I’m running very late today, but I wanted to quickly write down a few thoughts that have been running through my head over the last couple of days. Warning: if you aren’t religious, this may come across as insufferably pious.
A while back I made the mistake of googling my ex-girlfriend and found her blog. I won’t go into details as my identity here is not entirely private and I don’t want to hurt her, but it turns out that from the way that her life has gone, we could not have stayed together. To be honest, this is not a surprise, as most of what she wrote on her blog was known to me when we were still together, I just naively thought our relationship was strong enough for us to work through it together.
I have mixed feelings though: I can sort of see God’s hand in ensuring that the relationship ended when it did before we were married with children (a few months earlier, before the troubles really started, I was assuming we would be engaged fairly soon), but also worried that I could easily make the same mistakes again, especially as my big mistakes consisted of not recognising early danger signs and thinking that almost any relationship could be saved if both participants were willing to work on it enough, which I’ve always been taught was the correct way to view relationships. To be honest, there probably were other warning signs that I missed or dismissed in my excitement at finally having a girlfriend for the first time in my life (I was nearly twenty-seven when we started going out) and I worry that it could easily happen again. But I can’t see what the alternative is to going out there and trying to find someone more compatible, more stable in her lifestyle choices and worldview and hope that this time I can spot any warning signs in advance from my experience. I guess being in my mid-thirties finally works to my advantage, as someone my own age is likely to be more settled in her life and views than my ex was (she was quite a bit younger than me, in her early twenties when we started going out, a time of personality formation and sometimes radical new lifestyle choices).
There’s a parable by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov that I’ve been thinking of yesterday and today. It’s only a page and a bit long, but it’s quite complicated and as I don’t have my copy with me, I’ll have to summarize. Basically, a peasant finds a precious stone and goes on a trip to have it valued and to sell it. En route the jewel is lost, but because the peasant stayed happy despite this, he is able to make another business deal involving selling a large quantity of wheat that suddenly came into his possession that nets him much more money than selling the jewel would have done. The moral, as it usually is with Rebbe Nachman, is that one should always be happy; the jewel was not really the peasant’s so he lost it, but the wheat really was his, so he kept it, but only because he stayed happy. So my ex was not my bashert (soulmate) so I lost her, but perhaps, if I stay happy and trust in God, I will meet someone else who will be my bashert and we will stay together. Or if God has decreed that I shouldn’t ever get married, as I often fear… well, being happy and trusting that He has His reasons seems a lot better than the alternatives of being depressed, angry and bitter. Believe me, I’ve been depressed, angry and bitter, and happiness and trust are a lot more fun and somehow a lot more adult than adolescent despair and rage (I don’t by the militant atheist view that nihilistic doubt is more adult than faith, but that’s a whole other post).
This is a viewpoint that does not come easily to me and I was resistant to it for a long time, but I do think it leads to a happier, more well-adjusted life if one can manage it. (Note that Rebbe Nachman himself, despite his exortations to his Hasidim, seems to have spent his whole life wrestling with his own doubt and despair and what may have been bipolar disorder – see Arthur Green’s excellent biography, Tormented Master: The Life and Spiritual Quest of Rabbi Nahman [sic] of Bratslav, which I had to read to really be able to accept Rebbe Nachman’s thought as more than just simplistic positive thinking; according to Rabbi Green it’s a proto-existentialist wrestling with one’s inner demons and rescuing faith and joy from the jaws of doubt and despair).