Monday, July 08, 2013

A Thousand Words About Endings

(A Spiral Dance essay.)

Not for the first time in my life, nor even the third, an important relationship in my life ended because the other person had an idea about me that was wrong, or thought I had done something that in fact I had not actually done. This has happened more than once, and in quiet moments of self-reflection, I wonder. It's been on my mind today, sadness and bitter regret and anger and hurt and contemplation and acceptance all mixed together.
More than a misunderstanding, the event itself, that has been said to happen, can be a matter of perspective and interpretation, and sometimes viewpoints are so relative that they seem to exist in different universes. But people get very attached to the narratives that they create for their lives, especially those in which they become locked into being in the right, so that you must be wrong, and so justification and rationalization come into play. Most people have egos that need to be fed, and are not capable of suffering much contradiction. So your viewpoint might not even get a hearing, or might get dismissed, and if you insist on creating a dialogue, which takes two or isn't real, sometimes you get rebuffed. Nowhere.
So what did I contribute to the situation? It's a reasonable question. Yet when the other party accuses you of something you know you didn't do, and won't listen, it's a question impossible to answer. I've considered it often, and with no feint towards justification I can honestly say I don't know. Both parties feel wronged, but only one wishes to work it out.
For my part, I know well that I live my life at a level of intensity and passion that some people simply don't like, and don't want to engage. So maybe the other felt provoked. Yet sometimes the rationale for a break-up is dishonest in that an excuse is found rather than the truth being told. People look for an excuse to conceal their real, even unconscious, intentions. Sometimes people think that's the best thing to do, or the least likely to cause suffering, which itself can be another layer of delusion or self-deception.
For my part, I always prefer telling the truth. It's easier, it's simpler, and you don't have to waste time trying to remember which lie you told to which person. But not everyone feels that way. Most lies we tell are self-supporting justifications, or rationalizations that appear to make sensible our most irrational urges and compulsions. Learning to live more consciously means first of all that you have to stop lying to yourself.
And that can be the hardest work you've ever done on your own self. I know for a fact that on at least one occasion, probably two, the person pushed me away, or rather found a reason to break up with me, because my presence was requiring them to stop lying to themselves about something in the core of their being. I made them uncomfortable. Not deliberately, not because I wanted to, but because of my insistence on honesty, and my refusal to go along with the lies they were telling themselves. Lots of people do not like very much honesty.
But in a relationship that's what I have to give. Honesty. I do not do codependency, and the reason I do not do it is because it's always built on lies we tell ourselves, like the idea that we don't deserve anything better. People often reject honesty when it doesn't serve their self-aggrandizing interests. Our illusions can seem more comfortable or pleasing to us. We are all guilty of that, me too, once or twice in our lives. But codependent people live within an even deeper tangle of delusions and despairs. They often believe that love is supposed to hurt, so they work subconsciously to make it painful even when it doesn't need to be.
Which is why I find it so fascinating that this pattern of being rejected for something I never said or did keeps happening, in my life, that people shove me out of their lives because they have decided to believe something about me that isn't true. Of course, you don't always get a chance to tell your side of a conflict.
I must consider if this is a flaw in myself, of which I am not conscious. That's why I mentioned intensity and passion. It has been pointed out to me by a few friends that my personality can, without my knowledge or intention, dominate a room. I've been told I can change the mood of a room just by walking into it. I have learned to be much more aware of that, since it's not something I want to do, usually. I hold myself back. I rarely let show the full force of my personality. I've gotten used to being invisible.
Maybe I just keep choosing complicated, damaged people to love. Maybe the reason I end up alone is because I am in their lives for the period of time it takes them to grow up, and then we're done, and we grow apart. Maybe I should just open a finishing school.
But there is another possibility, if you examine life from an archetypal, symbolic level, a level of oversight that floats above the everyday and can look down upon events with dispassion and honesty, that the relationship was already done, and it was time for me to move on. It wouldn't be the first time I was severed from some situation and person that made me feel comfortable and accepted, but like an eagle fledgling needs to be pushed out of the nest so that it could learn to fly, I needed to be pushed out of my comfort zone.
So maybe when the job is done, some higher purpose forces me to move on. You are of service, and you must go on to the next job. Maybe this functions on the archetypal level of sacred contracts. Maybe that's my purpose, here, my job. An unarticulated and secret function, as healer and shaman. Not all healings are obvious, and you don't always get to know the outcome.
At this point I do not expect to ever have a permanent, long term love relationship. It doesn't seem to be my fate. If I'm honest with myself, it's not the way I'm wired. I will probably always be alone, which has its own challenges. I don't seem to be wired for monogamy, anyway, nor shall I be permitted its pleasures. Who cares? I've survived thus far, and who knows what the future might bring.
All I know for certain is that here is a pattern. Patterns always mean something. You have to pay attention whenever you discover a pattern, or there is no chance of altering it. No doubt these musings will mean nothing to anyone but me. So be it.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve always been puzzled by relationships that last for years and years, people who are still friends with someone they went to Primary School with. The longest friendship I had was with a boy who was in Primary 1 with me. That friendship lasted until we were about thirty so, say, twenty-five years although the truth is we didn’t become proper friends until we went to Secondary School which lops a good ten years off that. Most of my other friendships have tended to last about five or six years and that’s because my life can be divided into units of about five or six years. I move on or away and leave my fiends behind. It sounds callous but it’s not. I’ve tried to hang onto friends but it never happens. When I left my last job I tried to keep in touch with one of the girls there who’d been my work-daughter—I make no bones about it, I loved her dearly—but apart from one e-mail from her after about a year in which she apologised for not keeping in touch (and to tell me she’d lost a baby) to which I replied immediately—I’ve never heard from her since. I sent a card each Christmas and a letter or a note in case she’d lost my contact details but nothing and so I stopped after a few years, three I think. More fool me. I should’ve learned from past experiences but I really was fond of her and would’ve liked it if we could’ve managed to make it work outside the office. And then there’s Carrie. Carrie is the exception. We’ve been together for sixteen years. That is unprecedented. But if she dropped dead tomorrow I’d just plod on. I’d be sad—of course I’d be sad—but I’d plod on. Things end. I wrote a novella a couple of weeks back—came out of the blue and I’m not complaining—and this is a bit from it:

I never kept in touch with anyone. Love’s too abstract a thing to hold people together. I’ve loved—and by ‘loved’ I mean loved in my way—several people throughout my life but the love or the affection or whatever it was we shared was never enough to keep us from drifting apart. Someone got a new girlfriend or a fresh job or moved house; addresses and phone numbers were exchanged; promises were made but time and distance are corrosive. After the first couple of times I learned my lesson. Enjoy people while you have them—hug ’em or sleep with ’em or have heart to heart conversations at three in the morning—only don’t try to drag things out; all things have a natural lifespan. If all you have is a moment relish the moment. I believe firmly in the law of diminishing returns. The second bite is never as tasty as the first.

So, yes, there’s a pattern with me too. We use people up. Novelty only lasts so long. Unless we’re capable of change—and most of us aren’t—then we simply have to accept that loves and friendships are finite. Are there reasons why I’ve lost so many friends? Probably. But wasting time trying to pin them down is pointless. I can’t change who I am. History will repeat itself. It is repeating itself. History’s not good or bad. It just is.

2:29 AM  
Blogger Mary Strachan Scriver said...

A person I care about very deeply is sinking into madness and the madness takes the form of trying to drive me away. What do I do? I go back and forth between trying to inhabit that person's mind (scary when I get close) and putting up a glass wall to protect myself. When a person is severely and intimately damaged as a child so young that all of it becomes built into their neuronal systems, no counseling or truth telling will work. It's just rodeo season and you ride it out. They knew from the beginning that it would become a book. They asked me.

I should keep track of you a lot more closely! I'm so pleased to have your comments.

Prairie Mary

8:02 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

I think that's kind of dour, Jim. I understand it, but I don't really agree with it.

For starters, I don't think we use people up so much as grow in different directions. A lot of endings have been for me about a loss of what was once common ground. And to be blunt, in more than one case, it was me growing up at a faster rate than the other person. As my doctor said to me recently, doing what I did for my parents, being their full-time live-in caregiver, ages you on the inside.

A lot of the time the people I find myself attracted to just seem to me to be so emotionally young. It might be fun, but not endure. I find that the relationships that have lasted the longest have been those based on similar levels of emotional maturity.

So, when I get pushed away by someone, it's often been because we've grown in different directions. They want to go fly off on their own. And that's fine. What hurts is when they end something dishonestly, give excuses instead of real reasons, or find some way to pick a fight just to drive me off. I can handle a relationships ending. What I don't handle so well is being lied to about WHY.

I never was one for much romantic illusion, so the novelty factor was never that big for me. Yes, novelty in a relationships is exciting, because there are always fun surprises to discover. But anything that endures has to survive novelty. It has to be about wanting to stay together despite the fundamental truth that domesticity isn't pretty.

1:08 PM  

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