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.