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The Last Line: Observing Breakups, Meeting in the Middle, and Beginning with the Ending Line.


the world was ending.


And it was, in a way.


The world nine months in the making. The world made up of late-night car talks, summer barbecues, morning and goodnight texts, picnics by the beach, an escape from the world that had seemingly gone insane overnight, sun and moon and stars—all crumbling and shattering and scattering in a sandy car parking lot on a beach where I had spent many day shifts picturing much much better circumstances.


This wasn't where I was picturing the story to end...

As humans, we are naturally attracted to a good, captivating storyline, cliffhangers that get the blood pumping and keep the mind reeling. for an avid reader, I'll let you in on a little secret: I read a book's ending line first. I can't really tell you why I like spoiling the ending. I'm not normally one for spoilers, but maybe I like to see what I'm getting myself into.


Maybe I like tracing the dots between how characters trek from Point A to Point B. Maybe we like to do the same with our own lives.

There's a controversial book written by Irish writer James Joyce called Finnegan's Wake in which the opening line starts abruptly in the middle of a sentence. Why James Joyce decided to taunt us with such an oddity of an opening line, I'm sure lies within the reason why there are paragraph-long nonsense words scattered throughout the text. Turns out, the ending of Finnegan's Wake ends with the beginning words of the rest of the opening line. Look it up. It's the 1900's book version of Inception, and it's like a circus curiosity to literary critics.


The point being, I think James Joyce may have stumbled on a truth shedding light on our own lives, showing us where we are in our own narratives. In medias res. In the thick of the plot. That's where you and I both are--not at the sweeping opening lines of "once upon a time," and most certainly not at the end but in the grit, in the glory, in between the crumb-dusted, dog-eared, tear-bespattered lines.

There's a lot of things I could say about a breakup, and maybe some of the words will eventually find their way to this space. But for now, I will say there are a lot of emotions unearthed and tables overturned and drawers cleaned out after breaking up with someone just to find out if you remember how to be yourself without the memory of them replaying in the back of your head like your favorite Spotify playlist. These past few months, I've found myself in the construction zone of a complete overhaul of my heart. And believe me, there have been more times than I can count where I've thrown up my hands and felt like I had messed up and messed up BIG.


But I'm here today to tell you, this isn't where it all ends. Even when it feels like the world fell apart on a hot windy beach. Even when it felt like the air was knocked out of your lungs and the familiar was spun out of orbit. Life doesn't end when people get messy and clumsy and end up breaking apart.

Pain does not have the last say in our stories.

Heartbreak doesn't get a chance to dictate the ending. It may dogear a chapter, but it by no means defines your life story. Let's scrap that plot hole right here and now. Pain is a springboard; it's the inciting force that alerts us to where we need Someone so much bigger than ourselves to redeem, restore, and revive.


So when we look back on the lull in our stories, those lines between the stifled breaths, those undesirable dialogues of intense breaking, the paragraphs that were punctuated with pain, we will see that nothing, absolutely nothing, is wasted. And maybe we can start the next chapter emphasizing the opening words:


It felt like...

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© 2019 by Grace Shaffer.