When it comes to this blog, my approach changes week by week. If there is a milestone that is coming up, I’ll do prep work and really develop my thoughts on the topic. When something breaking happens, I’ll offer my initial insights as an immediate reaction and speculate on how things will develop. And, other times, I just kind of wing it depending on my mood. It is all in flux and varied. The quality may be affected, but that’s alright. It allows me to go off script, be unstructured, and just understand my thoughts.
This entry was planned for weeks. I was going to write about the fortieth anniversary of The Muppet Movie and discuss the influence the Muppets had on me over the years. However, that is not the subject of today’s piece. I’ll save the original one for later. But, as I said, sometimes I’ll react to something as a means of processing and I find putting things in writing helps with that. I had an experience last week and I want to share it. However, some context first.
Five years ago this week, I went through a really nasty breakup. And it was bad for a variety of reasons. For one, I did not see it coming. I had been with this woman for a few years and I was thinking seriously about our future and the life that we would build together. I felt excited about the future, but she had different plans and it was certainly a shock to the system.
While breakups are never fun, and I’ve had more than my fair share, situations become delicate if that person is somehow present, whether physically or emotionally, and a lot of work must be done to keep things as stable, if not positive, as possible. Boundaries must be established and respected and an active participation to keep things cordial is needed by both parties. It can be easy to let down your guard or to act as an instigator so, when one of those things happen, things are said and feelings get hurt. And, in most cases, there’s no room for friendship when that happens.
After the breakup, due to the timing, I lived with this person for a month. During that time, I was subjected to a lot of manipulation, cruelty, and emotional abuse. I was in an absolutely vulnerable state and while I cannot say for certain that my former partner was intentional about their behavior, they were not taking steps that conveyed any respect. I was humiliated and lied to, and it caused me a lot of trauma. And while I have certainly moved on from the experience and resolved some of this trauma, some of the effects are still there. They will always be there. That is just the reality and I have come to terms with that. That is just a natural part of the process when it comes to people who were once very important in your life who are no longer there.
What exacerbated the healing process was that I had little to no support systems for a long time after that breakup. At that point in my life when we were in a relationship, I was working a ton, had little money, and all my hobbies and friends were my partner’s hobbies and friends. When that relationship ended, I was completely broke and alone. Except for one person who kept in touch, everything about my life had disappeared. The friends we shared chose their sides, I was recently laid off so I did not have work to distract me, and I had no hobbies of my own
It was a difficult time and I had to put myself back together. During the early stages of figuring out what to do next, I was constantly comparing myself to my former partner. I engaged in behavior that was mentally unhealthy. I still followed them on social media and I was reading their posts on a blog they started, documenting their dating and new lifestyle experiences, and doing that just kept hindering the healing process. I saw how happy they were with new people and experiences and it was just a reminder of how unhappy I was.
Once I started to make my own friends and develop new hobbies, I was actually able to start the healing process. At first, everything new in my life were just distractions. It was difficult to be alone and with nothing preoccupying me. However, with time, these things resulted in a new life with support systems; things I really needed before but did not have. It was a lot of work overcoming the mental and emotional trauma I endured, but I survived it. I became a better, stronger, and more well-rounded person than I ever was in that relationship. I had achieved a freedom and self of self that I did not have before.
So, this blog post was supposed to be about The Muppet Movie but then it changed. I will get back to the Muppets, but first I want to share why I decided to change the subject of this blog entry.
Over the last five years, while I have been building and enjoying my life, I have run into my former partner randomly. It usually happens once or twice a year. We cross paths, make eye contact, and then we just move on. While I have made a lot of progress in dealing with the trauma they had inflicted on me, I still cannot see this person in public. Seeing them in public gives me such a visceral reaction. I feel very ill and I get into a melancholy mood and then I spend the rest of my day dwelling in a negative headspace. And this happens every time. That is, until last week.
I left my apartment to go to the grocery store. I have multiple routes I can take to my nearest grocery store and, sometimes, I’ll take one way there but a different way for the return. On my way back, I see my former partner enjoying lunch on a patio with a friend. My immediate reaction was the same old feeling of nausea I get whenever I see them. My next thought was Why in the hell am I running into them so close to my apartment! The idea of running into this person just two blocks from my apartment just really pissed me off. As I am getting closer and getting ready to walk on by without so much as a second glance, we made eye contact. I had been through this before. Glance at each other, go home, and spend time trying to get back into a more positive headspace. However, that would not happen that day. I made a sudden decision.
I stopped, and with a big smile on my face, greeted my former partner as if we were old friends with polite enthusiasm. I asked how they had been and when I got a very vague, awkward response of “oh, you know, still working in the schools,” I took it to the next level. I was not going to let short, awkward responses stop me from continuing friendly conservation. I congratulated them on some recent life and family changes (she had recently become an aunt), catching them off guard that I knew as much as I did. When they realized I wasn’t just going to shuffle away like I had before, she asked me how I had been. I mentioned positive life changes including some big projects I completed, that I have been going on great trips, have several active hobbies doing really cool things, and that I do a lot of volunteer work with several community-based organizations. She just sat there smiling, shaking her head politely, confused by the situation. She was not expecting to be engaged at all let alone engaged in a friendly and polite manner. We spoke for a few minutes, then I was introduced to her friend, and then I said that I had to run but it was nice to see her and that we should catch up.
Truth is, I have no intention of meeting to catch up and neither does she I’m sure. But, I left the situation with a feeling I had never experience before from prior encounters. I felt triumphant. I did not feel sick, angry, or upset. And it was not just a fleeting response. I still feel good about the encounter. Engaging with my former partner, being friendly and polite, was exactly what I need to restore a balance of power. I showed her I was not afraid and that she no longer has power over me. That my life is super awesome, even better than when I was with her. This life that I built for myself after experiencing the abuse I received from her. I have no idea what she thought of this encounter and, frankly, I do not care. I needed that experience for me.
Over the last few months, I have been thinking about how far I have come in the last few years. Not just from the aspect of that former relationship, but how my motivation and drive has allowed me to live the life I want. One on my own terms. I have made some excellent friends and have had some incredible experiences. And I find comfort, even pride, in the fact that I made the life I have happen for myself. To go from being broke, in heart and finances, to having a life I enjoy is just wonderful. There’s still progress to be made. I have to continue to grow, learn from my mistakes, and keep trying for the things I want. Not everything has gone my way in those last five years, but enough for me to be satisfied with the way things are. So, as promised, let’s tie all this into the Muppets.
The 1979 film The Muppet Movie opens with the song “Rainbow Connection” performed by Kermit the Frog, voiced by Jim Henson. Sitting in a swamp, plucking away on his banjo, Kermit pontificates why so many songs are about rainbows. What seems like a negative start, suggesting that rainbows are merely illusions with no real concrete meaning, Kermit refuses to belief such a myth. Instead, he affirms his belief, as a frog who wants more in life, that the journey to discovering what is at the end of the rainbow, mysterious and potentially illusory as it may be, is the real significance of the power of rainbows and the awe and wonder they inspire.
During the movie’s finale, after all his adventures, Kermit finds his friends at the end of the rainbow. It is the paths we take and the friends we make along this journey that matter. We do not know what is at the end of the rainbow, or if there is anything at all, but it is the journey and the fear of battling uncertainty and our fears that reveal to us what we will find. With that in mind, what we find at the end of the rainbow is whatever we truly need. In Kermit’s case, as well as mine, it is the love and support of great friends and the desire to seek more happiness and wonder from what life has to offer. That’s my rainbow connection.