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Breakin' up is hard to do

A good friend of mine has had her heart broken now about three times too many. It pains me to see her hurt, reeling from feelings of injustice and deception and a pendulous sense of failure.

I can't help remembering my own heartbreaks, and how I dealt with them. My friend tends to reach out to her pals for support, honest discussion, and distraction. My tendency is to recoil from everything and everyone, and spiral into some strange schedule of physical or psychological ritual. I always start doing something odd, to find the path through my own disjointed mind to renewal.

To protect the innocent, I'll devise an icon for each offending subject. (Innocent, my ass.)

So, the first person to really break my heart was !#R#!. He was a big, hilarious, quick-witted punk studying math at UC Santa Barbara in the late 80's. He looked kind of like Billy Idol, but he hated it when I said that. Our romance blossomed, flourished and faded within about four months; but he was really the first guy I absolutely *adored*, and when he ended it I was pretty devastated. I'm sure I cried a-plenty; I know I begged him to come visit so I could lure him back to me with sex. Stupid little 18-year-old that I was. But I realized at a certain point in my recovery from !#R#! that I had developed a little ritual: I was showering twice a day and lathering thoroughly from head to toe, very purposefully. I was really, really scrubbing, and being very systematic about it, as if I could shed my !#R#! layers and be renewed, free of hurt.

The next bitter heartbreak came about 8 years later in the form of -->S<--. (These icons are not arbitrary; they really work for me.) -->S<-- was a very shy, self-reflective musician who had never slept with anyone before or even had a serious romance. His music expressed the torture of a million heartaches without ever having had a real one -- he had managed to sort of make them up from out of the smallest matters -- so I should have known to be prepared for drama. After nearly four years together, we broke up. Oh, not the nice, clean laying-down-the-line sort of breakup, but a big nasty long drawn out affair which dragged a number of other people into it and in which we both compromised our integrity and said and did horrible things. For months after, I was suffocating in guilt and anger and the loss of severing the huge portion of my life which a four-year relationship creates. So I started running.

I just ran out the door and up my street one night. Each night I ran farther and farther until I had to create a circuit which would return me home before I had gone farther than I could run. Eventually I was running two miles several nights a week. The feeling of stretching out of myself, the stillness of the night and my breathing, the warm lights in the windows of houses I passed, all seemed to still my mind when it would start its destructive cycles.

The last person to break my heart was ((P)). After two years living together he left, and I rented a van myself and helped him move away, giving him half of my own pots and pans and bath towels because he had nothing... sweet ((P)), I loved him too much to stop him. I had the phone number of his new home 450 miles away, but two or three phone conversations that deteriorated into sobbing uncontrollably into uncomfortable silence for .75¢ a minute and I knew I must not call him anymore. I ripped up the little slip of paper with the number on it, into very very tiny bits, because I knew I'd try to reconstruct them, and threw them into the wastebasket in the bedroom. And did I try to reconstruct them? Yes I did... yes I did.

After ((P)) left, I felt such a wrenching ache that I needed something to wrench back. So I began yoga, and I focused hard on the stretching of my poor muscles, and I let that be the pain I felt. It was hot summertime in Los Angeles, and I remember the warm evenings standing in underwear on the wood floor of my living room, in near darkness, stretching. It's like that veterinary trick, of punching a horse in the rump before you administer a shot in the shoulder. By working through physical aching to a new level of flexibility, I fooled my mind into releasing its grip on what was aching elsewhere.

And they say ritual is dead in our culture. Why, I only started this compulsive rendering of SimpleText missives into the WWW void when Ashley took a job that keeps him in England most of the time, did you notice that? But instead of ripping his phone number into tiny pieces, I write it on every slip of paper I can get my hands on. Every room in the house contains numerous slips of paper with a long sequence of numbers that begin with "011-44", the international dialing code for England...

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