My Most Courageous Act
The most courageous thing I’ve ever done wasn’t kayaking The Narrows in Zion National Park. It wasn’t living in Israel during the second antifada. It wasn’t even doing naked stand-up in front of a hundred strangers at Burning Man (even though I had forgotten to manscape).
No. The most courageous thing I’ve ever done was to leave the woman I loved.
She was beautiful, and we lived together. My longest relationship to date.
We had our special rituals as all couples do. Sunday morning breakfasts (pancakes, turkey bacon and french press coffee); movie lines as inside jokes; and being silly together in the sack.
The best part of my day was when I was lucky enough to walk in the front door after work and see her sitting on the couch, beaming at me. There’s something about how a woman can show her complete love for you, in a smile, that is hard to explain.
Special. Immeasurable. Priceless. Wonderful? These words don’t capture it.
It’s a feeling of being the most important person in the whole galaxy.
The problem was that the magic never seemed to last.
Invariably, it always mutated into anger, frustration or disappointment.
I can handle it, I thought.
(Such a male thing to say.)
I wasn’t around enough (for her). And when I was, I wasn’t getting enough me time; and she wasn’t getting enough us time.
I had tried to compartmentalize my relationship. But after two years, the borders began to collapse in on each other, contaminating my overall happiness.
It was hard. Not only was it hard; it was tiring. I was exhausted.
She once told me, Alex, you don’t give up on love just because it’s hard.
So, we struggled on.
Of course, we talked about breaking up from time to time, but every adversity strengthened us. We imagined a life together. It wasn’t an easy life, but it wasn’t going to be boring, either.
We had meshed our two lives into One, but not without several rolls of duct tape to keep it together.
Then, one day, a question jolted me out of my complacency:
Alex, if you wake up five years from now, and she’s still the way she is and your relationship is still the way it is, will you be okay with that?
A primal NOOOOOOOOOOOO jumped straight out my gut and threatened to kick my ass.
Not just, no.
At that moment, I knew. I knew that I had to break up with her.
But there’s never a good time to act on your truth when the stakes are high.
I remembered the words of Neale D. Walsch, author of Conversations with God, and someone whose work has profoundly impacted me:
Tell your truth as soon as you know it.
In a sheer act of will, I ended it, tossing out a perfectly good life with a great woman in the process.
Duct tape removed.
She said it felt like getting a divorce. I looked up the etymology of the word. The French derivation is that of separation. If two become One in marriage; the One becomes two again in a divorce.
And that separation is painful as hell.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s the most courageous thing I’ve ever done. It’s easy to fall in love. But if you fall in too deeply, it becomes a tough pit to crawl out of. That’s why so many people stay stuck in relationships:
They’d rather be comfortable than happy.
I had to tell a number of close friends, if I ever talk about getting back with her, please slap the shit out of me.
And, I did. Many, many times I thought: what did I do??! why did I leave her?
Once you feel Oneness, it’s hard to give that shit up. It’s the hardest drug I’ve ever taken. Took me 11 months to get sober.
Because we didn’t take the easy road of do-nothing, both of us now have the opportunity to create a dynamic, harmonious relationship with the right person(s).
I’m probably belaboring this point. If you’re in deep, most of my words are probably useless, anyway.
The only thing that helped me find the way back to myself was the power of a question. So, now, I’ll pose it to you:
If you wake up five years from now, and s/he’s still the way s/he is and your relationship is still the way it is, are you gonna be okay with that?
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