This story is by Susan Liddle and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Welcome to the three-week seminar, How to Fall Out of Unrequited Love.
Have an apple? Cookie? Water? Suit yourself.
Thanks to you both for coming, and for your donations which will go to the youth drop-in centre down on Main Street.
Some people suffering from unrequited love prefer to keep on suffering, to keep that unfulfilled desire close. They don’t want to let it go. They want to hold onto it, because it makes them feel like they have a connection with the person they love.
Let me ask you straight up: Are you one of those people? Are you serious about giving up your unrequited love, or did you come here to moan and complain like that October wind outside?
Good. I like how emphatic that was! Glad you’ve got gumption. Or maybe you’re desperate. Either way, I’m impressed by your initiative. I know how hard it is to motivate yourself off the couch on a good day. Tonight, it’s rainy and cold, and you feel unloved, and you came out anyway. Good for you! Great first step to freedom.
My name is Harry Brown. My diplomas are over there on the wall if you care to check them out. And I’ve been where you are now. I got through it, and so can you.
I’ve been married for two decades with no sign of divorce, so my wife and I are beating the odds. I’ll say my own intimate relationships are a work in progress, and I’m by no means an expert. But I’m pretty damn good at giving advice, if I do say so myself.
Have I ever helped people fix their relationships? Yes, lots. I help by getting them to listen. Remind me to show you my happy scrapbook later.
No more questions?
Okay then, let’s start with you, Amanda. Tell us a little about your situation. Just a snapshot of what brought you here today.
I see. So to sum up, you’re sick and tired of thinking about him and you just want to move on.
You’re welcome. Summarizing it and saying it out loud helps make it more real, makes it easier to get to the heart of the matter, if you’ll pardon the pun.
And, Daryl is it? What brings you here?
Ah yes, a classic case. Can’t eat, can’t sleep. Wandering the streets at all hours, breaking out in poetry, probably bad. You feel like a stalker and can’t stand your own behaviour. Congratulations on your awareness. Admitting you have a problem — step one for stalkers anonymous.
What’s that? Oh, you came for suicide tips, did you? Well, there’s a reason this series isn’t called 10 Easy Ways to Kill Yourself Without Staining the Carpet. However, next week’s topic is related, so try to hang on until then.
First thing you both need to know: There’s no cure. There are ways to deal with it, but that’s not the same thing as curing it. In spite of how dark and out-of-the-way my office is, it’s not a secret front and I’m no magician. I’m off the beaten path because rent’s cheaper in this part of town. Right here and right now, you need to accept that you can’t make the object of your affections fall in love with you no matter how hard you try.
People try all sorts of things: magic, persuasion, manipulation. And then there’s revenge and stalking, and a slippery slope from creepy to jail. Ask yourself this: if it were easy, do you really think we’d have so many stories of unrequited love?
You’re stuck with this feeling until it goes away.
So how can you get rid of it if there’s no cure?
We’ll talk about two options. Both require courage and determination, and they have very different results.
We’ll start with option one: improving and moving on. And next week: is suicide the answer?
Daryl, you’re just going to have to wait. I want you to get the full benefit of these sessions, so I need you to come back for all three. If I delved into suicide tonight, would you be back here next week to give the other option I present a fair hearing?
I thought not.
Now. How can you improve and move on?
Go back to your normal life, and just carry on.
Stop thinking about that person who doesn’t love you back. Stop feeding the feeling. Wrap up that painful love and tuck it away in a small hidden drawer of your mind. Use duct tape if it helps. Resist the urge to open that drawer. Occupy your time with other things.
What other things? Work on self-improvement. Make yourself worthy — of yourself. Work on your bucket list, your career, your hobbies. Try something new.
It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.
Become a favourite aunt or uncle. Act like the hero of your own story.
Keep it up, and one day years from now you’ll open that small drawer and you’ll realize that the space that had been filled with wrenching, aching pain is filled instead with joy and love that’s focused on what you can do to help other people be happy.
That’s when you’ll know you succeeded at falling out of unrequited love. Oh, and when you do, send me a note.
Seriously! I collect success stories. I could show you boxes of scrapbooks.
Thanks for coming out and for being so open with me and with each other. You’re both off to a great start.
Now, go home and write down 20 new things you’d do if you weren’t suffering from your current affliction. Activities you’d try, places you’d go, people you’d nurture. Picture the kind of person you’d like to be in five years, 10 years, 20 years. How would that person spend her or his time? But leave the romance out of it! This is about you and no-one else.
Next week, we talk about the other option.
Welcome back, Amanda and Daryl.
You both have your lists from last week?
Excellent. Now, I’d like you to switch lists and read them aloud to each other.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Do it anyway. Focus on helping each other. It may be some consolation to know that you’re both in the same boat, both suffering, and both embarrassed by what I’m making you do.
Ah, I see a smile. That’s the power of shared embarrassment, ladies and gentlemen.
You’ve both listed some interesting items. Visiting Iceland, learning to fly a hot air balloon. And what are the odds that you’d both want to learn to make homemade pickles?
Now on to tonight’s topic. Taking your own life. Killing yourself. Committing suicide. Shuffling off this mortal coil.
Choosing this option means you’ll put an end to the pain, and you’ll put an end to life. You won’t hurt because you won’t be around. You’ll never learn to make homemade pickles or visit Iceland. This is the quickest solution, and the most final. You can’t change your mind later.
Let’s talk about some practical aspects. Have you considered a will, funeral costs? Have you, as they say, put your affairs in order? Will you do the deed dramatically, which may be traumatic for whoever finds you, or calmly, quietly, and with as little mess and fuss as possible? Will you leave a note, and if you do, will you mention the object of your affections? How would doing that affect her or him?
No, I won’t tell you how to kill yourself. You’ve got the internet for that.
Homework this week: list the pros and cons of killing yourself. I want 25 items on each side.
Yes, it will be hard.
And don’t dare act on those lists. You owe it to each other and to me to come back and share them next week.
Welcome to our third and final session, Amanda and Daryl. I’m very glad to see you both. Okay. you know what’s coming. Switch lists — ah, you’ve done so already. Good. Now, read each other’s list.
Now I want you to take turns asking questions. Go ahead and challenge each other, but listen to each answer without interrupting.
Yes, this is exhausting, isn’t it? You may find cookies help tonight, and here’s the box of Kleenex.
You’ve both worked hard tonight. I’m humbled by your honesty and kindness to each other.
Ahem. Frog in my throat.
You’ve made your action plans and you’re ready to go. Amanda and Daryl, I wish you both the best of luck, and please, drop by or contact me if you’d like to talk. I always offer a free counselling session for people who attend sessions.
Two years later.
Nice envelope, thick paper. Looks like an invitation.
The pleasure of your company
is requested at the marriage of
Daryl Poirier and Amanda Sainte Marie.
Oh, yes. I remember those two. I always wondered if they knew their names meant “loved.”
Now, where’s that scrapbook?