Saturday, May 9, 2009

Broken Things

Broken bottles, broken plates,
Broken switches, broken gates,
Broken dishes, broken parts,
Streets are filled with broken hearts.
Broken words never meant to be spoken,
Everything is broken. -----BOB DYLAN

I haven't written anything for a few days because my computer has been freezing up at random moments and losing everything. I've been ignoring the problem, hoping it's not originating in my computer, but in the service provider or in the server or simultaneously in every website I happen to visit on a particular day.

Technology was always M's department. Health and wellness were mine. He'd set up the internet service; I'd help him choose a gym. He'd run cable and wire around the perimeter of my tiny apartment like an intricate freeway held together with zip ties and plastic clips. I'd devise pre-hiking conditioning programs so that we could hit the trails in full stride come spring. He'd perform monthly maintenance on my computer, de-fraging and de-bugging and de-spy-waring. I'd work out the trigger points in his low back. We were like two symbiotic pieces in a larger relationship puzzle.

And then we weren't .

After two and a half years of reflection, I'm not sure if finding somebody who has strengths that match your weaknesses is way to go.

When I started at my current job, I was astounded by the sheer number staff members who were divorced or were going through a divorce. "Perfect," I thought as my relationship with M crumbled around me. "I'll fit right in with this pool of broken people."

Now, I see more clearly that it isn't divorce that makes us feel broken. I listened as a happily married co-worker described how she had spent the entire weekend, paralyzed by fear about starting a Kodak-gallery account. Fear that a child molester would hack into her account, follow her IP address to her physical address, hop on a plane, stake out her house, and sneak into her home at night to steal her kids because he saw them online and thought they were cuter than any other kids he had ever seen. At the same time, she was paralyzed by the thought that her hard drive could crash and she'd lose all the baby pictures of her kids. Or another friend who would no longer let her 8 year old daughter play with a playmate whose parents were getting divorced, for fear that their unhappiness would rub off on her and she'd carry it home to their house, like the swine flu virus. We all feel powerless when faced things don't have control over. We all feel broken and incomplete in small ways.

One of my in-the-middle-of-divorce-co-workers started dating somebody else shortly after her husband moved out. Giant bouquets of flowers were delivered to work on Valentine's day; she floated around the hallways like she was walking on air. For about 28 seconds, I was insanely jealous. "What the hell is wrong with me? How can other people instantly fall into relationships from guys banging down their doors while I'm still alone?" Then I snapped out of it.

Her new love interest was, after all, her next door neighbor. He was also newly divorced, missing his kids terribly and wanting to be a dad--not just on the weekends. She was barely hanging on, trying to work full time and raise two kids, alone for the first time in her life, and wishing she had a little help. So it made sense for them. They formed a symbiotic union of their own -- they fulfilled each others' needs and the sum was significantly less broken than the individual parts.

I'm happy for them both. However, after that first 28 seconds of envy was over, I could only feel tremendous gratitude that she is not me. And vice versa.

I somehow hope that we are more than that... puzzle pieces to fill each other's empty spaces. I would like to think that relationships can be based on more than solutions to our perceived problems; more than ways to keep from feeling incomplete and small. Above all, I hope that relationships are not the very things that keep us from moving beyond our comfort zones -- from opening our minds to new ideas or associating with those who are different from us or opening an online photo sharing account.

I certainly don't have the answers. But I'm keeping and open mind and looking at all the possibilities. And this weekend, in my own flawed and possibly ineffective way, I'll be performing computer maintenance on my own.


LMN said...

I loved this. Very good post. Thanks for sharing thoughts. Aren't relationships wonderful and difficult and complex and yet so simple at times, and then beautiful, even when they can be devastating? It is amazing all that comes with that territory. I, too, believe in the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I loved the way you expressed that.

Anonymous said...

If I've never been married, yet am still single at 35, does that mean that I'm "pre-broken"?

Carolina John said...

great post, heather. feel free to call me anytime 864-268-5594, i've been a pc repairman for 10 years now and i'm always glad to help out.

relationships are a lot like pc's. they need regular maintenance, feed them some new hardware every once in a while, and it's tough to realize how very complex they are. the only good thing about pc's is that they will actually DO what you tell them to do when you tell them to do it, unless they are broken. men only do what you tell them to do when you break them (or threaten to).