Breaking Up, Starting Over

John McManamy Health Guide
  • This is about my reaction to bad personal news and how I handled it, not the personal news, itself. Oh, the hell with it. My short-lived long-distance relationship broke up. On Sunday afternoon, I received a Dear John email. Not even a phone call. I sent back a gracious reply, thinking the phone call would arrive.


    Meanwhile, I experienced all at once three phases of the Kubler-Ross cycle: Denial, anger, depression. The first two lasted all of ten seconds. There was nothing much to deny - I had kind of seen it coming. There wasn't much to be angry about - our short time together had been good. The depression couldn't be helped, but it was something I could live with and keep under control.

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    Then came the bargaining phase, Here, I got stuck. That's the whole point of Kubler-Ross. Our tendency to get stuck in a particular phase is what keeps us from reaching acceptance and facing reality.


    Surely the phone would ring, I thought. Maybe she would say she'd been hasty, that she was just depressed or going through a bad patch. Maybe she wanted me to talk her out of it, give her a sign. Or at least give me the chance to reach closure, maybe share a good cry together, whatever.


    Several hours passed. The phone did not ring. Nor were there any new emails. Then the realization stuck. There would be no phone call.


    Time to own up to reality. I Googled "relationship break-up" and its variants. Death has a ceremony, one of the articles read. A relationship break-up does not.


    Time to take action, make a ceremony. All our precious email correspondence, highlighted. Three months of our expressions of affection for each other. The relationship had been a very positive experience. She taught me a lot. She is a wonderful woman. She brought out the best in me. I will always look fondly upon our time together. But it was time to let go. I uttered something that resembled a benediction. Then I hit "delete."


    Up in smoke, cremation.


    Then the physical keepsakes. A wooden train whistle. A few weeks ago I had packed it in a bag in anticipation of fleeing the nearby Southern CA wildfires. Then, the whistle had been too precious to lose. Now it was too painful to keep.


    Burial. Gone.


    Do something nice for yourself, the same article read. Time to treat myself to an iMac. I had been deliberating on the purchase for more than a year. This was a good day to stick it to Bill Gates.


    You might want to add an extra gigabyte, my housemate Paul advised me. I had told Paul my bad news as soon as he returned from a day of water volleyball.


    Bargaining, bargaining, I kept joking to him. I'm stuck in bargaining. Having someone to talk to eased the pain. Paul had with him a Tupperware container of beef stew, a gift from a volleyball mate. Guy food. We chowed down our stew together, watching a football game. It was time for guy things.


    Then I bought my iMac.


    The iMac is supposed to arrive tomorrow. Instead of moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I will have a toy to play with, plus work to do. I am still dealing with a range of negative emotions, and I don't expect these to go away overnight. But at least I'm no longer stuck. I've reached acceptance. I can look forward to positive memories. The healing can take place in its own good time.


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    In the meantime, I haven't run out of symbolic things to do. For one, I have a room that needs cleaning. Maybe later.


    For Sharon. Words cannot express ...

Published On: November 20, 2007