The Joy of Not Letting Go

By Gabs Brown


It’s been over twenty years since we were properly together and I’m still not over it. I think it’s the intensity of the relationship I miss more than anything else - the fierceness of the emotions, the discomfort of wanting everything to be perfect and it not being anywhere near, and then the giddy-making hope of a future where I thought it would be.

That future never came. The relationship ended in stops and starts in a strange and inconclusive way. Bits of our togetherness lingered on for years. They’re still there, in my head at least (I cannot speak for the other party). I have dreams so real and emotional they affect me more than my present-day waking experiences.

Anyone who knew me at the height of the relationship would have seen a young woman struggling with a thick grey cloud of subtle, destructive despair and yet a person happily infatuated and inspired; I was intoxicated by art and beauty and nature at the time in a way I have not been since. The most confusing times of our lives can be the most creative. It’s as though amidst the turmoil a channel opens to the soul that is powerfully imaginative, raw and true. We hate where we’re at, and yet we’re buzzing from it.

I am surprisingly shy and inept at expressing myself in person, but when we were together I felt connected and understood, without having to use words. In those moments it was not only like someone was holding me close but also that the Universe was taking me into its arms and showing me something greater than love and certainly more powerful than anything two people could muster between them.

Perhaps it was my age. Is anything easy or meaningless when you’re eighteen? When I think about who I was at this time I see myself floating in space, disconnected from the past and hurtling towards a future over which I knew I had no control.

I was an intense person to be around.

Like all heroines desperately in love, I couldn’t eat. Food repulsed me and yet I wanted to swap out my cold bony frame for something softer, curvier, more inviting. I made no sense. My actions didn’t reflect my desires. My body betrayed who I was. I was loving at my core but outwardly sharp and unemotional. I was only capable of communicating my feelings through music – cadences that someone else had composed, lyrics that were not my own, beats that were not from my heart but so could have been. It made my expressions second-hand I suppose, but nonetheless authentic.

Regret is a beast that doesn’t so much grow with time but decay into something perhaps smaller but altogether sourer.

So, I have not had closure on this one. I carry the weight of this failed relationship with me and sometimes when a song comes on the radio that reminds me of it I cry. And it feels good.

Sometimes I think that if I didn’t have these two decades of unresolved feelings I would be a monster. I’ve had to live the majority of my adult life humbled and inquisitive. I’ve had to take extra care over the things I love and want to work out knowing that desire and ambition are not enough to keep them within my reach. I know that even those things that are most important to me can wriggle away, without fanfare, if I’m not careful enough. Emotion without action is not enough. For everything I love, whether it’s a person, a job, a hobby, a friend, I know I must ask myself: how can I keep this here? How can I nurture it? How can I show it that I love it? How can I let myself love it well and be good to it, good enough so that it will want to stay in my life if not forever then long enough for me to be able to let it go properly and at a time that feels right?

In short, having utterly failed to nurture the love of my life all those years ago has forced me to live with awareness, to pay attention, to be considerate, to live knowing that I am vulnerable and disposable.

Here’s to you, piano: my first love, my finest failure, my absent friend forever, whatever.