Loved, Learned and Lit Up

That’s sort of what I want my epitaph to say.

It also appears to be my strategy for navigating breakups because when a relationship goes south, after the tears, disappointment, and foggy daze, I typically do four things.

  1. Celebrate good times.
  2. Pinpoint what went wrong.
  3. Extract lessons.
  4. Burn things.

Yes, burn things. There’s something very healing and cathartic about deleting emails and packing up the ex’s clothes, toiletries and gifts and carting them off to Goodwill, but it’s the fire that really helps me turn the corner. Lots of fire.

If it burns, it burns and I sometimes border on needing a bonfire permit as I arbitrarily pitch cards, letters, notes, poems, photos and what-not onto open flames.

Well, except that long ago, I kept one photo for an album I used to call the Book of Duds until it dawned on me that that name wasn’t very high-minded of me. I upgraded it to the Book of Loves, but as I morphed into an unintentional serial monogamist, I realized I might be taking on too much clutter, and spared not a single photo.

Without a face to trigger the memory, except for the one I was married to, sometimes I forget their names. Sometimes their sequence. Is that bad?

Ran into one of the Top Ten years back and he asked if I still had poetry he’d written.

“I burned it,” I said simply, watching his face sink.

“All of it?” he asked bug-eyed with disbelief.


He wrote soul-stirring stuff too that he should have published instead of giving to pyromaniac-me because why would I keep it? It captured feelings he had for me at the time, but when we’re over we’re over, and it feels healthy to say a firm goodbye and cut the dangly chords—material and emotional—between us so my energy is clear and ready for my next love. No whining, no pining, no altars to the past.

Before the email invasion, seeing how other mementos could also trigger memories I’d rather not dwell on, I’ve also torched chivalrous, old-school-style courting letters from he-men not known for gushy-mushy stuff.

The one inflammable thing hardest to purge exes from is music, especially when we’ve had Our Songs. I stopped listening to Al Jarreau in the early 2000s because he provided the soundtrack for an entire relationship. Going forward, I’ve tried not to have Our Songs or like a tune first so it’s not so much our song as it is my song.

Given my ex-purging habits, it caught me off guard recently when one new interest got on a row chronicling his relationship history. General overviews and themes are okay, I told him, but dissecting the joys and horrors of specific relationships past is not my idea of a good date.

If I’m sentimental, it’s around lessons and blessings my loves have provided. Because they were in my orbit, I’ve been the beneficiary of a lot of passion, kindness, creativity, caring, and crazy-good love and even though I’ve torched their things, I believe the sweetest memories are burned into my soul and I don’t regret loving any of them.

Because of them, I also know what doesn’t work and that it’s much easier to fall in love than it is to stay there. Thomas Edison was talking about his inventions when he famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Hope in my case with the love thing, my numbers pale in comparison, but still I’m willing to keep leaping, keep hoping that stars, chemistry and compatibility will eventually align for a long-love sometime before I die.

To loves of my life,

N. Shami

5 thoughts on “Loved, Learned and Lit Up

  1. Gosh, I so agree with this article. I feel like every-time I log into my ymail, I’m harassed to read the latest gossip about Amanda Bynes or B. Spears when all I really want to do is relax and respond to my emails from my friends overseas.

  2. I totally agree about the burning things tidbit, its a great stress relief. Hell it makes you feel pretty damn good! I remember I set fire to my boyfriends things! Very therapeutic!

  3. I think that we’ve all gone through a few bad relationships. The difference between men and women though seems to be that a woman will handle the breakup hard pretty much immediately and deal with it then. She’ll classify it as over and move on. A man will shelf it and come back to it when he has the inclination which is often too late and then wonder if he still has the charisma to charm her back and try to go back to her. It just gets embarrassing at that point.
    Men tend to collect the mementos from a relationship and hoard them for future reminiscing. I personally have boxes and boxes of photos and letters from ex’s. I keep them on facebook and in my contact section of my cell phone.
    It probably drives my wife nuts. Maybe I should take a lesson from you and just get rid of it all…

    • Thanks for the man-brain. I’ve never understood why guys keep my stuff when it’s over. Scarily, one even told me he had what sounded like a shrine in his garage. Oh no!

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