I hope you break your heart

Warning: This post contains spoilers on The Good Wife. And my life. 

The Good Wife CBS

My relationship with The Good Wife began on a flight from London to Australia. I was on the second leg of an uncomfortable homeward journey; the discomfort was equal parts physical – the gentleman next to me seemed to like my seat more than his own – and emotional. Turns out a three-month sabbatical is not nearly long enough to untangle the heart-chords of a complicated relationship. I was flying on a tailwind right back into the chaos I had left behind, and not even three plastic bottles of shiraz could settle me when they dimmed the cabin lights.

You can’t escape yourself on a plane. You have to sit with whatever your brain decides to make of being so close to the moon and the planets. You have to accept that being suspended in space and time, that being both here and there – at the same time! – will inevitably lead to delirious philosophies about the nature of your life, and the choices you’ve made. When that sad saxophone pipes through your headphones, your entire existence is up for dissection, with every mistake examined up close. Are you finally on your way now, or is this just another leaving?

You cry big, fat tears over questions no one can answer at 30,000 feet.

While a plane full of people push their chairs back, and snore.

Will Gardner
Josh Charles as Will Gardner. Image courtesy of CBS.

And so, The Good Wife. The pilot and second episode offered up, as I scrolled through a cracked, back-of-seat screen, hoping for distraction. The premise looked interesting enough, and – best of all – completely removed from my own situation. As a betrayed spouse whose husband was caught up in a sex scandal, The Good Wife’s titular Alicia Florrick seemed a wonderfully complex, wonderfully unrelatable character (okay, unrelatable is not technically a word – but it should be). The show promised to be a safe enough diversion for my busy little head.

Thanks to The Good Wife, I would have 43 minutes, times two, to escape myself.

That’s all I thought it would be.

Will Gardner changed that. Josh Charles as Will Gardner ruined that. From the moment he appeared on screen, I was hooked. And not in the unrelatable way.

Will Gardner was successful, and fulfilled, and … almost happy.

But something was dimmed.

You only understood this once you saw what he could be, once you saw him with Alicia Florrick, the woman he had loved too long (probably since Georgetown, for those of you keeping score). His was the kind of dark you barely noticed, an unobtrusive shadow, visible only when he shook it off. When you saw him light up in her presence.

Alicia, the great love he nearly had. The great love he met too early. And then again, too late.

Will Gardner was always at the mercy of bad timing.

Will Gardner was like me.

Successful, Fulfilled. Almost happy.

There’s nothing quite like loving someone you can’t have. Nothing quite like accepting that, and forgetting that, and then having it suddenly, inexplicably come back around. A chance, an offer of better timing, and suddenly you’re lit like a city again.

Ah, yes. I could relate.

Willicia
Will and Alicia … and a rare moment of good timing.

I watched those first two episodes twice over, and I’ve spent my life in the thrall of Will, and The Good Wife ever since. For five seasons, Will Gardner has been my proxy. A complex, anti-hero, made good by the one pure thing in his life – the torch he carried for his great, unfulfilled love. He was my proxy because it didn’t destroy him, this torch. It didn’t define him. Or when it did, it just made him better. Sharper, more creative. He still let people in. He carried on. He didn’t stop living his life.

A heavy heart is different from one that is broken.

I could relate.

And then he died. Last week on The Good Wife, he died. Will Gardner. My favourite character. My – me. Dead. No more stories. No more loving and losing on my behalf. No more stoic acceptance, or rare, fiery protest at our situation. My vicarious, help-me-through-the-night Will was dead. Gunned down on an ordinary day. Just like that, a life, and a story, over. Death is, as the show’s writers so poignantly told us, irredeemable.

I’ve been thinking about him, and that plane ride … and being almost happy, ever since.

Because Will Gardner died without saying, without knowing. There were voicemails and promised conversations, and so many little moments where he could have changed the story. But he never pushed for the one thing he wanted – not really. Each time he got close to Alicia, and the world pushed back, he walked away. He always did the right thing.

It’s okay. I understand. We’ve always had bad timing. Some other time.

(Love as sacrifice. Elevated beyond obsession to something noble, something resigned).

A heavy heart is different from one that is broken.

Will Gardner died protecting his heart, instead of exposing it. He never said – Fuck it! I’m in. It wouldn’t work? Who cares! Let’s try! He never took the leap, and risked the fall. The knowing, finally, that you are on your way now. Or free to leave, once and for all. It might have broken his heart to find out. It should have broken his heart. That’s how you’re meant to use it. That’s how the light gets in.

The death of my favourite TV character has reminded me that you cannot be tentative with love. You have to crash into it, you have to crack through it. Your heart can take it. That resilient little organ, every time it breaks, it cobbles back together somehow. It recalibrates around the ache, into something stronger. Every time.

You have to break your own heart. I hope you break your heart. Use it, while it is still drumming away, under the skin. Tell that person. Ask that person. Turn out your palms and say I’m here. I’m in. Don’t bequeath them your questions. Risk your heart  – break it! – to find the answers. Maybe that person will help you put your heart back together. Maybe you’ll have to do it alone. It doesn’t matter.

It recalibrates around the ache, into something stronger. Every time.

And the only way to really let go – is to know.

Josh Charles The Good Wife
Josh Charles. Image courtesy of CBS.

Vale, Will Gardner. I have so loved this vicarious life. I will miss seeing what we were going to do next. And when I do break this heart of mine again (oh, and I will!)  – I’ll do it for the both of us.

“The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” – Hemingway

He waits

He is no less than your fatal flaw.

And you die a thousand little deaths at his hand.

(He slays you, this man. He slays you in his careless ways, every day).

Then he waits, once again, for your resurrection.

#

“He smiles sweetly, strokes my hair,
Says he misses me.
I would murder him right there,
But first I die.” 

Every Day A Little Death, Sondheim


The force of that submission

Do you remember the night I fell to pieces?

The night I tried to show you what this was doing to me? We are going to have this out! I said years too late, because I was trying to be brave, trying to make a demand, instead of always, always waiting for your sign to light up.

We stood opposite each other across a bed we had tumbled through the night before, and you told me you didn’t need to hear this, you folded your arms and spat words at me, and I could not move you. Even when I turned out my palms, even when I said I would take second best, if you would just take more care with my heart, I could not move you.

Do you remember how I disintegrated with the force of that submission, how it shook me apart to stand before you like that? And do you remember how, moments later, you pushed me from the room?

I begged – Just let me stay until I can breathe. But you had dinner plans – They’re waiting you said. (Funny just how you’d kept them waiting the night before). I sat in that hotel lobby after you left, and I sobbed for an hour. A grown woman reduced to lost and wailing child. It was a stranger who said Are you okay, lady? and put me back together. You ate three courses and said nothing at all.

Two weeks later you wanted to know how I was going.

How did I ever let you back in?

#

if memories are supposed to light the path ahead …

The way to do it

I did want to be a better person.

I did want to be brave and fierce and true. I did want to open my palms and expose the stories written deep in the grooves. I did want to make the harder choice and the wiser move, the moving left to make it right.

did want to be a better person, all along.

I suppose I thought love was the way to do it.

The person I am tonight

The end is where we start from

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” – T.S. Eliot

A big hello to my readers here at body, remember. I truly value every single like and comment you make; writing a novel is a solitary endeavour, and you always seem to provide look-up-at-the-world moments just when I need them most.

I’m moving closer and closer to a final draft of The Memory of Stars now, and this blog is a wonderfully interactive, wonderfully international writing exercise to get me there. I pay attention to what resonates with you, and I’m never more grateful than when you share your stories with me, too.

And like I said, I’m moving closer. I’ve just created a new page here; it contains a synopsis of The Memory of Stars, and a link to the first (very edited!) third of the book. It’s Maggie Valentine’s story. The woman who started it all. But as Maggie herself says – Now I know there is no such thing as an ending.

The end is where we start from, indeed …

The Memory of Stars by Jacqueline Bublitz

Where the beginning resides

Lying here in the dark without you.

There have been a thousand nights without you. So many sleepless nights counting down from midnight; it was always easier to miss you in the daylight hours. But now the darkness expands into tomorrow. Now the darkness is endless, ahead of me, as well as behind. If I go back too far I will exhaust my memories of you, and I feel a panicked need to preserve them, to ration these memories out, the way someone lost in the wild must approach a depleted supply of food and water.

They say that memories light both the path we have taken, and the path to follow. They say that remembering ensures we look both ways. But all I see now is an abyss. If I reach the beginning of us, here in the dark, I will inevitably come to our end. There will be no new words to decipher, no clumsy mistakes to ponder. There will be no new arguments, or surrender smiles, out there waiting for us.

There is no unchartered territory left to explore, Mack. When I arrive at the point where the beginning resides, I will have mapped our love entirely.

Jacqueline Bublitz at body, remember
Image by Joanne Piechota @ Little Clicks

Edits, edits, edits! Love rescuing little bits of prose, and finding that they do fit, after all …

All of your darkest parts

The strength of your invisible ties.

Like so many men, your sense of right and wrong came first from that book, and the tap-tap of a judicious spoon. Later it would be your father’s girly magazines, and a box to the ears for disrespecting your mother. Decency wrapped itself around your wild parts; love was metered out in ancient verse, and trips to the bathroom at your father’s office.

I can’t imagine how much you pushed right down when they told you lust was a shameful sin. How the cravings fizzing and floating in your little head went underground. I know the first woman you desired ripped it right out of you, unexpectedly, inconveniently – and how it thrilled you. She was older, you spent a summer fucking every afternoon, and learning to keep the hunger a secret; it fit right in with what they told you about sex and shame, the way you couldn’t take her home, and how it made you feel queasy to think about her. Until she would stand naked in front of you again, and the world would spin a different way. They hadn’t prepared you for how good this would feel, how secrets and lies made the release even better. It was the best summer of your life, and also the most dangerous. When you went back to school, and she went back to her husband, you were relieved to find yourself back on solid ground. You took a nice girl home to mum and dad, and the world righted itself.

You never saw your first lover again.

You spent the rest of your life trying to keep a lid on what had spilled out, to flee what you had discovered. And of course it worked until this Pandora came along. When I pried open that lid, and sifted through the troubles I found there. As they hit the light, your sins were the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. Lust. Curiousity. Hunger. Passion. They had all survived their time underground.

You don’t have to hide these from me, I told you, as I laid them out before you. They are my sins, too.

I know I reminded you of that first woman. And I like to think that if she was the first, I became your greatest sin. The desire for truth that would not be reasoned away. I like to think you understood yourself better when you were in my arms, Mack. That I eased your burdens, just a little. By loving all of your darkest parts.

Because it is as great a tragedy as any, don’t you think? This idea of living somebody else’s truth. All these walls we’ve build between comfort and desire, just to hide what we know.

And how being true to oneself has never been considered the ultimate act of faith.

#

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty.

Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.” – Henry Miller