Relationships – In The Check Out Lane Figuring Out What Caused the Failure of Your Last Relationship

Relationships – In The Check Out Lane Figuring Out What Caused the Failure of Your Last Relationship

Ever been in a relationship that was humming along swimmingly? You thought everything was good, maybe even a little too much so. But you wanted to avoid judgment and self-sabotage. So you ignored all those huge red flags. Hindsight, the all-knowing big brother that already made the exact same mistakes, has a special way of highlighting the obvious.

But what if you’re still unable to connect the dots? Like the relationship that just petered out. It left you standing like a little kid with a sparkler: one moment you’re holding a brilliant display of light, the next just ashes and curling smoke, asking yourself, “What the hell was that?”

We are humans, meaning-seeking creatures, in training through our entire lives. Toddler-bearers and – watchers among us all know that a budding grasp of the human language comes with a wonderful three-letter word: “Why?”

Vegetables. Bedtime. Stars in the sky. Why? Why? Why?

A toddler has the innate ability to stretch three letters into three syllables, the musical equivalent of cats clawing a chalkboard. No matter how great the answer, what follows is yet another, more inquisitive “Yes, but why?”

The pursuit of deeper meaning annoys us at any age. When any relationship ends: Why? When one ends unexpectedly: Forlornly, “Why?” We stand in the checkout line, staring into space, absentmindedly checking football scores on our iPhone. A beautiful woman with near-perfect taste, great melons, and a shy smile, a small solace – before our dinner, whether organic quinoa or meat and potatoes, passes through the bubbly cashier’s hands.

Everywhere, we look. We look at work, while important projects receive but minimal attention. We look at the gym, searching each song lyric for a new perspective. At night, the darkness provides no answers. A laundry list of menial tasks without deadlines or immediate implications left in your path: dirty dishes, mounds of laundry, dry withered plants.

This search, whether it’s for the meaning of life or the cause of your relationship’s death, could easily morph into a full-time job. That is, if you let it. How about figuring out the reason for the relationship failure, learning a lesson so you don’t keep repeating it – isn’t that real wisdom? But can you do all that if you don’t have a compass?

Can you search for a common thread in the story that was the two of you? Is there a point? Beyond reminding you that people really do write love letters; know how to make mix tapes; watch House of Cards in its entirety… again?

This is chasing your own tail. Not what the ultimate alpha animal is supposed to do, is it?

So go exhaust your brains and question yourself. Fire fusillades of silver bullets embodying all your own faults and shortcomings. So what if she hated the way you folded fitted sheets? So what if she took secret, silent umbrage with the way you bagged groceries? So what if she cursed your rendition of James Brown? Pick one. Or a million others. Tiny shots to the heart until the magic vanished. Is it still alchemy after the love is gone?

Perhaps it’s time to stop being so insecure. Perhaps it wasn’t about you, this time. If love were a disease, were you actually the carrier? Or was the lesson theirs to learn, the cure theirs to discover? Had your ex been self-aware, would you even be in this position? Well, perhaps not. Know this instead: A direct, articulate, emotionally-satisfying explanation will be delivered by a unicorn before it comes from your ex.

So the tidy sense of closure never arrives. Loose ends are never tied up as credits roll and you ride off into the sunset. What’s the realization you’re going to take with you?

That you can’t control what happened, but that you can control your attitude.

What truths do you hold to be self-evident? What gifts did your ex bring to your time together? What did she offer to you as a man that you never knew you valued? Maybe it was a song that sings to your soul. A favorite restaurant. A new way of thinking.

Hell, what if the only reason this person came into your life was to introduce you to quinoa. Laugh if you like, but quinoa could be the superfood that changes your life forever in ways you may never have imagined. You’re going to live a lot longer than on meat and potatoes, after all. A lot longer than John Wayne, too. So maybe you dodged a health-failure bullet never the wiser for it. All thanks to her.


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This Was to Be ‘The Best Day of His Life’? Volunteering as a way to overcome the stresses of divorce

This Was to Be ‘The Best Day of His Life’? Volunteering as a way to overcome the stresses of divorce

Do you remember the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  when Ferris wants Cameron to come pick him up? Cameron was in bed, sick and miserable. Ferris persists until we see Cameron in the driver’s seat, furiously arguing with himself. He starts the car. Revs it up. Yells. Shuts it off. Gets out. Kicks rocks. But somehow, Cameron overcomes his own resistance, scoops up not only Ferris but his girlfriend and embarks on what turned out to be the best day of his life.

We’ve each had that feeling, the massive ‘weight of life’ that’s too much to throw off. The effects of the divorce process can be like that. Our inability to extricate ourselves from lying in the cocoon of self pity. We’ve each been through something so overwhelmingly traumatic that a trip down the hall seems like a cross-country journey. Building a summer home in Atlantis would be a simpler task than functioning during this divorce. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, getting out of our own head and back among the living will ultimately save us from the divorce process.

I’ve been doing a great deal of volunteer work lately, which got me to thinking about the therapeutic payoff of putting others before ourselves. When we put others first, especially those seemingly less fortunate, the exchange is anything but one-sided.  We receive unexpected gifts in exchange for our service, be it a shy smile, a look of gratitude, a shift in thinking or maybe just a short respite from our own preoccupations. It’s far more intuitive to give of ourselves when we feel great and have a surplus of resources, but what about when we feel depleted?  What if we took a moment to put others before ourselves when we felt like we had nothing to give and no means by which to give it?

But how in the hell am I supposed to do that when I can barely drag myself out of bed? 

I don’t know. I haven’t figured it all out yet, honestly, but I think I’m onto something. 

Consider the last time you had your heart broken. Not the garden-variety breakup, where you mutually decide over a sensible, egg-white omelet that separation is for the best. No, the kind of breakup where losing her was like losing a front tooth to a suckerpunch. Sudden. Brutal. A gaping loss. It was to be ages before the swelling went down and longer before you smiled again. When she left, she took with her your ability to breathe. Grief paralyzed you under an agonizing, suffocating blanket of pain. If you didn’t take drastic action, your tombstone would’ve read “Here lies John – who succumbed to Heartbreak’s Caldron of Fire”.

That kind of heartbreak.

Now picture this. Squinting against the hot sun, you wipe your brow with the corner of your softest t-shirt. Like rings on an oak tree, bits of sawdust and dried sweat date back to well before lunch.  Unfazed by your own disheveled appearance, your eyes examine your work. Bending to retrieve your hammer, the ache in your back brings a smile to your lips. It’s a  pleasant reminder that you’re alive.  Breathing. Despite the pain, or perhaps because of it, you realize you actually feel pretty damn good. All the way down to your core. With the posture of someone on a mission, you slowly straighten up and adjust your tool belt, smiling all the while. A family in need is waiting to move into this house and these nails aren’t going to set themselves.

But how in the hell am I supposed to do that when I can barely drag myself out of bed? 

I don’t know. I haven’t figured it all out yet, honestly. But I think I’m onto something. 

Or picture this.

Sunlight pours in through the window across the room. The underbelly of green leaves flutter in the trees like minnows swimming in the breeze. The man at your side holds up a drawing. His hand shakes and his speech is affected. With a reassuring smile and the full attention of the room, he describes his drawing. Him, before the accident. He points to thick lines and blunt circles. You’re impressed by his use of color. The passion with which he speaks. His struggle to articulate the line of demarcation between the life he knew and the life he now lives. The tight circle of kindred souls, battered but not broken, bursts into applause. Nurses wheel the artists out, one by one. Given a brief reprieve from the quicksand of your own life you return the art supplies to their rightful place.

But how in the hell am I supposed to do that when I can barely drag myself out of bed? 

I don’t know. I haven’t figured it all out yet, honestly. But I think I’m onto something. 

The next time the emotional weight of life feels too much to bear, try volunteering as a means by which to resuscitate your spirit. Yes, you may feel incapacitated, but physical labor for those in need does both the mind and the body inexplicable good. Yes, you may be emotionally battered and bruised but lessons on perspective, respect and the indomitable human spirit are given daily. Yes, you may feel as though your own emotional tank is empty, but we always have a little more to give. You are far more capable and richer in time and talent than you thought. By being of service to others, your willingness to show up and roll up your sleeves is the only cost of admission.

When your Ferris calls, answer.  Get your butt in the car, get over there and pick him up before he finds a new best friend.  Go give of yourself. You’re not dying because of this divorce, you really just can’t think of anything good to do!

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