I’m currently at the starting line of a brand new journey. So far, there’s been no growth; I’m not a better a person for the struggle; and I can’t see the light at the tunnel. It has been exactly six weeks since my boyfriend came over to my house on a Friday night, ate my pizza, drank my wine and ended our relationship, which tragically kept me from watching an episode of Dateline NBC. So … here I am, facing a rather unhappy beginning, one I truly believed I wouldn’t have to face again: the beginning of an end.
I’d forgotten just how heavy heartbreak feels. My entire body is dead weight, like Weekend at Bernie’s level, only there’s no Andrew McCarthy and that other guy to carry to me around. I have to do it all myself. These days, it takes all my remaining strength to throw my four tons of dead arms and legs onto the couch after work and not move for an entire evening while I listen to sad songs from the Fault in Our Stars soundtrack. Ed Sheeran is my ginger-haired shaman and he’s doing his best to carry me from darkness to light, but it’s a big job and this particular heartbreak feels so heavy that I can’t seem to get out from under it long enough to step back, gain some perspective and recognize it for what is, which is temporary.
Aside from the overwhelming heaviness it’s hard to put the rest of my feelings into words. When I was out of full-time work, I spent a lot of time sitting in coffee shops, drinking bottomless cups of $2.50 coffee while applying for jobs and jotting down ideas for a mystery novel. One afternoon, I was staring out a window that faced Broadway in Edgewater and this old man who just looked like he was tired of life shuffled by very slowly. He stopped in front of the free newspaper containers on the corner, the Red Eye and the Chicago Reader, bent down, gathered up as many papers as he could fit in his arms and then threw them, all of them, all over the sidewalk. He just kept grabbing papers until they were gone. It was windy that day too and the papers floated across the street and hung in the air long after he shuffled out of view.
At the time I had no idea what to think. I laughed, at him, which I regret now. What would drive someone to do this? He wasn’t angry; he didn’t yell; he didn’t cry. I didn’t understand, but now, when I think of how I’m feeling or someone asks me how I’m feeling, that scene is what comes to mind. And that’s not some allusion to American Beauty and that asshole filming a plastic bag or that Katy Perry song about an empty plastic bag representing how empty you can feel sometimes. It has nothing to do with the beauty of the floating paper or emptiness. Sometimes you need to throw something, sometimes things are messy and you need to mess it up more. Sometimes words aren’t enough because they just can’t do justice to an emotion. That old guy found a truly inspiring way to express what he was feeling, which I’m guessing was along the lines of, “Fuck this. Fuck feeling like this.” Or maybe that’s just what I’m feeling. Anyway, thank you, crazy old man, for that valuable lesson.
And that’s really the only progress I’ve made so far, making that connection. I don’t know the actual order of the stages of grief; I just know that there are stages because my mom keeps sending me articles to remind me that I’m going through stages. “You’re bargaining, Brenna,” she tells me, or, more frequently, “You’re in denial.”
And yeah I am. For a couple of weeks, I actually thought that I could convince him that he was wrong. I thought if I kept telling him, and by telling, I mean texting him because that’s the world we live in now, that he’d made a mistake, he would realize it. He would realize that love doesn’t happen all the time, though it might look like it—I’m speaking now to all of you summer lovers who are holding hands and kissing in the sunshine, which is making me very very unhappy. Please stop. The problem for him seems to be that he doesn't know what love is, except that he believes the universe will show him the way to his one and only, or so I finally learned while he ate my pizza, drank my wine, disrupted Dateline NBC and ultimately ended our relationship.
I wouldn’t trust the universe with something that big. First there’s a lot of evidence to lead one to believe that 1) there is no such force and 2) if it does exist it might not be benevolent. I mean what if the universe decides you should be with an asshole? Too bad, universe picked, so enjoy your life with an asshole. When it comes to love, I don’t know why you would want to take yourself out of the equation.
I think love takes you by surprise, not like a lighting bolt, like oh god; this must be love because it’s scary and it hurts. That’s not love or at least not the kind that lasts. I think real love just occurs to you. One night, he is dropping you off in front of your apartment after dinner and suddenly saying goodnight feels insufficient. Instead, the only thing that comes into your brain is, “I love you.” It’s your head that knows long before your heart, and from that point on it is a choice you make every single day, a decision to love someone else.
But now that I’m over a month into awful shit, I can finally admit that I did see this coming. Yes, it came out of nowhere in the sense that I thought we loved each other enough to work a bump in the road, but now I see that I loved him enough to work on any bump in the road but he grew up in Chicago and in Chicago, you don’t fix a bump in the road; you wait until it becomes a pothole large enough to swallow an entire car and then, and only then, do you dump some asphalt on it, making it much larger and more destructive bump in the road.
Scientifically, I know the heart is only a muscle. It just pushes oxygenated blood to the edges of your body. I know this. I know that is its job, the beating, is just to keep your organs going and your brain functioning. But I feel this there, in the center of my chest. My heart is still so full of him and my head is full of memories and expectations for the future, which makes his absence … breathtaking.
Time and space. Stay busy. Go out every night. Drink as much as you want. Cry hard and don’t be embarrassed. Don’t cry. Don’t talk to him. Don’t text him. Don’t see him. Get out there right away. The best way to get over someone is to get under someone. Try Tinder. Go on vacation. Watch something that makes you laugh. Surround yourself with friends. The firsts are hardest. Don't be alone. Time and space. Time and space. The only thing you can do is give yourself time and space.
I feel like I should know how to handle this by now, but, I’m really no better equipped to face loss in my 30s than I was in my 20s, which was the last time I had something possibly enduring come to an end. I imagine this is where I will be for the foreseeable future because love takes its time to develop and to dissolve.
I do know that healing starts with forgiveness. And I don’t mean forgiving him, the one who walked away without even trying. I have to forgive myself. I loved where it wasn’t wanted and that’s okay. Love is a gift, as much in the giving as in the receiving. So I’m working on forgiving myself and focusing on the positives. I mean won’t miss another episode of Dateline NBC now.