Joy, Turned Inside Out
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Joy, Turned Inside Out • Posted: Apr 19, 2015 10:35:59Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

My son broke with his girlfriend recently. The break up was not his choice. To say the least, he was upset. They'd been talking about living together, moving to a different city, starting fresh, possibly getting married. But then it all ended. For no clear reason, after more than two years together, she just changed her mind and walked away. He was devastated. He couldn't work. He couldn't sleep. He couldn't eat. He couldn't pay attention to what his friends were saying to him. He just withdrew, sometimes sitting alone in his apartment for the better part of a day, petting his cat, fingering chords on his guitar, staring at the ceiling or out the window.

Was there anger, feelings of betrayal? Sure. Did he ever act on those feelings, do something mean or vindictive? No, he didn't.

Was there questioning about himself, about his capacities for tenderness, compassion, understanding, caring, acceptance, encouragement, and support toward her? Of course.

Did the issue of money come up? Unfortunately, yes. If you work in the arts, as he does, there is never enough money. And unless you're willing to abandon doing what you love for something that consistently earns more money, your financial prospects are not likely to change. From her point of view, the choice was to either leave behind her own aspirations for a stable middle-class marriage, possibly with children, or move to a different relationship. She chose to move on.

Neither he, nor I, fault her. We all have dreams and expectations. And none of us want to settle for less. But he is feeling sad. And I can't help but sympathize. It wasn't as if he was making himself out to be something he wasn't, in order to falsely impress and lure her in. No, he presented himself to be exactly who he is. And in the end, that wasn't good enough for her. He was rejected for being himself. He was rejected for not being someone he wasn't.

So really, what does a father tell his son in a situation like that? You need to be true to yourself, yes. And you can't fault others for being true to themselves. But we aren't just a collection of meandering individuals in continuous search for self-actualization. We are party to relationships and members of communities. In order to get from those relationships and communities, we need to give to those relationships and communities, do what is necessary to maintain those relationships and communities. Healthy relationships strengthen us, provide reason and sense to our being. Unhealthy relationships drain us, frustrate us, cripple us, and distract us from realizing any potential at all.

In the end, perhaps my son was not rejected for not being someone he wasn't. Perhaps, despite what they were both willing to invest, their relationship wasn't returning in healthful measure what each of them required for growth. Perhaps they will both soon find something better, more healthfully nurturing, more realistically sustainable. We don't all need to find gold at the end of the rainbow. What we all do need is to find a fully engaging, socially healthful, sustainable path toward some meaningful end of some rainbow. And hopefully, eventually, they both will.

Yet still, when life was beginning to make sense, seemed on track, moving in a good direction, more and more joy welling within at every turn, willingness to commit increasing, inspiring possibilities opening ahead, it all suddenly ended. And for no apparent, possibly salvageable, reason. It's enough to tear your guts out. And, for him, it has.

Saturday, May 25th, 2013