Sometimes I like to write about life’s silly quirks, digging into every awkward little nook and cranny to extract humor and relatable experiences. Other times, I approach the subject from the highest level, taking a bird’s eye view of the topic in order to assess the broader landscape and discover what is really happening on a bigger scale.
My Friend’s Story
Bacon sizzled on the stove as I drunkenly sliced cherry tomatoes and an avocado. It was 2 a.m. and breakfast-for-dinner served as a healthier substitute for post-bar pizza as my friend and I attempted to sober up in my kitchen. We casually started chatting again about his two-year relationship which is past it’s expiration date and a pending breakup that’s long overdue.
Never one to talk behind a friend’s back, I bluntly let him know a couple months ago that I think he needs to man up and end it. Though he’s heard the same feedback from other friends and co-workers, it seemed that I couldn’t sell him on the idea that ending his comfy but unsatisfying relationship was necessary. Meanwhile, he sold me on the idea that all he needed was a blog post outlining how to do it. Well, it’s been a couple months since our initial break-up conversation. I’ve drafted multiple blog posts and even collected tips from several guys and girls on the art of the break-up. But something hasn’t felt right.
As we ate our bacon and eggs that evening, a drunken conversation unfolded that dove deeper into the situation. Though areas are gray, I remember fragments of him saying:
“I just fell into the relationship.”
“My family keeps telling me that she’s a great girl.”
“She hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“It’s not that easy to end it.”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“You’re always so happy.”
In my drunken state, I confessed that I haven’t always been so happy. I’ve been pretty depressed, as in medically-withdrawn-from-college-classes depressed due to an unhealthy relationship, and my happiness is something that I had to work hard to regain. While I was initially embarrassed about how much I disclosed that night, I’ve now realized that it’s the very reason why something didn’t feel right – that I had to address the why before the how.
My college boyfriend and I dated off-and-on for four years. Coming from a big Italian family, he knew his manners when it came to girls: always wining and dining, opening doors and buying nice gifts. However, none of that could make up for the years of manipulation I endured while, pardon my French, he mind-fucked the shit out of me until I didn’t know who I was. He had slowly whittled me down to a people-pleasing shell of a person whose first concern was whether or not he was happy. (Like, he even forbid me from Hello Kitty.) Almost everyone I know has experienced one of these relationships in which they wonder whether they will ever be totally happy or if they’ll kind of feel like they’re faking it forever.
After the relationship ended for good, I slowly felt like I could breathe again – and without Lexapro. With time, I forgot about him and remembered who I am. From there, I began creating my own happiness – one painting, yoga sesh, song, blog post, book, trip and friend at a time. But beyond rediscovering life’s little joys, it’s what has made me endlessly curious about happiness in respect to relationships, as well as acutely aware of the outcomes of our decisions around them – of the ramifications or sweet rewards that result from saying “yes” to some things and “no” to others. While my friend is right that I don’t understand his relationship on a micro level, I do understand it’s significance and limitations on a larger scale.
When it comes to life decisions, I like to work backwards. It may seem morbid, but it helps put things in perspective. I was reminded of its importance last week when I read a blog post written by a local Crossfit trainer who is dying from cancer. The end of his post was focused on the positive aspects of life, including being kind and present, and I couldn’t help but think ofthe Huffington Post article, “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying,” that I occasionally turn to when I need a reminder on what’s important in life, and, for this post, I think #5 says it best:
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
Break-ups after years of comfortable familiarity are tremendously tough. However, relationships that are tethered by fear instead of joyful love are worth the heartache. And again – I am no expert on this or even remotely experienced. I’m simply a girl who is playing a life-long puzzle, like everyone else, putting together pieces of people’s experiences to get the big picture.
Living Out of Love
A final puzzle piece for this post is Jim Carrey’s famous commencement speech in which he encouraged graduates to make decisions out of love instead of fear. Though my friend boldly pursues his career ambitions and fitness goals out of love, I feel like his recent relationship decisions have been out of fear. Perhaps he is fearful of breaking up because of the pain, uncertainty and discomfort. And perhaps, I’m just as fearful of relationships, as if one will somehow unravel or tear down the comfortable happiness that I’ve created for myself.
But we should really be acting more out of love – love for ourselves and love for others. Because everyone deserves either to be loved fully or let go to discover their own happiness and a person who will love them in that way. If you’re in a relationship in which you can fully be yourself, pursue your passions and that continues to bring you happiness and giggles, despite it’s up’s and down’s, don’t be afraid to love away. And if you’re in an inauthentic relationship that you’re scared to end, love yourself and the other person enough to let go.