Updated: May 13
How could we be in the most beautiful tropical paradise together yet feel so distant, cold, and alone?
I stare at Londin across the table. The freshly made custard bun on my plate is the only source of warmth in my life at the moment. The tropical breeze caressing the shoreline fails to melt the ice glacier that has formed between us. We are in paradise and we are in hell.
If you were sitting nearby in the café that morning, you probably wouldn’t notice. We aren’t angry at each other. We aren’t bickering, fighting, or screaming. Rather, the feeling is somber and cold, like strangers at a funeral. We are mourning the loss of our expected child as we mourn the loss of our dying relationship.
It had taken everything in us to boot up for this trip. We’d planned it back when life seemed fair and our relationship felt as if it were moving into an exciting new chapter—a chapter where Londin and I would become parents together. But just weeks before our departure, Londin would experience a late miscarriage.
Now, a dark sadness looms within us. Neither of us can shake the sense that this—us—just isn’t working anymore. Like a ghost, the feeling haunts us everywhere we go. Even traveling to a remote island on the other side of the world isn’t far enough to escape the rift that stands between us.
As I reluctantly look at her, and she defeatedly looks at me, there is no question we are thinking the same thing: This is the end.
This isn’t the first time we lost an expected child. But this time is different. Neither one of us has anything left to give.
We know how to be present with each other. We know how to create otherworldly sexual pleasure for each other. We know how to be patient, compassionate, and understanding. But at this moment, there is nothing left. The overwhelming grief has stolen our willingness to connect. We are mere shadows of our former selves. And the prospect that all this discomfort might be over soon has me feeling like a terminally ill hospital patient waiting for death.
All I want is out.
But I can’t leave. We still have another three days left on the island. That’s when the ferry will return.
I feel the panic of being in a maze I cannot escape. I feel the futility that no matter what direction I take, I run into more walls. I feel trapped.
I drift to sleep—the end of another strained day. I lay in bed wondering how I could possibly return to this relationship. Wouldn’t it be easier to start fresh with someone new? Maybe I can be on my own for a few years and leave the whole drama of relationships behind me for a while. Life would surely be easier on my own.
Londin and I say yet another frozen goodnight. Our bodies lay right next to each other, but our hearts feel a million miles apart. This is not the relationship I signed up for, I cannot help but think.
I wake up the next morning to the sound of the ocean’s waves gently lapping the soft sand just a few feet from the front door of our bungalow. The red, rising sun pierces the bamboo shutters, casting my shadow on the wall behind me. I walk out to the shoreline, leaving my shadow behind me, and look out onto the horizon.
I take a deep breath. I have no more fight in me this morning. I’ve lost the energy to struggle. My mental chatter fades to silence as my heart sinks. The sinking feeling consumes every part of me. It drags me down to what feels like the bottom of the ocean. I am drowning. I feel death approaching, but surprisingly, I’m not afraid.
Rather than resist death, I allow it.
I realize it’s not the death of the relationship that I am feeling. That moment has already come and gone. It’s the death of the part of me that wants out, that wants better, that wants anything other than what life is giving me.
I can suddenly see the knot I’ve tied myself into. And by grace, I can see beyond it. I can suddenly feel the cramp my heart has become. And by grace, I can feel beyond it. I am reminded that I am more than this knot. And through this subtle yet profound recognition, I feel free.
All my resistance to what is comes to an end.
The water gently laps at my feet, but it feels as if time is standing still. Everything I can see, everything I can feel is frozen in time as my attention observes the entirety of my life within a single, solitary moment. I watch from a distance, like a dream where I can see myself from above.
I see there is no separation between me and anything else. There is no separation between past or future. There is only this moment—and this moment is all there ever was, all there ever is, and all there ever will be.
I feel surrender—true surrender—for the first time in my life. It doesn’t feel like surrender in the way of giving up. It is pure. It is lifegiving. Unattached but not unloving. It is as if I have released every expectation and said to God, “Show me what you’ve got, and I will be here as love.”
I let go of what I think love is supposed to be.
I see the countless women and relationships I have had before this one flash before my eyes. It becomes clear to me that you do not choose who you love. And you do not choose who will love you in return.
In a moment of clarity, my efforts and expectations are replaced with the ability to feel the moment just as it is. And the moment is bliss. I feel freer than I ever have. Because, for the first time in my life, I’m not trying to escape.
How fortunate I am to feel this aching heart.
How fortunate I am to have earth beneath my feet.
How fortunate I am to love at all.
I take a deep breath and promise to never forget: love what is and you will always be free.
Londin stirs in the bed behind me, and I make my way back into the bungalow to greet her—on the first day of the rest of our lives.
—excerpt from Playing With Fire: The Spiritual Path of Intimate Relationship by Justin Patrick Pierce and Londin Angel Winters