Saturday, November 8, 2014

Falling out of love

I'm baaack! Like a bad penny, just when you think I'm never showing up again, here I am. August/September/October were less than stellar months, laden with radiation and chemo, the details of which I will not bore you with. I'm feeling better now, so here I am, still smiling every time I walk down the front steps and see this little guy.

The horses are now in winter hair, hanging around the barn most of the time in hopes I will show up with a) tacos, b) hay, c) a mud brush. The recent heavy rains have greened up the pastures again, though, so they are back to picking around for that lovely sweet green grass and bucking around for the sheer joy of it in the chilly air. Things are cooling off fast toward snow, however, and I am enjoying watching them while it lasts.

This morning I had an unexpected and long conversation with a friend trying to come to grips with divorce. It inspired me to come share a few thoughts. Over the past few years I have spent a lot of time helping various friends through the breakup of long-term relationships (12-25+ years). Having been through it myself, and long enough ago to have gained some perspective, what strikes me is how quickly and easily we fall in love, and how painfully and slowly we fall out. For the person ending the relationship, that process occurred within the marriage. For the person left behind, it is a bewildering, shattering, seemingly endless suspension of reality compounded by disbelief and overpowering reluctance. Coming together is a pretty effortless process aided by Mother Nature's urge to perpetuate the species. Leaving is...awful. Perhaps Mama Nature doesn't want us to go, having established the order of things she wants to see. All I know is that it often takes years to fall out of love.

How do you absorb the fact that the person you love no longer wants to be in your life? How do you keep from lashing out, clinging, or driving them farther away? How do you acquire the wisdom and maturity to give them the space they crave? Telling yourself you are better off without them is not the answer. Clearly your soul is not better off. Not yet. That pain is real. It is deep. It hurts with all the fire and passion of that first moment you realized you want this person in your life forever. Coals shoveled straight from Hell could not hurt worse. Divorce (which includes the breakup of any sincere relationship) shoves a clawed hand straight into your guts and rips out everything in its path.

It leaves you hollow inside.

Hollow is not all bad. Hollow means there is room for other things. Room to nurture something else. Room to grow. Hollow is an opportunity if you have enough left to seize it. Enough energy, enough wit, enough laughter, enough hope. Hollow is an open door to a different phase and another level of your life, one in which you are older, stronger, more experienced, and no longer yearning after the one thing you can no longer have.

It is a mistake to make one person the bright center of our lives. The bright center is in you, to shine where you please. Your mate chose not to shine it on you anymore. That is his or her right, though we wish/hope/demand that s/he honor the vows you both took to love, honor and cherish forever. You can't force a dying spark to revive any more than you can legislate love. But you can nurture the spark inside you and let it warm you instead of burn you out with bitterness and regret.

Divorce is like the ultimate war. It forces us to battle our own worst instincts. It sparks guilt, anger, whining, pettiness, greed, and sometimes outright cruelty. We can choose to indulge these things, or grow up and beyond them. Fortunately for us, we never stop growing up until the day we die. We are all, in a way, perpetual babies, because there are always going to be things we haven't yet encountered. Babies touch hot stoves because they have not yet learned about the danger. Young adults eagerly embrace relationships because they have not yet learned how easily or how deeply they can be hurt. The older we get the more cautious we become. Some call this cowardice. Others call it wisdom. What is wise is realizing there are always surprises waiting, and some of them are going to hurt. Divorce teaches us caution, but it should not teach us fear. If the one takeaway you leave with is "never love again" you will deny yourself the lessons learned from that first giddy love affair.

The first of which should be: broken doesn't mean irreparable. No matter how shattered you feel, all the pieces are still there. How you pick them up and put them back together will shape the rest of your life--and that is in your control. Just don't expect it all to come back together overnight. The hooks of love come out but slowly, and often in nasty little jolts over months or years of memory flashes that can break you to tears. That's normal. Grieve. Then go fill up that hollow space with something awesome.

Easier said than done, I know! But there it is, my (slight) wisdom for the day. Have a lovely weekend, everyone, and I wish I were at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, D.C. right now!

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