That Feeling In The Pit of My Stomach

Out in the cold, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, 2011.

So I guess I have good Spidey senses. I’ll take that as my sole comfort.

Today, as my boyfriend emeritus (as I’d taken to calling him, since he still held an esteemed position even though he was no longer living with me) and I were talking through our cancelled weekend plans, we stumbled into our breakup. Or rather, I said what was clearly being unsaid. That it was important that we get together so we can officially let go.


“Yeah, something like that.”

Pause. More pause. Fumbled words. Statements. Defensive statements (that was me). Rapid definition of what’s left to do: Sell his piano. Go through storage and sort out what he wants to keep and give away what he doesn’t. Go through the apartment, shelf by painstaking shelf, to carefully select the belongings (the endless belongings ) of his that are still here. The belongings that kept me in the place of Maybe, while he had moved somewhere new, and somewhere old, and started the process of starting over. While I stayed in stasis. Hoping. Waiting for a miracle I really did know wasn’t coming. But his company at a distance was comforting, and lulling, and I found myself in a fantasy daily that maybe….

Oh, god, the tears. Heartbreak at 43 is no less brutal than in one’s 20s. In some ways more brutal. I have less hope of ever feeling shiny and new in love, less time to find that “life partner” since so much of my life has been lived. I have to break my son’s heart with the final news, and hope I can make it all right. My boyfriend is the only man my son remembers ever having lived with. My son has known him longer than he hasn’t. My son still corrects me, calling the three of us a “family,” whenever I refer to the two of us that way.  I die from the ache, the failure.

I wrote a book about heartbreak. I’m supposed to know how to do this. But right now I’m in the place where I feel exposed, and ugly, and discarded, and hopeless. It sounds so dramatic to write it all down that way, but that’s the only words I have for the unsettling nausea that has taken root in my stomach, the lump in my throat I can hardly breathe around, the terrible vise-grip that is clutching my heart, in a literal way, squeezing anxious fibrillation in the center of my being.

I wonder how much more I will have to give up before I can see the world plain around me, and begin again, again.


I’m so tired of losing my way. And so worried about losing my faith.

About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, former magazine editor (last at Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. I'm still searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after a series of very jarring losses. Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
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18 Responses to That Feeling In The Pit of My Stomach

  1. liza bennett says:

    Wow, what a really rotten time for you right now.
    Hurricane inside and out?
    (I hope today is the worst day, so that tomorrow can be the day that is a little better.)

    Sending hugs, from a stranger on the internet.

  2. Lindsey says:

    Oh, Stacy. How I wish I could do something. Instead, powerless, I can only keep sending love and compassion across the internet, but I know that doesn’t do much. Hoping the skies clear literally and figuratively soon. xoxoxo

  3. Rita says:

    “I have less hope of ever feeling shiny and new in love, less time to find that ‘life partner’ since so much of my life has been lived.”

    Oh, do I know this one. And, even though I’ve now found who I think will be my partner for what’s left of my life (knowing, now, in ways I couldn’t when I was shiny and new that it can all come undone in an instant) and am profoundly grateful for that (which has brought me a kind of happiness I wasn’t capable of feeling when I was shiny and new), I still (sometimes) feel such sadness that I did not get the life partner experience that others have. Could not make it for myself.

    I wish the new one and I had known each other when we were shiny and new. I wish we shared decades of memories. I wish we’d been able to have children together. While I am so, so grateful to have finally figured out who I am and to have found someone who loves the person I really am, there are days when I feel walloped by grief over what was lost and what never was and now will never be.

    I’m so sorry for your losses, and the pain that comes with them. I hope you can keep faith that it *will* get better. I don’t know that you’re losing your way. I think your way is just a really really hard path to travel, and has been for some time. Your story reminds me of the classic hero’s journey. Perhaps this last loss is the thing that’s necessary to help you see something that needs to be seen before you can do the things you were put here to do. Small comfort, I know. Those are the kind that got me through my darkest days, though, and still do.

    Wishing you peace–

    • stacy says:

      Tears in my eyes and on my cheeks. This is what I have been thinking about my life since everything started coming apart in 2004: ” I think your way is just a really really hard path to travel, and has been for some time. Your story reminds me of the classic hero’s journey. Perhaps this last loss is the thing that’s necessary to help you see something that needs to be seen before you can do the things you were put here to do.” I keep waiting for that wisdom; that’s what I’m often referring to here. In my heart I know that my fearlessness in seeing and speaking pain is a gift, that my desire to bare my soul so others will bare theirs (and thus set themselves free) comes from a higher place, that I am doing the best I can with what I have been given. But I am beaten down. So beaten down. And even though that may be the experience I need (a friend from my past always said to me, “So what are you afraid happens if you drop to your knees?”), the fighter in me does not want to have to let go of everything to be reborn. This is the central tension that has defined my life. But I will continue in the act of being me, and hope for the best.

  4. Ronna says:

    “I’m so tired of losing my way. And so worried about losing my faith.”

    Stacy: Heartbreaking and excruciating, to be sure and, at least in my experience, the very thing(s) that somehow, strangely and stumble-y, invite a way (and maybe even a faith) that not only sustain, but that carry and compel. May it be so.

    And yes, as dear-and-amazing Lindsey has said, may you see and know clear skies. Soon.

    • stacy says:

      Ronna, the pain and loss and separation from my ideas of How Life Should Go that I went through when my marriage ended, and my house flooded, and my sense of being the author of my life left me led me to the discovery of the exact shape of my faith. I remember the feeling of flying when I knew I was more connected to the true nature of life, its paradoxes, and its many beautiful gifts, which often appear in darkness, willing us to see them. So I know you are right. And yes: May it be so, may it be so. I will chant these words to myself until I stop lying awake in bed at night, waiting to be able to breathe without tears slipping from my eyes.

  5. Such big hugs for you, Stacy, so, so sorry. Heartache sucks! And you deserve so much love. (You will find it babe, you are so lovable.) And any time you need those hugs delivered in person, just call. xoxoxo

    • stacy says:

      A hug sounds realllly good about now. Once I can get back into Manhattan, I’m coming to get it! Also: lacking proof of deserving love and of general lovableness. Will just have to take it on your word; you’re a pretty trustworthy friend. xx

  6. melody says:

    Dear Lovely Stacy:
    My heart aches as I read your post. You have such a beautiful soul. Because quick words in the spur of the moment seem so trite and inadaquate, I wish to share with you 2 recent posts on my blog “whisperingsoulstreams” entitled: “make my prayers pray” and “ugly beautiful”. In the meantime, I wish I could reach out and wrap you in a loving hug…the kind that just feels protective and strong….the kind that you never want to leave….the kind that is ointment to life’s deepest pains.
    With love and prayers, Melody.

    Sending warm hugs your way,
    Melody Armstrong

    • stacy says:

      So beautiful, your words. I love “ugly beautiful” especially, and relate to it, and when I am doing well, I preach it. But right now I’m all hurt. But your words and intentions toward me are ointment, indeed, and I thank you for your grace.

  7. Amanda Henderson says:

    I’ve shared with you before how profound your book was in helping me cope with my divorce three years ago (and, subsequently, how helpful it was again and again as it took its turn in the hands of two dear girlfriends). The one piece of advice the resonated the most with me (well, two) was the importance of allowing yourself to be sad, sit there for a while…lean into it. And also how the “things that we think will swallow us whole can’t actually swallow us whole.” I hope you find peace again soon.

    I stumbled upon a quote today that resonated deeply with me. Maybe it will with you too:

    “It often seems, looking back, that the unexpected comes to define us, the paths we didn’t see coming and may have wandered down by mistake. The older we get the more willing we are to follow those, to surprise ourselves.”

    — Anna Quindlen

    Much love.

    Amanda xoxo

    • stacy says:

      Thank you for this. It was actually tremendously helpful to have my words put back to me. I forgot that just having the pain, making room for it, making friends with it, is the first part of building the foundation of getting THROUGH the pain. And I didn’t feel stupid for not remembering, either. I felt human. So, that’s a step. A good one. Thank you so much.

  8. Though this is much like divorce – in some ways easier (no legalities), in some ways harder (the worries of being older, his role in your son’s life) – I think it’s important to see the success in the time you spent together, rather than the failure of the relationship to endure. (Easy for me to say, you’re thinking.)

    This is not your failure. It is an ending. No ending of a relationship takes place without two people sharing the responsibility, and often there is a third party one way or another – if not a person, then circumstances.

    We cannot predict the ways in which we will change, the obstacles life will throw at us or our partners, or anything else. Surely the past week has made that clear. And yes, devastation heaped on devastation for you, in terms of the timing.

    According to, failure is defined as:

    a person or thing that is unsuccessful or disappointing; nonperformance of something required or expected; breakdown (a power failure); an insufficiency or shortage.

    Elements of the relationship may have disappointed or led to its breakdown, but that doesn’t mean your capacity for choosing well in the future (and being chosen in return) is lessened. Nor does it mean that you as a person, a woman, or a partner are in any way a failure.

    Where I empathize in a most personal way is relative to your son. To see the heartbreak in our children when our marriages / serious relationships end does lead to an incredible sense of failure. But it’s false. We do our best. We can only do so much.

    One last note from the other side of 50. If it was going to end, better now than 3 or 4 years from now. You have youth still in your favor. Believe me.

    Sending love. There’s plenty of it out here.

  9. Alexandra says:

    LOVE the wisdom from Wolfie.

    Wish I were there now. WIll love you from here.

    I know what this feels like, and somehow, that doesn’t do a thing to help you.

    SO SORRY, beautiful woman.


  10. Laurie says:

    Still with you in this in so many ways, it’s uncanny.

    I’ve started doing old-school therapy things, writing feelings down, talking to myself out loud, trying to put the pieces together that way. I am almost to the place of reassembling — not quite, but almost — and I didn’t want to do it, either. I know what an anxiety attack feels like now, too, which is not something I recommend ANYONE add to her repertoire. Man! But still, I keep working and slogging and thinking that soon the clouds will break on this. How long can it take us, right? I hope not much longer. Anyway, I’m out here, and I get it. Big love to you.

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