I titled this post as such because, when I sat down to write it, I was under the mistaken impression that this animal, the offspring of a male lion and a tigress, was sterile, thus unable to mate. A quick web search revealed my error (thanks Wikipedia!) and increased my dispiritedness. The firm belief that at least one other species of red mammal existed, that did not partner or produce children, has been a source of comfort for the last week. Another entry in the diary of shattered illusions.
Relationship number infinity has gone kaput. Though the most recent ex and I remain in love, there were just too many challenges to weather: rushed cohabitation, unemployment, health struggles, addiction issues and the general cynicism that tends to afflict those who’ve traveled around the block more than a few times. We started hurting each other, flagrantly, unintentionally and the gray areas in between, more often than we laughed and learned.
Though there are many logistical issues and emotional challenges involved in the separation process, the question that’s been running through my mind most of the day is this, a variation of an age old conceit: is it better to have loved and lost multiple times than never to have loved at all? What does repeated failure to connect do to a body and spirit, and just how many times can one put themselves out there? The number must be finite, because I feel out of turns. Not because I believe myself incapable of attracting another person after some healing time; because I just don’t want to anymore.
This is not the grief talking. My approach here, I assure you, is purely academic. After my divorce was finalized at the end of 2011, I fell into a dangerous, life threatening depression. I dated as a method of distraction, throwing my need to be loved and accepted in almost every direction, hoping something would stick. To the surprise of no one – my loyal therapist, close friends, and somewhere fundamental within myself – these dalliances born of desperation failed uniformly. 2012 rolled around and as a New Year commitment to developing internal resources bore fruit, healthier connections with the opposite sex formed organically. I was finally on the right track and when these more salutary relationships foundered, the independence and appreciation for my own company I’d harnessed allowed me to weather the breach with much greater equanimity.
I am saddened by the most recent breakup. 14 months is the longest I’ve ever dated anyone without marrying them and in numerous ways, my ex is the man most suited on paper to comprise my other half. We’ve known each other for years and share the same circle of friends. He supports me in my career, nursed me through various health crises and since I’ve no desire to bear and raise children, but love the idea of a family unit, the daughter and granddaughter that came with him as lovely accessories completed a certain idea of what I want my personal life to be.
But as I wander through the world, I’ve come to understand the difference between the laboratory and practical application. In operation, we were two people used to having our own way with very little need to compromise. Without rings, no shared offspring to force collaboration and no financial dependence on either side, walking away was viewed as the path of least resistance. Only at our respective ages, 42 (he) and 35 (I), we’re both aware that the idea of someone better coming along is an iffy prospect. Somehow we’ve both made our peace with it. I’m in an exciting and fulfilling place in my career, and I plan to allow that to consume the bulk of my cerebral bandwidth. The self-love I experience from multiple jobs well done has turned out to be, in many respects, more uplifting than an imperfect, estranged appreciation from another living creature.
And it’s with all this in mind that I made the association between myself and the capable-of-mating-after-all liger. Only I understand now that the comparison was faulty to begin. Is there an animal in the kingdom capable of forming partnerships, but would rather feel successful alone than disappointed inside a coupling?