Wednesday’s breakup film – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
I don’t normally follow through with much in life. I have the attention span of a goldfish. However, my two-week breakup course is still in full force. Every night, for two weeks, I’m going to watch another movie that I read you’re meant to watch after a breakup. I’m doing it a bit late considering Big Love and I actually broke up over eight months ago, but better late than never, right? Not that I really need an excuse to eat tub after tub of chocolate ice cream and crying to another tear-jerker movie in bed.
** I might include some spoilers, just in case you haven’t already seen the movie. **
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a proper thought-provoking movie, and I think Jim Carey and Kate Winslet play two very different characters in it than we’re used to seeing them play. It’s a really good film, though. One of those ones that I’ll probably find myself watching again and again.
The gist of the movie, if you haven’t seen it, is centred around the idea of being able to erase all memories of a painful ex from your life. As in, completely erase them. You’d have no recollection of them afterwards, not even recognising them if you bumped into them in the street.
This got me to thinking: would I do that if I could? Could I even do it? If I were to try and forget about a few of my exes, massive chunks of my life would also disappear. Really exciting and exhilarating chunks of my life. Probably some of the best. Because as much as those shitty men with their shitty experiences were … well, shitty, they also gave me some of the best experiences of my life. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if it weren’t for them. They created me. Each of them, little bit by little bit, made me.
If I erase The Hubby from my life, for example, I wouldn’t know how it feels to be cheated on. I wouldn’t have experienced the weird sensation of being metaphorically punched in the gut when I learned about yet another betrayal, which seems like a good thing, but I’m not so sure it is. I’d love more freely if I’d never gone through the insufferable pain of infidelity, and I wouldn’t be as cautious when giving my heart away. I’d get hurt more, be more gullible, fall for more bad men. All of those infidelities gave me pain, but they also gave me experience and wisdom. That kind of life lesson, despite being utterly soul-destroying at the time, is priceless.
I know now to trust my gut feeling when it’s telling me something isn’t right. I’m not sure I’d do that so frequently if I erased The Hubby and all memories of him from my life. My gut feeling was usually the first thing that told me he’d cheated on me yet again, and although he’d always tell me I was going crazy, that he hadn’t done it, he always had. Every time I thought he had, he had. Every time I felt like I needed to go looking for evidence of something I wouldn’t like, I found it. I think I’d be less trusting of my own gut instinct if I hadn’t gone through those five years. And they weren’t all bad. They were really, really bad at times, but they weren’t all bad.
But if I deleted him from my memory, I wouldn’t have that scar just above my lip. Or the scar on my back from when he threw me into the door handle. Or the scars on my feet from where he dragged around a parking lot. Or the scar on my hand from when he stabbed me with a screwdriver. Or the scars on my legs that I did to myself, but I definitely wish I could erase those parts of my life.
I wouldn’t remember how it feels to be punched in the face. That’s a lesson I wish I hadn’t learned, but I need to be thankful for it now. If I’m not thankful, what am I? Angry? Sad? Scared? No, I don’t want to be those things. That would still make me his victim. So I’m thankful for those awful things to me instead, because I learned. I learned to spot the warning signs of an abusive relationship. I learned that a man who hits you once will probably do the same thing time and time again. I learned that men will get away with whatever *I* let them get away with, and I did let The Hubby get away with all of that stuff. He never had to deal with repercussions for any of his actions. I didn’t leave him [for longer than a couple of weeks, until I actually left him], I never pressed charges, I refused to go to his bosses at work or the welfare department. I just forgave him, constantly, repeatedly. I forgave him even though I knew he’d cheat on me again, believing that one day he would change. I forgave him even though I knew he’d probably beat me again, believing that one day he would change. But he didn’t. He never changed. One day never came. And I now know that men like that – like him – probably won’t ever change. Not until they are forced to … and it won’t be by me.
At the same time though, there are other things – good things – that I wouldn’t remember if I permanently deleted The Hubby from my memory. And some of the other men in my life too, for that matter. And I want to remember those things. I want to remember that time The Hubby and I went to Heidi Park and I FINALLY MANAGED TO GO ON THE BIG, SCARY RIDE. It took me 45 minutes of pacing in circles just to pluck up the courage to walk up to the queue, after trying and failing countless times as we circled the park throughout the day. I did it in the end, though. And we were both so proud of me. He hugged me tight and wiped my tears away at the end and I couldn’t have loved him more.
And I want to remember that time he left the house to get groceries and bizarrely ended up coming home with a couple of pet steppe lemmings instead. (I know, WTF?!) And that time we dressed up like Bond characters and sang karaoke really badly all night. And all those weekends that we curled up together on the couch to play Playstation games, not giving a shit about what was going on in the world around us. And when we spent the entire weekend fucking. Literally, the entire weekend, just breaking for showers and food and fluids.
I wouldn’t have travelled if it weren’t for him. He was the start of my travels. I wouldn’t have made it to the war zone without him, and then I wouldn’t have met Big Love or moved to the other side of the world. All of those things happened to me because of the men I dated at the time, so to erase them would also mean erasing all of the other amazing times I had along the way. And those are things that I want to remember for the rest of my life.
I don’t hate any of my exes enough to want to erase them permanently. I don’t want to give them that much of my energy. I’m in the slumpiest of slumps right now, sad and mid-breakup, but I still don’t want to erase Big Love, or The Hubby, or any of the men (or women) in my list. I love the process of falling in love. By proxy, I need to learn how to fall in love with the process of falling out of love, too. Because one very rarely comes without the other. Once in a blue moon, perhaps, but it always ends.
How about you? Do you think you could hate your time with someone so much that you would be willing to completely erase all memories of them from your mind? Deleting the good with the bad, smooth with the rough, pleasure with the pain? And what kind of person do you think you would be as a result? I’d be a very different person, I think. Maybe even one that I didn’t like very much.
To my exes: would you erase me?
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