03 August, 2009

On Breakups

[This was originally a 2005 journal entry.  Hope it plays as well now as the genius I thought it was then.  Thanks or apologies in advance ...]

You never think the last time something happens is its last time. This is the last time we're going to talk on the phone. This is the last time we'll eat at this restaurant. This is the last time I'm going to shower at her place. Or, perhaps, you rarely do. God forbid you ARE conscious of saying goodbye; the only example I can think of is as someone close to you is about to pass on. But I'm not talking about those goodbyes. I'm talking about the other ones. The far more innocuous (though seemingly more devastating) ones. I'm talking about breakups.

There are two great bits I always think of when someone mentions a breakup. One is the old exchange that goes something like this: "Why did it have to end so badly?" "That's why they call it the end." (Poignant and true.) And this: How long til the pain goes away? (THE age old question, huh?) Well, if Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn are right – and aren’t they? – you take how long you were with the person, divide by two, and that's how long it'll take to get over them.

My entire perception of breaking up with someone has changed over the years. Of course, my entire perception of BEING with someone has changed over the years. I'm not a teenager anymore, with a teenager’s perception of relationships and everything they entail. I'm an adult now, thirty, with a thirty-year-old's perception; everything from what's important in a relationship's chemistry to how much a realistic outlook should find its way into romance. And me, I'm always the romantic. Some have even said I fall in love TOO easily. 

Another digression, if I may. I wrote this in a journal a while ago -- 27 October, 2003 -- and love the bit about that.

          “I wrote the following in another notebook where I jot down thoughts for stories from time to time. I wrote at the top of it ‘Something For An Epitaph?’ thinking it might be nice for an old friend to say at a cloud-covered funeral before a rose-covered casket. It reads, ‘He said once, early on, way back at the beginning of his career: I'm a drunkard, that falls in love too easily, and likes to tell stories. Why'd he say them in that order? Did he think so little of his stories? We can only hope not. And after everything he gave us, what can we give back? Too little in comparison. The best I could come up with was this: may the bottle be full, her arms open, and the audience kind.’"

I like that.  

Anyway, one's viewpoint of love as a teenager is vastly different than at thirty. And it SHOULD be. It's easier to be more romantic as a teenager. And it's (sadly) easier to be more realistic at thirty. But thirty can be good, too. Not because of the realism, per se, but the little bit of wisdom you pick up is good. And UNDERSTANDING others in a relationship is good. Understanding that there IS an other, for instance. That it's not all about you. And that The Other has a past of his or her own to deal with. To let go of. Or fold into yours. As a teenager there's not enough of a past that it decrees to be dealt with. But there sure is at thirty. And that's okay. Because it's part of growing up.

And -- believe it or not -- it's easier to let go as a teenager. (May not feel like it then, and fair enough.) Well, at thirty, you kinda feel like hanging on to a few things. And lovers, some of them anyway, start to fall into that big time. When you're a teenager, you spew so much hate after breakups. "I never want to see you again!" Well, that isn't love. (And I’m not saying a teenager can’t love; rather, I’m just saying that, at thirty, I try not to fold so much hate in.  Anyway …) The more I've been in relationships, especially in the last, say, five years (with the maturity and wisdom I hope I’ve sponged) the more I've been able to appreciate them; and, therefore, the less I've found myself damning them. I wouldn't damn my ex-wife, for instance. Some of my girlfriends, maybe.  But, really, it's not as easy as it used to be to cut people out of my life. So being able to stay friends with some lovers - not just me, I'm generalizing again - becomes easier because Love, for all the different hats she wears, still means something. You realize you still want that person in your life, even if you realize you don't work as a couple. And somehow that makes the breakup easier. (Well, less BITTER, anyway.)

In the end, however wonderful the relationship was, or how perfectly it ended, it's still an end. A breakup. And, so, it can't help but be dealt with as such.  Perhaps with a laugh, or a quipped "Yeah, you know," or a melancholy revel and a bottle of Crown.  After all, if Love really is the only emotion everybody knows but no one understands -- and what a great line THAT is -- well, we're each-of-us only all-too-well friends of that great End Of The Affair;  when, dumped or dumpEE, we start over. The end, then, just the beginning.

A final thought, if I may. A rare P.S. to these scribblings of mine. I mentioned at the beginning of this that I was thinking about how breakups end (of course) ... but, as I write that last bit, I can’t help but think about how they begin. And I suddenly thought of the 311 song 'First Straw,' and how it talks about not allowing ourselves to get to that cliché place that so often breaks more than just a camel's back. When we look back at lost relationships, with our twenty-twenty glasses on, we try to figure out what went wrong or, worse, where we can place blame. And somehow that last straw is always so clear, isn't it? Sure. Why? Because it's usually something as stupid as leaving the toilet seat up, or decorating with one too many doilies. It never has anything to do with what the problem really is. It was simply the one last thing to push you over the edge, down into that great pit of "get the hell out." Toilets. Doilies. Bullshit. When all you have to do is talk to each other. Be honest with each other. Share. So that that first straw -- the one we never recognize -- never has to lead any further.  And, God, what a truly perfect end THAT would be.

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