My boyfriend and I recently broke up. We lived together in a big, beautiful house on a corner, near a park. Together we rescued a puppy, got ourselves a propane grill and enjoyed many hours of pay per view movies on his big screen TV. We shared all the comforts of life for four years.
Ultimately, we agreed that we were mismatched. It was the usual things – I’m a bad housekeeper, he is a republican, I am a dreamer, he is a realist, etc. So we called it quits. He bought a house and moved out. The dog and I stayed in the big, empty rental we shared until I found a tiny condo to live in.
The day I picked up the last of our debris and left the house empty was a very, very hard day. I stood in the kitchen, staring at the dust balls of our shared life, and cried. Not just a few tears, but all of them. I cried the way people cry at funerals, until my eyes were swollen and my head ached.
I cried because I couldn’t watch Oprah on his big screen TV, because my dog would no longer have a yard, because there was no one to ask “what’s for dinner?,’ and because I missed him. During moments like that, I find it impossible to remember exactly why we broke up. I tried to conjure up the feeling of irritation I get when he’s being annoying, but all I could feel was loss.
Breaking up is just not fun. It’s a death of sorts – the death of that enigmatic entity called “The Relationship”. But people break up every day - it’s not a tragedy. So why does it feel like one?
I once read that if you can conquer loneliness, you can conquer anything. As I unpack my belongings and try to squeeze them into my tiny condo, I begin to understand my mission, and accept it. The object of this mission is to become friends with that awful, aching feeling of being alone.
People stay in bad relationships for years to avoid this feeling. It’s like staring into a dark and endless abyss. You look into your own future and all you can see is a lifetime of Saturday nights reading, and people telling you to “join a club”.
I told a friend recently that I wanted to fall in love – with myself, so that I would never need another person to make me happy. That isn’t going to happen. Unfortunately, I’m a human being, and I’m never going to get over my desire to connect with other humans. But I can stop averting my eyes every time I feel empty. I can look directly into the void and see what it is I’ve been hiding from all these years. It’s like a mysterious old closet, piled high with the ghosts of everything I ever tried to avoid.
Here, with life stripped of all familiar distractions, is a beautiful opportunity to look into the face of the void, and make it a place of refuge. It’s a chance to be comfortable in silence, and know myself. I suspect that was the mission all along.