I once had dinner with a married couple and two other single friends in a beautiful restaurant. The low-light ambiance was both soothing and embracing. The servers were attentive but not hovering. The food was unpretentious and yet exquisite. Everything was perfect. Well, not quite. It soon became apparent that something had gone rancid in the relationship of the married couple. As the half-joking barbed comments about each other continued the three of us singles glanced covertly at each other confirming the rising panic that we felt. It was like sitting in gunpowder while the couple busily flicked lit matches at each other. To say that I was anxious is an understatement. I thought “We speak without thinking, we listen without hearing, we are cruel without caring.”
In between the entree and the dessert the explosion occurred! She jumped up raging. He bellowed like a stuck bull. The insults they hurled were fueled by years of not being honest with each other until finally this evening the list of accusatory evidence was sufficient for an instant trial. He yanked his wedding ring off his finger and threw it at her. It pinged off her head and went skittering under a nearby table. He stormed out. She didn’t so much sit down as collapsed into her chair. While she sobbed terror held us fast as frozen trees. Dessert was a serving of the incoherent cruelty of loss, a moment which no reasons or excuses can adequately explain.
Three years later she and we three singles were once again at a table in that same restaurant celebrating her new life. Having been freed of the burden of a dysfunctional relationship her artwork had gained a new depth that was catching the attention of many. Paintings were selling and galleries were asking to represent her! I remember thinking that although it seemed her life had been turned upside-down three years ago, maybe in fact that night had turned it right-side up! Where he was, no one knew. So maybe when it looks as if life is ending it might be useful for us to trust that an ending is also the beginning of whatever comes next. It is up to us to engage with that beginning even when it is incoherently painful to do so.