What Exactly Happened Between Us; Part 1 Version 2.0, A Dramatic Interpretation of the Events of March 9th


Funny, it hasn't been that long, but I've already misremembered how some of this happened. I neglected to mention a big part of this whole conversation that happened between the "I don't think we should live together" and the bawling, snotting, and begging SCL not to leave. Here's the updated version of Part 1--a dramatic interpretation, my own paraphrasing and snarkiness added for effect and possible humor.

(SCL takes me lovingly in his arms. Holds me close)

SCL: Do you have time to talk?

Me: Sure...I guess.

SCL: Why are we living together?

Me: Why are you asking?

SCL: Why are we living together?

Me: Blah blah I love you blah blah we live so well together blah blah I love my life with you blah blah I want to share my life with you blah blah We are so great together blah blah Living with you is so easy blah blah blah

Lovey dovey, kind of nervously spoken affirmations of our relationship continue for several minutes

Me: Why do you think we live together?

SCL: We moved in together because we were going to get engaged. Now we aren't, and I'm wondering if it's a good idea for us to continue to live together just because it makes us happy. I don't think that's enough of a reason.

Me: What? WTF????

SCL: I'm trying to be honest, and it's really hard!

Me: WTF????

I storm out of apartment, call best friend, go shopping, wait until dark to return home to really show him. Return home prepared to let SCL have it big time.

Enter apartment. No SCL in sight. Go to retrieve him from downstairs lobby area.

Me: I have a few things I'd like to say to you. Although you are being honest, which I appreciate, you are also being incredibly selfish. You aren't thinking of me or our relationship in all of this.

SCL: What, do you not want me to share with you how I'm feeling?

Me: No, I want you to be honest, but I'm telling you that what you are honestly feeling IS selfish! You are only thinking of yourself.

SCL: So my feelings don't matter?

Me: They do, but you're acting like your feelings are the only important thing in this situation. This affects both of us. You are constantly changing the course of our relationship based on how YOU feel.

SCL: I just feel dissatisfied and unsettled in the relationship. Living together is still a big adjustment for me. And it's not some little thing that is going to make me feel better. I don't think I'm ever going to feel better about it.

Me (shocked): Why were you not telling me any of this? Why are you waiting until now?

Silence.

Me: So, you want to move out?

Silence.

Me: So, you want to move out...and keep dating?

Silence.

Me: So, you want to BREAK UP WITH ME?

SCL: I feel like that's the only honest thing I can do.

Me: Gasp Butyoupromisedyou'dneverdothistome. Sob Youtoldmeyou'dneverleaveme. Gasp I can'tbelieveyou'redoingthistome. Sob

More crying and gnashing of teeth continue.

End scene

-----

Discussing anything about our relationship was like pulling teeth. I'd ask SCL a question and sometimes wait for 5-10 minutes for him to answer. Sometimes he would never answer my question EVER. It was the most frustrating thing, feeling like he must be thinking something but just not sharing it with me. I felt like I was badgering him, but I couldn't accept silence as an answer. I understood that he has a lot of difficulty sharing his thoughts and feelings (I know, men are taught to repress feelings. Three words: GET A THERAPIST), but c'mon, just a few words would have been helpful. Instead he waited until things got really bad in his head to tell me about it, and by then it was clear his mind had been made up. This wasn't a conversation at all. It was a time for him to reveal how he was feeling and for me to react to it.

All of those minutes I spent waiting for him to say something, anything? I'd like those back, please.

Up until that day, I had NEVER walked out on SCL during a fight. I always managed to keep it together and hear him out, but when he began questioning our relationship and its very foundation, I couldn't handle it. I had to get out, take a breather, and come back for round 2. And it was a good thing I did. You'll never guess what he told me later that night... (Aren't you intrigued?)

Return tomorrow for Part 2 of What Exactly Happened Between Us.

What Exactly Happened Between Us: Part 1


A new blog friend asked "Where is the post where you talk about what happened with your break-up?" And I had to admit that I didn't really have one, except for the vague, ranty post from last Monday afternoon. It was more about how I was feeling than about what went down, which was appropriate at the time. I needed the release. But I haven't told the break-up story, so buckle your seat belts, 'cause here we go.

Let's go back to March 9th. I remember the day because it was three days before I had to give two huge presentations at our board meetings. I was stressed and exhausted when SCL took me by the waist sweetly and asked me sort of sheepishly, "Why do we live together?" What a weird question, I thought. "Why are you asking me?" I replied, suspicious and feeling uneasy about him asking. This couldn't be good. But he kept insisting that I explain why we were living together now that we no longer planned to get engaged in the near future.

Eventually, I decided that I'd just fucking answer the question and began listing dozens of reasons why I loved living with him. I loved sharing our life, I loved his company, I was happy, blah blah blah. He then asks, "Do you think just enjoying living together is enough of a reason to continue living together?" **Let me just say that a year ago, before we moved to DC, SCL and I had a plan. We would move in together, get engaged a year later, and married in 2012. Sounds nice, doesn't it? I sure thought so. Yeah, so moving in together was a step toward marriage. Otherwise I wouldn't have done it.

At this point in the conversation, I was beginning to get agitated. SCL was the one who got cold feet about the engagement, not me. I was ready to take the step; he wasn't. It took me a lot of time to come around to accepting this for the time being, but I finally had accepted it--and now he was using his own fickleness as a justification for moving out?! So I asked, "Do you want to move out? Is that what you're saying?" He went on to say he didn't feel like convenience or being happy was enough of a reason to live together when we had done so with the intention of getting engaged. I couldn't believe it. He was pulling the rug out from underneath me again! First, no engagement. Now, he wants to move out? WTF?!

So, I had to push him again. "Do you want to move out and continue the relationship? Or are you saying you're breaking up with me?" With some hesitance he admitted that he felt ending the relationship was the only honest thing he could do--whatever the hell that meant. I then went into hysterics, bawling and begging him not to do this to me. Over and over again, I was sobbing, "Why are you doing this to me? Why are you doing this to me?" I was snotting everywhere, begging him not go. I was quite the pathetic sight. I couldn't believe what was happening.

Believe it or not, this was NOT the night we broke up officially. That would come later. Even that night, though, I couldn't be angry with him. When he got upset and starting crying, I comforted him. I wanted to understand what was going on, where all of this was coming from. Looking back on it, I see how much more I had been giving all along--trying to understand him, trying to be sensitive and compassionate. I don't regret any of those things. I want to be that kind of partner. But I also want a partner who wants to show me all of those things in return.

To be continued...

(Picture from Ladera Resort, St. Lucia where SCL and I went on vacation last June)

In Session: Week One of Therapy

I'm no stranger to therapy. This is my fourth time in therapy, but this is the first time I've been when I haven't been in absolute crisis. I'm doing it for my own mental health--preventive care if you will. I'm not even sure yet if I'll go every week (can you say "$$$$$"?), but I do think it's worth the cash. I see it as an investment in myself, something I'm resistant to do but something I'm trying to do more of now.

Living in an urban area, there are literally a bajillion (that's right, a bajillion) therapists around. So, I looked for pastoral counselors (they have clinical and spiritual training), and found a woman (really prefer a woman) who is a Methodist pastor (yay--Methodist like me) and whose office is right by my old workplace. Convenience was a big deciding factor for me. When I lived in CT, I had to take I-95 at rush hour to get to my therapist's office, which resulted in me feeling really on edge and unfocused when I got there. So this time, I was pleased to be able to jump on the Metro without having to worry about traffic except for the tourists who are once again invading. (Grrr--it's stand to the RIGHT people!)

I really over-thought the whole thing beforehand. I was worried that we wouldn't connect, that I wouldn't feel like I could be honest, that I would have my people-pleasing tendencies return and feel like I had to be completely, uber self-aware. Luckily, none of those things ended up being true. I really, really liked her. She was warm, interactive, and safe. And pregnant. VERY pregnant. That means she'll be out of counseling for at least 8 weeks starting in June. Something to worry about in another few weeks.

I was surprised that when she asked me why I had come in that I immediately started crying. For me, this was a good surprise. I never felt like I could cry with my old therapist. I'm not exactly sure why. We had more of an intellectual way of talking about my feelings. Today I felt much more connected to the physicality of my emotions. What I immediately felt was acceptance--she affirmed that this was a hard thing, that learning my relationship was not what I thought it was really sucks, that I had given so much to the relationship and was losing so much now. Thank God. Acceptance. Isn't that what we all want?

Nothing I said was any kind of revelation. I knew everything that I told her already. But I walked away feeling less burdened than when I walked in. That's really what I needed today. I look forward to working with her, to doing my own work outside of session (love that she gave me "homework" to do!), and to learning more about myself.

There's also a Macy's right next store. Thinking next time I'll add some retail therapy to the mix!

Did I even cry yesterday?

When I crawled into bed last night and sprawled out as much as I could, trying to enjoy having the whole thing to myself, I honestly couldn't remember--did I even cry today? I felt a little triumphant. Only a week since the break-up and already a day of no tears? Then I remembered. Yes, yes I did cry. It's embarrassing, too.

I'd decided earlier this week that no matter what, I was going to get up to go to church on Palm Sunday. SCL and I had visited a wonderful church (inclusive, LGBT-friendly, justice-focused) back in the fall, but because he wasn't really into going to church, I hadn't gone back. I just never wanted to go alone, and I felt bad dragging him along, knowing he really didn't want to go. But this week I figured out that being part of a faith community was one of the parts of me I had just given up without thinking about it much, and it was making me unhappy not to have that in my life. So, yesterday morning I was up and at 'em, preparing to make the somewhat complicated journey to the church.

I had just gotten out of the shower, and I was ironing my clothes. I'd turned on the TV and America's Next Top Model was on. It was the finale of an early season--maybe 3? I don't know; I'd seen it about a million times. But when Tyra announced America's next top model and both of the women burst into tears, so did I. I cried during America's Next Top Model. Is there anything more embarrassing than that when you're not a) PMSing or b) pregnant?

Maybe it wasn't just the emotionality of the show that made me cry. Maybe I was just looking for a reason to cry. That's more likely as I'd like to give myself more credit than thinking I could really be emotionally manipulated by Tyra Banks. I cried as I ironed, then got myself together and went to the Metro.

Going to church alone was hard as hell. I almost didn't go, but as is true with most things of late, I was so glad I did. The sermon was on regret, and the minister talked about her divorce. She shared how she had non-serious thoughts of keying her ex's truck, but how ultimately it was that inner voice that reminded her she would look back on this with regret if she did it. This really resonated with me, especially my desire not to act like a fool during this process. Truth be told I'm not angry with SCL. But I know I'd be angry with myself if I treated him badly, even though he broke my heart. Hurting him won't unbreak my heart, as Toni Braxton would say.

But better than the good sermon was the good community. The one person I knew there introduced me to the young people in the congregation. They invited me out to lunch, and immediately I felt at home. They could speak theological language! I had no idea how much I have been missing that. I think this'll be another place for me to find community as I move through the process and when I'm past it. I'm really glad that I worked up enough courage to go to church alone, not just because it's an awesome congregation but because I'm learning to take care of myself and do the things that are important to me.

Go me. And maybe today if I do cry, it'll be at something less cheesy than ANTM.

My first post break-up date

I went out last night on a date--a date that SCL and I were supposed to have gone on together. For Valentine's Day he had gotten us tickets to see Chelsea Handler, not exactly a creative gift as we'd just seen Kathy Griffin at the same venue a few weeks prior, but one I was excited about nonetheless. Perhaps I should have suspected something then--when his Valentine's Day card thanked me for being a "best friend." I remember being disappointed that it didn't say more, that it didn't talk about our love, our partnership. I'd come not to expect SCL to share his emotions or his feelings about our relationship except for a few times a year: my birthday, Valentine's Day, and our anniversary. He'd write me these beautiful cards that would bring tears to my eyes. Not this Valentine's Day though. I should've known then. But who wants to suspect your relationship is winding down on VALENTINE'S DAY?

Anyway, we broke up last Sunday just moments before needing to go to Philadelphia together (great timing, huh? Men are fabulous about that), and on Monday the subject of these tickets came up. "Do you want to find someone else to go with you?" he asked me. "No, I want to go with you," I said. "I don't think that's a great idea," he replied. "I don't care. You can sell the tickets," I said with tears in my eyes. I didn't give a flying fuck about the tickets at that point. He'd just broken my heart, and why would I ever want to go somewhere that was supposed to be "ours"? After a few hours of thinking this over though, I became more indignant than sad. I was going to use those tickets, damn it.

So, when I got a facebook message from a guy I had dinner with a few weeks ago who was writing to say "sorry for your break up," I thought, maybe he'd want to go. Now let me qualify this by saying that when I met this guy, it was at a pro-choice fundraiser and he told me that he wanted to work on women's issues. Of course I assumed he was gay. And I was absolutely shocked a few weeks later when he mentioned a girlfriend. I wanted to ask, "Was your girlfriend's name Robert by chance?" I still think he's confused. But I nonetheless thought it would be kind of a nice little jab to take a guy--gay, straight, bisexual, or confused--with me.

We met for dinner beforehand. I got us seats at the bar (not datelike). We had beers and food. Chelsea Handler was ridiculously funny, and only at a few times did I think to myself, this was supposed to be SCL and me. I didn't miss him too much--I actually think I had more fun with non-date, possibly gay guy that I would have with SCL. But it felt strange. Afterward we went by the White House, which was all lit up. Now THIS felt like a date, and I felt uncomfortable. I kept saying how I really want to be single for awhile, and he kept telling me to keep my mind open. We talked about getting another drink, but I said I'd like to make it an early night and headed home. I'm glad I did. I needed go home and cry a bit. I've lost so much, and I still can't believe this is my life.

Sometimes I feel like I don't know myself at all. I stare at myself in the mirror and I wonder, who is that woman. I'd like to get to know her before I get into another relationship. Otherwise I think I'll be looking to find her in another person. And she's never going to be there.

How long am I going to look at this in my fridge?


Whenever I open my fridge, I see this on the bottom shelf. A Coca-Cola, an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, and a note written on the post-its I gave SCL for Christmas: "You can have this." He left it for me yesterday, and I haven't figured out what to do with it. I've managed to put the pictures away, the mementos in the closet, but this plate in the fridge I can't seem to part with. It seems simple enough really: drink the Coca-Cola, eat the cookie or throw it away, toss the note, wash the plate. Enough already! What's with the drama?

But unlike the pictures and other reminders, this I seem to forget about until I need to get a drink of water or some creamer for my coffee. Then BAM! This hits me in the gut.

Every week SCL went to a lunchtime meeting at school where there were always leftovers that he'd take home: usually two Cokes, two bags of chips, and two cookies for us to share. One of those little things that was part of the life we shared together, a part I hadn't thought about losing until I saw this plate. "You can have this." His thinking of me broke my heart because I realized that it was probably the last time he'd think or be able to grab me a cookie. He won't think about me in the same way anymore because...
We aren't the same anymore.

That is what hurts. Knowing things will never be the way they were, the way they were just less than a week ago. Knowing that he's not going to think to pick up that extra cookie for me. It all slipped away from me so fast, without warning. So much adjusting, so much discomfort thrown at me at once when I wasn't expecting it, I wasn't prepared, I was caught off guard. Frankly, I'm angry that I have to do all of this work, to adjust to a life that I don't want. At least I don't want it just yet. It's hard to imagine ever wanting this, ever being content to be without him and by myself.

I feel weak and alone and miserable and confused. And I just want a puppy, damn it!

Last night SCL stayed over Thursday. We talked. It took everything I had in me not to climb in bed with him and hold him close. He was upset, and I found myself comforting him because that is what I do. I comfort him. Why can't I comfort myself?

Who was I kidding?

For real, there is nothing good enough in the world--not even an invitation to the White House--that can ease the pain of a new break-up. That is what I'm finding to be the absolute worst part of this whole process thus far: it's the times when I think I'm going to be distracted from the pain and I find I'm not. It catches me off guard, in a public place where I need to appear like I'm paying attention to what is actually happening, where I can't cry, where I must keep my composure. THIS IS THE WORST.

So far this has happened three times I can distinctly recall:
  1. During my first meeting as member of the Board of Directors for a national organization yesterday, we were in the middle of conversations about funding sources, and I all I could think about was SCL. So, I pretended to "take notes" and journaled continuously for the next hour. Once the meeting adjourned, I proceeded to continue journaling for another hour, resulting in over 10 pages of legal-sized paper of my feelings, thoughts, and woes. I put them in an envelope, sealed it, and vowed not to open it until March 25, 2011 when hopefully I can look back and see how far I've come. That is the hope anyway.
  2. At a happy hour with friends and colleagues, conversations arose about aforementioned organization, how it's up shit's creek, and how bad the management is. I proceeded to mentally check out, nurse my cosmopolitan, and think of yelling in the middle of Union Station "I DON'T GIVE A FLYING FUCK ABOUT THIS ORGANIZATION RIGHT NOW! I JUST WENT THROUGH A BREAK-UP WITH THE MAN I WAS SUPPOSED TO MARRY!" Somehow I managed to restrain myself and simply had another cosmo.
  3. While the White House meeting was fine (and way too jam-packed to think of anything but how cool it all was and how difficult it was to get a word in edgewise with all the personalities in the room), the conversation I had with friends afterward was not. Let me be clear: I don't give a shit about politics. I mean, I do because it's a necessity, but honestly after this debacle over health care, do we all REALLY believe the government alone will solve the looming problems of the world? I just found myself getting pissed, quiet, and resentful that no one was observing how sad I was. Hello, I just went through a break up! Aren't you all supposed to be caring for me? Let's just say I'm not in a place to talk politics when all I want to talk about is how shitty I feel.
And now I'm home, had myself a good cry for about five minutes, blogging to you, contemplating if I'm going to drinks with a friend who right now I find completely irritating, insensitive, and overwhelming. Do I put myself back together, head out the door, and hope for the best? I don't know. I just don't know.

I hate being a type-A, emotional overachiever. I love processes, being mature, taking things well, and generally being above-average when it comes to dealing with hard shit. But right now I'm just pissed and want to throw things and beg SCL to please come back and do all of the stuff that I'm not "supposed" to do. Well, I don't care right now. I want to be ME, in the moment, feeling what feeling. And right now I'm having a pity party.

Fabulous Friday

So, yes, I'm bummed. I'm heartbroken. Blah blah. That is not all that's going on with me. Remember I have a kick ass job? A kick ass job that gets me really cool opportunities? Check this out. In just a few minutes I'll be leaving to go to a meeting in the (wait for it)---WHITE HOUSE. That's right! I got an invitation for a young women's outreach meeting hosted by the Office of Public Engagement and Office on Women and Girls. I've never been in the White House, not even for a tour, so this is super, super cool news. By far the coolest DC thing I've been invited to yet.

So, go me! Wahoo! It's really wonderful to have fun things to look forward to and do in the middle of all this crappy stuff.

You Say He's Just a Friend

This is a controversial topic, so I know all of you probably have very strong feelings about this:
Can you and should you be friends with an ex under any circumstances?

I know, I know. You're probably all shaking your heads, saying "Why, TNS, why? Why are you breaking yet another break up rule? You're still in contact with SCL, and now you're thinking about being friends? What's wrong with you, woman?"

Yes, yes. I hear you. I hear your judgment. I hear your cries. I hear you, I promise.

BUT--hear me out. I think I have some important points on this, wisdom I've gained from others, and some legitimate ways of thinking about this.

First, I think the the way our culture deals with relationships in general is just plain shitty. We love falling in love. We love getting attached. But as soon as things get tough and we get broken up with, we're out the door, cutting out the person from our lives, and thinking of moving on to bigger and better things. It's a very consumerist approach to relationships. They're disposable, they're replaceable, and if one doesn't work, we throw it out for an upgrade.

Now, while this "cold turkey," rip-off-the-Bandaid approach to a break-up seems much, much harder at first than remaining in contact with an ex, I would argue it is in fact much, much easier in the long term. So, you cry your eyes out for awhile, but eventually the ex works his or her way out of your system and you're no longer thinking about them. Out of sight, out of mind. Right? I've done this before, and I know this is how it often goes.

What we don't think about is how we can transform our relationships over time. We cannot seem to grieve the loss of the relationship and then allow it to be become a new kind of relationship. Instead we cut out the person with whom we were in the relationship because it's just plain easier than finding a new way to move in the world as acquaintances, friends, etc.

When I was in grad school, I suffered a trauma, and a professor there really stepped up as my support when I needed it. We became quite close as I confided in her, but eventually, once some time had passed and I was no longer in crisis, she expressed that it was no longer appropriate to continue to be that kind of support to me. She was a professor, I was a student, and we needed to engage each other in new ways now that the crisis had passed. She could no longer serve as a therapist, and I could no longer depend on her the way that I had.

I was devastated. No, I was PISSED! I was angry, hurt, needy, felt rejected, all of those "break up" feelings were right there, kicking me in the gut and making me feel horribly shitty. Here was the person who supported me most during a time when I was incredibly vulnerable, and now she was abandoning me. I imagined creating crisis just to maintain the relationship. I didn't want it to change. Sound like a break up? It really kind of was.

Now that some time has passed I can appreciate her a lot more, especially what she taught me about relationships. She was the one who introduced me to the concept of transforming relationships--that the tendency in our culture is simply to cut off, not to relearn how to be with someone. With she and I, it was awkward as hell. I resisted, pushed her boundaries, and made her so angry that she eventually said she couldn't talk to me anymore about it. I felt traumatized, betrayed, and alone. But eventually, I could see her in a public place and not freak out. I learned to say "Hi, how are you?" and talk casually. And I even got to the point where I could thank her for pulling away and teaching me so much.

So, I bring this wisdom with me now. I cannot resist the changes happening in my relationship with SCL. I cannot expect him to change his mind. I cannot forget that this was the most healthy decision he could make, and ultimately it was best for me to. But what I do hope is to eventually find a new way to be in relationship with him--not a desperate one, not one in which I'm trying to manipulate him to come back, but one that allows for a new relationship to emerge. A less intense, less intimate, but nonetheless meaningful relationship.

Is it possible? I'd like to figure that out. And if it isn't, you all can have the pleasure of saying "I told you so." And who doesn't love that?

It's the Little Things that Help

SCL had this huge, practically lifelong supply of powder laundry detergent his parents had bought for him from Costco when he went to Yale. We're talking more than 2 years ago. This stuff was crap, and I hated washing clothes with it--but it was there and seemed wasteful not to use it. Begrudgingly I'd scoop out the powdery, dusty, fragrance-free stuff and throw it into the machine, never quite sure if it was actually doing any good. The side of the container says it's also good for oil spills, so you know, I never felt too confident about it.

Let me back up a bit. I am what you might call a laundry fascist. I get this from my mother who washes jeans inside out (so as not to fade them prematurely), meticulously adds fabric softener as soon as the rinse cycle begins, and hang dries nearly every single article of clothing, including plain white tees and underwear. Needless to say, our clothes lasted a very long time, and I grew up with a fear that the dryer was evil and would eat my clothes.

So, when SCL and I moved in together, I agreed to take over the laundry duties. I didn't mind it for the most part, despite the millions of white t-shirts in the pile. Not sure about you other women, but I hardly have any whites--a few things here and there, but I'm usually in colors. Before moving in with SCL I was used to going a few weeks between washing them. But then it was always a big smelly pile of dank undershirts that I'm guessing were at one point white but now were yellow/gray grossness, and they were stinking up my closet where we kept the hampers. It never ended! So one of the first things I did after we broke up was split up the laundry and stick all of his in a laundry bag, waiting for him when he got home 'cause I'd be damned if I continued to do his laundry. Aren't I so nice?

Today I went to Target to pick up underwear* and picked up a few things for the apartment: a new lamp, some air fresheners, and a big bottle of Tide. No more crappy Costco detergent for this woman. I don't care if it costs $12 a bottle. It smells good and gets my clothes clean. And the scent doesn't remind me of him, which is a plus.

*FYI, the underwear were not for me. I bought them for a fundraiser benefiting the DC Rape Crisis Center. One of the thing they always need is clean pairs of underwear, so next time you're visiting Victoria's Secret, add a few pairs to your purchase and drop them off at the nearest rape or domestic violence center in your area.

Breaking the Break-Up "Rules"

From the reading I've done so far about getting through break-ups, the cardinal rule is NO CONTACT WITH EX AT ALL. This makes complete sense. If an ex is like a drug, how could you expect to heal when you're constantly getting a hit and plummeting back to zero over and over again? I hear you, break-up books. I hear you.

But these break-up books also seem to expect the broken-hearted woman to act like a psycho, drink like a fish, never get out of bed, and basically fall apart as a person. Frankly, I find this insulting. And I have few, if any, psychotic tendencies despite the immense pain I'm feeling. Know why? Because for the most part, I can accept that pain is normal, natural, and to be expected. I'm not running around, trying to avoid the pain, bury it, or self-medicate it. No, I'm not. Each time I feel the pain rise up, I say to myself, "Pain is ok. Pain is not crisis. Go ahead and feel it."

This doesn't mean I want to induce pain or maintain it needlessly. Of course not. But I understand that it's just going to be part of the process. Resisting it will do nothing but add layer upon layer of complicated emotional baggage that eventually I'll have to deal with. I'd rather forgo the complications and dive right in.

Getting back to contact with the ex. Yesterday SCL informed me that he would need to sleep at our apartment that night and again Thursday. I told him I needed him to be out of the apartment while I held a rehearsal. At around 10:00 he came home. Shockingly, it was awkward (kidding). He was there, I was there, both of us in our 875 square foot apartment. Neither of us was sure quite what to do or say, if we were going to say anything. What was "right"?

My break-up books echoed in my head "Don't talk to him. Don't engage him. Just stay in your room." STAY IN MY ROOM? I'm not going to be trapped in my room like a prisoner just because he's there. And what kind of maturity does it show on my end to ignore his presence? I decided it was worse to ignore him, knowing he was there, than to say hello and try to be cordial.

We talked about our days. We laughed a little. We sat next to each other, our backs pressed against the wall. We both cried. I told him that when he has more clarity, I'd like to know what happened, not that understanding it will make it hurt any less, but that knowing it might be helpful for my own resolution, my learning, and my moving forward into the future, perhaps with another partner eventually (I hope). He said he would write me a letter. I told him I thought of him, he said he thought of me. I asked if he felt relieved. He said he did, and I strangely felt good that he said that. I knew it was a decision he had made carefully, honestly, and that it was best for him. And I confessed that deep down a little part of me was relieved, too. All of the things I'd given up, sacrificed, thought I had to lose to be in a relationship with him--I could have those back. I could be totally me again.

We hugged some. I said, "Friends hug!" I knew we were entering dangerous territory, but we kept it there. Nothing more. No kisses, no caresses, just hugs. Deep, meaningful, painful, supportive embraces. I'll miss those. I helped him put the extra bed together, put the sheets on, and so badly wanted to linger. I wanted him in bed with me. I wanted to sleep with him. I wanted to feel his body next to mine. He did, too. But we didn't. In a brief moment of weakness, I baited him, "How do you think your life is going to be better without me in it? Why was being with me so horrible?" And he answered wisely, "I don't think we should talk about this now." "You're right," I said.

I brushed my teeth, got in bed, read, and closed my eyes. When I woke up this morning, I didn't feel worse because we'd talked. I felt some relief knowing that he cared, that this was hurting him, and that we indeed had shared a beautiful (near) two years together. That is something to be celebrated, not romanticized or denigrated. Maybe I can't celebrate now, but someday I think I will.

What I want most is to move through the pain honestly and with grace. I told him, "When this doesn't hurt so much, I don't want to look back and think about how I was such a jerk to you during this time." It doesn't mean I can't be angry, depressed, or completely hysterical at times. But it does mean that I want to express those feelings in healthy ways rather than self-destructive ones or lashing out at him rather than dealing with my own mess. It isn't simply about being kind to him, though that's part of it. No, it's about me being the kind of person I want to be despite all the pain I'm feeling. I'm strong. I'm compassionate. I'm self-aware beyond belief. I have carried myself through worse things than this, and this is another opportunity for me to show that grace and strength.

I also have an appointment with a therapist on Monday.

Small Victories

Today I got an email from SCL about his schedule for the week (i.e. when he would need to sleep here), telling me he'd be home for dinner and would stay the night here. I decided to avoid an interaction and spend the afternoon and early evening out at a coffee shop where I planned to get work done.

Did I get work done? Hells no. I listened to Alicia Keys (her new album is fab for a break up), read more of my current break up book, and wrote more in my journal. I considered this a success. Why? Because I managed to put myself together (even though I was wearing no make-up, sporting Pumas, and a hoodie) and get out the door. I was moving through the world. I ordered a hot chocolate. I sat and read, wrote, and thought. I didn't break down.

Every few minutes the pang of "he's gone" hit me, startle me, and throw me off balance. It's sort of like having menstrual cramps--out of nowhere BAM!, the tightness moves in, and releases. Unfortunately there's no remedy for it except waiting it out until the pain ceases.

When I got home (purposefully a few minutes before I told him I would be), I expected him to be there. I wanted him to be there. "Are you there?" No answer. Just evidence that he'd been through--his laptop there, more dirty clothes in his chair, mail on the table. I'd missed him. I was relieved and devastated. I know seeing him isn't healthy for me, but there's another part of me--the part still desperately in love with him--that doesn't care how much it hurts. I'm not ready to let go.

I haven't cried in over four hours. Yet another success. I downloaded some music from a musician I loved in divinity school. A small indulgence for me. So was the hot chocolate. And I'm telling my friends. Their chorus of "WTF???"s is surprisingly helpful. Good to know I wasn't the only one duped into thinking we were a couple who would last.

Break Up Book: It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken


I'm a processor. I don't mess around when it comes to emotions--dealing with them, articulating them, expressing them. Along with our intellectual capacities, emotions are the very root of our being human, and they are beautiful. They are also fucking painful at times, like right now. If given the opportunity I just might opt out of feeling all of them, including the good, to have some relief. But I know that burying pain is just an avoidance of what is inevitable, so here I go--feeling the pain, crying the tears, and experiencing the grief.

As a processor, I find comfort in reading about whatever it is I'm feeling. One of the first books I picked up is called It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken: The Smart Girl's Breakup Buddy. Written by the same authors of He's Just Not That Into You, this book uses humor and tough love to help move the broken-hearted from a place of misery to a place of healing and moving forward. They (problematically) refer to readers as sexy Superfoxes (I guess this is meant to boost our self-esteem) who are in need of some perspective, self-care, and time.

The main point: YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS. Yesterday when I read it, I didn't believe it for a second. "No," I resisted. "Everyone else can get through a break-up, but not me. Not this one. Don't you know how perfect we were for each other? Don't you know how much I love him? At any second he's going to realize he made the hugest mistake and beg for my forgiveness."

I think this is what we call DENIAL.

The book reminds me again and again, "He ain't coming back, sister. And if he did, would you really want him?" Now there's a thought. Do I even want him to come back? This is the man who just walked out of my life, did the meanest thing he could have done, and can't even give me a damn reason for why. Is this the kind of partner I deserve? Is this really want I want? Or am I simply going through a stage of withdrawal that has nothing to do with his capabilities as a partner, what I need from a relationship, or what my dreams are? I simply feel need for a fix, a hit that I know will not even temporarily make me feel better. Yesterday I ran into his arms. He held me, but it didn't feel the same. I ended up breaking down again, when if I'd just resisted the urge, I might not have felt quite so terrible at that particular moment.

I'd like to move to a place when the sadness comes in waves rather than sitting as a quagmire of misery. And that begins with following the wisdom of this book and not giving in to the urge to get a quick fix. Why? It isn't healthy for me, and me is the one I am caring about for now. She deserves it.




Sleepless in the City

Day 3 of break up from SCL. I was doing well until my text message alert went off about an hour ago, about 2:00 a.m. "Could it be him? What if it's him?" I thought. I better get up to see what it said. Maybe he'd be saying, "I miss you. I made the biggest mistake. I'm so sorry. Please, let's work it out."

Of course it wasn't him. It was a friend, returning a text from earlier in the evening. Why in the world she was awake at 2:00 I have no idea. But now I can't sleep. I've been tossing and turning for over an hour, my mind racing with thoughts and fears and "what if"s.

I hate not being able to sleep. I've only had a few patches of insomnia in my life, most of them trauma-related. There is something so miserable about being awake when the rest of the world is quiet. It means I'm alone--alone with my thoughts, feelings, and tears.

I'm so resistant to this change. This isn't what I want! How could he go and make such a huge decision that affects me without even talking with me first? Does he have no respect for our relationship at all that he would go forward with something so extreme without first coming to me? He never gave us a chance.

He's staying with a friend tonight. I've been pacing around our apartment, touching his clothes and remembering everything about the past two years. It hurts. As one of my books says, it hurts like a motherf***er. There's nothing anyone could do about it. Except him. He could make it better. He could figure out what an asshole he's being, that I'm a total badass girlfriend, and start getting his shit together. But I can't wait around to see if that happens.

(Ex) Grad-Student Girlfriend

SCL informed me yesterday morning that he wants to end our relationship, move out of our apartment, and essentially cut me out of his life. He doesn't want to be "needed." He doesn't want a relationship. Honestly I don't give a fuck what his reasons are. Would figuring it out make it any better?

Needless to say I am a wreck. I feel broken, cheated, shocked. This came out of NOWHERE. Well, not yesterday. A few weeks ago he had threatened to leave. I guess I should've known then, that despite his going on to confess things he'd never told me, that he cried, that he said he didn't think it through, that he did love me--I should've have known then and dumped his ass.

Is that what I did? Of course not. I cried, begged him not leave, vowed to do whatever it would take to change things. We were a team, right? He was my partner, right? Isn't that what we were? Apparently not. Apparently our relationship doesn't mean enough to him for him to actually want to work on it. He's choosing to leave and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

I never thought this was a possibility. Seriously, it never entered my mind. We moved to DC to start our life together, and it's been beautiful, at least to me. I love (*gulp* loved?) sharing a life with him, figuring things out together, working things out. For him, it has been dissatisfying and left him unsettled. How did I not see this? Maybe I did and didn't want to admit it.

Now there's the question of this blog. As a former Grad-Student Girlfriend, do I get to continue writing? I will say that at least for now it feels pretty damn good to vent, and I'm thankful that only a few of you who read this even know who I am. The anonymity feels secure at the moment.

I'm working at the library and picked up a copy of He's Just Not that Into You. There's a whole chapter called "He's Just Not That Into You If He's Breaking Up with You." Ouch. Hard to read. But true nonetheless. Why do I want to try so hard to keep someone who is breaking my heart, tearing me up inside, who can look me in the eyes and say "I don't want to be in a relationship with you"?

Now there's the messy situation of the fact that we fucking live together. As far as I'm concerned, he's the one doing the breaking up, he can find a new place to live. But I don't know if I can afford all the expenses of the apartment by myself. I don't know what to do about it. It's so hard having him physically there. I want to run into his arms, have him hold me close, even though he's the one who hurt me. I think it'd be easier if it wasn't a possibility.

Now I'm thinking of all the "never gonna happen again" scenarios. This is perhaps the most difficult part so far. Never going to take another trip, never going to go out to a nice dinner, watch a movie and snuggle together, never again. Ugh, I feel like I'm torturing myself with all of these thoughts. I'm trying to focus on work, on anything else, but every few minutes I find myself running into the nearest bathroom to bawl my eyes out. In short, I am justifiably pathetic.

Musings on Midterm Season

I've noticed that SCL and I have much different conversations when we have a meal out of the apartment. It's not so much the difference in food--or the fact that we don't have to prepare it ourselves--but rather the atmosphere. I wouldn't say that they're better or worse, but they're different. We discuss different things--"date" things, I guess.

Yesterday I desperately wanted to get out of the apartment, so we went out to lunch, planning to work after we finished eating. SCL has an important stats exam this Wednesday, and I seem to be getting farther and farther behind in my own work. Before our food got there, he began talking about this test and how he's worried he won't do well. I can understand this to an extent--don't we all get nervous when we have a test coming up?--but SCL getting nervous over a math test? He's off the charts when it comes to his brains and capacity to do well academically. It's hard for me not to just to brush these comments off, so I have to be diligent in understanding what's causing him the worry.

What I'm learning is that being a PhD student is scary as hell. There's a lot on the line--time, money, investment of one's self, delaying one's career 5 or so years. And there's no guarantee that a job will be waiting for you at the end of it. Of course, this leaves me wondering why anyone in his/her right mind would do one, but we're past that point. This is what SCL wants to do, what he knows is the best career move right now, and he's got a long road ahead.

He started explaining the process to me more. Next spring he'll take his first comp exam, the smaller of the two (I'm guessing on less information than the other). If/when he passes, he'll move on to the larger exam in the fall of that year. At the same time he'll be expected to be working on a prospectus, a relatively short (50-60 pages) write up of his research plan. If all goes according to plan, he'll defend this in the spring of 2012. Once he does this, he'll move into research and writing with a goal of finishing sometime in 2014 or 2015. There are many hoops to jump throw between now and then.

It's also scary as hell to be partnered with someone going through this process because all of his fears, his anxieties, his worries, his doubts--they're mine too. This timeline is all theoretical. What about the things in our life that we're putting off now like marriage and a family. When will they fit into the picture? Neither of us has the answers, and there's no sign that it's going to get any less murky anytime soon. He has to take the program one class, one requirement, one step at a time.

At the end of this, I think I'm going to insist on my own diploma, too.

Technology Takeover

As evidence by my earlier freakout, I'm having a tough time figuring out how to balance all the techie things with the only semi-techie things in my personal and professional life.
  • Blog
  • My Twitter
  • My work Twitter
  • My Facebook
  • My work Facebook
  • My work website
  • My volunteer blog editing
  • My work blog (not yet started)
I've also added another computer (my netbook!) and a SmartPhone, so I'm connected/plugged in/technozombiefied as much as th erest of the world. And to tell you the truth, I'm not handling it very well so far.

Building a web presence takes time, and it is so addictive. How do more experienced bloggers do it? I'm really interested if you are an active tweeter how you set up boundaries because I think I spent most of today checking it, retweeting, etc. I need help!

Tweeting and Such

Friends who are on Twitter, please help me out. I have two accounts-personal and professional-that I'm trying to build up. But I'm really struggling with how to do anything else during the day! How do you 1) build up a following 2) stay on top of things 3) do the rest of life while still being an active tweeter? I'm using TweetDeck, which I like, but I still feel like I'm tweeting all day without the results that I want.

A little help from my friends?

Valuing Myself, My Time, and My Commitments

Being a faith-based advocate for reproductive health is not exactly a popular vocation. Because I occupy this weird niche, I get invited to speak fairly often, usually to groups of university students. For the most part these have been local groups, but last week I was asked, sort of last minute, to travel to West Virginia for an event. West Virginia. On a weekday. At 7:00 PM.

Any of you who live in a city know what a nightmare it is to travel on the highway on a weeknight during rush hour. It would take hours to make what should be a relatively short 1.5 hour ride, and I'd be exhausted by the time I got there. Not to mention I'd be out incredibly late, driving on unfamiliar roads back home in the dark.

So, I said no. Imagine that! I actually said, "No, I can't." And I really couldn't do it. I felt REALLY badly saying it, but I just couldn't give up that much time and energy right then. I was a bit annoyed to that they were asking me at the very last minute, meaning I wasn't their first choice.

A few days later I got another call about the event. They were getting desperate to book a speaker, I could tell. They offered me a PRIVATE CAR SERVICE to transport me from my apartment to the event and back. At this point, I had to rethink things. Yes, it would still be a lot of time, but it was a grand gesture, they were really needing someone to attend, and I would regain all of those hours I thought I'd lose driving there and back. But I also felt a little weird accepting something like a car service. I could drive myself, couldn't I? I had to keep telling myself, "No, driving yourself that far away, that late on a weekday when you have to work the next day is asking a lot of you. Offering you a car service is the least they can do, given you're doing them such a huge favor."

Ultimately, I said yes. And I'm really, really glad that I did. I had a delightful time at the event. Traffic on the way there was absolutely horrific, so I'm thankful that I didn't offer to drive myself there. But I had a wonderful driver who kept me entertained the entire time. And the group I met with was passionate, excited, and had many questions about the work I do on reproductive health and how it relates to my faith.

A lesson for me: say no when something is too much, even for a great cause. And if they find a way to make it easier for you, take it as a compliment.

Four Weddings and an Ordination


I've declared 2010 the Year of Weddings. I went through another of these right when I graduated from college (crazy kids who got married right after schoo!), and looks like year will be even crazier. SCL and I have been invited to four so far this year, two of which are less than a week apart and two time zones away from each other. And one of our friends is not only getting married, but also ordained as a minister! Needless to say, we've got quite a bit of travel planned for this summer and fall. Here's our current timeline:

End of March: Ordination in Philadelphia, PA

Mid-July: Wedding in New Haven, CT

Beginning of August: Wedding in Savannah, GA

Mid-August: Wedding in Denver, CO

Mid-October: Wedding in Philadelphia, PA

We are so excited for our friends and plan to attend all of these events, which is going to mean some serious extra costs, especially when we'll have to fly to Savannah and Denver. And, I've already stated that I hate the drive to CT up I-95 and would prefer not to drive, even though it would be cheaper.

Given the extra costs, we're trying to plan ahead so as not to be caught off-guard when these dates start approaching.
  • Since we've been so on target with budgeting, we actually have a little excess, which we've now put into a joint savings account. It's a great start!
  • As I wrote yesterday, I'm going to put a few hundred dollars into this savings account each month. It's nice to be able to do that!
  • We're thinking of creative ways to get there. For example, we're considering taking the Bolt Bus to New York and then taking the local train to New Haven rather than taking Amtrak. Not quite as convenient but better than driving ourselves and much cheaper.
  • Staying with friends. Let me say I am for the most part beyond sleeping on people's couches. Sorry, at some point I became a grown up, and I want to be well-rested for my friends' special days! But we also have friends with guest rooms, and I'm going to contact them early about having us stay. Hotels can be nice, but they're expensive. And besides that, it's more fun to stay with friends!
  • Staying fewer nights. A lot of these places are not too hard to get to and from, and even if it makes it an early morning or a late night, we might think about staying just one night if possible. I like sleeping in my own bed anyway.
I'm hoping that we might be able to make one of these trips more like a vacation (one of our goals as a couple is to take a trip together every year.) Maybe we'll splurge on a nicer place in one of the cities. But for the most part, this'll be an experiment in balancing frugal but relatively comfortable traveling.