She arrived like a bolt from the blue.
She was perfect. Not just perfect “for me,” which she was. But she was perfect in every way. I was finally getting the reward I deserved for my protracted patience, waiting painstakingly for genuine substance and permission to embrace primal desire. She was a ten, the most stunning woman I had ever seen. But her physical beauty was a superfluous gratuity to her gentle nature, her dynamic love, and her supreme intellect.
I had found The One.
The relationship was bliss, ecstasy. She introduced me to music that forever changed my iTunes playlists. She inspired adventure. Our beach and mountain picnics were storybook. We drove the Big Sur coast just because. Our pontification on art, literature, and politics was cerebral. We spoke of how being with one another made us feel like the strongest, most confident versions of ourselves. Our love-making was sublime.
We were invincible.
And you know where this goes next.
Debris started to crumble, little pebbles cascading down the mountain. Soon after, vast fissures formed along the range. Whole mountains collapsed. Then, in what felt like an instant, the entire continent imploded and vanished into the deep.
I speak in extremes. Perhaps I also subconsciously seek them. Perhaps my own patterns invited them into my relationship and marshalled the story of its destruction. Perhaps the highs should have foreshadowed the lows, as the stratospheric heights spiraled into purgatorial depths.
This was my fault, of course. “I caused this disaster,” I convinced myself (with her help). I lost my ‘one’ – after thirsting for her so desperately.
Depression engulfed me. I hid from the world in my basement apartment. I left the lights off at work and closed the door to conceal my bloodshot eyes. I spent hours writing letters I would never send and strategizing the moves I would never make to win her back.
The breakup consumed me. And in doing so, it gave me the best gift I have ever received:
It shook me hard enough to wake me up.
I would not realize a personal conscious revelation until years later, but the breakup was its catalyst.
Like most, I was asleep, living in my unconscious slumber, consumed by the mind, a slave to incognizant thought. Wedded to my conditioned expectations of relationships and love, and seeking to fill the internal void with external stimuli, I built a house on sand. A particularly grand house of unbridled hopeless romanticism, on particularly unstable sand of expectation and reliance on another for the peace that can only come from within.
In hindsight, my position was more volatile than I realized. So goes unconsciousness. A house built on such a foundation is destined to collapse.
And collapse I did. My work, my relationships with friends and family, my substance use as a means of escape, my energy, my confidence—they all took turns for the worse.
This was just…wrong.
This was not what was promised to me through social expectation and conditioning to expect the white picket fence. The paradigm of love imposed through Valentine’s cards and Zale’s commercials, through teenage sitcoms and religious dogma, was all wrong.
I cannot explain the sequence in the emotions. I am sure it has been philosophically mapped out somewhere. Consternation, outrage, despair, resentment, exasperation, bitterness, bewilderment, embarrassment, disorientation—they bombarded me like hailstones on a tin roof.
But confusion dominated. How did it escape me that my entire paradigm of love was misguided? How did the puzzle just vanish as I was about to insert the final piece?
And thus began the search. Thus began the shakeup.
Where else had I been misinformed and ignorant?
What else in my life was wrong?
Underlying the shakeup was the intuition that seeking contentment where I had been conditioned to expect it was wrong. But when the whole paradigm is wrong, one does not know where to begin. I decided to turn everything upside down.
I saved my money, I quit my job, and I left. My family, my friends, my job, my country. It was, and is, cliché. I needed to find myself. I spurned everything, muttering little more than “I will find what is right for me.”
But the cliché exists for a reason; find myself, I did.
While traveling, I never knew what was “right.” I went on feeling. I went on instinct, as I learned how to wield it. I went on the assumption that better awaited. And as I later learned, developing and following intuition is what forges self-discovery.
For the better part of three years, I immersed myself in Oceania, Southeast Asia, and Europe, conversing, learning, observing, building. The location was not important. The intention was. From the tabula rasa left by the receding tidal wave, I started to build what I needed.
The essential first step was laying the foundation. I found it in mindfulness. And I now realize that foundation is unbreakable.
The shakeup ignited by a lost love cleared the way for what I truly needed. Two years later—after reading Thich Nhat Hanh and Eckhart Tolle, observing the peacefulness of Eastern culture and finding the wisdom of silence—I fully woke up. Thoughts transformed from controlling masters into manageable or disregard-able actors in my personal theatre. I started choosing my performers and my reactions to them. I started choosing happiness from within.
And I started to choose the life that was best for me.
Everything is always a process. My transformation is no exception. Waking up does not equate to having it all figured out. But the contentment I created is incontrovertible.
Now I choose what the breakup means. Now I choose to make it, and the calamitous relationship that preceded it, a gift.
Indeed, that collaborative sequence inspired joys I may not have otherwise manifested. It inspired a fervent love of music. It foreshadowed later revelations from travel. It encouraged me to write, to put myself out there in hope of comforting a stranger. It emboldened passion relegated to the shadows. It allowed me to see my value and strength. And it showed me the limitless potential of my ability to love.
I am still single (wink wink, ladies…kidding…kind of), I have returned home to California, and I am living paycheck to paycheck. I am living a life my former self would have found unstable, unfathomable and untenable.
And I have never been happier. I have never been more sure of myself.
So goes the cliché: we all have our demons. I had mine, she had hers. The collision of programmed expectations, irreconcilable conflicts and unconscious reactivity, following the most intense of dopamine rushes, destroyed me. And it was necessary.
That breakup shook up literally everything.
And I could not be more joyful that it did.
By Matthew Mason