mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

When Breaking Up Is Breaking Through

One of my friends is at long last breaking up a marriage that faded out years ago. I'm a big fan of getting out of crummy relationships, not only the flaming horrible ones, but the ones that have simply fizzled out. The problem with the latter is that you don’t really realize they’ve fizzled till you’re sitting through the largo movement at a philharmonic concert on a Thursday night all glazed over without enough imagination to wish you were anywhere else, except maybe sleeping. Flat.

Or you find yourself laboring over banjo lessons because he thinks it would be fun and you’ve lost touch with the fact that you don’t have an ounce of musical aptitude. But what’s the alternative? Maybe a nap.

Breaking up with Paul was a months-long ordeal that – even though I instigated it – still took me by surprise and knocked me off kilter. But then…

But then! I can’t recreate the exact feelings from 24 years ago, but after a few boo-hoos I rode a wave of elation. I was on my own. I could do W-H-A-T-E-V-E-R I W-A-N-T-E-D T-O. I took the minimum of stuff from our great big house and moved into a petite three-room apartment with tall windows and vintage black-mirror tile in the bathroom. A queensize mattress on the floor filled up a third of my narrow bedroom – my nest, all mine.

Talking about my friend’s breakup this week conjured up the image not of breaking up, but of breaking through – breaking through to the other side. The other side was a place where I blossomed into a new person.

I wrote a while back (4.18.00) about reading all the letters I wrote to Trish as a young married woman. Sure, I worked hard to get through graduate school but, beyond that, I was aimless. Paul was full of hobbies, mostly musical, and I followed, adding in a few domestic hobbies that went along with his – mostly sewing.

After I broke through to the other side, I discovered my own stuff. Not immediately. I don’t remember anything that happened in 1978, but in ’79 the new Me began to emerge: took up calligraphy, got certified in scuba-diving, changed jobs, joined a gym, made friends. Of course, Jim was now in the picture, definitely an influence but I was enjoying my single self too much to want anything near a live-in relationship.

For me, the eighties became about discovering some innate athletic prowess (what a surprise), reconnecting with my long lost love for graphic arts, and developing formidable skills in organizing quality assurance systems at work. Maybe it was developmental. Maybe that’s what people do in their thirties, after they’ve finished “finding themselves” in their twenties. Still, I treasure the fact that I was able to ignite these passions on my own. Paul was a decent person who taught me that following your passions was a good thing, but it was his passions that dominated and made me unable to counter them with anything but crawling into bed and needing to be exhausted when he wanted to play.


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