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The three last things I’ve Googled this week:
“How can I get beachy waves on a long bob cut?”
“Why does my boob itch?”
“How can you get over a broken heart?”
YouTube tutorials hooked me up on question #1. For question #2, I might have cancer. Awesome.
For question #3, I found a treasure trove of insight, garbage, inspiration, bunkum, and bullshit.
Real quick catch-up: So my boyfriend dumped me. I’m not going to dance around it and say, “We broke up.” He dumped me for someone else. I’m super, thanks for asking.
A break-up feels like a tornado in your bloodstream. There is hurt. There is anger. There is incredulity. And I’m pretty sure there is a flying cow or two, as well. As soon as the break-up is initiated, the pain slams into you, and like all pain, you want it to stop immediately. Al Green asked—begged even—for the answer to how to make it stop. How to be mended. How to win. How to live again. Nobody told Al Green. Why did I think anyone was going to help me just by typing a search in the form of a question?
Helping is way different than telling. People might not be able to help but they will certainly try to tell you. Everyone has a piece of advice. Every idea is different, and when your nerves are frayed, it feels like a cacophony of bad inspirational quotes in basic-bitch font coming at you from all sides. “You should…” abounds, but the answer is elusive. When you ask, “How do I stop hurting this very minute?” there is no answer. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind isn’t science; it’s a Jim Carey movie.
Much of the guidance is about helping you stay sane, keeping you from boarding the Acela Express to Crazy Town. And this idea—don’t lose all your gotdam sense—is a practical one because I have experienced such blinding, white-hot rage in the past month, I can see how some otherwise good people end up in the back of a police vehicle. A breakup is chaos. It’s disordered, which is why we as human persons try to put some organization to it. That’s why we Google “How can you get over a broken heart?” We want step-by-step, we want a plan, and we want it now. Here is what I have come up with so far.
The most common instruction in 2017 is to block all contact with the ex on social media. Let’s call my ex “Him.” Kind of like how the Bible capitalizes all references to God. He, Him, His. Please note, I am an atheist.
I unfriended Him on Facebook and Instagram. I haven’t bothered doing it on LinkedIn because LinkedIn is dumb and I don’t use it.
I deleted all our pictures, a gesture that should have been freeing, but this can cut both ways. I’m deleting memories. The cobblestones in Old Montreal, oysters, the art in Miami, sand at Gooseberry Beach, more oysters (we took a lot of pictures of Matunucks and East Bay Blondes on beds of crushed ice).
But the worst part is I’m also deleting some pictures in which I look crazy banging. I’m vain, I admit it. This breakup is denying y’all access to my fierce beauty, freckles, and highly architectural nose. Instead of deleting photos, I’m going to replace His face with those of my tennis boyfriends. Roger. Rafa. Feliciano. Those men will never fail me.
Amy and Roger, sittin’ in a tree…
I have been wanting to read Brené Brown’s The Gift of Imperfection for some time now, as a way to help me work on my anxiety, inability to express to people when they have hurt me, and my self-doubt. Then Ashley C. Ford mentioned the book in her amazing essay, Engagement Party Blues, in which she verbalizes so many of the things I feel about family and vulnerability and counting on people. If Ashley recommended a book, I was going to read it.
So, I downloaded Brown’s book to my Nook (look at me rhyming!), and two pages in, I’m a weeping mess. Abort, abort! I was not ready for reflection or healing. I don’t even remember what Brown was saying. It might have been “breathe deep and think about The Rock holding your hand….” Don’t care, don’t care. I’m not currently equipped to look at my or anyone else’s imperfection.
Solution? I immediately downloaded Sarah MacLean’s A Scot in the Dark. I was ready for a known quantity. I was ready for shenanigans in a curricle, morning gowns, witty banter with an undercurrent of sex, and a happy ending.
“No.” He stopped, and she said, “You left me. How many times did you tell me my shame was misplaced? That I deserved more? Better? A man worth of me? You were right. I do deserve all those things. More than this.”
Dang, Sarah. Maybe this wasn’t the best Regency to pick up after all. Gutted.
This is very personal advice. I can easily revert to my eating disordered ways in times of crisis. I never claim I’m cured, I’m only recovered from the anorexia and bulimia that plagued my early twenties. I’m on the wagon. Or on the food truck. It’s too easy for me to overrule heartache with hunger. The breakup was out of my control; what I put into my mouth—or don’t put into my mouth—is in my control.
Don’t embrace nausea. Don’t embrace your lack of appetite. Accept all invitations for dinner with friends. Eat lots of eggs because eggs are easy. Have a steady supply of ginger ale and Ritz crackers.
Another reason to eat is that you need your energy. You need energy for your anger. And when people say don’t be upset at Him because that only hurts you, I say rubbish. Anger is valid, and ire is fine.
My least favorite piece of advice is “Don’t waste energy and be mad at the other woman,” as if the amount of vinegar in my veins is limited. I have a Henry Ford mass assembly line of vinegar in there. Every good story needs a villain, and while I don’t need to dwell on the other person, I won’t deny she is a grown woman with agency. She made choices, too. I mean, let’s say she—a married Justice of the Peace, who marries other couples, helping them recite vows like “love is patient, love is kind…”—knowingly involved herself with the man I loved. I think I would deserve a little bit of added enmity towards her. Just a sprinkle.
I stole this idea from recovery. Today. Only focus on today. The next 24 hours. It doesn’t even have to be 24 hours. The time between now and when my head hits the pillow tonight. Tomorrow, the week ahead, the weekend, the month, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s…forget it. It’s overwhelming. When I wake in the morning and start to catalog my worries, and I can only handle so many items on the list.
Today, I can make my bed. Today, I can cross-stitch. Today, I can go to Barre class. That’s three things. That’s enough.
Him, he lives a block from me, on the main drag, so it’s nearly impossible to avoid seeing his house or her car parked in his driveway. If I make a conscious choice to go around-my-ass-to-get-to-my-elbow when I headed anywhere in town, I’m still thinking of him—thinking of avoiding him. And even when I make it past without really looking, I become Lot’s wife at the rear-view mirror —don’t look back, don’t look back. Today, I didn’t look. Today, I didn’t turn into a pile of salt.
I have a great set of friends, who are keen to help keep my busy. I love them. I want to go places with them. But the moment I think of being someplace stuck without an escape hatch, I panic.
I drive myself everywhere. “I will meet y’all there!” Problem solved.
The issue with any kind of upset is that it dredges up issues I thought I had moved beyond. And when I say “issues,” I mean my fraught relationship with my mother. Mom is a good lady, but she has always been emotionally unavailable to me. I know this and yet I always seem to try one more time, when I feel like need my mother, and I’m again reminded that while I remain a middling atheist, my Southern Baptist mother believes my life choices and male relationships to be illegitimate.
Tread lightly and don’t go searching for succor where you know there is none. When I want to pick up the phone and beg her to say, “I know it hurts,” instead I turn on PBS and watch Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War while I cross-stitch. This is it true self-care.
They don’t call it heartbreak because it feels like winning a $5,000 scratch ticket. Brokenness hurts. It aches. You miss him. You miss his sheets. You miss his rum drinks. You miss his shaving cream.
I struggle with anxiety and sundowning. (I’m going to be a delight at the nursing home.) The time between 4 pm and 8 pm are the worst for me. I do my best to stay busy during those twilight hours, but even the busiest person must drive or go to the bathroom alone. It’s in those moments I realize, no matter what I do, this just plain sucks. And the only thing I can do is feel it.
No one is pure. We are all damaged. Like Gregory House, MD, reminds us, “Everybody lies.” I’ve been that adult woman with agency making bad choices. I’m sure there are men out there who think I’m a total twatwaffle, including my daughter’s father. It’s justified.
I’ve lied. And I’ve told truths, and I’ve lied again. I’ve had secrets. I love secrets. No one is nothing but awful, save Kellyanne Conway. If you put the Beast, Belle, and Gaston on a Venn diagram, most of us end up in the overlap.
The anger is there, and I’m not extracting it. I’m tempering it with empathy. My friend Val said it sucks to love someone who hurts you because one minute you want to strangle them and the next you want to make them soup.
Eventually, I know the empathy—mainly empathy for myself—will win out. One day, it will be a nagging scab instead of the agony of someone bashing my chest in with a sledgehammer. I don’t believe in karma. If karma were a thing, Trump wouldn’t be President and Vicki Gunvalson would be off The Real Housewives of Orange County.
Another friend told me, “You are doing better, you know. Even if you don’t feel it sometimes.” You know what did that? Time did that.
Biggest thanks to Katy Grace for her Photoshop and basic bitch graphic design skills.
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