On Closure

Closure is different for everyone and it doesn’t look like what TV and the Movies portray. Closure starts from within.

Man, I've written and rewritten this post more times than I care to admit. Closure, acceptance, forgiveness, redemption. I think a lot about all of these, especially lately. I think about them, in short, because I've made some poor decisions and hurt someone in the process, recently.

Today I am going to talk about what closure means to me, as it pertains to me, myself, and my stuff. Strap in, kidlets!

When I write these posts, I'm trying to explain myself in a way I hope the people I hurt would read and understand someday. This is the fantasy that plays in my mind. If people would just read why I did what I did then maybe they could just forgive me and help me on the path to healing myself; maybe if they'd give me their forgiveness or permission to forgive myself I can move on—that would be closure.

Or would it? I have a very Hollywood perspective on the act of closure. When I think of it, what it means to me, I envision two people with a messy history, shared pain, who come together, have a heartfelt discussion, and then say their piece. They understand each other, the person who needs to apologize, does the thing, they walk in opposite directions.

And scene!

Even though that's how I want closure to be but that's not how it is. My fantasy of closure hinges entirely on my feelings, my wants, and not those of the people I've hurt.

I'm still not sure how closure works—I've heard from people and read articles on the topic. You see, I'm avoiding something in this pursuit of closure. I'm avoiding the immense guilt and shame that I have for what I've done partially. I keep thinking that I can have that heart-to-heart with the people I've hurt, make myself heard and understood, and lessen the burden of what I'm feeling.

The fact is that I'm trying to reduce the burden I feel from the decisions I've made. Asking forgiveness is a way to offload the emotional burden onto someone else, and I think that's one reason why I keep thinking about forgiveness and why I place such a premium on it. I'm avoiding the pain and the attention all of this requires.

Guilt and Remorse ≠ Repair

If you possess awareness enough to understand that you messed up then you feel that shame, you feel sorry, guilty—all the shitty feelings that well up when you've messed up you know what I'm talking about.

Alone, feelings of guilt and remorse are okay, they're good-ish, but they do not equate to repair. If I apologize to you for something I did but then I keep doing the same thing to you or to others, then my apology is worthless. Isn't it? In other words, if your remorse or your apology isn't accompanied by real change then none of it matters.

I'm not a changed person right now. I'm trying to find my peace with all of this but it's hard. I haven't been able to get over what's happened and I'm still dealing with the consequences and the fallout of everything.

I know that I need help. It's been a struggle finding the right help and some days I feel like it's not worth it. But if I don't try to make things better then I'll go back to repeating old patterns and I don't want that!

Closure = Being Better, Doing Better

Putting the fantasized version of closure behind me, I see now that closure happens from within, we give it to ourselves, like so many platitudes are written. I need to find the ability to forgive myself from within, I need to take it easier on myself, be kinder to myself. I've done nothing but shit on myself for the last several weeks. But then even that is a pattern, a lifelong pattern, and I have to fix that, too!

Closure means being accountable for myself and my actions. Closure means showing up when others hold you accountable for poor behavior. Closure means learning to live with what you've done and find a way to forgive and let go of the things you did while doing the mental and emotional labor that all of it requires of you.

I've been listening to this Headspace meditation practice for Acceptance. Who or what are you avoiding? is the question asked at the beginning, and repeated throughout the practice. I'm avoiding the length of time I have to carry the burden of my actions. I'm avoiding doing the work on myself I need to do to begin repairing myself internally/emotionally. I'm avoiding the deeper questions of why. Why am I doing what I'm doing? Why do I fear commitment? Why do I feel I must be in control? I'm avoiding emotional labor…

I know that there's trauma from my childhood from how I was raised and in the conditions I was raised within that still affect me. My relationship with my mother is not the greatest. I've worked on mending that relationship and I've made progress, letting go of some of the pain I held on to. Yet, some remnants of my past trauma remain, affecting how I enter and engage in romantic relationships. I also have a lot of fear of being destitute, not having resources, being poor. I grew up poor, without gas, electricity, and a phone, we were fortunate to have a roof over our heads, thanks to my grandparents. I remember what it was like going without. I promised myself I wouldn't let that happen to me again. That fear of going without overrides my decision-making at times, it prevents me from paying myself what I should and much more.

I have so much to fix and yet I sit here having a pity party, feeling sorry for myself. Oh geez, look at what I did. I messed up AGAIN! I can't keep going on like this. If I do, I'm going to be miserable and I'm not going to be able to handle it. I have to make the change.

What does closure look like?

Closure takes on many forms. One time, I was on a run and during the run, I ran through the neighborhood of an old ex—I realized at that moment that I hadn't thought about her in months. I never got the closure I thought I needed from her; I never got an explanation, a why, or whatnot. Closure was me simply moving on, forgetting, filling my mind with other things.

Photo by Nick Bolton on Unsplash

Another time, another ex, one who I lived with—we talked periodically, following our breakup—about a year after our breakup my ex told me that she still had an old box of my things. I headed over to her place, the one we shared. Her demeanor was different, her eyes were sunken, lips pursed; her best friend was there, too, not wanting to chat with me. My ex kept it brief. She handed me the box of my things, I turned to put it in my car. I spun around to say something (probably a lame joke) and she hugged me, it was a big warm hug. She looked me in the eyes and said Goodbye, Alex. Take care. She turned and walked away. That was the last time I ever spoke with her.

At that moment my ex moved on. It was a clear line in the sand. It felt like goodbye. I never reached out again, I knew what that interaction was, even if it wasn't written on paper.

Sometimes closure looks exactly like you think it ought to.

Often, when relationships end, they are messy and unsettled. There's hurt, there's sadness, there's a lot of stuff—much of the stuff goes unresolved. Sometimes exes can remain friends. I've only had a couple of exes I stayed in contact with over the years but have found it's best to let them go.

Wanting forgiveness from my ex means that I want her to share the load of my emotional baggage. That's not fair. Is it? Closure looks different for everyone, I suppose.

I have an idea of what my closure over recent events might look like. I have to re-examine my patterns, the things I do, what compelled me to act in the way I did. Understand where it comes from and get into the guts of it all. It's uncomfortable and messy but I have to do it if I'm ever going to be off of this shit and not proceed through life underneath a rain cloud.

Closure and Activation, the Batman and Joker of Relationships

I can't talk about closure without mentioning Activation. You see, when things get lonely, or too tough to bear, I have fallback behavior I retreat to. My fallbacks are to reach out to past flames, send a book to someone I dated but hadn't seen in a while. Whatever it is. It's called an Activation Strategy and I didn't realize that it's a thing I've been doing for years and years.

What is an Activation Strategy? There are numerous definitions, however, to me, activation strategies are a means to get close to someone who has drifted away, or someone you no longer speak with, it's a way to spark conversation or some sort of interaction. I've done it time and time again. I'm fighting to not do that now.

What does that (activation) actually look like in real-time? Glad you asked! I'm currently going through the mortgage pre-qualification process (woot woot). The mortgage person I'm working with is the father of someone I was dating for a couple of months. Things didn't work out, we were able to talk about it like adults and leave it there. We talked one other time since we stopped seeing each other. I wanted to reach out to her but have decided not to. There's no reason for it and it might make things weird and, frankly, I'm not in a great mental space so it's better to leave it alone. Maybe if I buy a house I'll tell her all about it. I'll give it time.

Blogging about this

What are the ethics of blogging about exes? This blog entry can be seen as an activation strategy. I've struggled with that. Here's the thing: My job isn't to make myself invisible to my exes so they're comfortable. My job is to live my life, go about my business, take care of myself and those around me. I make the effort to stay away from their socials, ignore them where/when I see them, and leave things be. They should be doing the same.

As a concept, closure is still tricky for me. I have to let go of certain patterns, I have to let go of people (exes). While I think of how bad I feel about everything, I have to find the positive notes, too. My most recent ex provided a lot of insight to me, on our way to break-up-landia; I'm grateful for that, as weird as it is to say. She provided me some of the vocabulary and tools I didn't previously have or know about and that's provided a light in the shadows of my mental muck.

On closure, I have to make room for closure to happen, whatever that looks like. Making room also means doing the labor required of me. It's long overdue. It's time.

Author profile

Alex is the founder and managing editor at the Urban Dater. Alex also runs: DigiSavvy, for which he is the co-founder and Principal. Alex has a lot on his mind. Will he ever get it right? If he does, he'll be sure to write.

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