breaking up with someone that you still love deeply is like sawing off your own arm with a pocket knife. a dull pocket knife. your very own version of “127 hours” only without james franco and less spectacular scenery.
generally when people break up it is because someone did something really shitty to the other, or you both did really shitty things, or you discover that you are terrible together, or you end up hating them because they are such an asshole. but sometimes people part because you find you are in different places in your life, paths that aren’t quite linked up, or someone is afraid, or there has been a numbing sort of indifference that sets in and when you discover you actually weren’t tending to the relationship and paying attention, perhaps it is too late to go back. it is not always because of a rip in the love.
I think it is rather unusual for people to part, to still love each other deeply and choose to remain loving and in each other’s lives. I can’t really do it any other way. as much as I would never have a serious relationship with someone that I was not in love with, I also would never have a serious relationship with someone that I did not really, really like. so, how can you not still be friends with them? I have been fortunate to have had really good men in my life. men I really liked a lot. men I loved dearly. men I still love, but in a different way now.
so back to the sawing off of your own arm… it is a slow process. many layers to slice through. bones, tendon, gristle, flesh: history, memories, love, friendship, laughter, passion, anger, disappointment, sadness, longing, ache, missing , love, and love and yet more love. you relive all of it as you slice through. all of it. what worked and what didn’t. how you got to where you are.
when you have surgery, there should not be any pain and the instruments should be sharp, someone else should perform the procedure and you should be unconscious. but when you are severing a relationship, sharp instruments should be used but not too swiftly or impulsively. but, I believe you should be wide awake and feel every step of the process. yes, everyone’s process will be different, but you must honor your own time line. frequently it is one step forward, two steps back and then the pattern will eventually change.
“pain demands to be felt.” –agustus waters- it demands to be felt. no matter how many times it comes up. in each of it’s permutated versions, it demands to be felt. yes, people have different time lines with that. all you can do is honor your own process.
then you keep thinking, “jesus, surely I should be done now, right? get OVER this! but your heart will have none of that. no matter how rationally you know, how on paper it makes no sense: different places in time, different priorities, separate paths, blah, blah, blah…it still breaks you, because your skin and your heart know differently. your skin knows that when you are next to each other time stops, the utter perfection of how you fit together, how you smell together, the deep knowing in each others eyes, this is the happiest most perfect place on earth and nothing else really matters at all. not at all. this is true, so how can it possibly be that this love cannot be or has gone awry and yet, it cannot. and there is deep truth in that, and these two irreconcilable truths stand side by side. and eventually, eventually, there will be peace.
in a favorite book of mine, which I shall not say the title as I do not want to toss out a spoiler alert…a character dies and that character’s girlfriend talks about how the only person she wants to grieve with and talk about the experience of his death with, and be comforted and held by, is, him. no one else will do. I get that completely. and when we break up with someone it is a kind of death.
david whyte says, ”one of the difficulties in leaving a relationship is leaving the dreams that were shared together. you know somehow that no matter who you meet in your life in the future, or what species of happiness you will have with them, you will never, ever share those particular dreams again with that particular tonality and coloration. so there is a lovely and powerful grief there that is the ultimate in giving away to make space for another form of re-imagination.
i mourn the loss of the beauty of that particular coloration. those unfulfilled dreams.
so I am almost through the last bit of gristle. I think… depends on the day. but, I do know, that even when the severing is complete, and it begins to heal and cauterize, and the friendship is strong and stable and your body doesn’t hurt when you are in the same room together, there will be a loving remembrance and honoring of what was. if that love was true and deep and real, there will always be a phantom limb that will ache from time to time, a place you will reach for that is no longer there outside of you, but always carried within you. they will always be with you. a muscle memory of the heart.