A poetic Predicament from December 14, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I want to share with you the recent story of a fellow heartache fighter. Let’s call her Compass Rose.
This wandering knightess-errant (for she doesn’t yet aspire to superheroine status) found herself quite stuck in the land of LDR Limbo. Caught with nonrefundable plane tickets for two separate trips, she struggled valiantly against the demons of Insomnia and Inappetence using Exercise, a weapon of choice. Email and the telephone were of no avail in freeing her from her condition. Weeks later, a few pounds lighter, and more sleep-deprived than usual, Compass Rose reached the hour of her first plane ticket.
She equipped herself with a little optimism, phrase books and travel guides, and clothes contained for overhead storage space. Her Quest for Closure, or, at least, An Answer, had begun.
Her crusade led her to a fabulous country where she doesn’t speak the language but feels a fascination and comfort. Immediately, our heroine was confronted with a change in attitude and behavior from the Object of Affection (OA). Stressed and jet lagged, she decided to pick her battles wisely and wait for a more opportune moment. Instinct told her that the dreaded beast, JF (as in Just Friends), was afoot. Rage and panic overtook Compass Rose. Her head filled with escape plans and thoughts of Thanksgiving turkey with the family. When the beast manifest itself fully her first night, sleep came in short supply.
Somehow, she survived to morning. OA chose lunch for the first exchange of Words. Compass Rose acted quickly to postpone on the grounds that she cannot do battle over a meal when plagued by Inappetence. And she prefers privacy to public confrontations. A generally civilized opponent, OA gracefully conceded.
Our heroine used the rest of the afternoon to marshal her thoughts and resources. To her surprise, she decided to see out at least a few more days of her situation. She had seen the beast JF and knew she had choices: to chew off her leg to get free from the trap as a desperate animal might, or to stay and face her Fears and Emotions. Compass Rose chose the latter; she likes drama but didn’t want to go home a Scarred, Bitter Woman.
The next two days she indulged in anger and pain when necessary, took comfort in what she could, and tried to maintain amiable, even friendly or sometimes flirty, relations with the Object of Affection when possible. Fortunately, fate smiled on her in the form of one wonderful day — she enjoyed her surroundings, found silent allies in OA’s friends, and temporarily put aside her problems. Refreshed from her reprive, our heroine was ready again to face the quest at hand.
When it came, she was armed with tissues and a clear conscience for what she knew had to be done. Confronted, OA became moderately defensive and hurled a snide comment or twoat our heroine. She let it bounce off, knowing larger issues were at hand, and stood firm. As she faced the full form of the dreaded JF dragon, it almost beat her. Defeat was one step down the hallway. Poised on the edge of walking away angry, painful, and still confused, our knightess-errant hesitated…
Compass Rose sensed weakness in the beast. OA has thick armor, but something didn’t seem right. Almost without realizing it, she began to attack the dragon, methodically dissecting it away into big pieces. She used her best fair-argument skills, pausing with patience, abstaining from blame. Without the JF to protect him, the Object of Affection became somewhat pliant, yielding previously withheld information about the shattering state of confusion in his life — exactly what she needed to hear all along. She tried to be insightful without assuming or being manipulative. There was no scalpel-like precision to her actions; the beast was vanquished with broad, but true, sword strokes.
When the dust had finally settled, our heroine headed for her room tired but feeling freed of a pressing weight. An agreement had been reached; OA conceded that he still cares (we are unclear how much); things are put “on hold” while both lives get straightened out.
Compass Rose was just glad to have things done. There would be no looking back. She believes that neither side won and knows the treaty at hand holds no promises. As much as she wanted to hold the Object of her Affection and tell him everything will be all right, she gave him his freedom instead. They parted at the airport amicably, she, looking him in the eye and knowing she may never see him again.
Back from her crusade, Compass Rose is feeling tired, ragged, and a bit worn. There is still some pain to investigate (like probing the tenderness of a recent injury or bruise) and some tears to be shed. But she knows the colors will fade and the cuts aren’t too deep. She’s glad she doesn’t have a whole leg to regrow. She does have some questions for Breakup Girl, though:
1) Why did I attack the JF dragon? Would it have made any difference if I didn’t? Did I potentially do more harm than good? (Does anyone ever “win” by attacking it?)
2) How do I proceed now?
3) Where do you get your superheroine costume cleaned? My travel clothes are looking a bit shabby, especially now that I am slaying dragons in them…
— Compass Rose
Dear Compass Rose,
High, high points on strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, etc., etc., etc.
1. Why’d you do in the dragon? See intelligence and dexterity, above. Because (and this should also answer your spinoff questions) you sensed that a slain dragon, messy though it may be, is way better than a rhinoceros head. Remember, that’s Breakup Girl’s deliberately cumbersome nickname for the big ugly thing sitting between you that gets bigger and bigger the harder and harder you try not to talk about it (which in your case would have been, “This really isn’t working, is it?”). Getting rid of the head — doable only by talking about the thing you’re not talking about — is slightly less urgent in the slightly more fantastical, significantly more leaveable-behind world of a LDR in a Foreign Country. In other words, the beastie is not sitting on the coffee table in the house you bought after your marriage. But hey, Compass Rose had her quest. And anyway, you said it yourself: you got answers, a concession or two, a weight lifted, an amicable farewell. Just like in all the stories: when, finally, ding-dong, the beast is dead, all the captives — feelings, futures, slaves to love — are set free.
2. Proceed? What do you mean? Where is there to go? You’re already just fine. You said it yourself: you may still poke a bruise, shed a tear. But you have done the healing in the telling. That is, the re-telling, the sense-making, the meaning-finding that you have performed in your letter. Mabel from Duluth* may know what the heck just happened overseas, but Compass Rose does.
3. My cleaners? Sorry, that’s a secret. Can’t have my archenemies, the Senate Judiciary Committee, Breakup Mom, et. al., tracking my cape-cleaning habits. For dragon blood, maybe seltzer?
* not your real name 😉