“Nobody said it was easy.
It’s such a shame
for us to part.
Nobody said it was easy.
No one ever said
it would be this hard…
Oh, take me back
to the start.”
We didn’t end well.
We didn’t end as if we had a friendship worth preserving. We didn’t end as if we had any interest in resolving things at all. We definitely didn’t end as if we were two writers, both well in command of the English language. In fact, we didn’t end as if we were ever planning to speak again.
No, the Scribe and I ended in the most mundane manner possible: with a fight, and a flight—both literally and metaphorically.
Gone, Baby. Gone.
As a frequent flyer myself—more literally than metaphorically—I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of my adult life alone in hotel rooms, on planes and trains to cities near and far, navigating unfamiliar territory among strangers. Being a solo traveler will teach you many things: self-reliance, adaptability, negotiating skills, and when necessary (and it frequently is), a bit of patience.
(Note: If all of these skills reliably made their way into my personal interactions, I likely wouldn’t have anything to write about. But where would be the fun in that?)
Perhaps the most important lesson learned from years of flying solo is that you must choose your traveling companions well. These are people you must be able to trust implicitly—not only with your baggage—but your life, should it come to that.
To travel well with someone, you must be willing to walk at the same pace, pause to marvel at the same magic, and share a similar sense of adventure. You should be able to set your priorities together and respect both the budget and the itinerary—and quickly, calmly and (hopefully) comically shift gears when plans inevitably go awry.
An ideal traveling companion is one with whom silences are comfortable. You want to see the same sights from their perspective, sample the same new flavors, and fall asleep on each other’s shoulders en route to the next destination. You eagerly listen to them talk of the journey as if you weren’t beside them the whole time. And, should a series of missed connections begin to wear on your very last nerve, they somehow intuit when to comfort, when to compromise, and when to join forces with you in combat*.
(*Okay, that last part is negotiable. They don’t have to be psychic; I’d just settle for the space to vent my righteous indignation.)
I’ve traveled with many companions over the years: colleagues (touch-and-go), friends (even more touch-and-go), lovers (make-or-break), my mom (stellar and well-organized), production crews (posh but regimented), and musicians (pure mayhem). In short, I’ve seen enough to know that not everyone—even the best of friends—is meant to travel together. Obviously, the same is true of relationships.
That’s why it’s vital that we choose wisely: Because not everyone is meant to be together.
Just like being far from home, being close to someone is often where we’re most susceptible to harm. Relationships—all types of relationships—are where we often find ourselves most vulnerable, without armor or territory of our own. No, it’s just us, and whatever baggage we’ve brought along—and I promise you, we all have at least a little bit. Don’t trust anyone who says otherwise.
Close to someone, we are most at risk for being led astray, taken far outside ourselves. Admit it: given the chance, most of us are far more likely to lose ourselves in a warm embrace than on the streets of a foreign city (because…GPS).
Relationships are where we do our best—and worst—work; where we build and occasionally destroy. In order to enter them, we must be willing to sit in the awkward silences—insecurities lit up like a switchboard—and somehow, resist the impulse to run screaming in the other direction.
Because relationships are the salt that finds the open wounds; they are the sticks that prod us in tender places. They are the demons that drive us to distraction; the glaring spotlights that reveal our nakedness, magnifying our flaws and frailties. They have to be.
This is how trust is built: I have to show you the places that hurt, before I can ask you to avoid them. You show me your inadequacies, your embarrassments, your ugly bits. I show you mine.
Perhaps we readily accept all the things we can’t change about each other. Perhaps we even learn to love them. Or perhaps, once the veneer is stripped away, we find your needs are stubbornly at odds with my wants—that my fear of abandonment dovetails dangerously with your fear of rejection; that your pride only baits my petulance—and that neither of us stands a chance of winning. At least, not together.
Perhaps, in the end, we’ll simply have to accept that we may make all the sense in the world, but none to each other.
I’m reminded of the evening of the 36 questions; questions that would purportedly lead the Scribe and I to love. I now can’t consider it any coincidence that we never answered the 36th.
At the time, it seemed a rather anti-climactic finish to such an intense emotional interrogation: the 36th question asked that we each present a personal problem for the other to solve. Newly smitten, the last thing either of us wanted to think about was potential problems. Plus, it was late, and we were eager to explore our newfound connection off-script. We happily postponed, never to revisit.
But I think I get it now: It was a question about logic.
I used to proudly proclaim that I’d never date anyone whose logic I didn’t agree with. In fact, it was a dealbreaker—the ultimate indicator of incompatibility. I’m not sure when I ceased to consider that—likely, when other criteria took heartbreaking precedence—but it once again feels incredibly pertinent.
Because the 36th question was meant to be a trust exercise; an opportunity to reveal not only our thought processes, but all that we had learned about each other in the 35 questions prior. How would we use this new information to help each other move forward? Would we provocatively push the buttons we now knew how to access? In our quest to solve the problem—to fix it—would we empower or entirely invalidate each other? Would we be able to compassionately consider each other’s perspective, even if it differed from our own?
Were we compatible enough to venture into a relationship together?
I consider this, as I reflect on my parting with the Scribe—the circumstances of which were admittedly benign (petty, actually) but nevertheless, the end of our road.
We were two travelers at an impasse—likely the first of many, if we were going to be together. Obviously, we never came to an agreement on our direction; but more tellingly, we couldn’t respect each other’s logic. Both of us were so completely convinced of our position that there was simply no space to move forward. That would require trust we hadn’t built yet. Instead, there was only tension, then hurt, then resentment, and finally, anger.
Beware who you trust with your baggage. You’ve given them both a road map to your heart and the power to provoke, leading you far away from yourself.
In the end, the Scribe and I were just two travelers, sulking off in different directions, baggage in hand. And, while I wish we’d had a better ending, I’m not sure it could’ve gone any other way.
We simply weren’t meant to go together.