I don’t know how other people process break-ups. I don’t know what the “standard” sequence is for working through and letting go of the various aspects of a faded love and its effects on you. I have this feeling that for most people it is easier to let go of and grieve the good, while the scars from the anger and betrayal and hurt take longer to heal. I could be wrong, but that is my impression of how it goes for most people. Perhaps it would even go that way for me in a different set of circumstances; hopefully I never have to find out! I don’t want to go through this again. But for me, this time around, I am finding the process of getting over the relationship to be a letting go in reverse. Kind of like Joel in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, actually – the more recent memories are the first to be deleted, while the first memories are the last to go, except instead of excising memories I am excising pain. It has been quicker for me to heal from and understand and forgive the damage he did to me, which was mostly inflicted at the end, and slower for me to grieve the good parts and the hope and potential from long ago. I realized last night that what I have been struggling to admit, because it is shameful to admit given the full scope of his treatment of me, is that I DON’T REGRET ANY OF IT. I don’t know that I could willingly put myself again through the heartache and the peculiar Hell I lived in for a decade, but, having survived it, I cannot say I regret it. And not because of my son, or the deep and profound personal insight I have gained, or the hard lessons I have learned about loving another human that will, I believe, enable me to appreciate a true love in a way I could not have before. All of those are ancillary benefits. I don’t regret it, even though parts went horribly wrong, because the parts that were right were worth it, at least to me. I wrote last year about that being what it means to love; I realized that, yes, I stand by those words even though we did splinter shortly after I wrote them. The last thing I have to do, I think, before I can leave Limbo and the rest of Hell behind me for good, is forgive myself for that. It is not an easy thing to grasp, that you would be so willing to hurt your own self – because, in the end, I chose all this time to stay. I could have left a long time ago, and I didn’t because the good parts were good enough to be worth the pain. So I am at the part of unloving where I am back to the beginning, back to the beach party and the closed up house and the choice to stay or to run. There is no “Meet me in Mawntauck” for us; my future holds only a different kind of man and a different kind of love. But there is also no longing to rewrite the past, to go back to the girl I used to be and tell her, “Run.” She loved. If no other part was real, that was. As I un-love, I find that to be the hardest wound to heal. It’s the only one left. Limbo grows thin. “Hi. I’m Joel.”
Tag Archives: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Probably the most hurtful thing I’ve ever said to my husband was along the lines of “Maybe I would have made a different choice 10 years ago.”
I like to pride myself for not saying things I don’t mean when we are fighting, even in anger, so this comment didn’t stick out as being particularly awful when I said it. When I realized, analyzing the fight later, just what a shitty thing to say that was, my initial reaction was a knee-jerk apology; of course, I didn’t mean that! But then I wondered: was this a time when I forgot myself and said something untrue in anger, or was it yet another time when I did something worse – accidentally speak a terrible truth?
So I forced myself to consider it. Knowing everything that would happen between us, would I tell my college self to run, or to stay? At first I wasn’t sure; things were that rocky. But a lot of good happens in a relationship, and the more I thought the more I realized, no, I would not make a different choice, even in the midst of a rough patch. Even, perhaps, when everything is in splinters.
I read a memoir once (Kingbird Highway) in which the man wrote, about meeting his ex-wife while hitchhiking, that even if he could have looked down the tunnel of years to their divorce, he’d have gotten in the car with her anyway. Even if I don’t make it to 80 on the porch with my husband, I believe I will always answer the question the same way.
Re-watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind reminded me of that moment, and I realized – that is what it means to love someone: to choose them again anyway.
Joel’s answer to her is, “Okay.” Okay, I’ll take the chance that things will unravel the same way they did the first time. Okay, I’ll take the chance that I will come to regret this choice. Okay, I’ll take the chance that you will hurt me. Okay.
It’s the most beautiful scene in the film, to me. And it’s absolutely what it means to love someone – to choose them again, no matter what.