From the time we’re old enough to open our eyes and take a good look around, we are conditioned to believe that being alone is unhealthy.
We see happy couples everywhere: movies, television, advertising…our partners are referred to as our “better halves,” as if each of us were only a slice of person, looking to somehow become complete through another.
But let’s face it. Being with other people throughout most of our waking hours helps us to avoid the most difficult task of all: exploring the lights and shadows in the depths of our own souls. Solitude is not so much about hiding in a cave as it is about becoming free from emotional dependency.
If we believe we are less than whole and constantly seek that missing half, how will we ever really get to know ourselves intimately?
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to end the relationship I was in. Her immediate response was “Are you with someone else!?” I guess I could have expected it, but it caught me off guard. I had been beating myself over the head with the whole situation for a few weeks, trying to decide if I was breaking a perfectly good thing…or if I had just been struggling to fit a two by four through a napkin ring for the past six months. I would ask myself silly questions at odd hours of the night: am I putting up emotional barriers? Is she driving me to madness by interrupting my half-chewed sentences all the time?
Is love just made to be broken?
It finally dawned on me that if I were asking so many questions, something was out of balance. Why prolong the inevitable, when there are so few years to be lived? There is no sense in settling into a relationship for comfort and security. I have seen so many friends stay in unhealthy relationships—just to avoid being alone.
There is a price we pay for avoiding ourselves.
Only through exploration of our true selves can we ever achieve some peace in life.
I needed to do this. It was my fault, and my initiative.
I guess it was implausible to her to think that I could be leaving…simply to be alone.
It’s also important to remember that affairs of the heart are delicate and must be handled responsibly. I certainly was not looking forward to causing her any pain. So, I rehearsed.
It’s foolish to think that you can smash someone’s heart to pieces and walk away with a smile. There are karmic consequences that come with causing harm to any other being.
There was a simple fact that I could not avoid: her company (she and me becoming we) no longer made me happy. I am a bit of an introvert by nature and not at all intimidated by being alone. I am also a single parent, director of a small nonprofit, writer, photographer, hiker… time is a critical issue. When there are so few left over, those precious hours should be enjoyed to the fullest extent possible, with the people and activities that cause us the most peace and contentment. So, I was rather looking forward to getting a few hours back.
All of this was stewing in my brain when I decided the time was right.
And then…the reaction.
I honestly had not given any thought to jumping into another relationship, especially after the emotional drain of trying to hold it together when it was slowly disintegrating, like carrying around an armload of sand. When we end relationships, we often say “I need some time for myself,” but it’s rarely true. Usually that means “I don’t want to spend time with you anymore, but I will be filling my life with the booming social life I had before I met you.”
Culturally, we have become so deathly afraid of loneliness that we fail to appreciate the beauty of solitude. Jesus in the desert, Siddharta beneath the Bodhi tree, Ferdinand the bull…solitude is the path to great peace, understanding and balance.
What I should have told her is this:
I am leaving you for me. Whether I am incomplete or you are incomplete is irrelevant. Relationships can only be built with two wholes. I am leaving you to continue to explore myself: the steep, winding paths in my soul, the red, pulsing chambers of my heart. I hope you will do the same. Thank you for all the light and laughter that we have shared. I wish you a profound encounter with yourself.
After the breakup, I had this conversation with a friend:
“Even though you did the breaking, you’ll need some time to heal.”
“Actually,” I told her, “I am quite at peace.”
“Yes but, ending a relationship always leaves a big hole in your life.”
“Don’t worry, no holes, I am whole.”
Gratitude for this day, for this life, for this breath.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Peter Schaller
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: georgios kaleadis at Flickr