A year ago I wrote an email to my boyfriend which ended: “I hope you can be truly happy. I would like to be friends, but I can’t. Not now, not ever. It’s over. I’m done.” And he wrote one back ending: “I won’t be in touch I guess, I’m sorry.”
I then called my friend, Mel, to come round, her face tense with sympathy confirmed I could now move on. I’d got it all off my chest, I’d moved on and I was ready to put it behind me. Then, we got drunk. And yet, as I write this, I am currently waiting for said boyfriend to finish work and to come over to my house, have a night in with a pizza and a film. This is something he’s been doing since about three months after I sent that email. In short, I had closure and it felt great. And then, I changed my mind.
I’d had that feeling before, many times, having, like most people sent other emails and made other calls to the same effect, drawing a line under all sorts of relationships with family members, friends and lovers. And I knew there was only one cure: to give up on the simplistic notion of closure, get on the phone and say: “Can we possibly look at this again?” And after a string of casual meetings as friends, we decided to give it another go.
In Shakespeare everyone dies or gets married and our “little lives are rounded with a sleep.” In Jane Austin’s Emma, Harriet purges herself of an unhappy crush by throwing a keepsake into the fire.
There is, is there not, the whiff of cliché to any act of supposed closure? The sad but certain ‘Screw You’ note slipped under the door, the dithering resignation letter and the theatrical ‘It’s Over’ statement thrown at a partner. More often than not, closure is just a performance that we put in – even if it may be the performance of our lives. “I’m done with the bullshit and I’m done with yours too!” I yelled at a friend after a string of incidents that ended our friendship a few years ago. Great line I thought, beneath the tears.
Closure has come to feel like a human right. Without the collections of great lines, great endings, we can imagine ourselves peculiarly stunted. According to one website, to gain closure you “first have to define your loose ends. Forgive, withdraw and then have a symbolic ceremony.” Yet the braver of us understand that the only thing that brings about any meaningful end to things is time. It’s anti-dramatic and it sucks, but closure usually happens without you even noticing it: no drama, no statements required. In the end you really do just forget about the man, the bad friend or the horror of a situation you found yourself in. You can walk past the girl who broke up your relationship, and are surprised to not feel very much at all. The memory of a beloved family member no longer makes you wince when you accidentally hear David Bowie on the radio.
The hardest thing we must accept is that people are mysterious. That it’s hard to understand what we’re all about. The pain, hurt and anger cannot be packed away – it is silly to even try. Imposing closure on things is just a way of stopping all this stuff we call life from coming at you.
The truth is, most of the time closure’s not really about having your say and clearing all memories – it’s about winning. This implies that all relationships in the end come down to a straight fight. I don’t want to fight. But these days, if my boyfriend and I do fight and I want to diffuse the situation, I quote from my closure letter: “I’m done,” and to which he’ll smile. I’ll smile. And then we sit and get back to reality.
You can read more from Lauren Martin on her blog.
Feature image via Shutterstock.