Saturday, July 26, 2008

Breaking Up

This morning, right after I woke up and as I lay staring at the ceiling, I had a very familiar feeling. I suddenly knew that I needed to break up.

When I was engaged to the wrong guy (let’s call him, oh, Tyler), I spent an agonizing period of time Trying To Decide What To Do. Each morning I would wake up (a time I’ve learned from experience since then that is when I am most in tune with my own heart and with the Spirit—-which often feel like the same thing) and feel SICK (and we’re talking literally sick, as in drinking pepto bismol sick) about marrying the guy, claustrophobic, stuck, depressed, etc. Then, as the day wore on I would talk myself back into it. Hanging around with him would feel good, and I would grow more interested in the idea of being married to him and by bedtime I would have brainwashed myself again.

For a while I convinced myself that it was just the stress of finals. Or maybe some sort of stomach bug. I actually saw a doctor. Also, I was drinking Coke all day (which I DETEST but which I use to calm my stomach) and pepto bismol. Anything rather than face the fact that I didn’t want to marry the guy.

One of the problems was that I was convinced that Tyler was my One Chance because he was a righteous guy. How could I pass on him and expect God to provide me with another opportunity?

At one point I took a long walk and imagined myself talking to God about it. God said, “What’s up, Darlene?” I said, “I want to serve you. Shouldn’t I marry this guy in order to serve you?” God said, “Darlene, you’ll serve me no matter whom you marry. I want you to pick someone that makes you happy.”

Wow. God wanted me to be HAPPY in my marriage? Was it OK to pass on this guy just because I wasn’t happy?

Finally, after lots of agonizing vacillating, a few blessings, many early mornings of clarity and late evenings of vast confusion, I/we managed to call the thing off.

The night after I gave the ring back was the first night I really slept in months. And when I woke up, I felt such peace, such renewed interest in the future, such clarity and energy.

And then Tyler called and said he’d changed his mind, that he wanted us to stay engaged while just postponing the date “until we could figure out what’s wrong,” which is what I had proposed the night before (not having the guts to break it off completely). But, it was still morning. And I still felt that priceless peace. So I said, “Last night was the first night I’ve slept. I can’t put that ring back on.” And that (after a stupid trying-to-still-hang-out-together period that, of course, didn’t work) was that.

OK, so this morning I woke up, as I said, and felt that same feeling. The knowing I had to call it off and the knowing it would be OK. Not just OK—that it would bring me peace, renewed hope in the future, renewed energy. That there was something else, something better out there for me and that God would lead me to it if I would just get out of this current wrong relationship.

I’m talking, of course, about abandoning my novel.

I have been dragging out this relationship too long. I have spent too many mornings fantasizing about life without it, and too many days trying to make it work, and too many nights feeling like maybe I could make it work, if I really tried. As with my broken engagement, I am coming to believe that deciding that this novel is not right for me doesn’t mean I am giving up on novel-writing in general. It doesn’t mean I am not a writer. It is gesture of hope and faith that God not only wants me to get married/be a writer, but that he wants me to actually be happy with the person/book I choose. And hope/faith that he will lead me to the right thing, at some point.

So, I guess I need to be careful now not to get too involved in a rebound romance. Instead, I’ll focus on my duty for a while (all those writing projects I’ve been putting off finishing, the edited poem I owe Irreantum, the essay I owe Segullah, the play I was toying with for the New Play Project, maybe some Friend articles to build back up my writing account, the picture book the agent asked me to revise) and trust God that the right novel (the one that’s righteous AND makes me happy, that fulfills me and brings me joy) will come along some day.

Goodbye, my love. I wish you the best.


Anonymous said...

I think this right here can be your Segullah essay. I LOVED reading this.

I've heard about your broken engagement before but never would have guessed how much I would relate to the details of the story. A very short version of my similar story is that there was a guy who was not technically waiting for me while I was on my mission, but in effect he really was waiting for me. I thought I wasn't supposed to be thinking about relationships while on a mission so I was putting off deciding what to do, but my mom wrote me and basically said "This is cruel; you need to decide about this." He was such a good guy and treated me so well that, without quite thinking he was my One Chance, there was still that fear that maybe I'd be passing up my best shot at a good marriage -- and I was also afraid that if I prayed, that's the answer I'd get. So instead I finally prayed: "Will it be okay if I *don't* marry him?" -- and the answer was immediate calm and reassurance. I wrote the break-up letter that same day (which was also cruel, in a way, since I was only a couple months from the end of my mission by then and could have told him in person not much later -- but on the other hand, I think I did need to act as soon as I knew.) I actually still feel very sorry about having let it get as far as it did previous to my clarity -- I think he suffered about the same amount of pain as with an actual broken engagement -- but I do comfort myself that it surely would not have been a kind thing to marry him, being as ambivalent as I was.

(Okay, so that wasn't a very short version. Oh, well.)

In my current life my closest parallel to your current break-up is the times when a sewing project just stops being fun but I keep trying to make it work. (I have one right now -- a smocked baptism dress that was to have been for Mabel's baptism in April, and that's still just in its beginning stages. I can't quite let go yet, but I've been letting myself work on other things in between (uh, that's if I could even get into my sewing room, which isn't happening much with Dean on crutches and all the extra childcare that means for me,) so I think the baptism dress commitment might just die a slow, natural, gradual death. (Or turn into a dress for Rose in a few years.)

Thanks for sharing this -- maybe it doesn't match the subject matter of your owed Segullah essay, but if not, I still vote you submit it as an open-topic essay.

Ang said...

Ah, Darlene . . . you know, as much as I loved your first draft and think that there's some real promise with this novel, I can see how it might be the best thing for you to put this book away.

Lots of writers have novels (especially first novels) that are written and never see the light of day. Practice novels, I guess. I, too, have to face the fact that the novel I'm starting might simply end up in a desk drawer. It's one of the necessary perils of writing.

But I know exactly how you feel. I felt just the same way when I decided to stop trying to breastfeed Elise. I'll spare all the gory details, but needless to say it had been two weeks of pain and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (and a little girl losing instead of gaining weight), and the night I thought, "Hey, you know what? I don't want to do this anymore, and it's OKAY," I felt the most glorious sense of relief and release, I can't even explain it. So when the woman in my ward from the La Leche leauge happened to stop by and--with good intentions--proceeded to harangue me with all the reasons why I MUST NOT bottle feed my baby I confidently (and, yeah, I probably had a bit of a crazed look in my eye, too, I'll admit) told her, "No. I've made my decision. I feel great about my decision, and it's mine." I then went on to breastfeed the next two . . . just as you'll go on to write more novels.

You go girl! (Oh, and this would be an excellent Segullah post, by the way. If you'd be willing to share the details of your engagement so publicly, that is.)

Michelle said...
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Michelle said...

You are such a gifted writer. I know your someday novel will be fabulous. I love to look at Leif Enger's Peace Like a River. He was a writer for years before creating that masterpiece. You have been an incredible inspiration to me as a writer and I would love to get together and chat about plotlines someday(or just chat about raising boys).

Cheri said...

Darlene, at the retreat you mentioned how much you hated your novel. Good for you for having the guts to break up!