AFTER THE BIG ONE
Is it just me or were there a slew of articles and news stories this summer about The Next Big One? Maybe I’m a glass half-empty kinda girl after all (I’m not), but I found myself thinking a lot about when that next monster earthquake happens, and the fact that when it does, it will very likely demolish all that we, on the coastal Northwest, call home. The Really Big One, published in the July 20th issue of the New Yorker, was a sobering (but worthwhile) read, filled with undeniable (and undeniably frightening) data and statistics which underscored just how truly screwed we all will be when The Next Really Big One Hits. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And then all of that thinking got me thinking about the parallels between earthquakes and…breakups.
In a lot of ways, but on an obviously much smaller scale (duh), earthquakes and breakups share many similarities. One could use an earthquake as a metaphor for the annihilation that can be left after a breakup…at least that’s where I’m going with this article. And while I’m not meaning to harp on the whole relationship thing and the breakup thing (but hey guys, That’s Kind of My Thing), suffice to say I thought I was well out the other side of it all when I wrote my last article Letting Go. Since then, however, I’m seeing firsthand that it’s truly a process (and not one that happens overnight), and that even when you think it’s done and you’re done…there’s still some residual stuff that takes its own sweet-ass time.
Ok, quick and dirty geology lesson here. There are 4 major layers to our planet: inner core, outer core, mantle and crust. The latter two form a kind of thin ‘skin’ on the earth’s surface which isn’t all in one piece, but rather kind of a patchwork of puzzle pieces (called tectonic plates). Though doing so inCREDIBLY slowly, these plates are constantly moving around – past each other and into each other. The plate edges are made up of many faults, on which the majority of the planet’s earthquakes occur. Because the plate edges are rough, they don’t slide smoothly past each other, but instead, get caught up in each other’s grills… and get stuck; when they finally unstick due to the separate plates’ continuous movement, an earthquake results. The land breaks apart as it shifts and shifts as it breaks apart before settling into a new place, often unrecognizable, and usually not before leaving much destruction in its wake. Breakups can be a lot like this too.
When it comes to a breakup, there can be many contributing factors leading up to it including (but not limited to): breaching of trust, lies, physical/mental abuse, cheating/infidelity, jealousy, incessant fighting and betrayal. Much like the slow movement of tectonic plates, the issues that start to break a relationship apart (long before the breaking apart actually happens), typically begin very innocuously and imperceptibly, but compound over time, gaining momentum and energy towards the end until finally that buildup can’t be held back any longer and BOOM – all the stress of that built up shit finally erupts and quakes the world as you know it. And you find yourself left in the pile of rubble that used to be your life as you knew it.
Effects and Causes
A big earthquake doesn’t just cause shaking and ground rupture; it can also introduce a whole host of other messes like landslides, avalanches, fires, tsunamis and floods. Well a breakup typically doesn’t just strike us down with a single blow either. In addition to feeling like your heart has been split open, so too has the life you shared with your partner, as well as the dream you may have envisioned about your future together. After the big one hits, when you’re broken, and having to cold turkey on the habit that was your relationship, many choose to bury their head in the sand…or in bad habits (oh hello, Cab Sauv); anything to cope, numb, or avoid having to deal. This is self-preservation at its finest, but trust it’s a fine line between that and self-destruction. As was my case, if the relationship ended particularly acrimoniously and/or, secrets and lies get unearthed in the weeks and months following The End, you’re going to be dealing with far more than just the pain of the initial breakup. When we’re cracked apart and all the things we may not even realize we’re made up of, come spilling out, we usually discover pleasant surprises, but not before facing some ugly truths first.
Aftershocks: It’s Gonna Get Worse Before it Gets Better
After every earthquake comes a series of aftershocks – smaller earthquakes that occur after the mainshock and in the same general place. Though they’re of smaller magnitudes, aftershocks are unpredictable, and therefore dangerous, as they can still pack a significant punch (depending on the punch of the mainshock). I’ve been feeling my own aftershocks in the months following the end of my relationship, and not unlike the geologically caused ones, they have hit the same place, striking the same chord as the Big One. At times they’ve debilitated me, and set me back in my healing for a while, but even when it seemed I was stepping backwards more than I was moving forward, I was still moving forward. That’s growth. And that’s good.
Foreshocks and Forewarnings
Well of course if aftershocks exist, it makes sense that foreshocks would as well (though not always). A model done of earthquake ruptures shows that a very small event can trigger a larger one and so on, in a cascade which continues until the main shock rupture is triggered. This makes me think of how a small issue or fight in a relationship usually leads to larger issues and larger fights, snowballing until the final explosion, the final quake. It’s funny how when you’re in the middle of a fight, you fool yourself into believing it’s not really part of a larger issue that is growing beyond containment. You make yourself believe it can be handled and put to bed. It’s only after everything blows up that you’re able to see these were forewarnings…foreshocks to the big one that was coming. Oh hindsight, you bastard.
After the aftermath: Putting the pieces back together
We’ve all seen news footage of the after effects of an earthquake: cities and livelihoods destroyed, lives affected…lives lost. In many ways, healing from a breakup is similar. We’re initially faced with the loss of everything we knew and believed, and we’re left with a feeling of utter destruction. We uncover truths (both external and internal), which further devastate us at the time, but which can lead to peace, acceptance, and growth. Through hard lessons learned we can start rebuilding ourselves again from a renewed place of strength. While not everyone has been through and survived a natural disaster, we’ve all experienced a gutting breakup, a death, or some challenging struggle. And in every dark time, a silver lining can always be found.