Some stories are complicated and some are straight-forward, but they all start and end somewhere.
It’s strange how in relationships, the ending can unravel the rest of the tale. A terrible ending can take apart all the beauty that may have existed on earlier pages. It can even take the beginning, that once upon a time, and turn it into a dark omen of things to come.
I’m on a self-imposed dating moratorium right now. I found myself craving a restorative break from the stress that comes with dating. The space that this has created has allowed me to explore thoughts about earlier relationships—but not with longing or regret.
This has simply been a way for me to learn more about myself and to attempt to see the whole of the relationship rather than allowing the ending to eclipse the entire tale.
I was married for over a decade. Yes, I married young. Yes, I probably wasn’t ready. But I believed in that marriage for a long time. When everything fell apart, it did so in such a way that I saw the cracks that had existed the entire time. It felt like the entire relationship unraveled during the months of the divorce until there was nothing left but a little sadness and a lot of anger.
But aren’t so many relationships like that?
We often find it difficult to recover any of the goodness that existed inside of those relationships—the goodness that kept us in them for however long we stayed. But it’s so much easier in the aftermath of leaving to see all of the ways in which we were hurt and wronged than to see the times when things were good. So often, the bad overshadows the good to the point that it seems to erase much of it.
After my divorce, I experienced another heartache that had the same effect. I was ghosted, a small word for something vast and painful, but it’s apt as it feels haunting to be left in such a way. For a while, it seemed like the pain of the ending would obliterate every lovely moment I had experienced in that brief relationship.
But slowly, I began to recover a memory here and there. I began to embrace the fact that these memories are mine. Our memories are our own. They cannot be taken from us just because someone chooses to leave.
And even when we choose to go, the memories are ours. We don’t leave them behind. They are moments we lived and times that shaped who we are now.
For that reason alone, we need to remember that the ending doesn’t always tell the whole story. It’s certainly an important part—sometimes the most important part—but it’s not everything.
I’m still working on this. I’ve yet to recover many happy memories from my marriage, but I know that I will, if only to be able to hand them over to my children so they can see that their parents did share happy moments. And I want to accept all of the story and not just the parts that hurt less than anger.
Perhaps we all find beginnings and endings to be the most interesting part of many tales, but the middle is what develops our character. We face challenges, and we are changed by them. We make choices, and our lives unfold as a result. And often our endings aren’t endings at all, but simply transitions to new chapters of our lives.
Maybe, if we’re able to add a little perspective, we can begin to recover the whole of our stories.
We can look back from our seat in the present—popcorn in hand—and watch the events of our past unfold. We can set our montage to music or simply watch it in silence. We can choose to see the heartache of endings, or we can choose to see it as a more complex tale—one that started in hope and unfolded in happiness before turning into something we didn’t expect. We can see it as a tragedy or a comedy or simply as a great adventure.
But when we deny the positive because of a negative end, we cancel out so much of our story. We leave it on the cutting room floor and I think we’re less off because of it.
Our lives are rich because of challenges, because of the depths that are created when we’ve faced obstacles and lived to tell about them.
When we can accept the whole story and not just the bitter end, that is when we find strength.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Nicole Cameron