Perhaps many of us have, in some way, lived out an unhappy ending. We may have felt the searing pain of rejection, for example. Or felt the dull ache of an unpromising prognosis. Or a job loss. Or felt that stab in the pit of our stomach when we are finally forced to face the harsh reality that this one whom we love – whom we have entrusted our hearts to, whom we have made ourselves so utterly vulnerable to – this one no longer, or perhaps never did, ever truly love us at all. Our worlds come crashing down around us – or so it seems at the time anyway – and there we sit, stunned and numb, in the rubble of circumstances beyond our control.
I am guessing that a number of us may have our own stories much like the one below. The details may be different, but the gamut of emotion (even our attempts to hide emotion at such times), and the rawness of it (in the realm of relationships at least) probably more or less remains the same from one human heart to the next.
Unhappy endings are the reality of living in a fallen world. The real world. It would be remiss of me to suggest otherwise. Unhappy endings form our experience and they make us who we let them make us, for better or for worse.
But let’s not forget that the stories we call inspirational – the ones with the ‘happy endings’ – they inspire us not because of their tales of ease, but because somewhere along the way it seemed that all hope was lost, that there was an unhappy ending. Such stories of human struggle resonate with us. And what inspires us, is that it wasn’t really an unhappy ending at all. Simply an opportunity to refocus on what is most important in life, and a step along the way to something better.
So whilst the story below does not offer the immediate gratification of a happy ending, one can live in the hope that perhaps, it is not the end at all. Pathos aside, perhaps such an ending is simply an opportunity to refocus on what is most important in life, and a step along the way to something better. One can but hope 🙂
Before he even spoke the words, she knew they were coming.
And her stomach tightened into that familiar, hollow, sunken knot. It was a feeling she knew well. She’d experienced it four times before over the last twenty years. Rejection. And she always knew when it was coming. And every time, she’d wanted to change the outcome and fight for love. But every time, she’d been paralysed with fear and dread, awaiting the inevitable.
“I don’t know how to say this…but I think we just can’t continue” came the voice over the phone.
She felt numb. She was punch drunk. She’d cried so many tears for him already that she had nothing more to give when the final, fatal blow was delivered. He’d never seen any of her tears for him, he’d only heard about them from her. Maybe he didn’t believe her when she told him.
He was so hard-hearted towards her now, since she’d disappointed him so bitterly over a difference of opinion a few weeks before. At the time, she didn’t think it was a deal-breaker. She just thought it was something to work through. But in his mind, it had killed it for him right then and there. He’d just been waiting for the right time to tell her it was over.
The words hung in the air between them.
Respond. Respond, how to respond. If she burst into tears, he might see it as manipulation. But if she didn’t show any emotion, he might think that she never had any real feelings for him in the first place. But her feelings for him were so strong that they terrified her.
She loved him, so much. She cared more about him than she cared about herself. She’d never loved anyone like this before. She was used to selfish love, the kind that was out for itself and wanted to control. This selfless love was new, the kind that wanted the best for someone even if it would cost the excruciating pain of unrequited love.
Respond. How to respond. Her first instinct was to go into corporate mode. Ah, corporate mode. The safe place she went to when real life got to be too much, or when her emotions threatened to become too intense for her to keep in check.
Two decades of suits, meetings, boardrooms, client lunches, business travel, conferences, wheeling, dealing, pitching and spinning her way through the global corporate jungle had made its indelible mark on her. And she was darned good at it too. She was great for business. Ask anyone she’d worked for.
But somewhere along the way, she’d lost herself. She’d taken her corporate persona, and whenever real life got too close for comfort, she’d put that persona on. It was her defense mechanism. Her safe place. Corporate girl could handle anything. She could take on the world and the world could never touch her. The world must never know how easily or deeply she could hurt.
And now, she had to choose. Do I get real, or do I go corporate? Do I speak from my heart, or do I speak like I’m running a meeting?
“Alright then. Well, thanks for letting me know, I do appreciate and respect that you’re telling me this.”
She heard the words come out of her mouth. And as she spoke them, so calmly, her heart screamed, inconsolable, in pain.
What she really wanted to say was…I love you. I love you more than I love myself. I’m so sorry I’ve disappointed you, I’m so sad that I’ve lost you, that what I said was so hurtful that you couldn’t forgive me for it. I’m so sorry that my words hurt you so. I don’t know how to make it better or how to bring you back. I’m so sorry that I go all corporate on you when I get scared, when I should be real with you. I’m sorry that I put up walls of polished, immaculately groomed, dispassionate, businesslike words when all you really want is words from my heart. I’m just so terrified. I’ve never given anyone my heart before. I’ve never wanted to give anyone my heart before. You are extraordinary. You’ve opened up a part of me that I thought had died long ago. Your heart, it’s so achingly beautiful, it breaks me. I want to belong to you, to give myself to you, to be beside you, to encourage and support you as you go through life. Please. Don’t give up on me. I haven’t given up on you. I love you.
But instead, those refined, civilized, genteel words escaped her lips. Words of death.
“OK, thanks. You really are so classy” she heard him say. He always called her classy when she responded like this to difficult situations. “Your attitude is amazing. Thanks”.
Everything in her screamed in agony. Yet she showed no emotion. He probably really did think she had no feelings. No wonder.
She could feel herself about to fall apart. She needed to get off the phone. If he witnessed her raw emotion, she feared he would spurn or ridicule her, or worse, not believe her. Pull yourself together girl, you’re almost there. Keep it mature, we’re all grown-ups here. She took a deep breath in, then breathed out “No problem. I really hope things go well for you.” And she really did. She really did want him to be happy and blessed. She loved him so much. “Goodbye”.
© Gloria Emmalene 2012