One of my favorite couples is separating. No, this isn’t a Nick and Jessica moment (though admittedly I was secretly a tiny bit bummed to hear about that) or a Demi and Ashton moment. These are friends, one of whom was blindsided by the news that the other needed a change of scene, a change of pace.
When I heard the news, I had the same reaction I had a few weeks ago while trying to respond well to hearing my mom’s best friend had passed away: static silence – the TV kind of static, where there’s a crackle of nothing happening even though there should be. Words fail when all you want are people to be okay, and you know there’s no way to make them okay. And in fact, all you can do is let them be not okay for as long as they need.
I reacted strongly to this news. Not outwardly, but inside it felt like my stomach had become a choppy sea and tens of sail boats were rocking around, poking their sail masts into my stomach walls. Then my heart crunched smaller and smaller, like an old school writer had torn paper from their typewriter and was crumbling it tighter and tighter, not sure if they hated the paper or just themselves. Crying for someone else’s separation didn’t feel right. Why would I take this information so personally?
First, it’s the same reason that over a year ago Sea teared up on the Bart train as I told her my tale of woe. (Sea also teared up when I told her about my mom’s best friend, and it spurred a long conversation about how she wished there was a way to keep everyone twice removed from her safe. “I know it’s unrealistic to hope for everyone in the world to be okay,” she said. “But why not just the people important to the people important to me?”) That reason is empathy. It’s impossible for me not to take things personally even when I have no right to. It’s my job to keep that personalization feeling in check. I feel both parts of the couple’s emotions.
Which leads me to reason two: the fact that you never know someone. Not even yourself. Not even when you’ve said “for better or for worse” and whispered promises late at night and stood by each other through that better and worse. And in not knowing anyone, even yourself, that means you too, are capable of committing a betrayal of the heart. You (or I) could indeed walk away from someone we promised ourselves too. That’s within each of us.
What. The. Hell.
I wrote one of my best friends who had a similar experience last year with a couple she admired, saying,
What the hell. We. Never. Know. Someone.
Is this what I’m trying so hard to find?
Honestly, that thought scares me. That what so many people are striving for is more of a fallacy that you can imagine. And no matter if you’re instigating the leaving or not, I think the fact remains the same: it’s never what you intended.