No White Flag

January 27, 2008

“I’ve still got sand in my shoes, and I can’t shake the thought of you. I should get on and forget you. But why would I want to? I know we said goodbye, anything else would have been confused. But I want to see you again”. [Sand In My Shoes, Dido].

The job of moving on is a hard thing to do.

The hardest break-up I experienced was with a tall, blonde, athletic Ukranian. We dated for two years. It was during a difficult period of my life. My mother died. He was the last of my lovers to have known my mother. Its possible that my need for security at that time in my life made the split harder to take.

However difficult a split is for me I have reflected recently that in general my psychological tactic has been to latch onto the failings of the other. In the case of my tall Ukranian, after we split faults were easy to find. For example, he used to set ridiculous ultimatums. I was playful and could not take them seriously. I tended to push boundaries and flout his ultimatums. To punish me for my behaviour he would withdraw. Once when we were swimming down here at the very beach I still spend all of my summer holidays at, he gingerly entered the water.

“Don’t splash me or I will never trust you again”, he warned.

Of course, in my book, the only thing to do in this situation is to splash and if possible, trip. He lacked humour. As far as he was concerned I had breached his trust entirely.

“I think you are too immature for a sexual relationship”, he pronounced gravely afterwards.

Yes! That’s right, he threatened to withdraw from sex because of this! After we split I vowed to never again have an intimate relationship with a person who wagered sex in arguments.

Its hard to believe upon writing this story that I ever regretted splitting up with him, but I did for a long time. Focussing on this and his many other failings helped me to recover. There were quite a few actually. He was a creature of habit, cooked the same four meals on a rotational basis and if I joined him in the kitchen had to put up with strict instructions and routine, routine.  We clashed here. My cooking is organic and experimental. He had pannic attacks occasionally to the point where he would purposely lose tournaments in his sport of choice to not have to appear in front of the assembly for the trophy. His insecurity manifested iself in our relationship in many ways, right down to long listening sessions on my part. And he was obsessed with his mother. (But he was beautiful. I adored the entire length of  his body during our relationship).

I saw him again out of the blue four years ago at the Melbourne Cup. I had since had four children. He was still single, and incredibly nervous at meeting me. I have no desire to keep in touch with him or to ever see him again, but I have been thinking about the process of splitting lately and I wondered why I had been holding on to those bad times. I have decided to let them go because I don’t need them anymore. There were plenty of good times. He taught me how to cook traditional Ukranian food, and decorate eggs for Easter. We went on fishing and beach holidays together up the east coast. We were physically and emotionally intimate for two years. I met the hub less than a year after our split. I destroyed all of our photos after I was married, but my memory is clear.

Now, twenty years later I am able to look back upon those memories through a different lens. It has therefore occured to me to ask the question, is it possible to break up with someone without going through a stage of remembering only the bad? Remembering the bad can justify the split and give you a sense of control. Remembering the good brings back the pain of grief for what might have been. Remembering the good happens within a state of melancholy as the process of grief works its way through your psyche. But why is melancholy such an unbearable, intollerable thing? Melancholy is associated with every phase of becoming who we aspire to be. And we are forever and always constantly becoming. This I have been reading about in the philosophy of Judith Butler. Why did it take me so long to see the light? I can walk with sand in my shoes.



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