Thursday, August 30, 2007

Autopsy of My Relationship

I've been reading Phil Jackson's 'Sacred Hoops' about the spirituality of basketball, and he talks alot about the transcendant nature of life. Before this I had read a book written by a psychologist that provided council, one I had first picked up looking for validation in dumpsville and approved of without reading because it had a chapter titled 'we are all vulnerable to the perfect stranger myth'

Maybe it was validation I was seeking, or vindication, or most likely hope. But being dumped was a defining moment in my life. A moment passed, and survived but it was a period of intense examination and arguably the best process for me I could possibly have undergone.
I've been meaning since its inception to post up what happened with it but always put it off. Reading Phil Jackson's telling of his practice of coaching though was the first thing to give me enough confidence to actually write about my experience.
And it was my experience, just as it was my relationship. just as no two people can ever share the same perspective, claire and I though both participating in the relationship, and the breakup process no doubt had two distinct seperate experiences of it.

prelude to the breakup:

We had dated for almost three years, shortly after our second anniversary I had started full time work and Claire had started honours. Something was wrong I just wasn't conscious enough to pick it up. And what I mean is something was wrong with me.
I went to work every day of the week, I was bubbly, energetic, recieving great feedback, I felt valued and got along well with everyone in my department.
I came home and watched TV, I abused in a jocular, hollow, posturing way my housemates damo and liam which thankfully they seemed to find amusing and not tire of until Claire inevitably called me from her flat and asked me where I was and when I was coming over.
I'd show up as late as possible and read in bed, we had sex as young couples are want to do and then sleep. At 6am her alarm went off and I'd walk home across the park in the cold and go to work.
On weekends I stayed over but stayed until about 8.30am and then go home to play Xbox all weekend and otherwise bum around.
I spent close to no time doing anything but work, hanging around with Claire or my housemates. I saw none of my close friends, and my bright fresh enthusiasm at work turned into adolescent aggression at home.
And I was happily complacent with this life.

getting dumped:

As part of her honours thesis, Claire had to go to Vanuatu for two or three weeks to conduct research. She seemed to fall apart overseas and for most of the trip. I knew she'd pull together and be fine, and frankly found her dependance and seperation anxiety pitiful. I felt in complete control, and the space made me think about our relationship and where it was going.
I felt I owed it to Claire to actually show some commitment. I concluded that when Claire returned, dependant though she was, I could drop the distance I built between us and contemplate some kind of future for us.
Three days before she came back her mood switched around, like she had found Jesus. I felt good about it because once again my wisdom that she would enjoy herself by abandoning her useless anxiety, and relaxing her dependancy on me to just be confident in the relationship would allow her to have a good time.
On the second night of her return she dumped me.
Now in the early stages I sought relief to my situation by trying to obtain 'closure' a reason that would satisfy me. My councilour said to me though that he could remember relationships from 20 years ago that still caused some pain. Closure is an illusion, a myth swallowed by a mind desperate for relief.
After two years I can say that as unpleasant as getting dumped was, there are just some things that are sticking points forever. I am at complete eases, and infact satisfied that Claire and I were not good together, and that I would not consciously pursue another relationship with her.
But some things stick and one was they way we 'broke up' Claire sat me down and told me we she didn't love me anymore. I said and still regret saying 'we should break up then' this is just one of those invaluable conversations I am sure I will easily recall when necessary.
I felt trapped by what I said, like I had been tricked into consenting to some kind of mutual breakup. It has been important to me ever since to correct her into saying 'she dumped me'
I went straight into I guess what one would call shock, I didn't even contemplate what I had just lost, nor have any grasp of the reality of what hd just happened.
She was crying and similar to what seemed to have characterised the relationship for me, she seemed to be uncomprehending of her own dependance, whilst I felt in control.
Yet I was walking away from her apartment. Home not comprehending.
The first wonderful door of my life got opened that night and I did not realise it, but now knowing it would not trade for the whole world. I called my mother almost instantly and let her know that we had broken up.
Then I went to bed, Janice called again and I said I'd take the day off tomorrow and eventually persuaded her to let me sleep.
I later learned that my sister, on hearing I'd been dumped, did not sleep that night but lay up worried about me, knowing how upset I would be. My sister and I have never really talked, never really been a team, never really as far as I could tell have had anything in common, then this single act of sympathy finally illuminated me to how alike we really are. A picture that keeps unfoulding to this day.
I was upset but I felt intellectually I comprehended the whole thing quite well.
I cried for a while and fell asleep.

at battle with myself:

Waking up was the worst thing, waking up alone. I was cut off from sex and left contemplating that I was without a companion. I tried to keep active and positive. After two days of not being relieved from this waking abandonment though, my body without conscious consent fell apart on me.
I was hit with wave after wave of crippling emotional breakdowns, the unimaginably exhausting and cruel decisions my body made to wake me up at 2am, 3am etc and leave me trying to contemplate the ruin of a relationship I had taken for granted and thought to have controlled.
Shaving was close to impossible, I found roughly one night a week were I could set aside an hour to shave. I stopped cooking, brushing my teeth, I just rewore clothes rather than washing them. All my time and energy was channelled into grief.
I had to write constantly, trying to figure things out.
As I wrote, usually in a little notebook at work whilst doing the bare minimum I recorded things like how sick I felt at various times of the day.
For I relationship I hadn't valued since I couldn't remember, I was left in this totally alien predicament, of having no control, no self esteem and nothing to fight the crippling physiological response to the heartbreak.

the stages of grief:

The stages of grief are tippically - shock, anger, denial, acceptance, sadness, growth. Not necessarily happening in that order nor happening at all, sadness being the most consistent phase. For me still, the reasons for the breakup where something I pursued only seeking closure. I went into denial, but the denial was only so far as a belief that I was somehow still in control. There were ideas as large as elephants I was trying to tiptoe around in my head.
The denial that I somehow controlled 'the game' as I came to comprehend it manifested in odd ways, superstitious beliefs about which underwear to wear, and a perception of a cycle - that is that tuesdays were bad days, I dreaded (I got dumped on a tuesday, I got re-rejected on a tuesday, I found out about the other guy on a tuesday...etc) and that thursdays were good days, triumphant days (we had a productive conversation on a thursday, we went out on a thursday, I recieved an email on a thursday...etc) I got meaningless associations with other things too, like after a couple of weeks, after finding out her new boyfriend was coming from Vanuatu to stay, I became terrified of her, and her park and even a lingerie store in the city whose brand she liked made me want to throw up.
I was afraid and in denial and angry, and most of it happened subconsciously.
I was overwhelmed by these things that intellectually I knew if they just stopped I could get around. But the sadness just seemed to get worse, I stuck signs up around my room to remind me why I should live each day. If she set a date for an appointment where we could see eachother, my life was consumed with trying to find things to distract me from having to live the time inbetween.
I spent most of the time, plotting, writing rules for myself in my book. Plotting my overall strategy.
I could usually stick with it for one encounter, but then my patience would collapse and I'd try and orchestrate a meeting and try and force the schedule along.

My mind overcomes:

Even before counselling, my mind did a lot of groundwork, namely it kept me together through an intense distrust of myself. Most of what made it so much was subconscious. It asked me tough questions 'does she really meet your standard anymore?' if I can elaborate on the importance of this little question, it was profound in that. Claire had left me because a stranger had filled her with a vision of the bright prospect of life with him. By comparison our relationship was a stale dead end. This was my take on it.
The thing that hurt me though, was that I expected better of her. And this is a judgement upon my self now. It was all about my pride and control, that she should be intellectual enough to see through promises of castles in the sky and realise her best prospect was with me. This was irrefutable if you took the inflated view of me, that I had in myself.
I tried to argue my way out of her decision with reason. Possibly some of my craftiest and best built cases, the fruits of my intellectual development, up till now, all I had more or less ever really relied on and why I lacked any real depth as a person.
And for a reasoned tactic in a war of emotions, they did have pretty cutting effects and insights as far as I could see, they really did plant the doubts and questions in her head that I had hoped for. But to my devestation, her resolve always seemed to harden.
I just thought she had gone crazy, I thought the case so obviously ran in my favour I sat around stressed out at why reality didn't seem to comply with my world view.
My ego was what I had at stake, I looked for vindication and that was it. I just wanted desperately to feel in control.
I knew I wasn't going to get it, and I didn't trust myself as the best agent for myself. I talked it over with Damo at length, how I felt like there was nobody advocating for me, influencing her decision.
I felt like the world had gone mad, that people were encouraging her to make such drastic changes to her life.
To me, by inviting some new guy into her home for three weeks it was like she was just trying to sabotage every chance of us getting back together.
My control was being undermined at every corner, and her behaviour I interpreted as trying to force my hand into shunning her and 'getting over it'.
I implored her to get councilling, because I felt of all the people in her support network, I was the most objective, something I knew was patently false.
Whilst I sat around waiting for a counsellor to diagnose her as 'crazy to dump him'
I felt tremendous relief, that finally she was talking to someone objective, not a parant saying useless things like 'whatever your decision we'll support you' nor friends I envisioned stabbing me in the back saying 'your so brave, your better off without him' support full of meaning to someone, issued from the mouth of people to whom the relationship means very little.

I meet Joe:

the grief process placed me in a situation where my mind was being throttled by my matter, the withdawel of all the chemicals that I felt whilst in a relationship, the subconscious cues I no longer recieved from Claire.
I was impressed with how strong my mind was, it was such an aggressive authority that asserted itself every day. Amongst all the irrational emotional things I did during the breakup, it came to the fore and took control when I needed it, even in the crippled state it was in.
The breakup was really the perfect test for defining myself. For seeing if I was as formidable as I wanted to be. It placed everything in jeopardy, my health, my mind, my job, my friendships, my neighbourhood.
My mind took a remarkable amount of punishment. But really I had only lost two things, my control and my esteem - my sense of self worth.
After initial trouble in getting counselling I booked in with a guy called Joe. Joe listened to me rattle of the specific clues that had lead me to conclude that I had been dumped, and that I had no idea how to behave to work my way out of the predicament.
Joe told me I was grieving. And he told me that 'Claire has made a decision that you are not a party of.' He named it, exactly what the breakup was all about to me, the thing that had undermined my whole world, I had lost my feeling of control.
My homework was to write down all the things I njoy doing, what I do for enjoyment.
I then conceded that Joe was a very clever man.
My list of things I enjoy, excluding sex were all things I did without Claire.
The next two sessions with Joe were simply reinforcing the message that I wasn't in control so I shouldn't expend energy on it.
The task was redefined as finding out who I was. Then my sessions ended and Joe was gone. Even though we talked for an hour at a time that was it 'you will still experience grief' and 'Claire has made a decision that you do not control' this became a mantra for me, possibly because it had more or less been Joe's mantra for me.
Then I started out by simply trying to one by one, break my subconscious behaviours and take control of my life back.
It was simple, like buying new underwear, walking past places that made me feel sick, getting new music.

The growth phase:

Before being dumped, I took Claire for granted, I found her clingy and predictable, she was simply there. I felt like the burden of ending the relationship was always going to be my priveledge. I felt in control.
Meanwhile I wittled away my time on nothing, it was unprecious to me and did nothing for anyone.
Within three months of being single again it seemed like I was rapidly catching up on three years of stagnation.
In searching for an outlet for my desire to love, support and build I found the Fitzroy Learning Network, and before I knew it I was facing the prospect of becoming an english teacher to a refugee, a role so esteemed by the student I was terrified of the resonsibility and commitment.
I meet with Zamin almost every tuesday, as a result, tuesdays are never a bad day and I am more terrified of life without Zamin to tutor and talk to than I ever was of losing Claire while dating her. Tutoring Zamin makes me feel deeply human, it is very humbling to have someone like him as a student, and he is a calming innocent source of perspective. I used to take all the frustration of work out on Claire and my housemates and use all the support and love they gave me for work.
I can't count how many times I've left work furious at the shortsitedness, or ineptitude of the latest managerial decision and after an hour with Zamin felt like the world is populated exclusively by cute puppies who play with butterflies under rainbows.
I also got put in touch with Marc Barry, a beautiful man, frustrated with trying to foster a community for international students at RMIT. The first dinner with him was literally one of my first outings from worthlessness. That is to say, my entire esteem had been wrapped up in 'how good I was in relationships' and after 5 years of more or less continuous dating consisted of little else.
Marc's vision and commitment to empowering the non-english speaking students nearly made me weep. His deep felt appreciation for my overwillingness to volunteer for bike rides, running clubs, frisbee and basketball made me laugh with embarassment.
To me it was all about my desperate need to feel worthwhile, to him I was this selfless crusader, persistent in the frustration of the ever fluctuating enthusiasm of ESL students.
After three months I recieved an email from a guy called Daud 'I love this game, I will play, when can we play?' I had agreed to try and keep a basketball group going, picking up a basketball for the first time in 8 years.
Through basketball I have met Masa, Hide, Tosh, Yusuke, Troy, Daud, Rio, Angelo, Vincent and a myriad of others. All of them helped reignite my love of basketball, that now borders on for most of my work colleagues, annoying obsession/delusion that I am a big black man.
From bball, tutering and then being part of the close knit earthsharing team (the result of reading their torturously wordy website over a christmass skeleton staff period) I ended up being a triple volunteer and part time uni student.
I was part of the community and had built my self esteem from scratch.
I learned that the transcendant nature of all things made me appreciate life. Mentally I triumphed, I got crushed into a wreck of a person and bounced back stronger.
Claire and I remain friends, despite one of the most careless and wreckless breakup handling one can come across.
She had her own reasons for ditching me, and truth be told, I don't really give a fuck what they were, it could have been the pursuit of larger blacker penis.

Kirk and I joked about what to do when getting dumped/breaking up how to steal all the best stuff from their apartment on your way out.
Damo said he thought that of the two of us, Claire had lost more in losing me than I had lost in her, I was really touched by the sentiment and I think faggoty though he is its one of those heartfelt things I'll love him forever for, I think personally I certainly walked out of her apartment that night richer in potential than I ever had been before in my life.
But it isn't about winning or losing, one morning I sat on a couch thoroughly exhausted from just grieving, full time for two weeks or so, I had been holding out hoping she would call to say she'd told this guy to fuck off and was ready to spend months apologising and making it up to me.
I sat on the couch repeating 'she's not coming back, she's not coming back...' endlessly, until I ended. It was such a moment of presence, such a calming moment. Liam and I talked and later we went to the movies to see Charlie Chaplin, a great and joyous experience.
That wasn't closure, though, three weeks later on her birthday I was crying at my parents place saying 'she's gone, she's gone' 8 months after that I spent a random night upset while she was in indonesia.
There was no closure, nor will there ever be, it was just this thing that happened to me, it was done and couldn't be undone. My reactions weren't defined by the experience. It was just how I reacted to the experience. I made choices about how to behave, they were choices I made because I am me. Similarly the experience got me to think about things I've never thought about before.

right here, right now:

As I said, Claire and I are still friends. I have had a new relationship since, that I am a month and a half away from reuniting with again that I anticipate without expectation, just anticipate.
One difference is though that I didn't hold anything back with misaki, having Claire dump me taught me to cherish a relationship while you have it. If anything I'm more trusting now, having survived being less afraid of the effects of heartbreak.
I have more endurance, as a result of a greater belief of my minds capability, and also having to post up against larger guys in basketball, refusing to be intimidated.
I have an esteem I can take to any relationship and provide a stable foundation for us to grow an dbe greater than the sum of our parts.
My life is in balance and have been acting on my dreams, I'm much more social, and also much more productive with my personal life.
To me the end of my last unsuccessful relationship was a loss, I had that relationship once and now I don't. I didn't want it to end, I didn't decide it should end, but it ended and made room for a better life.
I wouldn't trade the experience for anything else, I think without malice that for me losing the relationship was far more valuable than having it in the first place. Whilst I love a lot of Claire's mannerisms still, and there is plenty in common for a friendship to be based, she is not my Claire anymore, that is just a memory, she is someone else now and I am too, and thats just peachy.

2 comments:

Harvard said...

Gee, and I thought I had it tough.

ohminous_t said...

that's why I never respected you harvard