The quotable old Greek Aeschylus’s pithy epigram, “Wisdom comes alone through suffering,” has been a stark warning to me since my girlfriend dumped me in August. I have done everything possible to keep the misery to a bare minimum and to avoid accruing wisdom at any cost.
I didn’t mope around my apartment. I didn’t read “Siddhartha” looking for the path to enlightenment. I didn’t croon along to melancholic songs about heartbreak. I didn’t turn the breakup into a formative, character-building experience. Life is too short to waste time learning anything about it.
While the summer waned and turned to fall, I went out drinking. I went on dates. I stayed up late. I ate whatever I wanted. I made frivolous impulse purchases. I incessantly listened to “Head Held High” by the Velvet Underground and “It’s a New Day” by James Brown. The bottom line was I let it loose and didn’t look back.
This abject denial of introspection enabled me to thrive during a tumultuous stretch of personal upheaval. Sure, the transition back to the single life hasn’t been perfectly smooth and painless, but it has been swift.
In my previous life, I pleasantly spent most Friday nights unwinding with my ex-girlfriend in our Clinton Hill apartment. After a grueling week of filing articles for our award-winning (and hard-driving) editor, there were almost no weekend kickoff activities that could lure me away from my domestic base.
In the breakup aftermath, my priorities have shifted 180 degrees. The prospect of spending Friday nights at home — alone — in my slightly shabby Ditmas Park apartment could lead me to begin wondering how I wound up in this position. From there, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to suffering and, God forbid, wisdom. (And then after that, it’s only one remote-control click away from late-night infomercials.)
To avoid such a fate, I’ve carefully structured my lifestyle to err on the side of freewheeling, rather than introspection.
In the old days, I brought home a bottle of wine on Friday to tipple over dinner. Now, I stop off in bodegas to lug cheap beer to house parties and backyard cookouts all over the borough where I’ve been catching up with friends and carrying on long into the night.
And instead of the reassuring comfort of spending time with someone who knew me well — the aforementioned dumper — there has been the excitement and excruciating uncertainty of dating a new young woman.
Our first encounter was riddled with the ominous fact that my recently dumped status registered as a mid-level concern with my companion (and maybe even myself).
Thankfully, that minus didn’t morph into a full-scale deal-breaker (and cause more personal pain), so I’ve been able to feel the thrill of getting to know someone over a handful of dinners, drinks, and a soggy afternoon at the mobbed MOMA when the remnants of a hurricane blew through the city. Serves me right for going into Gaphattan at all.
The dizzying highs are only one side of the fun. There’s also the anxiety, the Monday morning quarterbacking of the dates, the Sun Tzu-like strategy about what to say in phone calls and even when to place them. As one friend put it, this is as good as it gets because it “lets you know you’re alive” in a way that people in firmly rooted relationships would never understand.
My advice to anyone going through a similar ordeal is to suppress any urge to dwell on the dead relationship. Don’t look for an answer. Embrace the turbulence.
One thing hasn’t changed though — Boss Kuntzman is still cracking a nasty whip in the newsroom (perhaps that’s how he avoids the introspection he so desperately needs).