closure

Closure

heartache_largeA friend of mine contacted me to tell me that a former boyfriend from 37 years ago contacted her recently.    A long four-hour telephone conversation revealed that he isn’t happy with his life and admitted that really, he hasn’t been since they broke up in the mid seventies.    They only dated for a few months–he was her ‘transition boyfriend”, but he never knew that and I don’t think it would have mattered if had an inkling.   He loved this woman, warts and all and knew what she didn’t:  that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

And he would–from a distance and it was with a view that was no better than a few stolen glances over the shoulder of  his rebound wife.    Yes, irony of ironies, the “transition boyfriend” married his “transition girlfriend”.    Of course his marriage to her would be unhappy, for the most part.  Oh, there would be glimmers of happiness; a joyous birth or two, but in the back of his mind,  piercing through every smile would be those damned feelings for ‘her”...THEE girlfriend.  The one that got away.

My friend is currently in a relationship herself.   She says she’s in love.   He’s a man she maneuvered into her life so the move from wife to divorcee would be seamless.

“I could NEVER ever t involved with (insert name here) again.   Ewwwwwww!”

I’ll lay odds that as her marathon conversation with this specter from her past winded down, visions of a life him in some form or fashion crossed her mind.    How could it not?    Name me one normal red-blooded sentient woman who couldn’t let her mind roam down the back alleys of her imagination as she’s being told she was/is the love of someone’s life.   That her absence has been felt every day for almost four decades.   That losing her was and always will be his life’s singularly biggest regret.

I had one of those heartaches.  I had one of those relationships that I let haunt me.   I allowed a simple, acne-faced 15-year-old boy who broke up with me four days into my Freshman year of high school dictate me emotionally for 39 years.       He was there, always present, seething in soul , gripping like a vice.      In some form or fashion, he was there on every date, every uttered “I love you”, every break up, every holiday.

After high school, he went straight to work.   No college for him.    He was a simple guy.   He found a job in the oil patch and never looked back.    He married a women he met in a small town where he’d landed a job;  they married and had kids and last I heard, he had a couple of grandchildren added to his family tree.

Bully for him.

This was the guy who broke up with me before every major gift giving holiday.    I could always count on heartache two to three days before Christmas, my birthday and Valentine’s Day.    Easter,too.   Once, I accused him of being a Jehovah’s Witness, a reference that moved his bangs as it flew over his head.   Yet, I loved the little SOB.   He was my first boyfriend; my first love and at age 12, no less.     In the two years that we were together, he gave me a  yellow smiley face lollipop (which I kept as long as I can remember), a small black pocket  comb with greasy kid stuff still in it  , a very well-worn green and white cap with just as much greasy kid stuff in the inner lining, but the pièce de résistance????     He gave me a corroded silver-colored ring (I’ve yet to find the particular metal ANYWHERE on the table of elements) with green colored stones and three were missing.    He explained that the ring was in his jeans pocket when an impromptu game of backyard football broke out in the neighborhood.

As for the corrosion?   I shudder to think what might have started THAT scientific  process.     He found it, I’m sure but what did that matter?   I didn’t care.    HE gave it to ME.

I was lucky in that I was able to talk to him a few years ago.     A few weeks of phone calls, that’s all.    In that time, I was able to ask him why he left me so suddenly, without a real explanation and without ever really talking to me and he told me that he did so because I was in high school and would probably want to start dating and based on my upbringing he assumed that meant dinners and movies which took time and money–both of which he little of—and he was too embarrassed to tell me.   So, he did the sensible thing and broke up with me.

I can remember going silent at the end of the explanation, the reality that I was devastated by reverse snobbery was sobering.    I don’t remember what was said or even how much longer we talked, but I do remember this overwhelming feeling of release immerse me.    When we last spoke I had no money, only a half ass job, no boyfriend, certainly no modeling contracts or Academy Awards, the Pulitzer had eluded me, as did motherhood and marriage,  but even in the face of all those perceived negatives, I had one bright, shiny positive:  I had an answer to the single most pressing question of my life.

It made up for all the deficits during those holidays 43 years ago.  It was the best thing; the ONLY real thing of value he ever gave me:   the gift of closure.

This, I explained to my friend, is pivotal.     She should meet with this guy from her past that still holds the torch for her or at the very least, send him an email or something that could free him of the hold she has had on him.

“He told me he’s miserable and his marriage is nothing more than a joyless business arrangement.  He’s not happy because it was never what he wanted.” 

Of course it failed.   He settled.

Then, I explained it to her as I saw it, from someone who was haunted by a lost love for so long.  Emotional closure is vital for anyone who’s loved too long and all alone.    My God, is THAT a horrendous way to exist.

Sometimes it takes a gentle shove….a nudge….sometimes a major kick in the ass, but easing the pain is so important.   Not that it’s my friend’s responsibility,  not that it was my ex boyfriend’s either, but being told the real reason–even though it hurt a bit—was incredibly worth all risks, all feelings….everything.      I could stop the doubting;  the incessant wondering how and why.

But the truth is,  I was a lot like Dorothy Gale of the Oz and Kansas Gales.    I had the power to free myself of my emotional  enslavement all along, but I never really knew it.   Perhaps, I did but it served a good purpose.  I used it like a protective layer;  an impenetrable fortress.    Nothing gets near me;  I am safe.     But confines like that also allow nothing in either.   But I used it for as long as I used it–it kept me from getting too close to a lot of people.   So when I finally got the answer to a question that became rhetorical, 39 years ago, I let go.   I suppose it was time.

My life has changed since the  big release, in that he’s really no longer in it.    I rarely think about him anymore.  Oh, he’ll creep in when a song comes on that sweeps me back to 1972, but only in a certain fondness.    I don’t revisit unless a memory is triggered, and lately that trigger has a very secure safety on it.    As for the smiley face sucker?   I kept that for a long time, but eventually mice or other critters who forage storage spaces for food, destroyed it  and I would imagine the comb and cap met the same fate.   The ring, you ask?   I still have it.     It’s in a jewelry box somewhere and there it sits, just as it has for the past 42 years but I would imagine these days, it contains a few less green stones and the curious setting is now probably a lovely rust color.

The idealization of who he was and what he had all those years ago has long dispersed. And that is a very, very good thing;  a process that has taken a very long time.   I am free.  I now have a few well sorted  memories  that I keep in a memory bouquet.  I comprised it like one would order off a menu at a Chinese restaurant:   I’ve taken a few  memories from 1971, a couple from 1972 and one or two from 1973 just to complete the triad of years.

“Please set him free”, I begged my friend.    “You have to do for him what he can’t for himself.  Write him, phone him, telegraph, send a carrier pigeon.   How you do it is your choice, but please, just do it.”

She replied, “Why should I?   I  owe him nothing.  It was a lifetime ago!”

My answer came  surprisingly quick.

I told  her when spend most of your life, loving someone  in your past and it’s that all-encompassing love that burns as it cools, races as it rests; leans as it stands tall and straight, you have no traditional concept of time.   Any prisoner will tell you a 42 year sentence  takes forever to endure, but amazingly, when you look back on it, it  takes all of 42 seconds relive.   And in that time, which transpires quickly then slowly, then back again,  all you can think about  is being free from its clutches.

Freedom.   And  sometimes, for the damnedest of reasons,  freedom isn’t a choice….. but in some cases,  it can certainly be a gift.

She assures me, he’ll be receiving her email soon.

.

Closure – My New “Opiate”

.

When it comes to this blog, there are things that I’ve been very open about with regard to my life.   I have boundaries, but they’ve been tested by my willingness to be open.   Perhaps my inner narcissist thinks what I’ve experienced might help someone else.  Or maybe I just like to read my own dronings.   To determine the psycho/social particulars of those two statements will require time and a separate post.   What I will share with you now though, is an unabashed admission that I’ve been in therapy off and on since the late 80’s.    

I’d like to say it’s because I’m such a fascinating specimen of humanity.  In truth, I’ve lived a life typical of creative types–I have long been a very tortured soul.    My last delving into the world of Jung, Adler and Freud was late this past winter and of all the sessions I’ve had in my life, I got more out of this one.    

Any shrink will tell you that in order to be helped, you have to be willing to seek it.   You have to admit there’s a problem.  And not only that, you have to be willing to do the homework.  True therapy involves deep introspection  that exceeds well beyond the one hour weekly sessions in therapist’s office. This is a very painful process and one reason why so many people cease their sessions before anything has stuck. 

You have to learn the hard way that pain means change and you have to forge ahead.  I understood that this time.  I really got into the things I was learning about myself and others.  It was more fulfilling because I really wanted to get help for the problems that were plaguing me.  I had to realize that if I wanted any kind of quality of life, I’d have to admit they were real and up to me to resolve them.   I did and once that happened, I started acquiring the defensive tools and weaponry needed  to do battle.   And I assure you, successful therapy is  nothing short of waging war  against your inner demons.

So, in this process of turning myself to face myself, my therapist told me something that blew me away.  She said in all her years in this profession, she’d never met anyone so completely out of touch with her feelings.  

 Me?

Moi?

I was Laurie Kendrick, a witty and urbane woman who was also a deep thinker, eloquent and erudite to the gills.  OF COURSE, I WAS IN TOUCH WITH MY FEELINGS!!!!!!

But instead, I learned that I was actually an excellent sweeper of all things under the rug.    That’s how I’d deal with  problems.  Oh yeah, if something happened, I’d cry…mourn…get depressed, but instead of processing what had transpired and then properly dealing with the ensuing pain, I’d choose to place these unsavory events in an unmarked file in my brain and only revisit when I absolutely had to.

Which I rarely did.

That resulted in  files brimming to the rim with nothing but unresolved relationships;  relationships that just died without any real explanation;  without any rhyme or reason and instead of confronting the person to find out what had really happened,  I said nothing.  I asked no questions.  I didn’t defend myself.  I felt inferior, as though I was to blame and I merely limped away, only to emerge a little later as if nothing had ever happened.

Fast forward to the late fall of 2009.  

I had an opportunity to re-acquaint myself with someone who had held a very regal position in my heart for almost four decades.    He started the ball rolling by walking out on me 36 years ago.  He broke up with me and never offered a reason why.   I was too wounded and at 14, too young and immature to ask why.  I just let him go and reacted like it didn’t bother me at all.   But it did.  I was seething inside and it haunted me for the rest of my life.

I never thought we’d reconnect and even though I never wanted to, I’m glad we did because we talked.  I asked questions and the man he’d become explained the feelings of the boy he once was.  I got the answers I wanted.   I got the closure I needed.

What an absolutely glorious thing to have a feeling come full circle.    To have questions answered.    To find that damned needle in the haystack.   To apply punctuation to the end of a long, run – on sentence.

I do believe that something physical happens when you achieve closure because closure means structure.   The event that once unnerved you only had a beginning and a middle.  It was missing an integral part.    Closure provides an ending and when realize the omega to your alpha, I swear it becomes something altogether physcial.   I think the brain starts to emit endorphins once you realize you have closure.  You  get a runner’s high because you finally stopped running from a situation  you’ve allowed to chase you for years…decades, perhaps.  

I am a big believer in signs.   Closure and the physical sensation of completion is one of Nature’s perfect indicators that we’re doing the right thing;  that we’re heading in the right direction.    There is complete removal of doubt.     Certainty is one of the best feelings in the world.

But beyond that, closure is also a literal event.   When we experience closure, we close the doors on the confusion of the past and that in turn, allows us to focus on the future.  Closed doors let us make decisions faster.  They let us see clearer and somehow, they let us experience real forgiveness.  

But perhaps the best part about closed doors?   They’re also extremely hard to open again.   Maybe it’s just me, but I find great comfort in knowing there’s permanence to this particlar aspect to change.   I like knowing that things could never go back to the way they were.  For me, there’s safety in that.  There is security and a sense of finality.    I would imagine it would be a feeling that’s akin to knowing the man who murdered your sister is behind bars and will stay there for he rest of his life.   

Under less arduous circumstances, closed doors allow us to say goodbye and good luck and really mean it.

So, goodbye and good luck, Mr. Heartache.   It took 36 years for you to give me the one thing I never knew I always wanted–a parting gift of liberation and emotional unencumbrance.   I have freedom and room to grow and I still believe somehow,  even through the muck and mire  of my life, that good things can still happen…even at this late stage of the game . 

As I see it,  your departure from my life means my arrival.    

And for that, I am truly thankful.

,n

Three Funerals And An Awakening

.

It has been a very auspicious four days. 

In that short amount of time, I said goodbye  to three relationships.

I woke up this morning and realized that I’d just metaphorically buried one life-long relationship;  one 38-year-attachment that has in many ways, plagued me all of my adult life and one peripheral “friendshipship” that was as dysfunctional as it was brief.  

THE CAST OF CHARACTERS:  One family member; one old boyfriend and one new friend, three entities that comprise the trifecta of relationships.  I’m nothing if not thorough.

What I’m about to convey defies Biblical tenet, but I don’t believe one can completely honor thy father and mother.   Sorry Moses, but if there is cruelty and abuse, you must severe ties.   I did that and am quite comfortable in the choice I made.   In many ways, this person had been dead to me for a number of years, but he did something a few days ago that forced me to throw the last clump of dirt on his grave.

There is now finality.

That was Burial #1.

And old boyfriend who was my first love 38 years ago came back in my life recently and remained there for 29 days.   There were a million reasons why we couldn’t completely reconnect and I won’t bore you with the principle reasons, but I can tell you that it became obvious to me at least, that we’d grown up differently.   I know I did.   Talking to him though answered gnawing questions that I’d always wanted to ask.  

I only loved a distant memory, but I allowed it to interfere in many relationships.   First loves are incredible.  They set the bar because you have nothing to guage them against.  After he and I broke up,  I set up every other relationship to fail.  I thought he hung the moon and the stars only to realize that I forced myself to believe that in order to cover up my fear of committment and failure.  

In some ways, I never wanted to reconnect because I knew the man he had become was inconsequential.  I never wanted to meet him.  I only wanted to remember the young man he once was.    When we started talking again a few weeks ago, this became etched in stone.  Plus, the woman I had become made me realize that we had grown apart on so many levels.  I came from a diferent world.

But, people change and so do the circumstances of love.  The time; the place…everything really has to align just right.   There is even perfect alignment when things end, too.    And this relationship finally ended.

Closure.   The neat, tying up of loose ends…. forever.  

Emotional ashes to emotional ashes.

Farewell, my love.

This was  Burial #2.

I met her a mere five months ago.   We became friends despite the fact that we had little in common and eight years separated us in age.   We defied our our differences and tried to be friends, but things became  toxic and problematic and I stayed in the friendship longer than I should have.   Nothing was conducive to remaining friends.   She isn’t a bad person; neither am I.  We were just no good together.

Platonic dust to platonic dust.

Burial #3.

These were three very vital goodbyes, each pivotal to forward progression.  My forward progression.   Even so, I also awoke this morning to a somber day.   Solemn in mood and feel, but necessary.  I have no regrets, but I’m not happy about what happened either.   As I said, endings hurt, but despite the natural and appropriate sadness I feel, there’s an underlying sense of rightness to what I’ve done.

All of this, while right, is also confusing.   I used to have an idea of where I was going in life.   I don’t right now.  I’ve not a clue actually, but for the first time in my life, I have a real sense of where I’ve been and there’s a solidity to my past that never existed before.    No lingering questions–the welcomed absence of the painful and inevitable  “What if?” query;  nothing left unresolved.    I experienced everything and saw the door both swing open and then slam shut.   I got to witness the alpha and the omega.

Mercifully, I have closure and it’s wonderfully emphatic in its permanence.

Thank God.

.

.

Onward.

.