A friend of mine wants closure. After dating a woman for a few years, the relationship has come to an abrupt end and now he is left flagellating himself with all manner of hurtful questions: Did she ever love me? How did we end up here? Was she ever serious about me? What the hell happened? Is this really happening? Am I a fool?
We spoke on the phone the other day and his heartbreak was palpable, the kind of pain that settles into the core of your body, sets up residence and touches everything that you do for a few months, only that when you are going through it you do not know that it is a few months, it feels like it will be with you forever.
The kind of pain that makes you call yourself all manner of names, and burst into tears so frequently that you get used to bawling intensely in the toilet, then washing your face and coming back out into the world and saying nothing about it because truly there is nothing new to say… the pain just has to wash over you until it doesn’t. Heartbreak is a muthaf^%ker!
So my poor friend wants closure. He wants answers to his questions. He wants some kind of explanation from the only other person who knows the terrain of this relationship the way he does. I guess he wants acknowledgement that the relationship mattered to her and she too is in pain.
I am not a fun of closure. Frankly I think it’s a myth, an excuse to have ‘goodbye sex’. You know how breaking up is like throwing over a fridge? You can’t do it in one big heave, you have to try like three heaves before you finally get the right momentum and you toss the fridge over? I think closure conversations and the sex they beget, are those heaves. One… two… three! And now it’s over. Only that the heaves aren’t quite so tidy and they can take months.
My friend Shan Bartley says closure is a personal choice and I agree whole heartedly. Once the traumatic ripping apart of your life or heart has happened, you make the decision to finally eject the person from your life and your heart.
We like to think of our feelings as having a mind of their own, but as I get older and dare I say wiser, I have come to see that it is my mind that controls my feelings and because I can choose my thoughts, then I ultimately decide how I feel. My friend can choose to bestow huge powers on his ex, a woman who was happy to end their relationship via silence. He can choose to view her as ‘the giver of answers’ and ‘the balm to his heartbreak’.
Or he can choose to view her as a callous woman who did not honour him or their relationship enough to end it gently and with consideration. After the Westgate terrorist attack, most of Nairobi wants closure and we have to make the collective choice to move on.
Not to forget, or let the perpetrators go unpunished, no. We have to hang on to the spirit that made us a target – the spirit of hopefulness, hard work and striving for success.
My friend has to hang on to who he really is - a gentle soul who loves with an open hand. If his spirit changes, if he starts to love more conservatively, if we start to live more fearfully, then the terrorists will have won; and we cannot have that. That decision to hang on to what is beautiful about ourselves despite the heartbreak and loss. That is closure.