I’ve spent nights making promises in whispers and sighs, “I’ll never leave you.” Parents promise their children they won’t die until “a long long time from now,” to quell fears of terror. We sign letters with, “always” and “yours.” We make promises we can’t keep with our bodies and our breath.   

Wet knotted shoelaces, a thin silver necklace snarled into a mess the size of a coin, my hair after sex. A pin, good lighting, and Terax Hair Conditioner usually do the trick. Sometimes there are tough knots in my life, the kind that take forever to untangle. They usually mean very little, yet they take the most time to repair.

It’s amazing how fast everything important can be undone.

People break up via email and instant messenger.  By people, I mean me.  I’ve done that.  I’ve unsubscribed from people and added them to my blocked list.  Even without technology, in person, my speech becomes limited and closed.  My arms fold.  It’s my way of sending them an “away message.”  Go away.

Sometimes it was my way of trying on coward.  I was too afraid to say it to their face, or I was too afraid to hear their truths; it hurt less if I didn’t have to remember the way they said it.  Other times, it was the vehicle that expended the least amount of energy or effort on my end, usually only reserved for toxic people.

In a phone call, a text message, an email, an instant message conversation.  Weddings that took months of planning can be called off.  Engagements broken.  A phone call to a moving company and real estate agent and you’re as good as gone.  Complicated relationships, where promises and truths were shared in dark theatres, through a bar with his hand on her back, in the backseat of cabs, in the rain when he shared his umbrella, can unbutton in a beat.  People can slip out of promises faster than the unraveling of fine tangled thread.

People leave.  People die.  People change their minds. 

But if you say it, be accountable.  I don’t know how I’ll feel ten years from today.  Will I still love my family and dog?  Yes.  That’s about the only thing I know for sure, and that doesn’t scare me because of what I know today.  I know that I will be okay, that I will manage, that I will love again.  I treat my friendships and the relationships I commit to with a willingness to always try to work things out.  I can do that now.  I’m accountable for that. 

Sometimes things don’t work out.  Sometimes you hit a barricade, and no amount of love will help with the pole vault over it.  You can drag out the conversation in a search for external closure, or you can come to terms with it within yourself, in a moment.  In a text.  In a word.  Over.

I don’t know if this makes me sad, thankful, or relieved.  The undoing happened too fast.  Maybe I’ll know in a few years, when I can see the light of today’s stars.



  1. This post made me cry…holy words!!!

    I was just thinking about how things changes so quickly…too quickly sometimes…

    Now gotta bed (here is midnight)ans tomorrow I have to pack all my stuff…


  2. Steph, A first time writer's "hug" to you. Your thoughtfulness, expression of feelings and genuineness is remarkable and valued. A friend once told me that one of the best "stress" relievers is "integrity". He had to explain, that when we know that our actions are "right or true" we have our own integrity and accordingly we have less stress. If "undoing" is right/true for you, then the pain may be real but stress free. If it may not be right/true, then you have tomorrow to change it. Follow your heart. Feel the stress or lack of it in your decisions. They will guide you. Fondly. Steve

  3. it’s just the car that we ride in
    a home we reside in
    the face that we hide in
    the way we are tied in
    and life carries on and on and on and on
    life carries on and on and on

    did I dream this belief?
    or did i believe this dream?
    now i can find relief
    i grieve

  4. It makes me sad. I fear change, yet change is inevitable. There are some things in life we can control and some that we cannot. My goal in life is to go down as someone who never gave up, always tried for what she wanted – even if every time I don't succeed – I know I need to keep trying.

  5. Undoing, untying, untangling….none of these make you happy (in fact, quite opposite generally). Although, the 'silver lining' is that for the most part, they can afford you that chance to be happy again somewhere, sometime, down the road.

  6. One of the sad truths of our society is that people have become disposable. Match.com is the height of this phenomenon. It's become acceptable to have dinner with someone and then completely disappear without so much explanation as, "You suck." It's so weird. Kudos for committing to be different. Maybe you'll inspire a movement back to consideration for other people vs. whatever is easiest and most convenient per moi.

  7. SK: You have such an insightful nature, and luckily for us, you express your thoughts and introspections and musings in a way that always leaves us wanting more. Amazing entry, thanks!

  8. you are a truly gifted writer. I aspire to write like you. These are all things that I ahve thought, but you express them so beautifully in your words. THanks for the fantastic post!

  9. This really hit home with me….after being separated for 3 years and divorced for the past 2..there is constant change..people in the internet dating world seem to be "in flux" and never satisfied with a nice woman. Anyway, like you i hope my life will take a positive turn :)

  10. I think that is nearly impossible while in your 20's to be comfortable in your own skin. But, if at all possible, at least try to be honest when breaking off relationships. No matter how hard you try to be nice, It will still suck. But, at least you can face yourself in the morning and know that you tried to do the right thing.
    I promise you, and you can hold me to this…life will level and get better once you hit 30. And…I promise…the sex is phenomenal. It is all about being comfortable in your own skin.

  11. As someone who just went through all of those feelings, I just want to say thank you for posting them. I want to send the post to Him. The ex-him. The forever but no more him who changed his mind last week after I bought a house for us. But I won't. I will try to be over it in a word.

  12. "Forever" seems to be a comfort word in relationships. No one can predict the future. I honestly can see the match.com fiasco—when you meet someone and then they never call you, or vise/versa, you never call them back—it's all innocent, you meet, and if you don't like them, you haven't wasted a few years into a relationship saying those words, "forever" and "always". It's different.

    This post truly hit me due to someone leaving without a word said, yet I knew it was our last goodbyes. You hit a chord with me, and a lot of other people on your site tonight Stephanie.

    I hope to purchase one of your books that are on the best seller's table in Barnes & Nobles.

    Thank you!

  13. I'm tired. Put down the book and turn out the lights. What time's the alarm set for?

  14. You did it again, StephanieKlein.

    I was explaining to my Samoyeds, Sam & Bucca, about your undoing, and without notice, I realized I was telling them about my undoings. Many undoings. More undoings than all the bones at Johnny G's. I even told them about once undoing what was previously undone. Bucca tilted her head to signal understanding. Sam was still fathoming Johnny G's bone inventory.

    Anyway, you did again what you always do. You start writing about yourself and subtly and suddenly I'm reading about myself. That takes some good writing . . .

  15. My girlfriend broke up with me via text message!
    She went on holiday in Australia and just wrots 'I am sorry doing this but I met my ex-boyfriend here'. Full stop. Never saw her again.


  16. it's amazing the way all those promises can get erased in the flash of an eye. four little words "we need to talk" and all of those things you said, you meant, you wanted, all gone. thanks for the lovely and heartfelt post.

  17. I agree with whoever up there said that change was inevitable but scary (or whatever, I'm sure they said it more prettily).

    Five years ago I was just married and I was miserable, petrified, and somehow strangely satisfied at the same time. I had taken a vow, divorce was "not an option," and I was settled into my ways already — getting fatter and fatter on a fat man's gratuitous love.

    And now I'm here. Lighter, more unsure, and far poorer…but with tons better sex and a bed partner I actually like.

    It's phenomenal how quickly and slowly things can reverse.

  18. Lots of nice, "boy can you write," comments here. "Wet knotted shoelaces, a thin silver necklace snarled into a mess the size of a coin, my hair after sex." I like how your mind ties these knots together.

  19. I think its easy to say that you fear change. Its almost cliche. More accurately, I think what we fear more is that we will get used to changing. It is certainly not easy to let go of things, persons, emotions, even apartments…especially ones that we have assigned great value and emotional time too. Like jewels we hold on to the random and seemingly insignificant memories of our tiny (or huge) loves as if we will never get another. What I think is more frightening is in our nature. We are adaptable, we are forever changing (with every post Stephanie, you/we are changing), and we will all survive, and it will not take a hundred years to realize this, because in less than one year (before we even realize a year has passed)we will have new friends, new challenges, new loves and we will once again… change. It´'s only when you wake up on your last day that you discover you were with the person you would be with your entire life, up until that point everything is changing, and this is what we are all afraid of…not knowing when the change is going to end.

  20. There are some promises you make, there are some you break(knowingly), and then there are some that you know you know are going to break, but don't want to; To break them is just the facts of life. "To love and honour, to have and to hold"-yeah, I was actually thinking about this one today, one of those big promises. I was on a trail ride with my ex-girlfriend(of almost 10 years-first day of college, we met and that was that, same old routine) and a few others, and was wondering why I broke the promise of marrying her? About 20 minuites later, I heard her scream like a total ass at someone for no reason, I realized why I broke the promise, and made another to myself. As the good folks in Quebec say, "Je me souviens"-I remember.

    Remember that those little promises to yourself are the most important, and if you break those, you are nothing but someone's puppet. Sometimes you are glad to be that puppet,sometimes you hate the puppeteet, and sometimes you are glad to be burning that puppet in effegy for burnt offerings on the altar of romance. But someday, you will look out and say, "It was OK, because I am OK, and I'm still here."

    It was funny that you wrote about this, as I was thinking about the subject all day.

  21. Hi Steph….i've been reading u'r blog for a month now….Great work, great writing skills….all I can say is….when you're in a situation where you think life is so unfair…..think and weigh all the difference in having this and lacking that one…I got married at 24, have 2 great kids, because the first time I saw my husband, I think I fall inlove w/ him that instant…but there's a lot of things in life where undoing won't bring back the lost time, undoing it won't correct eveything but instead it will leave a scar that will be a constant reminder that once in our life, mistake was done…..just take it easy…

  22. Waking up one morning, feeling happy – hours later I realized that it might be because for the first time in a year, I didn't think of HIM, he simply didn't matter anymore. Ready to love again? You bet.

  23. What you say is soo true…
    I split up with my ex boyfriend via email… I just felt horrible and shallow but couldn't face the thought of flying to see him and tell him (it was a long distance relationship anyway..)

    And nearly three years together just died off in a few words…


  24. I'm not sure it's as sudden as all that. I think there's a lot of lead up to it that is often ignored. Anything that truly ends that suddenly, simply never actually was. False expectations, avoidance, denial, etc.

  25. Some things free us in their leaving, out of necessity or as a matter of course: and suddenly, tacitly, the confusion you laboured under clears as a fog, and you realize that the stars DO look different from where you stand and where they might be standing, wherever that other person may be. The world shifts in your estimation, and goodbyes do not seem so difficult after all. Nor perhaps as significant, in the greater scheme of things.

    A well thought-out, well constructed piece. Thank you.

  26. I think it doesn't metter how the ending happens. Phone, e-mail, sms, are simply means of communication, and they don't change the essence, that is, that something is finished. And, that, yes, usually matters…

  27. I was too busy falling in love with someone this spring to admit it couldn't work. I said it aloud again and again and so did he, but it wasn't until the emails flew that it was done for good. I still read those emails, it makes the breakup real.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, I think it's gross that I never heard the final words from his mouth.

    I read this post while fighting the temptation to forward it to 'him.'


    Your writing is beautiful, I will visit again.


  28. When you get a little older, you'll get a bit better at seeing when you're heading for a train wreck. When you get *much* older, you'll have the wisdom to choose to AVOID the impending train wreck.


  29. at the snap of a finger, something can happen that can change our minds. That's the great thing about God/universe/external forces/spirits/etc. Death, however…

  30. We all live in a Yellow Submarine
    UUUuuuuaaahhh…Internetcafes sind spooky..Ich sitze gerade in einem der bei mir äusserst beliebten Marke "Easy Internet" direkt gegenüber vom Münchener Hauptbahnhof und ich finde es immer so ein bischen scary. Das Ding ist: Ich habe gerade viel Zeit, nicht weil ich Semesterferien habe, sondern weil gegen 14.30 meine Lady am Bahnhof ankommt und ich muss mir jetzt die Zeit vertreiben, weil ich nun schon mal hier bin. "Aber Nilz", werdet ihr fragen, "warum bist du denn schon gegen 20 nach 1 am Bahnhof, wenn sie erst um 14.30 ankommt? Da hättest du doch noch zu Hause bleiben können und einen der 397623578964 Filme gucken können, die du dir gestern geholt hast!" Ihr habt ja recht, aber ich dachte, ich könnte vorher noch ins Kino gehen. Also spazierte ich ins Mathäser und das einzige was ich mir zeitlich hätte leisten können, wäre "Siegfried" gewesen.

    Also doch nicht ins Kino.

    Jetzt habe ich aber keine Lust wieder nach Hause zu fahren und dann wieder hierhin und dann wieder nach Hause und dann wieder….und so weiter und so fort. Das könnt ihr ja wohl verstehen, oder? Gerade eben war ich noch in der Spielhalle und nach einem kleinen Ründchen Out Run 2 habe ich dann noch Space Invaders gezockt. Am Automaten! Geiles Old School Feeling. Aber die Typen da sind irgendwie noch unheimlicher als hier. Obwohl…hinter mir fängt gerade einer an zu heulen. Wahrscheinlich hat seine Freundin per E-Mail mit ihm Schluss gemacht, und dabei hatte er es doch nicht persönlich gemeint, als er sagte, daß er eine Rucksacktour durch Europa alleine machen wolle. Er dachte ihre ach-noch-so-junge-und-frische-liebe würde das aushalten, aber sie hat in seiner Abwesenheit lieber Vorlieb mit dem Quaterback genommen. Sie will halt noch mal was erleben bevor das College los geht. Aber das kann und will er nicht verstehen. Natürlich hätte er sie auch gerne dabei gehabt, aber er hatte es ja schon längst gebucht, bevor sie zusammen kamen und für eine stornierung hätte er um die 60% des Reisepreises bezahlen müssen, also hat der die Reise lieber doch gemacht. Sie hat ihn sogar noch zum Flughafen gefahren und ihm einen kleinen Kuschelspongebob geschenkt, der ihn immer an sie erinnern solle.

    Jetzt würde er der Puppe am liebsten ihre dämlichen Grinseaugen rausreissen, den gelben billigen Plastikstoff verbrennen und das scheiss Teil loswerden, aber so einfach ist es nicht. Klar, er könnte es in die nächste Mülltonne kloppen, aber die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt. Vielleicht, wenn er zurück kommt und sie sieht, wie sehr er auf die Puppe aufgepasst hat, vielleicht wird ihr dann klar was sie für einen riesen Fehler gemacht hat, und sie nimmt ihn zurück. Für ihn wäre das kein Problem, so einen hirnlosen Quaterback kann man doch schnell verzeihen.

    Aber für die nächsten 2 einhalb Wochen sitzt er hier noch fest. In Europa. Morgen gehts nach Prag, von da aus nach Paris und dann nach Rom. Wer hat sich diese Zick-Zack-Route nur ausgedacht….ah, es ist zum durchdrehen, jetzt denkt er schon extra an so etwas belangloses wie Reiseplanung nur um sich abzulenken. Was sind das für komische Mechanismen im Hirn, die einen dazu bringen in den traurigsten Situationen sich mit Scheisse aufzuhalten? So kann es nicht weitergehen. Er hat diese Reise jetzt gefälligst zu geniessen, was kümmert ihn da diese doofe Abschlussballkönigin. Die hat doch keine Ahnung was wirklich wichtig im Leben ist. Nur Party und Sex im Kopf, bah, wie oberflächlich. Er interessiert sich für Kultur! Für Geschichte! Er interessiert sich für alles!

    Vielleicht hätte er doch mal mit ihr ficken sollen.

    Soll ich jetzt mal rübergehen und ihn trösten? Nein, nein, nicht das der durchdreht oder mich zuschwallt. Oder ich womöglich mit all meinen Vermutungen noch recht habe, das wäre mir doch eindeutig zu unheimlich. Ich check jetzt nochmal meine Mails und dann gehe ich zu Burger King. Die Zeit kriegen wir schon totgeschlagen. geschrieben von Nielz Bokelberg

    Antwort Roman Libbertz:
    romanlibbertz said…
    Lieber Nilz ,
    mit Schrecken habe ich Deinen blogistischen Hilferuf empfangen. Du befindest Dich allem Anschein nach in einem sehr kritischen Zustand. Alles was in deinem tiefsten Innern vor sich geht, produzierst Du bildlich vor deinen Augen.
    Erstens mein lieber Freund hast Du zur Zeit keine Lady. So leid es mir tut, aber Du bist Single, und wirst es wohl immer bleiben!
    Den heulenden Typen, den Du angeblich gesehen hast, ist nichts weiter als der "kleine Nilz" zur Schulzeit damals in Köln. Das einschneidende Erlebnis, als die gertenschlanke Schülersprecherin Petra Dir in der zehnten Klasse eröffnete, dass sie nicht mehr mit Dir gehen wollte, ist immernoch in deinem Unterbewußtsein. Es war auch keineswegs ein Quaterback, der Dir die geliebte Frau mit dem Pferdeschwanz wegschnappte, sondern Klaus der Mannschaftkaptitän der B-Jugendmachschaft vom 1.FC Hardtberg. Bitte errinnere Dich!
    Ich sehe mit Schrecken, dass Du diese Zeit wieder durchmachst und hoffe, dass "Burger King" kein Codewort für verbotene Substanzen ist.
    Bitte schreib mir doch und wir können in meinem Büro in der Hohenzollernstr.9 einen Termin ausmachen.
    Bis dahin,
    paß auf Dich auf mein Freund,
    dein Dr. Rommel

    Hoffe es gibt Deutsche, die den Humor verstehen.
    Es ist eine Stephanie in uns allen!!!

  31. A few years ago, I was in a (long distance) relationship with an american boy (I'm writing from Italy) and got sick of it, I still loved him, but in a different way. I didn't want to break up on the phone because, after two years and a half, I thought it was mean and rude (you Konw what is like when you're young and stupid..)
    And so… he came to Italy to see me, as he was supposed to (it was his turn!) and I told him it was over…
    Man!!! He was so pissed off!! He was like "What? You made me come here to tell me it's over?? You could have told me on the phone! You know how expensive plane tickets are?!?"
    I still suspect that what really bothered him was the fact I didn't want to have sex that time (…I know..what a bitch!)
    Ok, just kidding, it was really painful for both of us, but he really said that, even the sex thing!
    What I mean is… sometime e-mails are just better! ;)
    Don't worry Stephanie, it's gonna feel better soon, life is stronger than anything (but you probably already konw!)
    Bacioni :)

  32. This post reminds me of a quotation attributed to Emerson that goes something like: Of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest.

  33. So much wonderful sharing, all inspired by another poignant capturing of what it feels like after…

    My own story is that I separated from my ex-wife in August of '02, had an intense and incredibly painful rebound relationship that ended in March of '04, the divorce was finalized in Nov. of '04, and I recently started a new and so far amazingly wonderful relationship.

    I've been through all the internet dating wars, with all the craziness in there. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around how quickly and easily people change their minds. One email it's "wow, I can't wait to meet you!" and then you never hear from them again. A lot of people out there think they're available, think they're ready to be dating/having a new relationship, and they're not (I did that for a long while myself).

    The one difference for me is I'm a little older than some of you folks. My breakup came just after my 40th b-day (you know, when life traditionally starts over). And with all my experiences, all the pain, has come a maturity and an appreciation for the other person: their bravery, their delicacy, and the wisdom of taking things slow, knowing we have as much time as we need (and not just saying that but truly believing it!).

  34. So much wonderful sharing, all inspired by another poignant capturing of what it feels like after…

    My own story is that I separated from my ex-wife in August of '02, had an intense and incredibly painful rebound relationship that ended in March of '04, the divorce was finalized in Nov. of '04, and I recently started a new and so far amazingly wonderful relationship.

    I've been through all the internet dating wars, with all the craziness in there. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around how quickly and easily people change their minds. One email it's "wow, I can't wait to meet you!" and then you never hear from them again. A lot of people out there think they're available, think they're ready to be dating/having a new relationship, and they're not (I did that for a long while myself).

    The one difference for me is I'm a little older than some of you folks. My breakup came just after my 40th b-day (you know, when life traditionally starts over). And with all my experiences, all the pain, has come a maturity and an appreciation for the other person: their bravery, their delicacy, and the wisdom of taking things slow, knowing we have as much time as we need (and not just saying that but truly believing it!).

  35. thank you for those words.. You have spoken to my heart.. I am in the middle of a break-up and you said words that explain exactly how i feel… This is a beautiful way to look at things and very REAL!!

  36. Promises made…with no intention of being accountable for them (when you UNMAKE them) is the equivalent of tripping a child while they're skipping. It's just wrong. As sad as it is to see so many others have felt this too…it's comforting at the same time. Thank you for writing this.

  37. You get a book deal and you get maudlin instead of literary. There's a difference.

  38. The most painful lessons I have learned in life have been the result of the quick, shallow breakups I have initiated. It was interesting to read your post this morning, because last night I awoke to the barking of my little dog and had trouble falling back asleep. As I laid next to the one I love and am going to marry in six months I remembered a particular man that I had hurt. I don't know why I thought of him, but I did and what I now remember most of him is the look on his face after I "crossed my arms and showed him my away message." If I had been the caring individual I aspire to be I would have been more sincere and kind in my goodbye and what I now remember of a wonderful human being would be the way he looked when he felt loved by me and not that disappointed look on his face. It's sad how relationships, familial and sexual often bring out the most immature aspects of our personalities. Thanks for a great post as always Stephanie!

  39. i have this nasty habit of trying to hold onto things, people, i should have let go of long ago, good to know i'm not alone and that it's also possible and sometimes necessary to shut the door.

  40. the most important promises are the ones you make to yourself. love to all

  41. I read your blog quite frequently. You always make me think. I really appreciate all you say on there. We seem to have alot of similiar thoughts. Keep up the good work.


  42. sometimes when words are meant to only feel temporary, they last longer. othertimes when off-the-cuff quips about "love" and the quandry that separates it from "lust" remind you and me that as life continues to swirl and the blue globe continues to twirl i just really only care about my haircut…

  43. Just goes to show that life is liquid, it moves. So life must really be found in the living of it. Good story, reminded me of the Verve song "One Day".

  44. One line hit home with me … "It's amazing how fast everything important can be undone".

    Whether it's through actions of your own or someone else's. It is an unsettling feeling regardless. My husband was suddenly killed and I understand how quickly and sometimes unexpectedly what is important to you can be gone, or undone.

    It's hard to have the courage to get back into the race. I'm still working up the courage seven years later. Still unsure my heart can take another blow.

  45. I can't tell you what it was like to read this today when I got home from work…my boyfriend broke up with my answering machine a few days ago (I feel like my life is a tv episode..anyone?) After months of opening up my home, my heart, my family & friends to someone who was so undeserving and callous I have the utmost appreciation for what was written here.. thank you SK for once again giving a voice to all that is going on in my life without even knowing me (you're almost scaring me!!)

    "But if you say 'it', be accountable." IT doesn't have to be those 3 little words… IT can simply be the person's presence, day in and day out, suddenly taken away by their own choice. IT can be the friendship and love they've shown you in different ways and when that is removed without notice for any reason of their own doing. And when they slam the door without holding themselves accountable then all I know is my heart gets broken – again.

    It's cruel. It's unfair. IT happens every day, and it sucks.

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