Monday, November 30, 2009
In his mean post-break-up email, my ex accused me of being shallow (or wanting to be shallow, or heading toward being shallow, or something like that—still can’t bring myself to re-read it), of being concerned only with surfaces.
How great would it be to care only about surfaces! Oh, to be shallow, to skip along through life, taking it as it comes, letting all the junk just bounce off, not caring what other people think about you, not feeling a need to self-analyze and self-criticize and so forth, reading paperback best-sellers, seeing blockbuster movies, caring about Jon + Kate. Quel joy!
My friend Laura and I had a detailed discussion about the break-up, in which she offered a classy and helpful metaphor to sum up the situation. “It’s like finding something in an antique shop,” she said, “something that would be great if only, and you think, ‘Oh, I’ll buy it and get it fixed, or get it refinished, or cut the legs down,’ or something like that. But you know it’s not what you really want, and it’ll never be right, and you have to walk away and keep looking.”
I have another analogy, one that shows off my shallowness quite nicely, I think, especially when I develop it into a theory of life. Here goes: You’re shopping for clothes, and you’re in the dressing room, trying stuff on. You try on a black shirt and think, “Nothing wrong with that, I could use a black shirt,” or you try on a jacket and think, “Not bad, I suppose, and it’s a good deal.” Then you try on something else—a sweater, or a t-shirt, or the perfect little black dress—and you look in the mirror and say, “I frickin’ love it. I look amazing.”
Here’s what I’ve learned: don’t buy the other stuff, the “good-enough” stuff. Hold out for something that makes you feel like a rock star. And more important: trust that you’ll know it when you see it.
I’ve been applying my clothes-shopping philosophy to other aspects of my life. I don’t stick with a book unless I love it, I try not to waste calories on something that’s not super-delicious, I don’t pursue a job opp if the initial meeting feels sour… Basically, I try to check in with myself—be mindful, as they say—and make sure all’s well.
As I’ve written before, I have a lot of issues that come out in full force when I’m in a relationship, and it can become very difficult for me to get my bearings. Like this time: I doubted the gut feeling that was telling me to bail; I felt I should keep trying to make a go of it, because maybe, if I worked through my stuff, everything would click into place, and we’d live happily ever after. I thought my doubts could be coming from relationship-induced craziness, and not from the reality of the situation, which was simply that it wasn’t working, period.
During the drawn-out misery that led up to the split, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, completely at odds with myself. It’s like when you’re wearing a pair of pants that’s too tight, and all day, you’re fidgeting and squirming and you just can’t wait till you can get home, change into your sweats, and breathe easy. That’s what it felt like, when it was finally over: relief.
(Unfortunately, the break-up process wasn’t in fact over, though I didn’t know that at the time. There was a slew of drama awaiting me, including his most recent email, which looks like an apology and sounds like an apology, but, honey, that ain’t no apology—you know, “I’m sorry if I hurt you, but”—in which he said he should have “corrected” me more along the way. Oh, really?)
Bottom line, despite the fact that the relationship started so romantically, and despite the fact that in certain lights it looked destined by Fate, it didn’t fit—we didn’t fit—and there’s nothing I can do about it now except change into my sweats and lick my wounds.
Now, as I do a round of Monday-morning quarterbacking on the past few months, there are a couple lessons for me to remember, the most important of which is this: I have to believe that when the right relationship comes along, no matter how much stuff I have to work through, I will feel in my bones that it’s worth it. I have to trust that I’ll know it when I see it.