It’s Not Where You Start: Being Alive

Originally posted on It’s Not Where You Start.

Tonight I met with my ex for our first post-breakup conversation. You’ll note I’m actually calling him my ex now. This is what we call progress. At the very least, I think after tonight I won’t need to process that relationship in the pages of this blog, at least for the near future.

But in an attempt to put some closure on this, I want to reflect on how I’ve grown in the eight months we were together (and the nearly one month we’ve been apart). This was my first “real” relationship, the first one that had length and depth and mutual acknowledgement of its status as a relationship while it was ongoing.

And breaking up is hard. It’s particularly hard when, from my perspective, things were going great, although after our talk tonight I can begin to understand the way he feels means that breaking up is the right thing to do. I don’t think I’m very good at breaking up (although I don’t think I’m doing a terrible job at it, all things considered). However, this year I learned that I am surprisingly good at being in a relationship.

This isn’t surprising because I’m some sort of a beastly person. But I have never allowed myself to get involved deep enough to see how I’d be. For example, I have a strong tendency toward passive-aggressive behavior. But within the bounds of a relationship — or at least this relationship — I very consciously resisted those urges. I decided early on that I wouldn’t play games. If I had something to say, I would say it. Rather than sit by the phone and wait for him to call, I would pick up the phone and dial.

In the last few weeks, I’ve done quite a bit of introspection and reflection and found that there were times when I was not able to articulate my feelings. Rather than address those moments with passive aggression, I pushed aside my feelings. Sometimes this was because I was afraid of saying something that would frighten him off or push him away. I see now that was both ridiculous and not so healthy. I hope that in my next relationship (may it come speedily and in our day) I will do better at this.

I also found that I know how to treat a partner. I was pretty thoughtful, both in how we spoke and in how we interacted. I picked out great gifts and kept them to an appropriate scale and frequency. I wrote some great love letters. I charmed his friends. I integrated him into my life.

Of course, all of this adds up to making the break-up painful. It would be easier if I could vilify him, get angry and want to push him away. But despite his flaws, and I saw them as clearly as I saw my own, he really handled the relationship as well as I could hope, and that includes the breakup. Sure, there are moments I wish had unfolded differently, but we are only human.

And that’s really what this adds up to. Breaking up has hurt. A lot. I am privileged to lead a comfortable, upper-middle-class life devoid of personal tragedy. So this break up has hurt more than just about any experience I can remember. But you know what? It’s totally worth it. I look back on the last year, both how we spent our time together and how I’ve grown and changed, and I wouldn’t trade any of it.

When we open ourselves up to the potential for love, we also open ourselves to the potential to heartbreak. I’m told the heartbreak will heal, if not completely, than at least to the point that it will be a faint scar. Our scars remind us of important moments, some bad, but many good, when we took risks that may not have resulted in 100% success. Life without risks would not feel very much like life at all. I am grateful to have affirmed what it feels like to be alive.

Our conversation tonight took place in a coffee house I was introduced to in the ninth-grade. My friends and I used to hang out there before midnight screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It wasn’t until after we parted tonight that I remembered the first time I visited this coffee shop was with Mr. Cornet Man on the night we first got romantic, if I may speak euphemistically.

It’s also worth mentioning that “Being Alive” is a song I will always likely associate with my current ex (is that an oxymoron?). I think I mentioned this on the blog before. So it feels appropriate to reclaim the song for this post and appreciate the ways in which he helped me understand its message, even if isn’t the one who will ultimately hold me too close and hurt me too deep forever.

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