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When It Comes To These Things (A Postmortem)

Perhaps the worst is true. It is a lover who is out of love. Finding this out is the risk you take when you bring your needs out into the open. But there’s no point in being with someone who doesn’t want the relationship enough to take care of your needs. 

* * * 

You’ve been in love; you know what it’s like. It’s a sense of delight, not just in the person you love, but in all people, in yourself, in life. Suddenly you see beauty and excitement everywhere. You’re not afraid to express your love: passionately, gently, in words or in silence. And you feel strong, generous, fully alive.

But something always happens. Maybe you’ve only been able to love for a short time – until you saw the person walk away with someone else. Or maybe you’ve loved someone who died. Or somehow you just seemed to fall out of love every time.

Now you’ve more or less given up. You seem to have loving relationships; you’re married, or you’re in a relationship, or you’ve had many relationships. Or you’re sure you love your friends, your parents, your children as much as anyone. But in fact you’ve been stung, confused, disappointed once too often. You’re just not going to get that involved anymore. You’ve decided to withdraw and become practical. Love, you see now, is for children – and you’re growing up, facing reality.

The next time you’re about to love someone, you’ll hear a voice warning you to turn back. It comes from your past, which doesn’t have to repeat itself. If you do your best to express love in spite of your fears, you’ll find that those fears subside. There are no guarantees. But being willing to make a commitment without any guarantee is what makes love so special.

– Self-Creation, Dr. George Weinberg (paraphrased)

* * * *

Some Big Words

Part of the cultural fascination with darkness that I wrote about previously is the desire to acknowledge the terrible things that do happen to people in real life – to stop pretending that anyone is untouchable by tragedy. So, instead of the sunshiny lives and fun “problems” of Joey, Monica et. al., we get Piper, a white college-educated woman in a brutal state prison.

Ditto the poetry, the confessional novels, the essays, everything that has a focus on or an undercurrent of loss and pain. The automatic response these things evoke is, you’re brave, you’re a survivor.

What most people fail to realize is that being a survivor, in itself, is not special. Everyone who isn’t dead right now is a survivor of something, be it a childhood of neglect, an eating disorder, cancer, depression, rape, mugging, breakup, whatever. We’ve all been through something. That isn’t a dismissal of anyone’s suffering, it’s just a fact.

The people who are worthy of study and emulation are the ones who have not only survived, but made the decision not to allow tragedy to warp or destroy the goodness that was in them.

There’s a reason why people who come from similar backgrounds tend to have similar personalities, and that’s because people adapt to their circumstances. As does any living creature that wants to survive. However, there is more than one way to adapt.

  1. organisms face conditions
  2. a. die b. adapt
  3. a. adaptation 1 or b. adaptation 2
  4. adaptation 3
  5. adaptation 4
  6. adaptation 5
  7. self-actualization

(I tried to draw this on my phone but it didn’t quite work.)

* * * *

How It Happened 

It happened just a few hours ago, in money class. She said that she thought I wasn’t an adult and that she wanted one.

At this point I’ve been through so many relationships that I’ve practically encapsulated the grieving process. It is like having moved house so many times (whether through eviction or one’s own choice) that one can pack and flee at a moment’s notice.

Amidst the wreckage of emotions, there is an odd comfort in the concreteness and simplicity of the sequence of motions that first took me years, then months, which I may now complete before the day is done: Block. Delete. Dispose of things. Cry. Debrief. Inform friends and family.

Loose Ends

There weren’t many things. It occurs to me just now that the cheese I bought her the other day is still in the refrigerator. I still haven’t found her shirt. I finished a song the other night which was going to be a surprise. The last time I was at her place, I didn’t take her presents with me because they were too heavy. I did take the card she wrote me. In class, I slipped it out of my notebook. We only sign our initials, so I folded it into the tiniest square I could manage and flicked it to the floor. Probably the only time I can remember littering in class. My icebox is still in her apartment, but I don’t think I could ever come back there again.

 

Anyway

I don’t really believe that I’m not an adult, but her definition and mine of adulthood are not the same. Mine is: the willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions; to learn; to make good decisions; and to take care of others. I’m not precisely sure what hers is, but it includes a lack of emotionality.

I don’t think there has been anything left unexplored, unlike how it was the last time we parted ways.

That’s what I’m telling myself. It could be true, could be not. Either way, we’ve both decided to act as if it were true, which is the closest to any objective truth as anyone can could ever get, when it comes to these things.

Of course I’m crying. Of course I miss her. Of course I’m checking the phone. Of course I’m wondering if any of it was real. Of course it’ll get worse before it gets better. Of course I’ll break down and call sometime, maybe. None of that will undo the fact that she doesn’t want to be with me anymore. That fact will also not undo the fact that I still feel that she’s my match – still beautiful, still smart, still funny and silly in the best way and the best person I could have imagined to fight alongside with in this world. The facts – these seemingly opposing truths don’t undo each other. Which is sad and strange.

As I cry I’m wondering if she has ever shed a single tear for me throughout all the time we knew each other. I’m wondering if she even could.

I can’t trust you with something so important as my heart when it’s not a fair game that we’re playing. You know it, but you can’t even bring yourself to say that you don’t need me. Though you think about me, you still don’t love me but someday you might. Someday – yeah right. I give up. I give up. I give up. I give up on you. – I Give Up, Merriment

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