I received a cordial email this week from the guy I broke up with almost sixteen months ago.
I had posted on LinkedIn (the only social media that survived the connection-severing spree when we first broke up) that I had started a new company, and amidst the flurry of congratulations from former clients and colleagues, there it was, an email from him telling me that he was very happy for me and my new endeavors, and inquiring about our children the dogs, hoping I was doing well, etc.
I fumbled around for a while, waffling between telling the alert it could go fuck itself and trying to catch my breath from the panic-induced chest-constriction. I did respond, passing along my plans for the year and sending my good thoughts to him and his parents.
But then, still waffling and unable to breathe, I sent a text to Lizbeth Carter Pookie and told her about the email and how I hated him for emailing me. In her infinite wisdom, she responded with the perfectly rational idea that it was quite lovely of him to reach out to me, and that it should make me feel good. She continued with her crazy talk that I should be changing my mindset to realize that, far from him not “loving me enough,” we simply needed to go on different paths. Also that I would not be sitting here, blogging to you right now, had we not broken up.
It should come as no surprise that did not help.
Soon enough, I was sitting in my house, crying and wondering why I was still a mess. But then, I had an idea:
So I did. I sat down on my OneNote notebook and I wrote every single damned thought that came into my mind when I thought about this whole…thing. When I wrote something down and it didn’t elicit a hugely emotional response, I deleted it – it wasn’t true. I asked myself questions about what I was afraid of, what hurt, why did it still hurt, what was the cause of it all.
When I actually think about the facts of the matter: him as a person, him moving on, him with a new girlfriend etc. I’m strangely unaffected by it. In fact, I’m oddly happy for him if he’s moved on and found happiness (I even asked myself that question twice, same baffling genuine emotional response). He’s a veritable stranger now, I have no idea what he’s doing or how he is.
But when I think about Him and The Break-Up…. Terror.
And that’s when it struck me what the hell I was dealing with here – in that I wasn’t. I had never actually sat down and dealt with the fact that I broke up with a guy that I really, really loved and it hurt like hell. I’ve talked about it, I’ve blogged about it, but I’ve never actually come to terms with it. I’ve been poking it with a ten foot pole and analyzing it like a scientist, but I’ve never stepped inside the bubble to look it in the eye.
So because it had been festering so long, the end of our relationship became this terrifying monster, known heretofore as The Break-Up.
When it comes to The Break-Up, I have been sticking my thumbs in my ears when I think about my current relationship with my ex. It’s less a relationship, and more of a line of cold ash that was left in the wake of our separation. But it’s still there, still connecting the two of us through shared memories and inside jokes, and all of that. Part of me wants to sweep it away (Whit), but another part of me wants to hold onto it (Suni). I don’t want to completely cut my heart off from a person with whom I shared an incredible life with, and who was responsible for the person I am today.
The bottom line, though is that we had a Relationship, it ended, and Stuff is Different Now. And that is what I haven’t wanted to face.
I’ve been clutching to this pile of ash for so long because it’s all I had left of the Relationship. But as I emailed back and forth with this guy that I used to know, I realized that I can sweep away the remnants of our old relationship, and I can forge a new one. Stuff is Different now, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.
As we were chatting over email, it was nice to be able to use some of those old inside jokes – as friends – and not have all of this bad feelings about it. It was actually really nice to not be afraid of things that used to give me so much joy.
He informed me today that he finally was able to finagle his way out to west coast, something he’d been trying to do for probably 5 years. This new knowledge elicited a multitude of feelings – elation for him for finally reaching that goal, relief that I no longer had to worry about running into him on the street, sadness that I was not able to send a good friend off before he left. And also, surprisingly, a little anger at myself that I wasn’t able to get over my fear of The Break-Up to mend fences with him sooner (as friends).
To slay the fear of unknown, I had to give it a name. To slay The Break-Up, I first need to separate the man from the beast, so I can have no qualms about ramming my sword through the latter’s big scaly chest.