When I went through my last breakup (before my current, very happy relationship) — I think I was on breakup #72 in my dating lifetime — I was like, game over. I’m not doing this anymore. Because at a certain point, after enough relationships bomb, you just don’t have the will to keep trying anymore. I know I didn’t. I was like Wile E. Coyote when he gets flattened by the Roadrunner, only without the motivation to get back up. It wasn’t that I was so heartbroken over this guy; it was that I was so heartbroken over constantly getting my heart broken. While I was peeling my soul off the asphalt (read: drinking lots of Malbec and doing lots of hot yoga) a friend said something helpful to me: Where there is driftwood.
That’s short for: Where there is driftwood, there is land. After doing some Wiki-ing, I learned that this is a reference to an old Viking practice of sending wood out into the sea before making landfall. Wherever the wood landed was where the Vikings would build their feasting hall. Diluted and disambiguated, the saying has come to mean: if you are getting small signs of success, bigger successes are not far away.
What my friend was trying to tell me — although I was too emotionally fraught at the time to really believe it — was that each wrong guy I dated, each breakup I went through, was leading me a little bit closer to the right relationship. Even though I didn’t look at these dating experiences as mini-successes (more like mega-failures), I probably should have. Eh, hindsight is 20/20. So, let me be your hindsight: this turned out to be absolutely true for me.
When I think about it, each dating experience — and subsequent breakup — went a little bit better than the one before. There were fewer tears. I bounced back faster. I honed in more on what qualities I was looking for in a partner. And during this final relationship before The Relationship, I took some major strides forward. I introduced him to my parents (which was a big deal because I hadn’t done that for eight years!). I allowed myself to be open and vulnerable-ish without losing my sense of self. I pulled the plug when I knew it was time and didn’t let things drag on too long as I did in the past. We drifted apart amicably. It was about as painless as a breakup could be. Sure, I felt like a flattened-by-the-roadside piece of crap at the time, but looking back, these were all little signs that something better was on the horizon.
All of that seems very far away now that I’ve made landfall, so to speak. But from solid ground, it’s easier to go back and look at all those breakups through a more compassionate lens. I recognize all those pieces of driftwood for what they really were: baby steps toward love.
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