part vii: people who leave / people who stay.

by Michael King

CAUTION: You have reached an advanced section of the manual. It is essential that, prior to approaching Part VII, you have carefully studied and moved through the previous six sections. They are designed to prepare you, to bolster your broken places, so that you can trudge through. It’s okay to wait.

No? Okay, well move forward with care.

user's manual

You will note, reader, that the manual, up until this point, has focused pretty exclusively on you and your journey following possession of a broken heart. This is, of course, a decidedly passive way to describe your heartbreak. Spoken this way, in this language, it sounds as though you happened upon a broken heart by accident, by happenstance, by random lottery.

But this is not what happened, is it? Like many before you, your heart was broken by a human. You held it out, handed it to him, he broke it, and he left. As absent as his name has been from the manual thus far, your ex has been absent from your side.

The purpose of this section is to have you consider, with honesty and openness, the role your ex is going to hold in your life as you make your way back to yourself. Ultimately, that will be your decision to make, reader, as we’ll remind you: Each broken heart is unique, as is the story that shattered it.

In the world, you will encounter two kinds of humans: People Who Leave, and People Who Stay. Here’s an idea of what you might feel and/or notice when encountering each:

People Who Leave

  • Their presence, initially, has all the warmth of the sun, but their absence becomes increasingly dark and difficult, leaving you in waiting for their return.
  • For them, you will hustle, and they may praise your effort, igniting you and beckoning you to hustle further. The hustling will not cease.
  • Early on, they will be impressed by your brighter characteristics, but, with time, they will find your flaws, and they will convince you that to hold you is heavy.
  • Their arms will reach for you when you are useful, when they are unable to stand on their own, but you will find they do not reach for you when they are feeling victorious.
  • They will resist letting you see their broken pieces, snapping at you once you’ve noticed them, and they will not know what to do with yours.
  • You will study them closely, learning the language through which they speak and hear love, and you will learn to pull their smile into being. In return, they will never learn to decipher yours, to understand what it means when you tell stories, or when you explore sadness, or when your hands are reaching quietly for theirs.
  • At the ends of your visits together, their eyes will fixate on the clock, and they will not reach for you to stay, but instead urge you to go.
  • They will leave. When they do, maybe they’ll give you words, that you ‘deserve more,’ but they’ll ring empty, because they’re not meaningful, because they’re the words of someone who’s leaving. Or maybe they’ll leave with a whimper. Or maybe they’ll leave in silence.
  • The moment they leave, their eyes will fixate on what’s next, on new beginnings, on finding something to distract them from the very real wounds they’ve just left on another human being.

People Who Stay

  • It may be that you haven’t noticed them, that their constancy caused you to forget them in favor of the ones for whom you’d been hustling. But they’ve been there, you’ll realize, through all of it, the storms and the stars and the quiet mornings and busy days and long nights.
  • Rather than beckoning you always to hustle, they will summon you to be still, to be proud, to recognize what you have done, and to rest in the beauty of your own being, as you are now, without modification or influence.
  • They will find inspiration in your brightest characteristics, will point you to them when you’re not feeling steady on your feet, and they’ll remember them when you’re not at your best.
  • They will see your flaws, will be honest with you when you’re not owning them, but they will teach you to hold them, to repurpose them, will convince you that the cracks in your being are no excuse to feel broken.
  • They’ll study you, learning the language through which you speak and hear love, and they’ll say words / do things that make you feel seen, that make you feel like they’ve got a direct line to your heart, and they’ll use this to make you feel tall, brave, and loved.
  • With them, you do not have to perform, to put on the act of perfection, but instead you can relax.
  • Their hands will reach for you in times of victory, in times of failure, in times of boredom, summer, winter, fall, and spring.
  • They will not seek to change you, but will change you in doing so, by teaching you to exist, as you, with courage, honesty, and sincerity.
  • They will not leave, not if they can help it, even if that means reaching over miles of geography or mountains of emotional turmoil or the deafening distance between life and death. They will always show up, show up, show up. You will never look within yourself and not find them there.

Erm, that was a lot, wasn’t it? No, it’s fine to cry. This is a difficult chapter to make meaning of.

As you might guess, it is decidedly difficult to know what kind of person you’re loving in the middle of loving them. Love, as you know, orients the Heart to look for the good, to search for the hope, to keep paving forward.

You were not foolish, but brave, to love. We thought it was important that you knew that. At least this time, you were one of the People Who Stay.

Yes, you’ve also been one of the People Who Leave. Not this time, but yes.

No, that’s all right. Take some time. It’s important that you know the two types of people, that you understand the definitions. You’re diving into the tricky stuff now, the pulling out of the old stitches. Take a breath, spread your limbs.

We’ll be here when you’re ready.

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