One of the downfalls of dating – and of being a human who goes outside (or even of the Boo Radley variety for that matter) – is the aftermath of breakups. Since the whole fifty dates project was inspired by a heartbreaking work of breakuppery, ghosts of relationships past have certainly wafted through my mind during the trip. What has been curious to me about ex’s lately is this: who I stayed friends with, how we stayed friends, and who I did not. It seems that the closer we were as a couple, the more likely we are not to be friends now – counter-intuitive to be sure.
The hardest part of any breakup – whether it’s an ex boyfriend turned bff turned ex bff, someone you dated once or twice and then never heard from again, or a friend you grew apart from accidentally as your life paths untangled – is figuring out how to navigate the space between you. The obvious answer is that you don’t. There is nothing to navigate, whatever had been is over and done with, and addressing the nothingness is a moot point.
That nothingness feels a lot like dark matter, doesn’t it? Sure, it’s an implied lack of anything but clearly it is something. Dead air. A once comforting space. Heck, maybe it’s a tunafish sandwich. Call it what you will. Even nothing is something. However, most people will make it clear to you what it is they want from something that no longer exists. Even if they tell you straight up in an email that they were mad at you but moved beyond it, if they don’t respond to your next message or voice mail there’s a transparency going on. If they say “Maybe in the future” but ignore your overtures when the future comes, there’s your answer.
And the tough part is this truth: All you can do is respect their wishes.I feel like I learn this lesson every six months or so when mistakenly I reach out to an old friend who I thought had just wandered off my map on accident. Just as breakups aren’t accidents, neither are ignored overtures of friendship.
So what does one do with the dark matter? Respect it and let it be. Occasionally you might look at it, but don’t linger your eyes or thoughts upon it. Turn up the radio – yes the radio, the old fashioned kind where you don’t know what’s coming next and you can’t skip a tune – belt out a Pink song or a Spaceman one-hit-wonder or Johnny Cash’s Hurt and move your thoughts to what’s for brunch, what book you should read next, or if you might want to volunteer at the animal shelter.