About A Breakup, Part 4 of 5: The Fallout

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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.

Meltdown Final 2Yes, 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 Fray LyricThe 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. Vinny Bad DaysAnd 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:

  1. A firm commitment to the happiness, peace, and wellbeing of the other, no matter what.
  2. 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.

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About A Breakup, Part 3 of 5: The Atom Bomb

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.

Tyson QuoteI’m standing alone in the small parking lot of a local nature trail. I hear her peel out with a vengeance, that engine madly revving like a speed dragster that can’t get out of first gear, fading slowly until the only sound remaining is the wind moving through the trees. I start the first of a half dozen laps around the entire park.

I had a plan on this day, which turned into an expectation (bad idea). A solid plan with no holes. A plan that did not involve guilt-stricken explanations or crying or screaming tires punishing the black top. Or second thoughts.

A few hours before, we are wandering to the end of the trail, discussing light topics like the kids, and work, before moving on to deeper things, and the biggest shouting match we’d ever had. She apologizes for some of the things she’d said in anger recently. I apologize as well. I am positive she knows where this is going. I’m wrong. 

“I’m tired,” I say. “I’m tired of this tension. I’m tired of arguing. I’m tired of being in purgatory with our relationship.”

I watch as she comes to realize the conversation about to transpire. We’d had breakup conversations many times before, but this one is different. The threat feels imminent. I watch her go into shock and shut down. The details are fuzzy. I recall her telling me to go ahead and cut the cord.

“What’s there to talk about?” she scoffs. “If we’re breaking up, let’s break up.”

I find myself getting furious at the ball being in my court. Again. In retrospect, I see her need for closure, to leave no chance of getting sucked back in, of false hope. I get it. She would later admit that she’d felt the same way for a while, and would apologize for projecting her anger onto me.

“So I guess that’s it then.” She picks up her bag and begins the laborious trudge back to the entrance. I catch up and walk beside her. I feel like a traitor, and this will become one of the biggest personal challenges in the days to come: overcoming my mind’s compelling argument that I’m a bad person and a failure (I DID overcome; stay with me, don’t get caught up in the bad shit).

I watch her move from sadness to despondency, from despondency to fury; Irish-Italian Catholic fury. I’d witnessed this unique fury exactly three times in the six years I’d known her, twice toward another, once toward me. In each instance, I briefly feared for the life of the party on the receiving end.

When we finally reach the parking lot, she gets into her car and asks me if there’s anything else. I make a half-assed effort to have her see that we’ve exhausted every option. Didn’t we try everything? I realize I’m speaking as much to myself as I am to her. Regardless, she’s not listening. She mutters a goodbye under her breath before speeding away.

In the half dozen laps I make around the park afterward, I recall the futility of attaching oneself to an expectation, and the power of creating possibility. Expectations are static. You lose, you fail. You win, you realize it’s nothing special. Possibility, on the other hand, is different. You lose, you create a new possibility. You win, you create a new possibility.

Though I don’t believe it in that moment (remember, just because it sucks now doesn’t mean it will always suck), in the days to come, I will recover. And I will conquer. And so will she.

Somewhere in the distant past, I sold myself on the belief that there’s not a tragedy in this life that will make me give up. You have to decide that sort of thing BEFORE tragedy strikes. 11055343_10206828659705775_5582084695053198937_oI shared that belief with some of my closest peers and mentors, who true to their commitment to love and support their fellow human beings, incessantly and tirelessly reminded me that this is who I am. A survivor. A gladiator. Fearless. And the same applies to you who are reading this. Stand on me. It DOES get better. I swear.

Look for “About A Breakup, Part 4 of 5: The Fallout.”

Cheers.

About A Breakup, Part 2 of 5: Courage (The Cold War)

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.

Sometime in January of 2015, as I recall, I depart Alex’s (my fiancé’s) house as usual to start my week’s nursing work rotation. Moments before, I had hugged and kissed her as http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/alan-alda/images/26135914/title/alan-alda-photoshe left to begin HER nursing night shift. After her departure, as I’d done a hundred times before, I hugged Zeke, the sweetest dog ever, kissed his floppy ear, gave him a treat, locked Alex’s house, and departed.

Shortly after leaving her driveway, I’m struck with a trepidation, a panic. Call it a dark premonition. I have a momentarily vivid vision of life without Alex, of splitting up, of the relationship we’d built coming to an end.

She calls a little while later to make sure I’d left on time to get ample sleep. I mention the premonition to her, the fear still lingering, my voice unsteady. We chat about it briefly, and she assures me (as I’d grown accustomed to assuring so many friends and mentees), that no matter what, it will all work out.

About a year prior, we had begun to carry on some deep discussions with regard to the future of our relationship, having become engaged to be married. I know, I know. Work your shit out BEFORE popping the question. I think we’d found a peace with moving forward, even if every single minute detail wasn’t hammered out. Nonetheless, we found ourselves ebbing and flowing through some challenging conversations, and my heart was uneasy.

We would discuss, create a plan for how to generate new possibilities within the relationship, work the plan, and return to security and comfort. But we’d always somehow find ourselves back to being distanced, with lingering tension. So we’d discuss again. Make a plan again. Experience security and comfort for a time, and the distance would return. Again.

I had a few more of those random dark premonitions, each as vivid as the last. But I became well-versed in burying those gut feelings. It was too painful to think about. Envisioning all we’d worked for, and all the shit we’d have to deal with if we actually DID break up: relocating, the kids, the emotional aftermath, discussions with family, etc. I don’t recall how long I buried what my gut was saying, but it was a number of months at least. I went to great lengths to avoid what my gut was telling me. I feared the pain of change, despite the ultimate potential for happiness.

So I repeatedly resisted the urge to explore what was creating this unrest between us. I suppressed my intuition. If any feeling crept up that I couldn’t explain and centered around the future of our relationship, I avoided it like a drug seeker avoids Tylenol and NSAIDS. Again. And again. And again. In retrospect, though our relationship wasn’t what I would consider whole or complete (because WE weren’t whole and complete with ourselves, as I would discover), there was plenty about it that worked, we were comfortable, and neither of us was willing to challenge that. 

Somewhere around July 2015, the tension rose. We had a few heated arguments. I was angry at her for always putting the ball in my court to make a decision about where we stood. Of course, I should have been equally as angry at myself for doing the same damned thing. It’s like neither of us wanted to be the one to pull the trigger.

There was a ton of inner conflict and anxiety Waiting For The Wordwhile considering this choice. It’s like tapping into more courage than you can ever remember, in order to move on your gut instinct in pursuit of happiness, all the while praying that your gut instinct is wrong. 

I didn’t have it all worked out. I didn’t have it all tied down. But in late July 2015, with no particular reason other than I wasn’t happy (hell, can anyone explain gut instinct?), I made plans to break off the engagement with Alex. I think I reached a point where I just couldn’t ignore what my intuition was telling me any longer. It would be a lesson in dealing with failed expectations and navigating angry reactions (that make you briefly consider whether you’ll be getting out of the conversation alive, or as a ghost whose murder will be the topic of discussion for years to come). It DOES get better. I swear.

Look for “About A Breakup, Part 3 of 5: The Atom Bomb” next.

Cheers.

About A Breakup, Part 1 of 5: Code Angst (An Introduction)

Hell, forget soft intros. Here’s what you need to know: I’ve been through a divorce and a broken engagement. And I’m happy. And I have a stellar relationship with my ex-wife, her husband, and my ex-fiance. And my kids are thriving. The last time I visited them, E, one of their friends from home, flew up with me, courtesy of her kickass mother. And my ex-wife and her husband and OUR two kids and THEIR two kids and E and my ex-in-laws and I ALL went out for pizza and drinks. And it was a blast. AND THIS IS A STORY OF HOPE. 

So after my latest blog entry (addressing patient death), a bunch of you crack sleuths noticed the “About A Breakup” series and inquired about why I hadn’t finished it. I started it about two years prior, and it sort of fell by the wayside. What do losing patients and breakups have in common? Hey, don’t focus on the wrong part of the story. I just figure before I start routinely contributing to The Impossibility Movement again, I should complete the unfinished entries. Here’s an updated introduction to the “About A Breakup” series. Final entries are in progress. I’ll do my best to make each entry short, powerful, and to the point.

If you didn’t decipher it by the enigmatic title, this is a multi-post series about a real-life breakup, in this case, a broken engagement as experienced by me. I figure it applies to a wide range of broken relationships. I’m writing with the day-of-the-dead-2041971_1920intent to relate to YOU in your own breakup, personal tragedy, or otherwise crossroads, and to perhaps be a signpost to hope and joy on the other side. Hope and joy, dammit. I insist. 

At age 37, with a warm-up marriage (a.k.a. “divorce”) already under my belt, I would describe the experience of defaulting on a subsequent, almost-marriage (a.k.a. “engagement”) as something along the lines of a hormonally-saturated lovesick teen, geeked out on Pixy Stix, standing in the middle of a fire and brimstone hailstorm during the First Zombie Apocalypse, armed with only a Little Mermaid toothbrush for self-preservation. Yeah, it hurt. And yeah, I’ve been through the turd ringer. And yeah, I’ve got some mad credentials. Stand on me. It DOES get better. I swear.

So here’s the thing. I’m gonna talk about some shitty experiences in this series. Some dark and frustrating and sad and plain old shitty experiences. And like all human brains, YOUR human brain is going to zone in, like Corgnelius The Corgi to a Poodle in heat, solely on the negative emotions, out of a sense of fear that YOU might have to experience the same emotions in your pursuit of personal happiness. Vintage Muse: Stevie NicksDo not buy into that mentality. It’s bullshit. We’re all well-trained to visualize all the worst case scenarios and to convince ourselves that stepping up and saying “this is what I want in life” will certainly lead to torment and regret. But you deserve a life that you love. And for all that we say we want in life, we certainly spend vast amounts of brain cells on what we have to lose, and almost no brain cells on what we have to gain.

In order for you to get the GREATEST impact out of this series, you MUST understand that no transformation in the history of mankind has occurred without a meltdown occurring first. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a transformation, would it? Suppose you found yourself in a state of beautiful and happy and unicorns-shitting-Skittles bliss. And suddenly, you awoke from your dream and found yourself in a state of beautiful and happy and unicorns-shitting-Skittles bliss. Yeah, you read it right. It’s redundant. If all you ever knew was total bliss, you wouldn’t know a transformation if it bit you in ass. How the hell would you know the difference? How would you know blissful light without experiencing darkness? The greatest and most powerful transformations that I’ve ever experienced in my life came on the tail end of the greatest heartbreaks and tragedies. 

 It’s Yin and Yang, my friends. This is what all the great spiritual teachers mean when

imagesthey say “delight in your suffering.” They don’t mean have a tea party in the middle of the shit storm and throw rainbow confetti and eat fucking cupcakes with sprinkles and bathe in a champaign-filled hot tub whilst being battered by rain and wind and flying cows and washed-up celebs and whatever. They simply mean that endless possibilities exist when there’s nowhere to go but up. Remember that.

When life sucks now, we’re convinced that life will suck for eternity. But the future isn’t as shitty as you are convinced it’s going to be. Sure, it hurts like hell when it’s happening. You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t. But too often we choose to endure the mediocre because we’re afraid of how much it will hurt to go after what you really want in life. This is your happiness at stake. As my dear Aunt Janet so poetically puts it,

“You just have to keep reminding yourself that it’s going to suck. Until it doesn’t suck anymore.”

Now don’t be half-assed about it. If you’re gonna start reading this series, see it through. Way, way, way (sometimes WAY the hell down there), underneath our tears and sorrow and guilt and regret, there’s a flame burning within us from a time when we knew ourselves to be forces of nature, before the world told us we were worthless, and we started to believe that crap. I’m not guaranteeing that this series will change your life. But I do guarantee that you won’t get the full effect if you don’t read the whole thing. Stick it out, my friends. Hope and joy, dammit!

Look for About A Breakup, Part 2 of 5: Courage (The Cold War).

Cheers.