Breaking Up Isn’t Hard To Do (In Fact, It’s Excruciating)

No man is rich enough to buy back his past.  ~Oscar Wilde

Was that a breakup, or did he just run away?

Two weeks after I watched Lars and the Real Girl, I’m still thinking about it. The best movies I’ve watched do that to me: give me a metaphysical uppercut punch. What is the true meaning of happiness? Is it important what others think of me? Will that quirky, loner character wind up being me? A cat lady or hopeless solitary lost in this world?

A very important anniversary is looming for me. Not my birthday or my parents’ wedding day or even Einstein’s birthday, but rather the day I first became an A-Team fan. June 2008, which makes it three years.

It’s been three years now, and anyone who knows the slightest bit about me knows that H.M. Murdock has occupied a spot in my consciousness for those three years normally reserved for beloved pets, deities, and people who make really, really good Italian food. I love the man as much as it’s possible to love a fictional character. I’ve cosplayed him, gone to meet the actor who played him, written book-length manuscripts about him, analyzed his character up and down. This is what we euphemistically call in Aspie Land a “special interest.” Others are apt to call it a “raging obsession.”

H.M. Murdock meets his biggest fan

Before I continue, let me warn my readers that this post is about as personal and emotional as I’m ever going to get. I don’t pour out my heart very often, but I’m gonna do it today. Still reading? Good. Let’s continue.

If you want to know my deepest, most abiding fear, it’s actually twofold. First of all, that I’ll never be able to let go and thus never be able to move on in my life. In a lot of ways I feel like I’m going through adolescence now, when I’m in my early thirties. The second part of it is that I, as an only child and an Aspie, will continue to age and become one of those eccentrics who talks to herself, owns 37 cats, and/or is institutionalized “for her own good.” Since I am currently unmarried, with no children, this is a possibility, albeit a remote one.

Because of my Aspieness and my introversion, I’ve always preferred objects or animals to real people. Think of Linus in Peanuts with his beloved security blanket. That’s the devotion an Aspie has to his or her special interest.

The A-Team, it turns out, is only the latest in a dynasty of special interests for me. I find a character or set of characters and stick with them for a period of time. It’s just easier for me to relate to imaginary people than real ones (again, there’s a reason I related to both Harvey and Lars and the Real Girl.)

Don't give away my room, Doc.

With Murdock, it was different from the other phases and favorite characters. I laughed at the same things he laughed at, cried when he was down, cheered for him when he succeeded. Admittedly, I’d done that for many of my other favorites, but this time it was different. I actually felt like I was this guy, just a different era and a different gender.

I realize now why this is so…and just as I do, I seem to be poised to move on from The A-Team to other things.

WHAT?! Did I just write that?

I’m a firm believer that every experience we have, everyone we meet, no matter how inconsequential, can teach us something about life. Whether it’s a great triumph or the worst kind of heartbreak, that which doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. Over the last three years, with Murdock metaphorically at my side, I’ve survived losses, poverty, overwhelming despair, family problems, body image nightmares, and my eventual diagnosis with AS. Like that famous blankie, he never complains, never talks back, and always manages to listen.

And I think I’m ready to move on from him.

“Whoa, whoa,” you might say. “You’re going to just drop him like yesterday’s newspaper without even a ‘good-bye, and thanks for all you’ve done for me?'”

No. Breaking up with special interests isn’t like breaking up with a significant other. Because he, being a fictional character, is unable by the laws of nature to love me back, it’s strictly a one-way street. There’s also none of the messy emotions and entanglements typical of interpersonal relationships: no pre-nup agreement, no kids, no argument over who gets the custom-painted A-2 jacket and the Bell helicopter. It’s all pretty simple.

'Are you Murdock?' 'Sometimes.'

This kind of breakup is the kind seen in the recent Toy Story 3. (For the record, I cry at every single Pixar movie, even if it’s the 43rd time I’ve seen it.) There comes a time in everyone’s life when we have to look at our beloved things, whether they are toys, blankies, or esoteric interests…and move on from them. I think of Murdock as a lot like Andy’s beloved Woody the Cowboy. He’s been there as a comfort, a conduit for my wild imagination, a shoulder to cry on, the hero of my many fantasies. He’s the avatar of everything I want and hope for in an eventual mate.

But he’s not real.

His fictional journey, if you ever watched The A-Team, is a lot like mind. Only child, precocious and wise beyond his years, grows up in a small town with parents who don’t really understand him. Then, once older, he finds that his life is shattered by forces he can’t control. He gets labeled, ridiculed, marginalized. There’s 10-12 years of his life which can be counted as “lost years.” Then, when the time is right, he finds that good friends are able to help him become who he is meant to be. He starts using fantasy less and less, and is able to become a valuable part of his world. In the end, he’s ready to move on to greater things: marriage, a steady job, pursuing his true passions.

Does this mean that I’m metaphorically going to put The A-Team into a dusty cardboard box in the attic, or worse, give it to the Goodwill? Again, it doesn’t work that way. Those guys (Murdock and his three best friends) will be a part of me forever. They’ve taught me invaluable lessons about tenacity, friendship, honor, love, and, most of all, the importance of learning to let go. Murdock, when the series begins, is a prisoner in a mental ward either by choice or not. Five years later, he is a free man, able to work and live on his own.

There’s a very important lesson for me in there, too. I may want to hold on to my favorite special interests, my invisible friends, my ideas that fictional characters can sustain me indefinitely. But there comes a time when I realize I have to move on. I believe that time is now.

I can keep sharing my love of The A-Team with the younger generation (my preteen cousin Katie, for example, has become a die-hard Murdockian), watch an episode from time to time, talk shop with the other fans online, even cosplay on Halloween. But if I want to live my dream of becoming a writer, or pilot, or fearless CIA agent, I have to start living in the Real World and not in my head. It’s tough…but what is life without challenges? I know that people like Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison have succeeded despite their AS diagnoses. So can I. There’s really no reason I can’t.

I look ahead, and not behind me. That’s the way to do it. One step at a time.

As for Murdock? He’ll always be there, because he’s just that kind of guy.

Always at attention

Enjoyed this post? Be sure to click on “Like” and subscribe to P&Q! Thanks to the readers who gave me the confidence to write in the first place…

~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on May 7, 2011.

5 Responses to “Breaking Up Isn’t Hard To Do (In Fact, It’s Excruciating)”

  1. I felt sad reading this blog entry, but I feel bad that I feel sad, because I feel like I should be cheering you on!

    • Amy…thanks for the feedback. I know it’s so hard…and I will always love TAT…it’s just that I need to look hard in the mirror and ask what I want to be doing in 10 years. Do I know? Not right now, but I’m hoping to figure it out. 😉

  2. After having lurked around here (as well; apparently it’s what I do), I felt I had to reply to this since I recognise myself in so much of what you write. I, too, have always had an easier time identifying and bonding with, well, anything than actual humans; things, places, animals… I don’t have AS as far as I know, but I do have the sorry acronym Social Anxiety Disorder (yes, SAD. How pathetic is that?), and have always felt a little removed from society as a whole. I just don’t really get people most of the time. So I know how you feel.

    The most important thing to keep in mind, though, is that _you_ are ready to move on from whatever has occupied you; that you feel good about it and that the time is right. The best part of these kind of relationships is, after all, that they can be as easily shelved as dusted off and resumed years later should you want to – and if you don’t, no one will ever blame you. You can only win. 🙂

    • Thanks for your kind feedback. I, too, struggle with the social anxiety part of things. Just about any relationship is easier for me than a face-to-face human one. But it’s time for me to move on, and I know I’m ready.

  3. This entry was very very moving! I really understand everything that you were talking about; I saw a lot of myself in what you were saying, and it does make sense. Sometimes a fictional character is the perfect crutch for you to handle whatever life throws at you; I understand that part exactly.
    I really liked what you said about Murdock being something like an avatar–that’s a really good way to put it. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t feel foolish for talking about something personal like this. I know I’m a bit late in reading this one, but it really got to me. You made me think about things haha. 😉
    I’m all over the place now, but…just know that I enjoyed reading your thoughts!It was nice to read someone articulate certain feelings I didn’t know quite how to do myself. 🙂

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abandonen toda esperanza aquellos que entren aqui


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