This is what happens when you break up with someone after seriously dating for 8 months:
1. You go through the always awkward/painful ritual of giving back each others things (trade back his Jesuit book for your Oliver Sacks book).
2. You make the unsettling (and somehow more official) move to remove your relationship status on Facebook.
3. You perform the really discombobulating "last goodbye" as he walks you to your car and you realize as you drive away, you won't be back.
4. Finally, you have the moment when you wake up the day after and realize that no, it wasn't a nightmare, you really did just break up with your heart and somehow the world is still turning.
What follows next is assumed from the standard protocol I've witnessed since watching and experiencing adult dating: once those rituals are complete, you typically don't encounter "the ex" ever again. At least not on purpose.
And that's it. You break up, navigate the socially awkward goodbye scene, and you're done.
That is standard protocol, unless of course you are Random.
Random never has, nor will he probably ever, follow standard protocol, something I appreciate and admire in him.
But because of this difference in Random, I find myself navigating a place I've never been before: The Land of Staying Friends After a Break Up.
When I say "staying friends", I don't just mean acting polite but distant when you happen to bump into them at Whole Foods while buying groceries. When I say "staying friends", at least where Random is concerned, I mean building and maintaining a real, honest friendship that involves talking and platonic hang outs.
Dangerous territory? Quite possibly. Uncommon? Sure. Potentially confusing? You betcha.
Alas, Random and I were nothing if not adventurous (okay, he is adventurous, and I'm just impulsive and prideful enough to accept a challenge), and it seems even after the end of "us", we're not much different. And so we're accepting the challenge of being friends despite the emotional baggage, allowing for the baggage to be present, but choosing to work around it for the possible fruit good friendship can often bear.
So where does that leave us? Charting unexplored territory very slowly, very prayerfully and with the hope that God will lead us where He will.
I'm not sure where this will take us, but if our previous dialogues are anything to go by, I'm just thankful for the spiritual fruit, emotional healing and clarity I've gained so far.
No matter what happens, we are in God's hands, and at the end of another day in unfamiliar territory, that's where I place my trust. In His hands, we're never without guidance.