The 7 Stages of Apartedness

I’ve been conducting a study – yes, that’s what I’ll call it – about how humans react to the temporary absence of another. I’m talking everything from a co-worker or friend going on vacation to a spouse or loved one going on a work-related trip. It’s curious to see how people react to this temporary ‘apartedness’.

Stage 1 – Everything is going to be okay. This is the stage where you tell yourself that you can do this. That you’re not going to be mopey or crying around about this person’s absence. You’re going to get a hell of a lot of stuff done. Clean out closets, read or write the great American Novel, learn to play an instrument…you know, this is the stage where you’re basically fooling yourself. (Add manic laughter here.) You’re acting crazy. You know you’re not going to do any of that shit so just face the facts and proceed to…

Stage 2 – Where’s the tissues? This Stage is a bitch. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Step into the shower and turn on the water and the tears. Hint: If you make the water hot enough, no one notices your red swollen eyes when you get out. They’re busy looking at the first-degree burns on your body. A certain song comes on the radio and you’re rendered into a pile of weepy goo. Or, if you’re like me, you can actually enhance your Stage 2 experience and torture yourself by seeking out music, movies, mementos that induce mopey, crying jags where you curl into a ball on your bed and sniffle. Yep, it’s good to help your neurosis along. Right into…

Stage 3 – Everything’s probably going to be okay. Let’s face it; we can’t be crazy whackjobs 24/7, right? And after we’ve cried ourselves dry, maybe a tiny shred of rational thinking surfaces and we realize that sooner or later, we’re gonna see this person again. Right? We are gonna see them again. We just have to see them again…

Stage 4 – We’re never going to see them again. Fortunately for those around you who enjoy making fun of you, you’re not in Stage 3 very long and soon you’re freaking out in a brand new way. Maybe you’re not mopey, but you’re still bat shit crazy. You’re taking a hard look at everything that was done, said, imagined (you’re hallucinating now) in the days or hours before your friend’s departure that could lend some insight into his or hers mindset. Did they plan this elaborate work conference, literally gathering thousands of people in Houston, just so they didn’t have to see you for a week? Is this their slick way of kissing you off? Ah, paranoia, my old friend. So good to see you again.  Follow me to…

Stage 5 – If they don’t want us; we don’t want them. At this Stage, paranoia has taken up residence in your brain. You’re seeing conspiracy after conspiracy. That hug goodbye? It was actually the kiss of death. They really didn’t mean it when they said they’d “see us later”. Lies, lies and deceptions! So now you’re fighting back. Don’t even consider the fact that your poor friend is enjoying his well-deserved Vegas trip totally oblivious to the fact that you’ve lost your goddamn mind. Don’t even think about the fact that she’s probably right at this moment picking up a stupid gift for you which she plans to give you when you go to lunch upon her return. No, no, don’t entertain those lucid thoughts in your sad little brain. Go right ahead and plunge off the deep end. The cold water will launch you right into…

Stage 6 – I will survive! You’re still not considering the remote possibility that you’re way off the mark here. You are sure the friendship/relationship/co-dependency you enjoyed is now kaput. It was all a sham. Never was, never will be, never meant to be. You put on your comfy fat pants – because that’s all that’s fitting these days – and take a step out the door. You’re going for a walk and pray to god that it’s water weight, not that pound of fudge you consumed that’s got you looking like a microwaved marshmallow. You’re slightly optimistic at this point. Sure, you’re shattered that your friend/co-worker/object of your unhealthy obsession has up and left you – albeit temporarily and with every intention of coming back – but you’re gonna make it. Hopefully this stage lasts long enough for those ‘left behind’ to forget what a raging lunatic you’d become during the absence. Hopefully, you still have friends and have not driven them off with 3 a.m. texts blathering about how you’re never going to make it without so-in-so. And hopefully you’ll remain in this kind of “eff-you!” mood long enough to fit back into your leggings and over the knee boots. You’re gonna need them as you slide right into…

Stage 7 – Everything is REALLY going to be okay! You’re finally regained your sanity and it’s just in time for your friend’s return. Thank the Gods! It just happened, literally, overnight. You woke up and were back to normal. Or at least back to your particular brand of normal. No one is expecting miracles here. But seriously, you’re fine and you just can’t understand what the big fuss is about people going out of town. It’s only been a week, for Christ’s sake. What kind of big sappy baby gets all emotional and eats an entire pound of fudge? You’ve never heard of a more ridiculous notion. And what? Oh, right, whatis name comes back to work today. Oh yeah, you kinda forgot they were gone. Was it an entire week? Geesh, seems like a day. Huh, wonder if they brought you anything back…

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