Around the House and in the Garden.

By Alison June 7, 2006 12 Comments 3 Min Read


If we believe that we are destined to read certain books then it must also be true that some books sit on our shelves just waiting for their moment.

Today I am re-discovering "Around the House and in the Garden- A Memoir of Heartbreak, Healing and Home Improvement." by Dominique Browning. I read this book a few years back, quietly adored it and sent copies to my friends. But I read it then without emotion. It didn’t resonate with me because I had never known it was to have to fill the gaps someone has left in your heart and home. Never needed mending before…

This morning, before Finley awoke, I climbed back into bed with a cup of tea and read Dominique’s story all over again:

"You always know when it is over, and it is almost never during  one of those familiar moment’s of  high drama- a big fight, a big betrayal, a big disgrace. We  don’t hit love’s bottom with door slamming, fist-clenching, sob-choking fury. That’s when we are alive. Instead the death of a relationship seems to creep up very quietly, achingly;  it makes it’s slow, sour presence felt in strange and subtle moments. The things you think you are fighting about- sex, money, work, children- those are never really the main event. They’re the skewed translations of deeper problems, curled up in the dark belly of love: problems of fear, or grief, problems with scar tissue that may long ago have knit itself over too thickly.

When I think back over the unravelling of my marriage, things are clear now that were not then. But this story isn’t abut marriage and in any event I intend to protect the privacy of a couple that no longer exists to protest the accuracy of anything I might say. My story begins with the end of a marriage, the end of a household, the end of a home. It is about mourning, and the passage through what I came to think of as a living death- or perhaps, living a death. And it is about the way a house can express loss, and then bereavement, and then finally, the rebuilding of a life."

Scar tissue.

I went to the doctor’s a few weeks ago. He held my hand as I sat and cried, and told  me that  in many ways the end of a relationship  is worse than a death because "the buggers keep coming back." And I laughed through my snotty sodden tears, as he offered me tablets and comfort and counselling and in the end said that only time could heal a broken heart.

But he is wrong. Time- and words from women who have been there. Who know what it is to feel the surge of panic that rises in you when the day is done. When everyone has gone home and there is only you in a house haunted by what should be.  What no longer exists.

So I read. Because I cannot do my feelings justice the same way that writers better than I can. Because sometimes realisation comes in the least likely turn of phrase, in the shortest of sentences.

Scar tissue.

Now, tonight, now that numbness is a friend of mine I am getting some perspective.  Women from all walks of life  are showing me the way.

And so just like Dominique did, I am laying my heart on the doorstep and asking my house to heal it.
Perhaps it’s time to bag up his clothes. The trail he has left behind.


  1. Gena says:

    Oh Alison! what can I say,except you are not alone,you have a host of women praying for you and supporting you,many of us have had our hearts broken at some point in our lives,and know how utterly hopeless it leaves you feeling,It is a cliche,but true anyway,that the dawn allways follows the darkness,it may not feel like it just now,but it is very,very early days.You are a beautiful,clever woman with a good heart,something much better must be in store for you.xx

  2. Meredith says:

    Sweetie, hang in there. And by all means, bag up his clothes and leave them on the front stoop. Or out for the garbage collector;-). Sending many many hugs!

  3. kali says:

    Through tears I read your words and feel your pain.
    I am with you in my mind and every single day send a prayer.
    Your scar tissue will heal and become a part of who you are from here on in…more strong, more beautiful.
    You have yourself, your precious babba and your home (your haven)~ such treasures!
    Yes, the time has come to bag his clothes….

  4. ms*robyn says:

    this makes me laugh! Oh Alison – when my ex left me (for someone else, I might add) after all the emotional stuff and a few weeks on, I gleefully bagged his clothes up. every single piece – dirty and clean, all in together, shoes, socks and shirts tumbled in big orange plastic bags and tied up – then I tossed them out into the verandah and left them there for when he wanted to collect them. I didnt care less if he came back tomorrow or weeks away – of course, I still hurt for a long time but after doing that, it was like a soothing balm. bless you sweet girl !!!!!

  5. ms*robyn says:

    ps – it makes me laugh cause I still see myself tossing the stuff into bags like the demented woman that I was!

  6. elainey says:

    ~~~ as i sat on my porch yesterday afternoon waiting for the cool to come to this very hot southern home i prayed for you~~~imagined my prayers reaching you in what was already night where you are~~~ i belive that prayers do indeed make a difference~~~ so if you suddenly felt a sense of being loved and comforted it came from me way over the sea~~~ as emily dickinson said "the sweeping up the heart and putting love away is the hardest act…" ~~~you have suffered a death make no mistake about it~~~ yet following death can be resurection~~~ you are being held and loved in many hearts~~~ blessings elainey

  7. June says:

    Alison, I love all your posts but this one has to be the most important one you've written. It demonstrates an awareness of where you've been, an understanding of where you are right now, and–most importantly–it indicates that you are moving forward. The pain and fear will stay with you for awhile but will diminish in its ability to take your breath away. You can and will survive and be happy again.

  8. I love Dominique Browning's book. I read it when it first came out and couldn't bear to toss it, because so many parts of it described what I'd been through in a horrible break-up. With every post you seem to be taking stock, reassessing your life and emerging a stronger, more confident woman. It will take a very long time before you'll stop hurting, but it would appear the healing has begun in earnest. Stay strong and keep writing!

  9. Heather says:

    Tomorrow you will wake up and feel whatever it is you feel and the same will happen the day after that and it will repeat everyday after that. So you do what you need to do whenever you need to do it and not a second before.

  10. julie says:

    Just keep staying strong, Alison. It's sooo hard, but you are a survivor and you will get through this! We are all keeping you in our thoughts and our prayers!

  11. Savannah says:

    Yeah, for bagging up clothes, nothing much beats the image of that woman in I think it was Waiting to Exhale??? where she bagged up his clothes, piled them in his covertible, and lit it on fire!!! (not positve on the movie title) Wow!!!! Although I didn't and wouldn't do that, it was a great image to bear in my heart for a while, and I still think of it now and then…. As for writing, one of my favorite concepts was written about by old Mr. Wordsworth. He believed good poetry and writing was "a moment of high emotion recollected in tranquility." And I agree… You are a writer, sweet Alison, but now you are most likely storing and forming such new marvelous concepts.. Much love and good thoughts! Live in the moment and make the most of every one of them…. True hugs from the Midwest! — G.

  12. Oh that hard unsettling bump called scarred tissue.
    Time does heal all wounds but who wants to hear that when the time is now and the pain is to fresh?
    One day Alison that bump will be a cornerstone strong and secure in your heart, you will stand on it and sing. Though right now it gives you a place to cry.
    Crying is healing too!

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