Our Last Goodbye

Kiss me, please kiss me/But kiss me out of desire, babe, and not consolation/You know it makes me so angry ’cause I know that in time/I’ll only make you cry, this is our last goodbye” ~ Jeff Buckley

Marina Abramović is an intense Serbian-born performance artist who’s work spanned the early 70’s until present day. In 1976, upon moving to Amsterdam, she met the German artist Ulay. An intense professional and personal relationship ensued.

For a decade they collaborated, exploring themes of ego and identity. One of their famous performances, “Breathing In/Breathing Out”, was an exceptionally personal piece that explored the ability of one person to absorb, exchange, and destroy the life of another. They stood, mouth to mouth, breathing in each other’s exhalations until they had used up the entire supply of oxygen between them. Seventeen minutes after beginning, they both fell to the floor unconscious.

The last couple of years of their union were tense; finally, they decided to part ways. In a spiritual journey inspired by a dream of Marina’s, they decide to begin at opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and walk until they reach each other in the middle. Then they embrace and part ways, never to meet again. Until…

Marina Abramović & Ulay meet after 22 years

Watch the video. Trust me, it’s worth it.

So, why couldn’t I and my ex-partners manage this grace?

I can only speak from my own perspective, not that of the men I loved. For me, there was such pain in the parting and rarely was it completely mutual. With D, the closest we came to a mutual parting was in the spring of last year. Yet even then, I had such repressed anger, resentment and hurt; parting wasn’t what I wanted, but neither did I want to subject myself to the relationship as it existed. So, is it ego that kept it from being graceful? Or was it that neither of us left it alone? D and I have parted ways three times, yet didn’t allow the parting to stand. We reconnected after brief separations, while feelings were still in place and wounds were still fresh. We didn’t allow time to add layers of softness to the experience, or give grace the chance to take root and unfurl.

Or perhaps these two artists were simply more evolved as human beings. Maybe during their artistic work involving the ego, they learned to take the ego out of the relationship OR realize when it was affecting their choices. Did this allow them to realize when letting go was going to be the most loving thing they could do? Is that what gave them the strength to walk away, only to meet again for that single, poignant moment years later?

For me, this was inspiration that I very much needed. This is what I aspire to: That if love ends, for either party, that I can have the grace to let go and walk away without allowing the memory of the love to be tainted. Even if the other persons actions were hurtful or selfish. Afterall, this couple had literally breathed each other’s breath until they both fainted. They had been together in a passionate love affair, and been collaborative artists, for over a decade. There must have been pain and conflict as their romantic union began to erode. Yet in the end they achieved grace.

I’m not currently evolved enough to accomplish what they did, but I want to be. I can only get there by doing my own soul work and finding my own answers. Continuing to live in a state of hurt and anger over the choices of others (and wondering why they aren’t doing THEIR work) will never get me where I want to go.

I’ve already shared my last goodbye with my previous partners, but perhaps this can be a lesson for me in future relationships. Letting go when it’s time, having the strength to let the separation stand, then having the character and dignity to move forward (instead of going back to something that wasn’t working, simply because there is pain in the letting go)…this is what I will strive for.

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