Life in the fishbowl: Splitting up in a small town

Tyler Austin Bradley
By Tyler Austin Bradley
October 6th, 2010

There are a lot of benefits to living in a small-town, not the least of which is presumed commonality and familiarity with others who have also chosen to settle, remain or relocate here. I love this place for that sense of belonging, and for still challenging me on a daily basis with the contrast of often feeling the part of an outsider; I don’t feel entirely vested or vetted here, and maybe I never will, but I’ve come to accept it. Grudgingly.


This occasional sense of ‘outsiderness’ keeps me working at fostering, tending and nurturing existing and seeded friendships, accepting the perceived shortcomings and differences of everyone I share this amazing place with. I’d like to think it helps make me a better person. Or at least less odious. 


I am admittedly still trying to earn my ‘local’ stripes, and while I recognize that for a lot of people I may never get to stitch those onto my cub-scout sash, I will keep at it. That’s my commitment, and I’ve been thinking a lot about commitment of late.


Whew, this is harder than I thought it would be… 


One more aside, then, before I get into the meat of this admittedly self-indulgent, thinly veiled confessional; thanks to the ‘Telegraph and Nadine for affording me a ridiculous amount of latitude in my written work, and in my previous relationship of the last almost-eleven-years respectively. 


Your kindness, on both fronts, is appreciated to the Nth.


So, this isn’t a press release. No, it’s more of a rumination on splitting up, breaking up in a small-town. Not breaking down or falling apart, thankfully, but some thoughts on the physics and dynamics unique to a town, R-Town, Mountain Kingdom, when it comes to the expiration of a long term relationship. 


I have been the recipient of more back-slaps, bro-hugs, and dinner-invites the past few months than any one person deserves in a lifetime. People in-the-know as to the implosion of my marriage have cast more understanding looks my way than a stocked lake sees baited hooks in a season. And for that I am most thankful. It’s tough to be graceful amidst the wreckage of a split, difficult to even remain coherent on the bad days, but I am thankful to folks for not dividing up into His and Her encampments.


It has probably helped that I’m not a total jerk, but very few people have branded me Pariah Carey and refused to listen to my chart-topping songs of woe, not that I’m being super public with that stuff anyways… I guess ‘til now. Hm. 


But guys don’t have feelings anyways. Keep that in mind. I switched out all my bodily fluids for antifreeze years ago.


I would expect it is never easy to go through a split, but the dread that accompanied our privately concluding that things couldn’t go on, the dread that I had about public judgement, social leprosy and remonstrance, never materialized, and for that I am thankful.


Things could have gone really badly. It is a fishbowl here, a glasshouse filled with social liquidity and transparency where you don’t want to be chucking rocks around. At its worst, gossip gums up the aquarium filter and your social credibility can wind up floating belly up in no time. 


For us, amidst this split, our little model ship has sunk to the bottom, but we’ve been lucky enough to find our way to the surface. Not like rats abandoning a sinking ship or anything–let’s go with a pair of those wind-up scuba diver toys, the ones you used to have in the bath-tub. We’re coming out of this thing intact, flippers kicking, the bends hopefully subsiding sooner than later. No one’s getting flushed.


There are a lot of people here in town that arrived together, or met here, made a run at making a lifetime of it, and didn’t fare as well as us. I know there are people here who cross to the other side of the street when their ex is sole-to-pavement. I hope that is never the case for me, and I wouldn’t wish that kind of existence on anyone. Hokey as it is (and everyone’s situation is different) life is too short, and this town way too small for that kind of energy. At least in my life.


I don’t look to statistics for comfort, and, while the divorce rate is somewhere up around the 50% mark, it doesn’t really mean an awful lot without context. 50% doesn’t tell you that living with other people is really hard, that there are always going to be hard times, that your habits, mood, etc affect the person you live with as much as they do you. 50% doesn’t reflect the inputs and outputs, the emotional deposits and withdrawals, the emotional overdraft that goes part and parcel with a failed marriage (I bounced a lot of cheques, and spent a lot more emotional capital than my fair share- I was the debtor, and acknowledge it as fact: that’s accountability, folks). 


And 50% doesn’t take into account the aftermath. How do you deal with it, how do you relate to one another afterwards? What’s the percentage of split-up folks that fall into the guts-hating bracket, or the we’d-make-better-friends-than-a-couple side of things?


Being in a small-town, one thing that strikes me is my sense of responsibility in breaking the news gently to people I know, even people on the periphery of my life here. It’s weird. I try to imagine myself in Vancouver, surrounded by people, strangers, and can only imagine the process being that much more lonely and harsh. Maybe it’s not cathartic, but it’s something.


So thanks for listening, guy at the butcher counter. Thanks for listening, landfill patron. Thanks for listening, random wasted guy outside my house last Saturday.


Ridiculous as it may sound (we didn’t have kids, so I’m not really qualified to say this), I kind of feel like I’m telling my family, or my kids when I get into the details with people here… weird, huh? Silly as it sounds, I want to let people know that it’s going to be okay, that no one hates anybody, that we both want to stay in town, and that they shouldn’t worry, we’ll both be okay.


And maybe no one really wants to hear it, but I feel compelled to qualify things after dropping the D-Bomb on someone at Ferrarro’s. Because no one really knows what to say, but that’s okay- NOBODY does. I wouldn’t know what to say. And anyone that claims to be packing a panacea for something so traumatic ought to be strip-searched at the border- highly dubious, these claims of cure-alls for a broken heart.


But it’ll bounce back. If nothing else, your heart can take a beating. And I wouldn’t want to be fighting this round anyplace else. So thanks, town.


And thanks for reading.





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