After going through it numerous times in my life having someone break up with me ought to get easier. And at times it has. I can see the signs as the experience grows, I know what’s coming. And I protect myself from the blow by backing away before it happens. I’ve avoided getting married to certain women that way and I’ve sidestepped getting fully involved in many relationships as a way to protect myself from future pain. But all of these relationships have always proved to be unsatisfactory, inherently calling out the pain that I had tried so hard to deny.
This time I let myself go without reservations. I flung myself into the river and, flailing, often scared, I let her take me where I never knew the heart could go. I knew the risk very well. I even said to her once, when she first starting voicing her lack of confidence, “If I fall from this I’m going to fall hard, very hard.” Nevertheless I forged on, trusting in the possibilities she represented and ignoring the telltale signs that were ringing bells all throughout my head.
Then it came, the fateful afternoon when she insisted that it wasn’t working and that she wanted out.
It was a dignified break up. In keeping with my mostly dignified interaction with her throughout our relationship, never once losing my temper with her even when she was unfair or unkind, we quietly discussed the circumstances and spent hours listening to one another. I left with as much poise as I could muster, with the insistence that we were good together and that if she ever really needed me I wanted to become part of her life. I think we were speaking different languages: I pointed out the advantages of being together and how well we both got along… she saw the realities of disappointment and making money and having time for one another over long distances. Both of us had good points, and neither of us was willing to give.
So here I am trying to be intellectual about something that tripped me up very badly. A week after breaking up the pain got to me and I panicked like I’ve never panicked before. I realized I was losing something that I had wanted for a very long time and that she had offered a way of living that I had needed. Desperately I contacted her, begging her to reconsider. And, as all such desperate pleas tend to do, it did nothing but turn her cold and more distant. The last time we spoke she hung up the phone on me and we’ve never talked since. To end it that way, after it had at first ended with such dignity, snapped something inside me. I went mentally completely numb and couldn’t so much as lift a sponge to wash the dishes. I got home and there I was alone as ever, but this time with this hulking emptiness that threatened to consume me. I cried and cried all night long, more crying than I’ve ever done in my life and it wouldn’t stop. The next day when I had to go my university to proctor semester finals tests for large numbers of students I stepped into the room with all those faces looking at me and suddenly, without warning, everything came shaking loose in my head. All the bad decisions and mistakes, the unhappy jobs and failed relationships, the drifting from my original purpose in working and living, my failed marriage, the years of fighting, the arrival here at this dismal place and the resulting, soul-eating isolation.. all of it came crashing down and right in front of all those students I lost every remnant of courage that I had and fled from the room. I just fled, bumping into walls, oblivious to students saying hello, sobbing and very alone. I needed to speak to someone, anyone, another human being whom I could trust without question, just feel that there was something and someone left without her to latch onto. I stumbled right into my boss’ office and she agreed to talk to me.
We talked for a long time, with her listening to everything I said and offering to help me out. “Why don’t you work on the Tokyo campus?” she suggested. “Get a year contract there and then we can work out something for you to move on to from there.” It was completely unexpected. A chance to get out of this place and jump start my life again? Was there really someone that nice at work who would help me out? Could I finally get away from the isolation I’ve been in?
The need to be with someone was so great and the prospect of another night in my coffin of an apartment so distressing that I called my wife and asked if we could stay together. She said, “Of course! You are always welcome here.” Right then and there I went all the way into Tokyo and spent three days with her. We talked. About everything. And I spilled my heart about the woman I loved, knowing that the story would hurt my wife, trusting that our friendship was real and that she would understand. My God, her forgiveness and generosity were almost too large to bear, and yet she was there and she listened to me for two days straight. I sobbed over and over again until there was nothing left and I felt sapped of all emotion. She was just there, within reach, always ready to touch. Another human being. A friend. Someone who saw me and let me know that I would be all right.
It’s been three weeks now and the pain still rolls in in waves. Every woman on the street looks like her. During a yoga class earlier this evening the instructor turned out the lights at the end of the session and as I lay there in the dark, breathing and relaxed, the room suddenly filled with memories of her and a tear began forming at the corner of my eyes, but then I let it go. Enough crying. She had never taken the time to get to know me better and just wouldn’t have any idea what a loss it was for her. Because I’m beginning to remember what it is I have to give and how much living I want to do, with or without her. Before we stopped even our friendship, she had asked, “Can we still go hiking together?” And I had said, “Of course!” That is gone, too. She’ll never really know why I love the mountains so much, and how much I could have shown her about that side of me.
I leave for Tokyo at the end of March. I’m packing up this apartment and getting ready to say goodbye to a place that brings back two year’s worth of reasons to forget. This is another chance. I hope I don’t screw everything up again. For once I want to get it right and live lightly and a part of something other than just myself.
17 replies on “Flight”
I am so sorry for all the pain from your loss, Butuki! How very fortunate that your boss was so very understanding and helpful, and even more so, your wife. In all of this pain, there’s hope again in your new post in Tokyo. I wish you well.
Ach. I am so sorry. Miguel. It is never easy, and the losses feel like they pile up so after awhile. But the opportunity that comes out of this sounds wonderful. As they say, one door closes and another opens up.
Jeez Miguel, I’m so sorry. I’m so glad you had good people who listened, and you know there are plenty more of us out here. Very best wishes and good thoughts, my friend.
I am sorry to hear this. Big hugs across the internet. It’s good you have friends there. Hang on, the dawn will come again.
Sorry for you, but also very happy for you (in a way). I know how you did not fit with the place you were, and if this can help you into someplace new and better it is great. If only it could have happened in a less painful way.
Although I am far from being as good a listener as your boss, remember that you can come here anytime you need to “get away”.
I’m going to try to make something out of these changes. Funny hw this kind of pain and change always brings out the most creative juices in me.
Marja-Leena, thanks so much for being there for me all these years, througout such times. You’ve always lent a gentle ear that reminded me that even on the internet there are friends.
Leslee, it does feel like it all piles up after a while, doesn’t it? At this age I yearn for some settlement, without having to continually seek out a new love. I’d like to be with one woman whom I can truly get to know deeply and spend the remainging time I have in life doing all those things that take such years to do. But maybe such yearnings are unrealistic…
Pete, thanks. I really do consider you a good friend, even if we haven’t met. I was planning to visit New Zealand during March, but have to put things on hold yet again, until I get settled in Tokyo (hopefully not TOO settled! I REALLY don’t want to be in Tokyo!). Thanks for reading and listening all this time. I hope we get a chance to meet one day in the not too distant future.
Welcome, Catofstripes, it’s my first time to see you here, but it sounds like you’ve been around a while. Thanks for the hugs!
Kevin, I’ll definitely keep Nagano in mind. One thing I’m planning, with my boss backing me up, is to still put my environmental education courses together this year. I guess it’s time to take that deep breath you told me about last year and dive in even if it scares the shit of of me.
Sending big warm hugs.
Hope you find some settlement, pain of loss is never easy.
Enviromental education courses! That sounds perfect.
love to you,
Hope you’re continuing to heal, Miguel, and that Tokyo will be a good change of pace.
Miguel – too bad about the breakup, your thoughts on this page about the situation are very moving to read. I guess other than the old “time heals all wounds” there isn’t really much I can say that would help, but at least that is a saying that seems to be completely true.
Moving to Tokyo is probably a very good idea. I remember reading about your move into the countryside, and it felt from here like you lost something more than a personal relationship at the time – you had to throw a lot of old ballast over board and going out into that little town was part of the process.
But now it sounds like it is a good time to go back, and while Tokyo sure comes with a lot of issues for a nature lover like you, I think you will have a much easier time there to make friends and to re-energize your life. And the mountains you love are always just a train ride away, wherever you are in Japan.
I’m so sorry you are in pain over this, yet I know eventually you will heal. I can already hear the beginnings of you bouncing back. Your spirit and mind are strong, thankfully. I want to say something serious to you and I hope you will take it in a good way.
I don’t think you will be happy in any relationship until you get at the root of your unhappiness. It may well be that you would be happy (and could lose yourself) for a time in a new relationship but I wonder if it would work long term if you don’t confront and work out what you really want to do with your life and make a way for that to happen. It seems to me that you have two or three things that you love to do and are good at. Maybe teaching is something you are good at, but you don’t seem to really enjoy it.
You’ve shared your struggles over the past few years with us, and I’ve noticed that whenever you seem on the verge of changing your life in a meaningful way, you retreat back into teaching saying that you need the money. Maybe true but I wonder if it’s the best thing?
I also worry about you going back to Tokyo because I remember the anguish that you offten expressed when you lived there, though I have to say your wife sounds like a supportive and wonderful person, so being able to see her would be a good thing.
I know this is a difficult thing I am talking about, and that times are hard, so please excuse me if it upsets you in any way.
Rana, Pica, thanks! A warm hug back to both of you.
Lisa, it’s such times that I wish we lived closer together so I could sit and talk with you. Miss you a lot!
Dave, the healing has begun, but it’s slow. Usually a month after a breakup I’m doing better and not thinking so much about the pain any more, but this time it’s taking much longer than before. Maybe because I don’t have something in place to replace it emotionally, like work and environment that I’m truly happy with.
Thomas, the move back to Tokyo, while not what I really want to do, is a temporary salve for the isolation I felt in Chiba. I realized that I just can’t go on living without friends and people around me to be involved with. And being too far away from the mountains to regularly enjoy them is bad for my well being. So, for now, Tokyo is a better choice than the countryside. And I hope I can get over her in a reasonable amount of time.
MJ, though your words are hard, they are very true and I want you to know that I appreciate them very much, more than this comment can convey. You made me think very hard about what I am about to do, so much so that I sat down with a notebook to write down what I need to do, what I things I don’t want to do that I need to work out, where and what kind of place I have to get to, and what I have to do about relationships. You are right on all counts and if there is one thing I’ve been missing for a long time is a friend who has known me for a while and will look hard had how I have been and what I have to do. Especially at this time I am more vulnerable than usual and it is easy to fall back on another relationship to glaze over the realities I need to face. Don’t worry about Tokyo grabbing a hold and holding me forever, though; I dislike it here too much to ever be enticed to stay for long. Right now I really do need the money, so I’ve signed a one year contract with the university. During this time I will work to reduce my household footprint so I can light and mobile again, work on where I want to move to and live, work on my work (I like teaching, but not English. Rather something to do with the environment. I want to write, do illustration, and photography. I want something that will get me outdoors a lot. So I basically know what I want to do, but have to find a way to make it really happen), and get my heart and head back on straight. Maybe Y.’s breaking up with me was a good thing, and she was able to evaluate the situation a lot more clearly than I did. I don’t know her well enough to trust that she had my well being in mind when she broke things off, but I want to hope so. Be that as it may, as you said, it’s important to focus on myself right now and find the path that fits me best, not something someone else wants for or from me. And it’s time to stop “losing” myself in other people. I wish, too, VJ, that we had had a chance to meet while you were still here. I hope at one point that you and I can meet, too. It would be great sharing our loves and peeves about Japan. Thanks VJ.
M – I haven’t been around in forever (way back when BrainCrayons still existed), and was sad that when I found my way back to your site that you are going through such a rough spot. It’s so painful when circumstances shift so dramatically in our lives and we try to cling to the possibilities, but eventually, whether we think we are ready are not, we always wind up having to let go, don’t we? You will find many moments of quiet dignity in the process, and I sincerely hope that as you enter a new chapter, that the peace that you can so eloquently elicit with your gentle words and thoughts enters into your heart and spirit.
Best of luck to you in this new venture. Take yourself to the mountains, and be renewed.
Ntexas99, so good to hear from you again! I’ve lost touch with quite a number of the early blogging days community, but am also slowly getting back in touch. Yes, I’ve been going through some painful times, but hopefully now I’m slowly getting back on my feet again. One thing I can say about letting go is that I would most likely have been more unhappy if I had tried to hold on, even if things had managed to hold together. There is a reason why things didn’t work out. Trying to believe in a lopsided dream when clearly things were not going in a good direction quite early on is just folly. Though I would have liked for once for what originally clicked to work itself into a healthy reality in my life.
Being in Tokyo will definitely allow me more time in the mountains. And I hope to make it a very regular and healthy part of my life again.
So glad to hear you are thinking through how to make things happen and making plans. I’m wishing you so much luck with that. Two thumbs up and gambatte!!!
Let me know if I can do anything, even if it’s just to kick ideas around.
Wishing you well.