My business partner and I recently broke up. It was not a mutual decision. It was my own, though I felt at the time that I was simply the first person to bring out into the open the fact that we were not working well together. There were moments of beauty amid what had become a very stressful existence for me, to the point where I had trouble feeling the magic that had been so very alive between us before.
I have written about this parting of ways in the past several weeks since it happened, but like so many transitions in my life, I am finding that clarity comes in bits and pieces with time and processing.
In my mind, I have likened our separation as akin to a breakup in a relationship, but I am not certain I have described this in writing.
When the stress I was experiencing had reached an unsustainable threshold, I put down into words the reasons I could not carry on. It was not an easy truth to communicate. I reflected, revised, and reread the letter several times before sending it. I went to yoga soon after, sat down to meditate, and began to weep. The reality of what I had done was being felt in my body as it became more real.
I felt emotions that were similar to when I left my husband.
I felt sad. Even though I knew it was not healthy for me to continue our relationship, there was a part of me that did not want to let it go. Maybe, it could still work? Maybe, we could still be a good fit for each other. But try as I might, I just could not get my heart on board. Deep down, I knew it had to be over.
I felt grief, like someone had died. I was losing a person who I had been very close to and shared many intimacies.
I felt nervous. How would he respond to the news? What would other people think? Would they think I was a failure? Would they think I had given up on success because I had not only let go of my business partner but also my songwriting teacher?
I felt fear. Was I making a huge mistake? Could I be successful on my own? What if I was not able to complete songs as beautiful as when we worked together?
Question after question arose, and with these questions came waves of emotion.
I sat with them all. And then came the response, very brief, about having done good work with the time we had together.
All was quiet on the iPhone front for 24 hours. Then came a barrage of text messages, the intensity increasing over the course of a day.
There were messages about whether it was a mistake to drive out to Arizona and whether he was to blame for this decision. There were messages expressing the wish that we had created an agreed upon timeframe to work together, followed by a mutual agreement to part ways, and there were messages communicating the thought that I had always intended of bowing out this early.
There were exclamation marks, which I read as an increase in agitation, but this could simply have been my own sensibility.
I read each of these messages, and I did my best to respond gently and with kindness while holding the boundary I had created. Sometimes, I waited for a while before responding. Sometimes, I simply did not know how to respond.
I suggested that texting might not be the best way to communicate, but the texts continued to appear on my phone.
After more than 24 hours of texting back and forth, I wrote a simple message with an apology for the way things worked out and saying that I had not intended to be misleading or hurtful.
The response I received was one that I did know how to respond to. The message expressed the emotion of being puzzled and wondering if my apology meant that I was ready to do whatever it would to take to make amends for what I had done, as that is what happens in AA and Al Anon.
I literally had no idea what he was talking about. Did he think I was behaving like an addict, with no control? Or did he think I was very wrong in my behaviors and owed him an apology for expressing my truth that our partnership was becoming increasingly unhealthy for me?
As I did not know how to respond, I did not respond for many hours.
Finally, I wrote a short message asking for clarification because I was not sure how to interpret the text.
The response did not shed light on my question. It simply wished me a peaceful continuation of my journey.
My bewilderment only increased. Did this mean that he did not think me worthy of an explanation because clearly I was in denial of acting like an addict? Kind of like the response I would get when I was a child and asked for an explanation from a peer who might be upset with me:
I don’t understand. What did I do? I would ask.
I shouldn’t have to tell you what you did. It’s so obvious, you should already know.
Pullease, just tell me so I can make sure not to do it again.
If you don’t understand or see what you have done, there is no point in me explaining it to you.
Aka, if you are not self-aware or smart enough to understand the mistake you have made, my telling you will not make you any less dense.
Per the suggestion of a mutual friend, I suggested that perhaps we try to talk in person at some time in the near future, to which I received no response.
I offered for him to continue working with our business mentor, as I needed the time and space to discover the kind of songwriter I wanted to be.
I received the response that helping people heal through songwriting no longer seemed very important.
Ok. I assumed this was not how he really felt but that he was feeling hurt and betrayed. I didn’t blame him. I thought we had done an admirable job of trying to work through our very different ways of being and creating in the month we had spent together.
Coming from working a full-time, permanent job with the National Park Service, with its many bosses in the seemingly never-ending chain of command, I had begun to realize that I did not want a boss. I also was realizing that I did not want to work myself into the ground. But I also did not want to feel like I was not committed to the songwriting business cause because I also wanted to take my dog for walks, go swimming, spend time with my family, and practice yoga.
When I did those things, I would feel guilty that I was spending time on my self. I would try to hurry through each activity, my stress level growing if I was running late to continue working on the business side of things. It got to the point where the pastimes I had once found relaxing and meditative had become something to get through on the way to the next thing.
I woke up in a panic every morning before we started working together. My anxiety would build during the day, and I would have trouble falling asleep. Day in and day out, this went on.
My relationship with my ex-husband had gone on seven years before I gained the clarity to understand that I was unhappy. I was very accustomed and quite skilled at ignoring what was going on inside of me. It had gotten to the point where I did not even recognize that I was unhappy. It was other people in my life who had to doggedly suggest to me that this was the case.
Through the years of reflection since my divorce and in the patterns I discovered through my doctoral research and writing on the concept of self-sustainability, I have been training myself to take notice of how my body responds to unsustainable situations in my life.
And this was one of them.
In communicating my truth, I did not feel like I was giving up on being a songwriter. I felt like I was honoring my right to be the kind of songwriter and business-person I wanted to be.
This does not mean that I walked away from the relationship free from emotion, hurt, anger, or frustration. Far from it.
Each day has brought with it different emotional challenges to work through. I wonder what my ex business partner is doing. Where he is. When I sent a message about a workshop we had been hired to offer and received the response that he was in Vermont developing an internship program for a local college, I felt a wave of unease pass over me.
Was he working to offer students songwriting interships? Had he moved on? Or was this his rebound business in the wake of our separation?
Was he achieving success? Did this mean that I was not successful?
The waves of uncertainty and fear arrive, and then they pass.
I have the patience and wisdom now to know that I can work through each wave, and that I will get through the darkness to the light on the other side. No emotion is permanent except the foundational belief that I deserve a joyful, peaceful existence.
I have learned enough from my life experiences to know that I will find my own path, and that this in and of itself is success.