The glorious darkness of relationship grief is like glitter filled tar you try to clean off your shoe, somewhat disgusted with the mess but also reminded of what was beautiful you notice how your spirit takes its time to pay the lost relationship the appropriate respect. Combined with that is the deceitful nature of grief that is never a straight road to healing but a devilish route that twists back on itself and makes you swear you have walked the same sections more than once.
This is not the type of hurt such as losing a parent to death or a marriage that finally after decades, fulfilled the trifecta of emotional and physical desolation with physical separation. It is not the same as losing the love of your life in a drama that made you wonder if you cursed a witchdoctor. Those hurts tear open the surface of what is you, letting the suffocating lava of destruction run freely over your landscape. No, this is different – not enough to rip open your surface but enough to leave a scar in the mountainside of your soul.
With some relationship endings, it is quick and shocking. You wake up with a text message telling you how it was, “just not working out.” You try to reply but your number is blocked, and you have been unfriended on Facebook. A clean cut like an amputation.
Other endings are like death spirals – you break up, get back together, and try to figure it out but all along you know that eventually it will be over and so one of you start a last terrible fight to create enough reason to quit. The pain extends like Taps being played at the fresh grave of a soldier, followed by the lonely walk out of the graveyard.
Depending on the length and nature of the lost relationship, for a while you end up in dark corners of your house listening to Leonard Cohen, or a loud nightclub, staring into a bottomless container of tears ironically called Angel’s Share. As Leonard tells us, love is just a cold hallelujah…
Then one night you think, “fuck this,” and you enable your dating account. You swipe left on the five people that you are not into but who is always there when you re engage, and you swipe right on the people for whom you are one of the five they always swipe left on. You stare at the remaining options wondering how often alcohol mixed with loneliness manifests as lust. Then you close the app in disgust. This dance of disgust phase lasts a while until you start to talk to a few people and perhaps even go on a date or two, but you notice that your participation has a marked lethargy, like your heart is not yet ready. You go through the motions because the alternative is loneliness and too much time with your thoughts.
You are never aware when it happens but one day your heart lets go of the past like a child losing interest in a balloon, and you caress the long-lost sensation of feeling thrilled by the sight of someone. There is still a lack of spontaneity, but you share a few war stories and perhaps go out. It is the echoes of the previous relationships that haunt you as you traverse the many small phases of what could be a relationship. Every little thing that happens, or is said, reminds you that you have been in the same place in the forest, and you don’t need breadcrumbs to find your way to the house in the clearing. The only thing you wonder is if the dwelling will be a witch’s den or a queen’s palace because people wear masks. Sometimes you are blessed with an early warning, about three hours after wondering why such a great person would be single, a mask slips, and you think to yourself – “there it is…”
Sometimes you see the mask move but keep going because you are a little taken by the beauty of said mask, or perhaps you feel real chemistry and wonder what is worse, to keep dancing, gambling that you can hold onto your heart long enough to get away unscathed, or sipping Devil’s Share while batting away the questions of a compassionate bar person who knows when someone needs company.
Most of the time, however, you recognize each other as flawed humans trying to construct a new future, so you travel together and play the game of Lego where two middle-aged people who, to an extent, are now in their final shape, knowing what they want and what they are willing to live with, are trying to fit two very complex pieces together in a relationship. No, this is not the malleable days of our youth where we were willing to flow into each other despite dysfunction. I often wonder – which is better.
This… is the modern mating dance of mature adults. This is 51…