Who we are in the end isn’t who we were together.
This is how relationships work: Two individuals come together and become more than the sum of their parts. When they break, as they often do, they don’t return to who they were before. Instead, each person takes a part of that relationship with them. But it’s not a perfect break, not ever, so some parts are lost along the way- separate ones, together ones. Somehow, we become other. We’re not less and yet somehow are not more either. Just different.
I can tell you from personal experience that in the aftermath of a split you can also have two completely different perspectives on how it all fell out.
They can be so different, it’s as if you are hearing about two separate couples entirely. You have two different stories and two individuals who are not what they were before, nor are they now what they once were together.
It’s a strange alchemy, and it can be easier to believe that the love never existed at all. It can be so much simpler to unwind it, write it off, or forget it. Drink to forget. Run to forget. Distract, erase, rewrite. There are so many tricks that we try to avoid owning that what was can simply end. But it’s not the kind of ending that books and movies would have us believe. There’s no closure, no real finality. There’s only a sea change, a pulling apart of the unit and a rebuilding of new lives.
In that rebuilding process, we begin to examine what parts of who we were together that we want to keep, if any.
Perhaps we only keep the memories, the ones that make us smile and not the ones that break us. Or we keep the ones that break us, too, knowing that we’re stronger at the breaks. Knowing that it was all worth it, even at the end when we’re standing there trying to learn how to breathe again, holding the pieces of something we once believed could never be broken.
We can take what we learned from our time in relationships. We can remember those fault lines we detected in ourselves, the triggers to past hurts. We can take the lessons we learned about our strengths, the places in the relationship where we had so much love, compassion, and support for another human being. We can learn where trust was warranted and where it wasn’t. We can take all of those lessons with us, allowing it to make us something new.
This is how it begins- our new lives, right there when we feel like it’s the end of everything.
Once upon a time should never start at the start. Rather, it should start at the end of the thing we thought we wanted and yet fell apart. It should begin at the end that is really a beginning.
Not Cinderella as a child but Cinderella as the woman who thinks her chance at love is gone. Not Snow White living at home with her stepmother, but Snow White when she’s finding her own way in the world.
All of our true stories, the ones that propel us forward, seem to start at the moment we think it’s all broken and over and gone.
We stand in that sea change and think all is lost when we just don’t know that we’re heading into the part of the story where we get so much stronger than we ever knew we could be. We miss all that’s gone and forget that we just made room for something new to come in. We stand with our separate perspectives of the love that’s gone, and we try to figure out who we are now that we are no longer part of an “us.”
We begin to transform, and we can choose if we allow that transformation to make us bitter or to make us incredibly powerful. We are forged by that struggle, and our stories are only just beginning.
Beginning at the end. As they always do.