday night a month ago, I called on Tosha Silver and went ceremonial on it. Dressed in all white, my head wrapped in a turban and my war bonnet in place, on my sheepskin, surrounded by my gurus and my deities and burning sage and my cat's ashes and every magical thing that I have in my possession, I purged every last bit of energy left from him, from all of them, from all of it. Every last guilt, shame, regret, injustice, anger, resentment, attachment. It was a primal, tear soaked and expletive-laced affair, and if my neighbors didn't think I was bat-shit crazy before this night, they most certainly do now.
The next day, when that still didn't feel like enough, I purged some more. Every contact, every picture, every email, every text, every digital everything from every man ever. Delete, delete, delete. Then I drew a bath, dumped an ENTIRE bottle of frankincense oil in it, and poured about 3 pounds of epsom salts over my head, my body, my face. I scrubbed every inch of me, as if the layers of skin were somehow carrying layers of my past relationships. And then I rinsed. And then I pulled the drain on the tub and I let every last bit of everything swirl down the drain. As I sat watching the last of the water go, I imagined all of it going way. The memories, the pain, the confusion. The men. As if their energy were now leaving my orb, and going back to the earth. I said "Good-bye" out loud and waved.
And then I put on fancy underwear, some Alicia Keyes, and I blew out my hair.
There's a crazy, synchronistic ending to this. Some hours later that Friday, after that bath, the one man I care about, the one who's been on the periphery the entire time, the one who is kind and calm and patient and empathic, called me out of the blue. There's more to this story than that, but out of respect for the truly innocent, I'll stop here.
There is a quote that's been swimming around my head the last few weeks. "When we let go of what we don't need, what we do can finally arrive."
It's not so much that I cleared a toxic relationship, and another man entered. That would be an annoying conclusion and completely betray the point and the lesson not to mention my feminist convictions. It's more like this. I let go of my toxic pattern. I cleared MY shit. So that I could maybe grow up. Grow stronger. Go forward. Not to make space for someone else to fill the void. To clear space for me to fill the void.
I burned down the house. So I could build the castle.
How To Let Go Of A Toxic Relationship.
We've all encountered this. A relationship that cannot be released. A divorce that drags on. A break up that continues to cycle. A friendship where a grudge is still held. Most often times, we just assume that if the person is out of site, that is enough. And yet...something still lingers. Something still pulls. The truth is that if we don't actually burn up the energy and any attachment - to guilt, to anger, to being "done wrong", to good memories, to physical remnants, to any part of it - that we will continue to carry that with us. We will remain engaged on an energetic level. This not only keeps us stunted in patterns and connected to the individual, but it also clutters up our energetic space and keeps the new from entering. We become stuck in a cycle that feels like it has no end, or if it does end, bound to repeat the same lessons with other human beings.
To truly clear yourself from a toxic tie, here is a proposed protocol, adapted from Tosha Silver's masterpiece, Outrageous Openness. You may need to repeat some of the steps multiple times. If it gets worse or lingers, just trust the process is doing its thing and keep moving forward through it. I promise if the needed lessons are learned, you want the release, and you do the work, it will move.
1. Surrender. The truth is so often we think we know best, especially when it comes to love. That this EXACT person is the EXACT piece of the puzzle. So we pray not so much for the best outcome, we pray for the outcome that is best with a certain individual. The truth is, there is already a plan in place that is grander than our limited vision can see, and our small attachments to individual outcomes with specific people literally blinds us from the bigger plan in place. Instead of praying for what you think you need, pray for the best possible outcome, and pray for the clarity to see the best outcome. You can say the affirmation by Gabby Bernstein "When things aren't working out the way I planned, I trust that there is a better plan" or you can simply recite the prayer "Thy Will be done" - in effect asking to be an instrument in the plan, and NOT playing God.
2. Get Ceremonial and have a "psychic conversation". I like ritual, because it gives me a sense of doing something and bringing closure. You can be as simple as suits your, or you can go nuts like I did (and tend to do). Light a candle or burn sage or frankincense oil, set up a mini alter with your support team (you can use any item that brings you support - I brought my copy of A Course In Miracles, my Hanuman statue, a picture of Yogi Bhajan and Jesus Christ, a rock my friend gave me, and my cat's ashes), and put on something that makes you feel elevated - white is a great color to wear. You can play music (I like using Bhagavan Das). Sit before your mini alter on a pillow or floor cushion or folded blanket (or sheep skin if you have one), and call in the person you are trying to release as if they are there with you. Imagine that they are simply present to hear what you need to say, and say all you need to. Tell them how angry you are, how hurt you are, how sorry you are - as if they are hearing every word. You can yell if you need to (or scream), whatever it is you need to get out to them that you can't in real life without getting arrested or slapped with a restraining order. When you are done, thank them, wish them well and send them love, and say goodbye. You can close the ceremony by chanting "Kali Durge Namo Namah" which calls on the deities Kali and Durga, who are goddesses known to protect you from evil and to help to powerfully remove and cut through what is no longer serving you. Imagine as you are chanting this that the energetic connection to this person is being slashed.
3. Release all physical and digital remnants. If it has anything to do with them, get rid of it. This means any physical goods they have given you (EVEN IF YOU LOVE THIS ITEM, EVEN IF IT'S EXPENSIVE, ESPECIALLY IF IT'S "SENTIMENTAL"), all memories or keepsakes like cards, letters, pictures, and all digital items (their information in your phone, email threads, text threads, pictures of them or the two of you together.) Everything. You can donate them, give them to friends, throw them in the trash. Whatever seems appropriate.
4. Pray for closure. This comes from Tosha Silver. You can offer up the relationship to the Universe, simply asking that it be used for the highest good, and simply pray for a peaceful closure. "Please bring this relationship to an end. Please release me from this. Please bring closure to this situation." It doesn't have to be these exact words, and the prayer can be to anything greater than your finite self. To God, to the Universe, to Mother Earth, etc.
5. Do a cord cutting meditation. There is a wonderful Gabby Bernstein meditation - Cord Cutting Meditation - that leads you through a process of cord cutting or release of a toxic relationships. It's short - less than 5 minutes - and it is incredibly effective.
6. Send blessings to them and yourself. This comes directly from Tosha Silver and is probably the most important piece of this entire process - and undoubtedly the most difficult. Send them peace. Envision this person moving forward in their life, the space cleared for them now to move forward, and envision them happy, full of love. Let that be your final wish for this person…for they are merely a reflection of your own experience. And then do the same for you. See yourself moving forward, the space cleared, happy, and full of love. In my mind, I saw us both looking at each other at an intersection, smiling, and wishing the best for one another, and then turning around and walking away to our own destiny, with a big smile on our faces. This is possible. I promise.
7. Take a bath of strong epsom salt water. This also comes from Tosha Silver and for me, this was the final piece and the most important. Draw a bath and dump as much epsom salt into it as possible. Epsom salts are highly detoxifying. You can take handfuls of it like I did and scrub your entire body, imagining as you scrub you are removing any residue of the relationship. Then rinse off, pull the plug, and watch the water drain from the tub, imagining that all the energy from the relationship is rinsing down the drain along with it. You can do what I did and say "goodbye" audibly.
8. Repeat as necessary but be careful not to attach to the process. This is tricky. You need to process the energy and the relationship…but you also need to mind attaching to the processing. The clear distinction is this - you are processing if you are letting what needs to move through you naturally move through you. You are attaching if you are creating MORE stuff to process. Don't dwell in it - aid it. And be done with it. So you can move on.
9. Welcome infinite possibilities. With all this space, welcome the infinite possibilities. You can simply repeat "I welcome infinite possibilities" as your mantra for the days following. Keep your eyes open for the miracle. It may not look like what you expect it to, but I promise it's there.
10. Bonus - Work with a healer. As mentioned above, I also called on some other help. I had reiki performed, I used my psychic for a series of healing sessions (still doing this), I worked with an astrologer to help me make sense of what I could not. If you are trying to release something major, I recommend doing some additional energetic work. This was big for me. It was my oldest wound (still is), deepest scar (still is), and I do believe this last man was meant to bring me to my knees so I could blow it up. If you feel the call, reach out to additional energetic healers to help process the release - acupuncturists, reiki healers, psychics, astrologers or chart readers, EFT practitioners, and so on. I will be writing a piece about these three types of healers I used and more - energetic healing has been a HUGE part of my recovery - but not in the context of this piece. If you want to DIY some energy work, try this restorative somatic yoga practice on YogaGlo by Steph Snyder. It's a GENTLE practice almost anyone can do to release stuck energy.