Note: Make no mistake. About A Breakup is a story of hope and overcoming adversity. In order to experience a breakthrough, you must experience a breakdown first. Don’t get all caught up in the tragedy. Understand that any descriptions of tragic events are written for the purpose of illustrating the breakthroughs which will follow. Stay with me, friends.
Yes, it’s a sinister image. I thought about inserting a dainty unicorn shitting Skittles here, but let’s be honest. It’s The Fallout, after all: the single biggest reason people stay in their shit job, or continue to enable a life-sucking friend or family member, or, yes, remain in a miserable relationship. Because none of us wants to endure the temporary aftermath of an atom bomb, even as the whole universe is flashing neon marquises to a different life, one with possibility, of hope, of peace. We stay where it’s comfortable. As Donna, a dear friend and mentor, once pointed out to me while I was wrestling with making a choice regarding the breakup,
On an emotional pain scale (metaphors paraphrased here), with zero being the tranquil offspring of Gandhi and Mother Teresa, and ten being Ted Bundy on Angel Dust with kidney stones, people will tolerate a nagging four or a five for YEARS, even for LIFE. We are seldom willing to experience a temporary ten in order to ascend to the life of our dreams.
The Fallout is the period of transition between the immediate pain of The Atom Bomb (rewind to part 3 for a refresher) and the realization of the uncertain changes about to transpire. The fallout from my 2009 divorce (before my “enlightenment”) lasted about two grueling years.
The fallout from my broken engagement began to dissipate after just a few months. I’ll explain how I’ve learned to expedite the closure process later.
For now, let me toss a philosophical nugget your way (calm your tits and stay with me here; it’s a NUGGET, not a dialogue from a Plato). In life events, e.g. breakups, there’s what actually occurs, and there’s all that other horseshit that you tell yourself and everybody else about what occurs.
Simple example: Some guy cuts you off on your hurried way to work. Done. That’s all that happened. Here’s the horseshit (and what will have you wrapped in emotional turmoil for years to come): How dare this jerkoff cut me off on my way to work! Doesn’t he know where I’m going is WAY more important than where he’s going? Inconsiderate asshole! That’s the problem with the world today! A bunch of stupid, ignorant-ass people who don’t know how to drive and are making everyone else’s life a living hell!
Anyway, using the above nugget, I’m going to tell you exactly what happened, minus my horseshit story, which I had admittedly so painstakingly and methodically written out, so that the reader might grasp all of my ridiculously incorrigible
teen thirty-something angst.
Here’s what happened. Alex and I make it a point to be straight-forward about the situation with the kids, to whom she’d become like a second mother. We sit right down with them the day after the Atom Bomb and explain what’s going on. As usual, they take it (as kids are so prone to do) so much better than we feared they would. Their resilience both humbles and astounds me, even to this day. They’ve thrived beyond measure, and I attribute this largely to our commitment to promote love and unity as opposed to bitterness and animosity.
Two days after, most of Alex’s immediate family arrive from out of state to provide emotional support and to help her pack up. I always admired her family’s tireless commitment to each other.
Three weeks after, she submits her two-week notice at work, stating she has no more reason to stay here. I help organize her house for packing.
Five weeks after, she makes the permanent move to Florida.
I could paint you a vivid mental picture of all the emotional pain and complexities, but for what? To indulge my mind’s (inaccurate) regurgitation of what a horrible person I am for making a move toward personal happiness? To entertain my mind’s desire to regret something, anything? It’s in the past, and it’s resolved. If you want to experience an expedited recovery, practice separating what ACTUALLY occurred from your emotionally driven STORY ABOUT what occurred.
Did it hurt? Hell yes. Did I have bouts of anxiety? Sometimes. Did I think the pain and heartache and guilt would never, ever, ever end? Absolutely. And yet, here I am on the other side, killing it with complete closure, completely happy in the relationship she’s found with her new guy. I couldn’t be happier for her, and we remain good friends.
Remember, my friends, your mind will gravitate toward the worst possible (most unlikely and illogical) scenario. If you lose your job, you’ll never be rehired by anyone and will die a penniless bum; if you don’t make the cut in America’s Got Talent, you’re a no-talent loser who has no choice but to go back to your 40-hour a week office job, forever; if you lose romance, that’s your last shot at love, and you’ll die a lonely old codger who pines over the one who got away; etc. Let go of the worst case! There are a million other possibilities between your current situation and the worst case scenario.
If you remember nothing else, remember this:
YOU CAN AND MUST ENDURE THE FALLOUT in its entirety before making any life-altering decisions!
The duration will differ depending on several variables, but know this: If you choose to return to your ex, for example, while any pain or lack of closure exists from the Atom Bomb, you will very likely make a decision you regret, a decision that is swayed by fear and influenced by a sensational thirst to return to that warm, fuzzy, familiar (shitty) comfort zone.
This is precisely the reason that miserable couples repeatedly reconcile after splitting (I know VERY well from personal experience). We don’t allow ourselves the time to let the fear-based thoughts dissipate. We hear the fear screaming like a banshee! Where will I go?! What will I do?! Will I find anyone else?! The kids are doomed! I’m so lonely! And so on. And we go running back to what feels familiar, even as our hearts resist returning, knowing that misery is waiting upon our return. We don’t allow ample time for self-discovery, to explore what led us to question in the first place. Stick it out! Use the fallout to discover what you really want in life!
Here are two empowering agreements that Alex and I made:
- A firm commitment to the happiness, peace, and wellbeing of the other, no matter what.
- A refusal to consider reconciliation as a possibility until we had thoroughly explored our own incompletions. As a dear friend and mentor once told me, two incomplete people cannot create a complete relationship. And we both began to become very aware of our own incompletions in retrospect.
As it happens, we stood strong, did some self-exploration, and the breakup stuck. We both agree without question that it was a decision that was true to both our hearts. We are both a testament that peace and friendship CAN exist between exes (the same remains true with my ex-wife).
Stay tuned for “Rebuilding,” the fifth and final entry in the About A Breakup series. Cheers.