Friday Musings: The Compassionate Conversation
One of my all-time favorite movies is 500 Days of Summer, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. In fact, it might be right up there at the very top. How surprised are you?? It’s the classic story of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, but she doesn’t love him back. The characters’ gender here doesn’t matter. At all. It could just as easily be girl meets girl, or boy meets boy. If you’ve never seen the movie, then you need to watch it asap, like maybe this weekend, if you’re free. Get the popcorn ready, I’ll come watch it with you. If you have seen it already, then you know that following along with JGL’s character, Tom, as he goes through this incredibly painful breakup is so realistic, and so emotional, that it taps into every feeling that we’ve ever experienced when it comes to losing out on love. It’s almost uncomfortable to go through it with him, but then we’re so very glad we did. I’ve always had the biggest issue with Summer because I think she totally lacks compassion, and this has always led me to the conclusion that breakups tend to be lopsided in this way. The person doing the breaking up (the breaker, let’s say) has already resolved their feelings about the person with whom they’re breaking up (the breakee, from here on out) and so they deliver a shocking blow with very little emotion. Or at least their level of emotion is totally different from what the breakee is experiencing, as they watch their hopes and dreams plummet into an abyss. Even when the breaker does express emotion, they seem to get themselves under control rather quickly, and begin to move in the direction of becoming righteous and defensive. Why does this happen?
I talked to quite a few people this week in an attempt to gain some understanding for this post. If you’ve already guessed that I have almost always been on the breakee side of things, you’re dead-on correct. Suffice it to say that I had lots of questions for the breakers. They unanimously agreed that their decision to break up with their person (or people, God forbid, in the case of the serial breaker) was not impulsive, but rather that it was something they’d been considering for quite some time. They also acknowledged that during this process of realization they became increasingly detached, although they continued to go through the motions. One person in particular told me that the breaker needs that detachment in order to have the strength to follow through with their decision to end things. Without it, there’s just no way that it would happen. Some breakers also thought that they were being more compassionate by delivering their news as stoically as they could, and by continuing to act that way going forward. Their belief centers around the possibility that showing any sort of emotion, let alone love (come on, seriously, it just disappeared??) would give the poor breakee false hopes and render them delusional about a future together. When the breakee gets upset and asks questions in an effort to understand (oh the horror of that) the breaker reacts defensively, righteously even, because their emotions are taken off the table at this point. It makes perfect sense. And they do not want to feel guilty. They’ve made their decision, they know their reasons why, and they are entitled to feel ok about what they’ve done. Joan Didion would approve. Finally, when asked the question about the particular situation where the breakee seems totally unclear as to exactly why things ended, and, even more importantly, what meaning they had to this person who has become an emotional blank, one breaker answered that ultimately the responsibility for self-worth lies within the individual. No one can give that to you. Well, alright then.
If you are sensing a slant of sarcasm in my writing today, you would be correct. I could attribute it to the fact that October is Sarcasm Awareness Month, but I will not. I know that there are specific circumstances within every relationship that make it nearly impossible to make generalizations about any breakups that may ensue, but I still feel as though there’s an imbalance here that’s being largely ignored. Unless this is a mutual decision, or one that has already been played out multiple times, the breakers have all the power; they want it to end, and the breakees do not. And the breakers knew it was coming. They’ve arrived at a place where they’ve processed it enough to feel rational and level about it. Are you wrong for making this decision? Yeah, I’m talking to you now, breakers. Absolutely not. But if your former person (or almost person) is truly hurting and you know that, then I’m asking you to show them some compassion. I’m asking you to let them know what they meant to you. Give them that validation. Realize that if you don’t provide that, then they will most certainly turn the lack of it inward, and it will render them feeling dismissed and unwanted, and they will struggle tremendously to move on. And, trust me, they know there isn’t a future. They know it every time you look at them, because where they once saw openness, joy, and vulnerability, they now see detachment, emptiness, and caution. Try this analogy on for size. If you have a jagged, gaping wound on your forearm, it will heal without taking care of it, although it may take forever, and it will be painful, and will leave a terrible scar. You can try to take care of it yourself, but you only have one free hand and it’s difficult to do. Alternatively, if you have someone who is willing to help you care for that wound, to clean it, sew it up, and bandage it, your chances of healing quickly and without complications are so much greater. And do I really have to carry this metaphor any further and say how much more meaning it will have if the person who helps you is the same person who inflicted the wound in the first place? Don’t make me. If there’s someone with whom you need to have this conversation, then do it already. As compassionately as you can.
For today’s cocktail. I discovered that elderflower and rose are the flowers that represent compassion. Perfect! I started out with the ultra pure, locally distilled Stateside vodka as my base so that I could allow the St. Germain to really be present in this drink. I used a rosemary simple syrup because it symbolizes remembrance, and allowing ourselves to remember why we loved someone in the first place is so important to finding and feeling compassion. I finished up with some lemon juice, prairie rose bitters, and a few drops of rosewater on top. The end result was sharp, and slightly bitter, but it ended with sweetness. Need I say more?
The Compassionate Conversation
2 oz Stateside vodka
½ oz St. Germain
¼ oz rosemary simple syrup
½ oz lemon juice
1 dash Black Cloud prairie rose bitters
A few drops of rosewater
Shake everything but the rosewater with ice until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a some rose petals or a rosemary sprig. Find your courage to be compassionate.