A year or so in to our relationship, Joe and I were leaving a restaurant near Embankment station in London when I caught sight of a man selling his handwritten poems by the side of the street.
On closer inspection, I realised that this was the same man that my ex-boyfriend (‘Tiger’ in The Inner Fix) had bought a poem from the day we broke up back in the summer of 2012.
That poem - which Tiger had given to me when I left - was called Farewell Blessing.
It had moved me so much that I’d included it in to one of the chapters of The Inner Fix.
Since then, I’d always kept an eye out for this street poet whenever I passed through Embankment station - but to no avail.
He’d signed his name on the poem simply as ‘Joseph M’, so I couldn’t even track him down on the internet.
Which is why spotting him with Joe four years on was such a welcome surprise.
First, because it meant I could get his details to send him a copy of our book with his poem inside.
Second, because it meant I could treat myself to a new creation of his that would hopefully be as poignant and relevant to me as Farewell Blessing had been back then.
His full name was Joseph Marinus.
Just as I recalled from last time, he still sat on a foldable garden chair beside a frayed blanket laden with brightly coloured envelopes.
The colours of the envelopes, he told us, indicate the feeling of the poem inside: yellow for joy, pink for love and blue for peace.
He was delighted to learn of his poem’s inclusion in to our book, and equally delighted to supply me with a new one.
Part of Joseph’s genius seemed to lie in selecting the most appropriate poem for its recipient.
Farewell Blessing had been spot on for the ending of mine and Tiger’s relationship in 2012.
This time, Joseph said he felt called to give me a blue envelope marked with the words ‘Invitation To A Journey.’
The poem inside read:
As you know I came
By discontent to the wall.
A door materialized
And I went through it
Into larger space
Where led another door:
So without intention
I left my country
And arrived elsewhere.
In the human stumbling
Who easily discerns
Call of Providence?
Of unimagined wings,
Sense of youth recovered,
Cannot entirely deceive.
There is no movement of advance without loss,
Wound of sacrifice,
The shed skin by the road
Precious with memory
Holds me anguishedly.
Laden with the ache
Of its abandonment
I turn, and hurry on
The road which is myself.
The poem pretty much summed up the journey I’d been on in love for the last four years.
I’d indeed come by discontent to the wall: the discontent of heartbreak and things not going the way I wanted them to.
A ‘rock bottom’ is so-called because when you hit it, there’s nothing left for you to lose.
But having nothing left to lose is a subjective state of mind that looks very different for each of us.
For some, having nothing left to lose means just that:
No money, no job, no family, nothing.
One rung up from death - and that rung may well be a lifetime jail sentence.
Regardless of the circumstances, you know you’ve hit your own rock bottom when the pain of staying the same outweighs the inevitable pain involved in changing.
Thankfully, a broken heart was all it took for me.
(Actually, that’s not entirely true; in the same week that I was dumped, I lost my acting agent and all my savings, meaning I had to move back in with my parents for what turned out to be five years instead of five months. However, in comparison to the agony of my break-up, that all felt like a relative inconvenience).
One of my favourite films growing up was Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, which revolves around a teenage girl’s quest to reach the centre of a huge and bonkers maze to rescue her baby brother from David Bowie’s Goblin King.
When Sarah first enters the Labyrinth, the corridors of the maze seem to go on forever and no matter how far or fast she runs, she never gets anywhere.
Collapsing against one of the walls in exhaustion, she hears the voice of what turns out to be a little worm with a bright blue Mohawk and a serious case of red eye.
When she bemoans the lack of turns and openings in the maze, the worm tells her:
“You ain’t looking right! It’s full of openings, it’s just you ain’t seeing them… There’s one just across there, it’s right in front of you! Things aren’t always what they seem in this place, so you can’t take anything for granted.”
With that, Sarah gets up and slowly walks towards the wall that the worm’s referring to.
When she reaches what first appeared to be one continuous mass of brick, she realizes that the middle section of the wall extends further back than the side sections, meaning that she can walk straight through to a new corridor.
A way through emerges out of what had only moments ago seemed like a dead-end, because when her perspective shifts, so too does her reality.
When heartbreak first brought me to my own wall at age sixteen, I hadn’t seen a way through, either.
Instead, I spent ten, futile years running up and down the wall lamenting my lack of options, just like Sarah in the labyrinth.
A decade later, another heartbreak brought me back to that same spot.
This time, though, instead of trying to clutch on to a way of doing things that clearly wasn’t working, I sat down, I shut up and I surrendered.
I was instantly met with a surge of relief:
Maybe I couldn’t figure this out because I didn’t have to.
In the stillness, my inner wise worm directed me to look at the wall in front of me from a different vantage point.
In doing so, a door materialized where before there had been none.
The door led to a new road, and four years later that new road led to me standing in the middle of a muddy field at one in the morning beside the man who was to guide me towards the next door on my journey.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU:
Have you ever had your heartbroken in some way?
Looking back, can you see how this seeming ‘rock bottom’ led you towards a better path?
All my love,