Old Flames and Their Bright, Shiney Dimness

There is currently debate in my family about old flames.   You know…as in old boyfriends.

Since about September of 2009, they’ve been a much discussed subject; namely the impact these past liaisons have had on the present.    In the case of  a Kendrick, that’s always the case.

My sisters and I are three women who have spent a lifetime idealizing what we once had.   We have a way of taking Memories that have faded and yellowed with time, and rewriting history to make them more palatable.   We allow that to happen.   We’re convinced that old love is better than current love–regardless—so we drag the old love corpses out of the closets of our gray matter a la Norman Bates and we flatly refuse to acknowledge the obvious decomposition.    No, it’s still intact we insist and just as viable as it was…….45 years ago?????????

My God. 

At one time, I thought rekindling two old loves (I’ve been in love only twice in my life) would be thee most romantic thing EVER.   Well, the Universe saw fit to allow me to reconnect with the two men who I once loved and for whatever reasons, never quite got over.     What happened, you ask?  Read this primer I’ve written on rekindling, and you tell me.

I will begin with a question:  ever seen the film,  “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”?    Interesting tale.  It’s all about two people who meet as complete strangers as they walk along the beach.  They’re inexplicably drawn to each other.    So, as their subconscious minds (meld together in this primordial  gooey soup of attraction)  they spend the evening together and by the end of the night,  Clementine (Kate Winslet) tells her newly found ‘soul mate’ (Jim Carrey) that…and I quote….”I’m going to marry you Joel, I know it.”

She knew it, because that’s exactly what she’d done before.

See, these two people are former lovers who were lucky enough to have had  their memories erased after a very painful breakup.    Doesn’t that sound idyllic?   To be free of that pain and heartache?    But as the movie goes on, we realize that there’s a price to be paid for this kind of pain-free freedom.  Without the Boeing 767 cargo hold filled with  baggage still intact from their old relationship, the former couple becomes current again.  If memory serves, the movie ends and we’re left to believe that they date,  they fall in love.   Everything is great.  We assume they marry, have kids and a mortgage and all that rot.

But this is fantasy and science fiction and well, okay…a love story that would be lovely if it were real, but it isn’t.  Life doesn’t work that way.   I can’t remember what was used to erase their memories in the movie but today,  denial, desperation and the co-dependent need NOT to be alone comprise the perfect memory eraser these days.

All too often, we compromise what we need for what we want and we want the immediate gratification of love and sex and the need to feel needed and wanted.  We are willing (well, more women than men) to look the other way and allow into those things in  our lives that we deem safe and often, what’s available.   We settle.

We have to have real, clear concise memories of the pain and bullshit that went into making all these past relationships, the PAST RELATIONSHIPS that they are.    Without them, we become walking, talking human representations of the axiom Jorge Santyana once scribed:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

But in our constant pursuit to quell the human condition, we do not remember.  We don’t want to remember.  Pining for old loves allow us to forget all the negative, nasty stuff that happened and makes it worth remembering again.

Check this out: a recent survey indicated that something like 62-percent of  those queried said they’d  consider getting back together with a former lover.  Why?  Time heals; aging squeals….and our senses force us to repeal all those things that caused us to break up in the first place.  None of that happened.   Everything was rosy.  Deny, deny, deny.

Bausch and Lomb should really try to capture the nostalgic lens market.  They’d make a zillion dollars.   We love peering through these goggles because they distort, then sugar coat all the problems.   Can’t you hear the excuses?   Pain?   What pain?    We were young and stupid.  We didn’t know what we wanted.   She moved away.   I went into the service.   We went our separate ways in High School; in college.   He turned gay.   She became a man.

Blah cubed.

Nostalgia is wonderful, when it remains a memory;  when it becomes a lifestyle choice it morphs into a nasty reality skewed melange of Baby Jane and Nora Dinsmoor of Dickens’ Paradiso Perduto (from the contemporary adaptation of Great Expectations, thank you very much), with a little Blanche Dubois thrown in for good measure.  Reality is distorted; it then becomes manufactured.

So, if you’re thinking about looking on Facebook see if that old 7th grade boyfriend is social media savvy or not, please…I BEG YOU….keep a few things in mind if you happen to find him and make contact:

If you want to rekindle an old flame and he’s available and interested (and trust me, I speak from experience on this)  it is imperative that you first discuss what went wrong initially.   You have to bring up the past.  For starters, it’s the only thing you have in common in the beginning and secondly, you’ll both need questions answered.  You owe it to each other.   If nothing else, it can give you much-needed closure.

Reuniting with an ex seems very romantic; very Hollywood,  but  really, nothing can happen in any relationship of any kind unless you learn the vital lessons that can only come from a break-up.   There are two sides to every story.  No one is ever purely the bad guy OR the victim.   It takes two people to make a relationship work and two to implode it.   Until you are willing to do the work (and it’s painful) and learn all you can about the role you played in your own break up,  you’ll bring the same old crap with you into this new effort.   It will only end as it did the first time.   Yeah, sure time and separation and even distance can be healing factors, BUT—not when old contentions come into play.

When contemplating rekindling a long dead relationship, you have to ask yourself a few questions:  do you really miss her or are you just lonely and abhor dating?   You see, exes are wonderfully convenient packaged deals.  They already know your brand of Scotch, your seafood allergies and all ABOUT your strange  sexual proclivities–things that would absolutely freak out anyone else.   Getting back together may seem like it’s better than the awkwardness of dating a complete stranger…but trust me, familiarity and security aren’t good enough reasons to relive the past.   Trust me, they just aren’t.

And this is the biggest question of all: why did you break up in the first place?   If your ex cheated on you or treated you like a doormat or if happiness existed in brief, minute quantities, do you really want to sign up for another tour of duty, just because he or she is familiar and a relationship with him or her requires less effort?

The reality is that some people just aren’t supposed to be together.   Relationships sometimes have a shelf life.   Now, if you can find someone who sends you soaring and has for  the past 45 years of your life together, great.  I envy you, but in this day of disposable emotions and commitment “use by dates”,  you’re the exception, not the rule.   And to be honest, I’m really and truly sorry that has to be that way.

But it is this way.

Yes, love is precarious.   It’s delicate and complicated and at times, wonderfully awful.   We forget our roles and how we help make it work.   We sometimes forget what we did to destroy it.     For me, all rekindling has ever done was answered long-standing questions why it didn’t work in the first place.    And that’s okay.   As I mentioned, closure has its merit.

And that’s what I’ll do now–I’ll close this rant, but I’ll leave you with this:   just about everyone has an ex and if you want to make what’s old new again, you have to decide for yourself whether an old flame is worth rekindling or extinguishing.  You’ll know if its worth it because let’s be honest; when it works, it works.   And when it works, well, make no mistake,  it can be glorious.   I know many couples who’ve broken up only to get back together again and they’ve created marvelous, loving relationships the second time around.   Some even walked down the aisle together.   There are thousands of couples who did just that, then divorced, then years later remarried each other and created joy and bliss.    So yes, of course, miracles do happen.

And so do the same old mistakes from the past.

I think that should answer your question.c

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2 comments

  1. You hit the nail on the head. Thank you for putting into words, feelings and thoughts I have wrestled with since the advent of Facebook! I have gained clarity!

    Off topic… I found your site after I googled KLOL. I’ve been missing my 101 – that is a relationship I would like to rekindle!

  2. Old memories are often sweet but thats because we edit out the painful parts and why those sweet memories didn’t last.. Rather than living in the past, better make newer and sweeter memories that overpower the old ones.. And with time they eventually fade away..

    I completely agree with you when you say that – some relationships are not meant to last!

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