Monday, April 11, 2011

On Divorce

A person who I have come to see as a mentor has made the following statement a few times since I've known her, and it has always given me a little chill whenever she says it: "I'm good at divorce".

Of course, this isn't an exclusive reference to marriage. Experience and the basic need to survive has made her good at ending bad relationships of every kind. The reason this statement of fact chills me is that I've always been a 'go down with the ship' kind of guy when it comes to relationships.

In the past, this mentality has been part of the screwed up view of suffering that I picked up from Christianity. When I was a teenager, I would slice up my arms with razors in order to mortify my flesh for God. As I grew older, I stopped literally cutting myself, although I continued to nurture relationships with individuals that cut me in both big and small ways. This is one of the ways in which ditching religion has been a great boon to me, and to all of my relationships. There's no 'leaving it in god's hands' cop-out anymore: there's only us, the issues at hand, and the decisions we make about them. I couldn't have accepted the wisdom of cutting cancerous ties and mending threadbare ones if I hadn't first cut the most cancerous tie of all.

Working hard on relationships with people that are willing and interested in putting the same kind of work into the relationship, or putting hard emotional work into helping people you love through personal problems are worthwhile investments. Nurturing relationships with psychic vampires and green-eyed hamsters, however, are only ways to poke holes in your own ship, keep you unhealthy, and prevent you from investing yourself as fully as possible in all of your healthy relationships. You don't have to die on every battlefield. A battlefield shouldn't be the appropriate metaphor for most of your relationships.

So, inspired by my mentor, I have begun the task of politely severing relationships with the handful of toxic personalities I have collected, and clearing up unsaid things with others. Having put some distance between myself and the weird sanctity of suffering I adhered to for so long, things look a lot clearer.

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