a fistful of worms

I was perfectly sober when I hit send, if it makes any difference.

In the months since that was that, I never tried to contact you. I didn’t call – though at first I wanted to – and instead, wisely deleted your number from my phone and got on with living. The thing about smart-phones though, is they’re smart – they remember. All I had to do was type your name. I didn’t say I missed you. Nothing mushy or pathetic, just that I thought of you. And naturally, you had no response. I didn’t expect one. All it could do is open a big can of worms, and who wants to do that? I do, I do, I do. Lying in bed last night, eyes squinting against the glow of my cell phone, I was all too anxious to pop the lid, reach in and grab a wad of fat, writhing night-crawlers. A fistful of worms has to be better than this… nothing I’m holding onto.

Not seeing you at the jewelry counter that day did it, you know. Opened the floodgates. Up until then, I’d been too preoccupied to give you any mental space. But things are quieter now, settled, and I’m no longer worried about where next month’s rent check will come from, or what would happen to me if I got hit by a bus. And in that lull, where fear has been replaced by steady routine, there is suddenly all this room for you. It’s like what happens when your body, after being used to constant stress and strain, slows down and finds a moment of rest – a moment of weakness, actually, because that’s when the virus you’ve been fighting takes over.

And you’ve all but taken over. I’m not sad, really, but I am unsettled. There are things I didn’t indulge before – memories better left undisturbed, that now keep me awake a night. You, kissing me, your fingertips light on my throat. My brain sighed, “squeeze,” and your hand, hearing, obeyed. It’s not something you can teach someone, to read another person like that. You just knew. And you, later in the dark, suddenly quiet.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing. I’m just smiling,” you said, the truth of it in your voice. “I’m just very happy.”

Me, too buddy. Me, too.

47 comments to a fistful of worms

  • Anonymous

    you dirty girl. i like it just a little bit rough too.

  • been there...

    These posts from you are my favorite. Though some may be painful, they’re beautiful and reach out to so many people.

    Thank you.

  • Mel

    *crie* These posts of your just make my heart clench. For me, for you, for love in general. Why oh why do we do it?


    Fish I have never commented on your blog but I have read it for two years. I have to say I know exactly what you are going thru and the trick to putting the momeries away is distraction, distraction, distraction! Keep busy with whatever it takes, human or activity… Keep yourself going girl! You can and will get over it…just takes A LOT of TIME and DISTRACTION!

  • ARGH. Remembering. Such torture.

    Better to seek out new, better ones…or at least think about neutral things like what shampoo to use in warm weather or whether lip gloss has any nutritional value until the newer, unsullied memories come along.

  • Oh man, I identify w/ this entry more than I want to dadmit. As in, I went through the same exact thing yesterday after giving up contacting crushes and exes and men of the past for Lent. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that hits send and wonders why and then waits and waits.

  • Oh man, I identify w/ this entry more than I want to dadmit. As in, I went through the same exact thing yesterday after giving up contacting crushes and exes and men of the past for Lent. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that hits send and wonders why and then waits and waits.

  • This has been a day for sadness and wistfulness for the people around me. And I feel it as if it were my own. But things will change, as they always do. And you’ll change too.

  • Your words touch my heart and make me feel your pain. In fact they bring up the pain I myself have suffered through the years and brought them to the surface, so I can all but physically feel for you. But alas, my pain quickly retreats back to the past. My prayers are with you as you search for your path that will remove your pain and feel your heart and life with Love and Happiness. You touched my heart today and I cried a tear for you. God Bless!

  • Your posts are so expressive, whether it’s about every day life or emotions. I’m hooked on your talent, thanks for sharing.

  • This was me just last week. I’m still thinking of clicking send. We can all relate, Fish. Chin up, girl!

  • oh fish.

    it will all be ok, in the end. SOMEhow. And you will look back on these days & realize that it took all these moments to get to the great place you are destined for.

  • Charliegirl

    Beautiful and poignant. Thanks

  • I think my heart just cracked a little. So sad. So easy to relate to.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you.

  • JR


    I’ve never commented on your blog, but I’ve been reading you for a while. This post (and the one about not seeing him at the store) really got to me because I know EXACTLY how you feel – I was doing really good at first, distracted, but suddenly things settled down and i was finally able to focus on what I had been avoiding all this time. At the begining it was too painful to let myself think of him much, but now I miss him terribly and I find myself laying awake at night, remembering, daydreaming of how things could have been, and I fall back into my delusional thoughts of “next time he sees me, he’ll realize his mistake”, etc. It’s all useless and it’s bad and even though it hurts, it’s like a drug. Once I open up the vault in my mind and in my heart I can’t stop.

  • cin

    Oh I wish I had your talent of writing. Hang in there fish, I’m hoping for the best for you. I live in a marriage where we don’t talk or do anything together. I want to get out but he still loves me and I am so afraid of feeling what you’re going thru now!

  • Libby


  • Yeah that’s me. I can’t sleep anymore. I wait until I’m ready to drop so that my brain has shut off before my head even hits the pillow. Last night I went to sleep early. At 2 am. I ended up crying myself to sleep. So, no sleep for this weary girl.

  • riley

    *sigh* well done. you perfectly described the empty hole i fall into at night before i allow myself to drift into sleep. maybe in the dark we think no one can see us texting the people we probably just shouldn’t…

  • I never knew until that moment how bad it could hurt to lose something you never really had. ~From the television show The Wonder Years

    It’s OK Fish, this too shall pass. I know that doesn’t help now, but the only certainty is that it WILL get better.

    If it helps you are not alone.

  • Thank God my phone isn’t smart. This post made my heart ache as I can relate completely.

  • Sarah in NJ

    I totally have been there before…and am still kind of there. Sort of….

    Different situation (I’m sure), but similar feelings…It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one…and it makes a lot more sense to me why I thought I was over it…and then suddenly I wasn’t…


    Your writing is always so great! Whether it’s funny or emotional, you always put it so eloquently!

  • ugh. cheers to that! Indulge was so the right word.

  • Lindsay

    I’m in a relationship that I should probably have ended a long time ago because I’m afraid of precisely the feeling you describe. I admire you for having the courage to rip the band aid off, even if you didn’t want to.

  • You capture emotion in your writing so beautifully. As with most of your readers, I can painfully relate. It’s wonderful to know your not alone. Your blog is truly you, and extremely admirable–this why I keep coming back day after day.

  • I’m so sorry Heather. I have yet to have my heart broken and NOT see people at jewelry counters, but as cliche as it sounds, I’ve heard these things take time.

    (btw, what’s with the first comment?)

  • When do we develop this empty hole in our being that needs to be filled with another person? Obviously your readers relate, as do I, but can’t put my finger on when exactly inventing an imaginary friend crossed over into envisioning the imaginary what if’s of past relationships.

    Sometimes it helps to sit them both down over plastic tea cups and say good-bye.

  • red

    ugh. sad. heart. breaking.

  • D

    Why do happy memories leave us sad?

  • thanks for this. i find myself distracted and consumed with thoughts at a time when i thought i’d be moving past it all. it does help to know i’m not alone. also helps that my first inclination was to write, with absolute faith, that it does get easier with time…guess i’m moving past it all after all. we all do (oh, but to speed it up a bit ;) .

  • Mary

    Thanks. Once again you manage to say exactly how I feel, only so much better than I could ever say it. The only problem is that I’m still waiting to get so preoccupied that I no longer have the mental/emotional space for him. And I’ve yet to develop the courage and strength to delete his number. So, last week when I wasn’t sober and sent the text, he responded and the can of worms was open again. Damn worms!! Holding on to nothing is much better than trying to put them back in the jar…wish I’d realized that then.

    Sorry you’re going through this, but thanks again for sharing it so well with the rest of us.

  • Molly

    When I read your post about almost seeing him at the jewelry counter, I felt like I was there. The feelings you described made my stomach knot up! Then, two days later while driving, I saw him at an intersection. He saw me too. I have been so close to emailing him, just to say that I know he saw me and that I still think about him. But I keep telling myself that I can’t do it because I know I won’t get a response. Just when I thought I was on my way to “recovery”…

  • rg

    I’d just gotten to that place where although I had mental space, he wasn’t occupying it. Then he sent a message and invaded it again. now it’s twice as hard as the first time to push him back out. Good luck, Heather. Wish I had some great bit of advice for us both.

  • Mary

    I remember clearly thinking and saying aloud “I wish I was five years ahead looking back.” For some reason I thought five would be a magic number and that the hurt would be forgotten and I would have moved on in my life. Five years went by and I was married, expecting my first baby and it was with someone so different and unexpected. Time heals, forgive and let go. take care.

  • KfromNYC

    So you have the jewelry counter incidents, but I think I discovered one much worse last night… the Dream. Where you are actually there, with the person- and it’s actually them. Then, you wake up. You have that deep empty, longing feeling- and then, throughout the day, the dream comes back clearer and clearer.

    damn you exes and dreams and people that look like our exes.

    Heres to everyone that’s been through this- may we all find someone much better (and while i’m at it- let’s make them hotter and richer)

  • Di

    Ooh, I know that pain, Fish. Over the course of two years I randomly texted, called or emailed my Ex. And he did the same. It didn’t help matters between us except keep each other relevant when we knew we would never be together. And, true, we never got back together. But at the same time, I was busy living life and pushing (and I mean pushing hard, shoving, not just a gentle nudge) myself into my future. Sometimes it does take those little unrequited moments to show our hearts the reality of the situation. That hope I had for he and I faded slowly in time and finally the tiny ember died out. By then, the trail of smoke was so light I could hardly see it, and the air is filled with much finer scents! Looking back, my memories of the last two years are filled with people who wonderfully affected my life while I wasn’t looking. Amazing how that can happen. I changed, grew as a person, and have had much richer experiences since then.

    You will get over him. It may be slow, but just remember the reasons it ended. Don’t beat yourself up about thinking of him and trying to contact him. Definitely push yourself into your future with new experiences with new men. I hope you’re able to date. It really does help to meet new people.

  • Stacy

    This entry really hit home for me. I think I’m doing okay – good, even – and then I think I see him around town, somewhere, and my heart gets caught in my throat. That feeling has not gone away. I think I’m haunted by the fact that I could run into him, and see him again, happy, with someone else. And though I’ve mostly moved on, I think, those times just bring me back. And it’s so frustrating, because I want to move past it. I don’t want him to have this effect on me, still, after so many months have passed. And then, too, after a while of no communication, I hear from him again. Nothing heartfelt, just a recap of his life these days. I want to move on so badly. I’ve dated a bit, but haven’t felt “that” with anyone I’ve met since. And partly, now, I think it’s that feeling that I miss, rather than him specifically. But hearing from him or thinking I’ve seen him makes me not so sure…

  • clara

    Beautiful post. I have experienced this same feeling deeply and sadly for much longer than I should have. I still feel stuck sometimes just when I think I’m OVAH IT. Maybe I’m not pushing myself forward, or maybe it’s because I kept in touch with the ex for way too long. I still get moments of sadness or twinges of nostalgia but they are fewer and farther between and what really helped was NOT being in contact. I think of the emotions over time as going through a spiral; you think you’re making progress up or down but when you get to the same point of the spiral above or below where you were before, you can see the spot that you were previously and you remember little bits and pieces that make you sad or happy. But the further you go up or down the spiral, the better it gets. Hopefully the view is really great at the top, or you finally land into a good spot.

  • amanda

    It’s actually worse when they respond…because it’s never what you want to hear…but it makesyou realize just how little they care…and maybe, just maybe it helps you move on faster.

    I sent the “I miss you” text…I got a response…it, of coures, wasn’t what I wanted to hear…and later I found out things I wish I had known when it first ended…because it would have made it that much easier to realize that he wasn’t worth wasting all that time being upset over!

    A new man will come around though, and make you start to realize what you deserve again.

    I have that now, I’m working on being realistic about it. So far…he’s exactly what I need in my life…hopefully he’s all I ever will need in my life.

    I luv you Fish for writing so truthfully…I feel your hurt…so very literally!

  • realityfanatic

    Gosh I love ur blogs..this post def hit home. To send/not to send….drives me insane at times!

  • sad

    sometimes it seems it can never go away. It’s been 17,5 years since we split – there’s been one war, many other relationships, one child, many successful or less successful jobs, friends, laughters and cries – a whole life – and it still happens that I’d do anything just to see him or to know how he is…

    then again – I’m only forty – there’s still hope it will eventually go away…

  • been there too...

    beautifully written.

  • Anonymous

    “And partly, now, I think it’s that feeling that I miss, rather than him specifically.”

    For me, I think it’s “me” that I miss. That version of me that was happy, was open, wasn’t hurting, still had faith.

    I don’t miss him, or even us, I just miss who I was when I was happy.

    The worst part is that the happy memories hurt far more than the sad ones.

  • That was such a lovely post- you really put into words how so many of us have felt- myself included. Thank you.

  • ozzieneil

    It’s never our fault when we fall in love. Some little thing deep within the amygdala go’s off and pow…. we’re in love. It might be the wrong person, it might be for all the wrong reasons. Doesn’t matter. Nature, in her infinite wisdom has deemed the hierarchy of our brains will be thus. Poor ol rational and wise neo cortex doesn’t stand a chance. Its like arguing with a 5 year old. You might KNOW you’re right… but it makes not the slightest bit of difference to them.

    There’s lots of reasons why this is, but none of them matter to anyone, (moi right now) held trapped within the amygdalas irrational rationality. But there is hope. At the end of the day, its all about genetic imperative. Bonding with another, through love, has been pretty successful for we humans. We’ve pretty much put the A in apex. Trying to fight something so ingrained, so part of our succes as a species is quite simply pointless. So all those above who have proffered the advice, “keep the faith, go forth, live and most definitely hold out for love”, are wise indeed. Because the boys running the show deep within the amygdala, (they gotta be boys right?), aren’t real smart. You provide them with enough opportunities, hell they’re gonna throw that switch again. They cant help emselves. An when it happens in conjunction with someone else’s amygdala crew throwing their switch…. ahhh we’ve found genetic imperative… I mean love… all over again!


    I just stumbled into this blog, adn well I just want to let you know how good it feels to know that I am not the only one that experiences that breakdown level, where I feel like I know we cannot be together,but you love him… can’t forget him… and well its been so long you’ve been together that it feels like you know nothing else… well Honey… thats me in a nutshell, I feel like I can’t take this,and I have alot going on believe me, b/t the death of my mother, the loss of a child at the same time, and well now the man of my life who just could not live out of state from me, w/o sharing w/o another one, I just cant seem to let go, the thougths of him with another woman,or the fact that you can love me and be with someone else..just doesnt sound like love……. the things he does and says…. promise me the world… but just me and you in it… GOD SHALL help me through…. still feels good to know though..these tears bring fear of ever loving again…… time will heal all wounds…. didn’t say it would be easy….