Note to SCL

In case you were wondering what would be the best way to start over, let me just say that not contacting me since I left yesterday morning would not be it.

But I'm not contacting him. He needs to show me he's for real. Real fast.

Radical Shifts and Cautionary Words: Week 4 of Therapy

I'm sitting at the airport...again; this time for work. I'm heading to St. Louis for a huge conference for the next four days. Even though I basically had no time to unpack from my trip to Florida before I was filling up my suitcase again, I'm thankful for the forced separation for SCL and me. I'll have other things to focus on and a whole hotel room to myself to rest, reflect, and get some perspective.

Yesterday I met with C and recounted the events of the previous 48 hours. The way I was telling it, I could tell she wasn't sure what I would say at the end, meaning it wasn't clear from the conversations that I was summarizing that SCL would say "Let's give this another try." Interesting--it's always surprising how a story comes out when I tell it to someone else. I could sense a lot more caution and fear in my telling of it.

Eventually I got around to saying that I was considering another try with him. I told her how he seemed to have gained clarity and felt regret about his decision. Perhaps it was that he had little to lose when he opened up over the last month, and I think he was surprised by my compassion and grace in response. I know I didn't need to be that way, but I do strive to carry myself with grace during crisis. I think it spoke volumes to him about me--things he already knew but were much more apparent, and that he was open to seeing.

She asked what I wanted out of the session. For the first time in my years of therapy, I asked for her perspective in the situation, if she felt comfortable. She wisely told me what many of you said. First, only time will tell if this is for real. In the meantime I need to have boundaries in place, especially in the area of sexuality. I completely agree, and so does SCL. And second, I need to continue caring for myself in the meantime, and to check in with myself if I sense I'm holding back some part of me. Even the little things--like watching a silly tv show, staying out late with friends, not cleaning up my dishes right away. She also offered to see us both, and gave me a book to read called The Good Marriage. I just started it, but I'd recommend it to anyone in a serious relationship.

I don't want to slip back into a pattern of self-neglect. It will take a lot of effort not to. Last night SCL and I had dinner out together. It was the first time we'd been out in public like that together since the day we broke up, and it really felt amazing. I never thought I'd get to share like this with him. Part of me wanted to spend the whole evening together, but taking C's suggestion, I made concrete plans for later that evening (costume karaoke, Glee style! So much fun). SCL did, too. I went to karaoke and sang my lungs out, and he played trivia with some of his classmates. We both had a great time.

I realized later that night that there is indeed a part of me that doesn't trust him. I got home before he did, and as the minutes ticked by and he hadn't come home, I got worried that he wouldn't. Eventually I drifted off to sleep with my door open around midnight, sure that the sound of him coming home would wake me. When I woke up at 2:00 am, I panicked. Had he not come home? I got out of bed, and sure enough, there he was, asleep in the other bed. Home, just as he said he would be.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I'm nervous about sharing the events of the last 48 hours. I'm afraid to be judged, to be criticized, to be questioned, to lose the community I have here. So many of you have told me how you can relate to my experiences of this godawful break-up and to be strong, knowing that better things are to come. And I agreed with you. I was putting myself out there again (at least on cyberspace) and blogging to get over the man who broke my heart.

Something changed on Monday night. Something big.

Since I was getting in so late on Monday night and the Metro would be closed, SCL offered to pick me up from the airport, which is only 5 minutes from our apartment. I think both of us wondered if that was a good idea, but wanting to save the cash and the time, I agreed. I'd be seeing him anyway at the apartment, so why not get a free ride out of it?

When I got in the car, he began talking about his week, his latest therapy session, and how he's confronting some of his unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns. This was sort of weird, I thought. I couldn't understand why he was being vulnerable with me, opening up freely and without me pushing him. He never did this before.

We got home, and he asked to talk. Against my better judgment, I agreed even though it was incredibly late at that point. His sharing continued and eventually he wandered off into random topics as he often does. I brought it back. "I don't understand why you want to share with me, be open with me even more than when we are together, so what's shifted for you? What do I mean to you now?" He confessed that he'd been confused about that very thing. I was thinking to myself, it's crazy that he broke up with me, only to then attempt to be more connected and more open. This doesn't add up to me.

I asked again about why he had broken up with me. He began to share some bullshit excuses: that his parents don't care for me, that we have different personalities, that we don't share enough interests. And with each thing on the list, I got more angry. I could feel myself tensing up. When he was done, I said, "Well, that says a lot about what you value." What I meant was, you're a fucking idiot for breaking up with me over such minor things that could have been negotiated and worked out. I said, "Don't you think I have a list like that for you? Good luck finding the perfect woman." And then the hurt came, "What did you give ME in this relationship, SCL? I gave you everything. What did you ever give me?"

And I don't know what came over me, but a moment later, I found myself throwing my cup of ice water in his face, drenching him, the couch, and the wall. I was screaming at the top of my lungs, "My love meant nothing to you? You broke up with me over these bullshit reasons?" And he started sobbing, telling me it wasn't true. that he felt like he was being a fucking idiot. I screamed back, "You ARE being a fucking idiot! You are so smart in other areas of your life, so why are you being so FUCKING stupid about this? Why are you throwing this away, throwing ME away?"

I looked at him, sobbing and drenched in the water I had thrown at him. But I didn't say anything. I wasn't going to feel sorry for him, no matter how pathetic he looked.

But then in between sobs, he wailed, "I feel like I had blinders on. And now I see what it really take to have a relationship with someone." And he told me about how he valued my love and commitment so much--and how ambivalent he felt about this decision to end things with me. I couldn't believe it. Was he shifting? Was he saying what I'd been hoping all along he'd say, that he'd made a mistake?

He told me that he'd been wrong, that he'd been a jerk to me, that he'd lost so many opportunities to love me and care for me over the last two years. He wished he'd paid more attention to me, returned love to me. Regret, deep regret. And he was saying all of this without me having to ask him anything. It was pouring from me--this sorrow, this regret, this clarity about what we had together. And he was telling me that he made a mistake. I was so confused, and yet a little hopeful. We were so connected again. I said, "SCL, this is what is essential to a relationship, this connection to one another. The other things can be worked on, but this is something that must be there."

Could this really be the beginning of a new start with him?

SCL can never take back what he did, and he did some really hurtful things that will take me a long time to get over. For us to reconcile, he will need to show me confidence about this new perspective on our relationship. But honestly, if we are to get back together, he is doing every possible thing to show me that this is what he wants and that he's incredibly regretful of the pain he's caused me. Finally, he's being vulnerable, open, and honest with me--the very thing I had wanted all along. He's going to counseling regularly to work on the issues that he has that kept us from having true intimacy. He's committed to making those changes in himself and in our relationship. And he wants to go to counseling together as well as separately.

Things will not be as they were. They couldn't be, and neither of us wants them to be. We both lost ourselves in the relationship before, and we want something else. We want our own identities, more connection, and more openness. But this could be the beginning of a new start for us--a slow, cautious, hopeful, healthy start. I'm scared out of my mind, but he is the man I love. I'm blown away by the changes I see in his attitude and his perspective on me, on us, on himself. I'm not saying "Fuck you, you hurt me" and I'm not jumping in headfirst. But I am open to the possibility of a second chance for us.

I'm not telling many people who are close to me about this. I don't really want to hear what they have to say just yet. This is about me and what I want. What I want is to continue caring for myself and to be open to the possibility of letting SCL back in. I'm not sure what'll happen, but in my heart this is what I need. So, let's take it slow...


Reflections on My Return

Last night I was sitting on the plane back to DC, reflecting on my time at home and my return back to my lonely apartment.

I can’t remember a time during the last few years when I didn’t cry when I had to leave home. I think perhaps it was during college when I loved seeing my family but was perfectly happy to make the drive back to my friends, my life, my sweet boyfriend.

But now when my mom drives me to the airport, I’m filled with dread. Different kinds of dread at different times, but always dread. Despair. During graduate school, it was that I hated school; that I had to remain in a place where I’d been violated; that I was battling with anxiety attacks that made me throw-up daily. Every time I cried and cried, my mother comforting me and reassuring me that all would be well. Somehow she gave me enough courage to get on the plane every single time. One time I came back home a week later. But every time I managed to go.

After I finished graduate school, the dread was in my job that I despised. I was miserable and isolated and hated being micromanaged, questioned, and patronized on a daily basis. I had an hour long commute each way, and came home feeling angry and discouraged most days. It was exhausting. I wanted out. I wanted comfort, home, familiarity. And again, my mom would comfort me, remind me that this was only temporary, that I would move on to bigger and better things. I just needed to hang in there. And again, off I went, tears streaming down my face as I threw my shoes and travel-sized bottles of shampoo into the security bin. I’d pray that the metal detector wouldn’t go off. I just couldn’t take one more shitty thing.

And here I am today, what I would consider a grown woman, and still I’m on the brink of tears again, wanting nothing more than the embrace of my mother. Her comfort, her familiarity, her steadfast love. I don’t just want to hear it on the phone or read it in an email. I want to feel it with me. I’m 26 years old, and I just want my mom.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the near future, about when my contract for my job is up and I have to start thinking of what I’m going to do next. Maybe I’ll stay in DC. Maybe I won’t. The part I hate the most is how far away my family is. Being with them this weekend, as much as they drive me crazy, made me feel alive and connected. There was no room for isolation, for loneliness with them by my side. It didn’t numb the pain I’m feeling, but they held me. My brother shared this precious time with his son with me. My mom stroked my head and understood when there were no words. My nephew made me light up every time he said my name and grabbed my hand to show me some new wonder.

I didn’t know what I’d been missing. And had the events of the last month or so been different, I might never have known that.

Yesterday's Punch to the Gut

Yesterday should've been my two-year anniversary with SCL. As if that didn't suck enough, here's part of a brief exchange between us on Gchat yesterday. Go ahead and berate me about chatting with him if you want. I've earned it.

11:06 PM me: Part of me wants all the clothes I gave you back.
SCL: Are you going to take them?
me: I don't think it would help things.
11:07 PM SCL: I cried when I found the pictures and cards were missing from my closet
11:08 PM me: I didn't take those.
I don't remember doing that.
SCL: oh
no, you didn't
I'm an idiot
me: What'd you do with them?
11:09 PM SCL: I guess I just noticed some other things were gone, and then I saw them not there and I assumed you'd moved them
I had moved them last week, I just forgot until now
me: I needed to destroy some things.
11:11 PM But I wouldn't take anything that really mattered.
SCL: Thank you
11:12 PM me: I think I have been more than compassionate during this whole process.
11:13 PM SCL: I think so too
me: I tore up some pictures of the obsession you had. I got angry that there were no pictures of me and tons of her.
11:14 PM SCL: where were they?
me: In your photo album
11:15 PM Don't worry. There are plenty more.
11:16 PM SCL: there are pictures of you in these albums
me: I put them there.
The ones at the end? I put those there.
Two weeks ago
11:17 PM SCL: I don't really know what to say about that

FML.

Sassy New Single Girl: Online Flirting

Driving back from Orlando, and I am loving my little netbook and my tethered Internet connection from my phone. Blogging from the road while my brother drives like a fucking maniac down I-4. Better to be distracted than to watch what I fear may be the end of my life on this earth.

Despite having a blast with my nephew, mom, and brother in Orlando, I still had a few minutes of "WTF? Why is this my life now?" I had zero privacy and zero alone time, which normally I don't really need, but going through this, I need time to just be alone and cry. I have to say it has been nice to have my mom around to comfort me and my nephew to make me laugh as he dances to Lady Gaga's "Telephone" video. I am not making this up. After we went on the E.T. ride and saw a little photo op with ET dressed up in the doll clothes in the closet with all of the toys, he said, "ET looks like Lady Gaga!" I think he might be slightly gay.

Anyway, after feeling sorry for myself, I decided I needed to just look at okcupid again. I'd gotten freaked by it a few weeks ago, but now I really need a distraction from thinking about SCL. So I reactivated my account, and guess what? A really, really cute boy favorited me! I could get used to this. We chatted, debated who had the better pizza-making abilities (me obviously), and I don't know, maybe something will come of it. Right now it's just super fun and what I need to get my confidence back.

My problem is I don't quite know how to reject people. There are a lot of weirdos out there, and I feel like I should be nice and give everyone a chance. I ended up in this conversation with a sweet-enough looking guy...who then confessed that he likes women's shoes. Wearing them. Ballet floots, heeled boots, etc. I didn't quite know what to say other than "I think you know more about shoes than I do." Yikes.

Who knows if anything will come of this, but it's good to start flexing those flirting muscles and see there are a lot of men out there who are interested in me, at least on a surface level. Not sure if I'm quite ready to take them up on their offers, but I know they're there when I want them.

Sassy New Single Life: Vacation

I made last minute plans to travel to Orlando to celebrate my nephew's fourth birthday (and forget about what would have been my two-year-anniversary with SCL) at Disney World. I'll be blogging again in a few days.

I'll miss all of you! Keep rocking it out.

One Month

Yesterday marked one month since my heart got stomped on by the person I thought I’d be with forever. And yes, I still do feel very much that is what happened. No more isnight as to the break-up itself since SCL has yet to clue me in. But as Cee said in a comment in an earlier post, it doesn’t really matter what the reason was. And as my therapist C said, depending on another person to have resolution means that you may or may not get what you need. So, I guess my next goal is figuring out a way to accept the reality that I may never understand.

One month is not an insignificant amount of time, espeically when dealing with something as shitty as this. Hell, a day is a victory in my mind. But it’s also a weird place. It’s long enough for the shock of it to have worn off, for it to no longer be on my friends’ radars quite as much, but it’s not enough time for me to feel like I’ve had any real distance from it. I don’t feel any more healed than I did a month ago. I do feel painfully more aware of all of the implications of this dissolution, and that’s what is really hurting—not the initial “He’s leaving, What the hell is happening?” but the “I’m not getting engaged to the man I’m supposed to marry, we aren’t going to have a family together, I’m not going to have the life I envisioned, and I may never have the life I hoped for, I have no idea what my life is going to look like” aftershocks. The pain of it is sinks into my shoulders, my back, the space between my eyes. I carry it around with me everyday.

One of the books I’m reading right now, Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth, talks about the common disconnect women feel between themselves and their bodies. We see our bodies as the enemy, something to battle, something to wage war with rather than how it’s intertwined with our sense of self. Bridging that psychological gap is not easy when we’ve been waging diet wars, and other kinds of fights, for as long as we can remember.

In the aftermath of my break-up I’ve been feeling intense things in my body. I’ve felt the heavy sting of tears dammed up behind my eyes, the pressure building up as the tears accumulate until I can no longer hold them at bay. I’ve felt my throat coat over and close up, my chest spastically rise and fall in between gasps and sobs. I’ve felt the embodiment of anger—heard my heart’s racing pulse vibrate in my ears, felt my adrenaline surge as I tore apart some of SCL’s things. And after these bouts of intense emotion, I find myself gradually calming, my breath easing and slowing, my heart rate steadying.

When I remember, I ask myself, “What does this sadness/anger/rage/hope/regret feel like in my body?” And I try to be very specific. It’s challenging. I didn’t realize how disconnected I was from myself until I started trying to do this. I’d read about this kind of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation books, but until I connected the food and God parts, it hadn’t clicked.

In the middle of this heartache, this pain, this fucking disaster that is my life right now, I’m struggling for this connection with myself. Sometimes I believe that if I really truly feel what I’m feeling, I won’t be able to handle it. I’ll crumble—psychologically, physically, possibly both. This is the lie I’ve been telling myself for years. I underestimate my strength, my power, my sense of self. I have forgotten the parts of me that aren’t broken, that are fierce and tender and strong. That part of me can hold the broken pieces. It already is. I just have to trust it--trust me.

Little Acts of Destruction


The day after SCL (from this point forward now standing for “Sorry-Ass Communicationally-Stunted Loser” ) broke things off, I had this singular moment of rage in which I couldn’t control my tongue and out of this dark, incredibly hurt place inside came this “FUCK YOU!”

Immediately I felt like an idiot for saying something so infantile and not particularly creative, and even though I was really feeling like shit because SCL had been an asshole to me, I called him later to say “Sorry, I didn’t mean it.” Well, I’m here to tell you that today I’m taking back that taking back of the F-U because, damn it, I really mean it now! I wish I could yell it a million times to his face, post it on his facebook page (I actually did type the words and got dangerously close to hitting post, but luckily was able to reign it in), take a Sharpie and write it all over his fucking designer t-shirts that I bought him for Christmas.

FUCK YOU, SCL! FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKER!

Why should I feel bad for feeling angry? He has done the absolute cruelest thing to me, broke his promise to never leave me, to work things out together, and damn it, I have every reason to be fired up and pissed off about it when I need to be. Before today I don’t think I’d ever screamed into a pillow before, but now I get why people do it. I spent an hour this morning screaming into one of my throw pillows, these shtrill sounds coming from the pit of my stomach that I didn’t even recognize as my own voice. I didn’t even know I could make those kinds of noises.

I thought I’d been angry before, really felt it deep down, but I think I was mistaken. Before I’d been able to contain it, soothe it, cool down, but today I couldn't hold back. I yelled and sobbed and screamed until I thought I was going to pass out because I was hyperventilating so much. Frankly, I was sort of scared shitless. How was I going to calm down from this? Fortunately the body can only take so much before there’s a natural stillness that gradually takes over. More like a paralysis actually.

After a few minutes the paralysis lifted gradually and suddenly I began plotting what I would call little acts of destruction and this time actually carrying them out. I am so fed up with being in the apartment that we shared together with his damn shit everywhere. I had to do something to get some power back, some ownership of the space back. So, I went in search of things I’d given him—starting with little things: a Lego pen, a stack of Post-its, a mug with his initial on it. I figured I paid for them, so I should be able to destroy them, right? And then I went to town. I broke the lego pen into itty bitty pieces, taking pleasure as they snapped. I tore up the first few post-its and then the whole stack. Each little tear, little snap, little break, I felt relieved and empowered. This was fun.

And then I moved on to other parts of the apartment. I went into the bathroom, found the expensive body spray I’d bought him and dumped the entire contents down the sink. Mmmhmmm…loving that…so why not his beloved cognac? I only poured a little (I’m not that mean), but it was a great feeling watching it go down the sink. This was getting fun. What next?

Then psycho reared her ugly head. I knew what I had to find and destroy next--pictures of his obsession. I needed to take a torch to at least one. So, get this, isn’t it sick that he has DOZENS of pictures of her in his photo albums but not a SINGLE ONE OF ME?? What does that say about how he felt about me, huh? I found two just of her and went to town with a lighter, some sharpies, and scissors. Destroyed, done, finito. And at that point, it was enough. I knew I needed to stop before I got carried away. Time to release, relax, breathe.

Now that time has passed, I’m trying hard not to judge myself for committing these little acts of destruction. First, I was reasonable. I didn’t destroy anything valuable—computers, expensive clothes (that I bought him)—or truly sentimental things that are important to him—his grad school tassel, his diploma, his family photos, etc. Believe me, though, I thought about all of it. I'm proud to say that I think I found a good balance of getting out the rage and maintaining my dignity.

The thing is, no matter what I destroy, no matter how much I try to rip up his shit, it’s never going to compare to the amount of hurt and pain he’s caused me. That's the reality. And that fucking sucks.

Break Downs and Thought Records: Week 3 of Therapy

In preparation for my third session, I took time to look over my journal from the last week. I made the mistake of doing that while riding the Metro. Also my iPod betrayed me by landing on Daniel Bedingfield's "If You're Not the One" in the middle of my despairing (please don't ask how the song got there in the first place, ok? I'm hurting!). I started freaking out, "Oh my God, I'm going to start crying on the fucking subway." I somehow kept my shit together, but I knew once I got to C's office, I'd be just barely hanging on, kind of like last week when I had to pee so badly after a kickball drinking fest that when I found the nearest women's room was locked, I busted into the men's room.

Yes, my need to cry was very much like having to pee real bad. That's right.

So of course when C asks how I've been, the blubbering ensues for about the next twenty minutes. It's not so horrible though. Fortunately crying dos not freak her out. I guess they get some kind of special training in therapy school for this.

Since I'm a little bit of a processor, she led me through a structured journaling exercise called a thought record that I found really helpful and have already tried once since. So, here we go.

Step 1: Name a situation about which you had some ambivalence in a nutshell, just the what, when, where, etc.
On Thursday SCL briefly got into bed next to me without asking.

Step 2: Name your feelings and emotions, and rate each on a scale of 1-100, 1 being hardly feeling it at all and 100 being feeling it the most you possibly could.
Shock--10
Sadness--50
Comfort--20
Familiarity--80
Loss--80
Hope--30
Brokenness--99

Step 3: Name your automatic thoughts in the situation.
-What is he doing?
-Why is he doing this?
-This is what I miss about being with him.
-I'm never going to have this again.
-This is how I felt the day he broke up with me.
-I want him to stay
-This is a physical reminder of what I don't have anymore.

Step 4: Highlight the main or "hot" thought from Step 3.
-What is he doing?
-Why is he doing this?
-This is what I miss about being with him.
-I'm never going to have this again.
-This is how I felt the day he broke up with me.
-I want him to stay
-This is a physical reminder of what I don't have anymore.

Step 5: Identify the source of this thought.

Physical reminder of what I don't have anymore -->

Desire for companionship and partnership that I want to be met-->

I fear not having a partner-->

I may not have another partner.

Step 6: Identify the validations and contradictions, external and internal, for this statement.

Validations:
-I don't think that men want women like me (independent, ambitious, seeking an egalitarian relationship, well-educated, high expectations).
- The future is uncertain.
- The culture tells me certain things about what men want, and they don't want feminists and they really don't want religious feminists.

Contradictions:
- My friends say I have everything a man is looking for.
-Most people end up getting married at some point. Our culture values partnering up.
- I want to believe that God will fulfill that desire.
-I've had other relationships before.
- I want to believe that there are some men who want something similar in a relationship.

I'm still working through a lot of it, but it's a great tool for unpacking those layers of thoughts, emotions, and feelings. I recommend it to anyone in a fucked up situation such as a break-up. And if that doesn't work, there's always beer.

Did I Just Dance on a Bar?

Yes, yes I did. After a morning of mopey me, I decided to get my ass up, take a bath, shave my legs, and get ready for some Sunday Funday kickball. The Metro was fucked up, so I decided to ride my POS bike down to the Mall. Such a surprisingly fantastic idea. It was a little cool for biking, so no one was out on the trail. It's mostly a downhill ride that way, and I was feeling like a fast badass on my awesome/POS bike. Of course once I got close to the Washington Monument, I had to navigate through the hoards of tourists, but there was a certain sick pleasure in nearly running over at least a dozen of them.

I get there, find my team, and proceed to kick serious ass on the field, even though I totally had forgotten the rules of kickball. Sorry, team, haven't played in about 15 years! But despite my idiocy, our team dominated and hey, there's nothing better than winning a game of kickball, right?

Then, the real games started at the bar: flip cup, drunk ball (no idea how this is actually played), beer bong, and a combination of all of them, blackout. Nothing illustrates how locked up and sheltered I've been for two years than playing made-up drinking games. I start panicking because people get really fucking serious about these games, much more so than actual kickball, and I'm already feeling a little buzzed. Not exactly in the right state of mind to follow the obscure rules of a new drinking game.

I'm told I will be "anchor" for blackout. Shit! That sounds important, what do I do? I must've asked about a million times. I'm told to drink and flip (can do that) and then when the whole team is done, I'm going to shoot like in beer pong. Ok, I can do that, too. I think. If I miss, they go a second round (pressure!). If I make it, the game is over. This repeats until one of the team makes the shot. But do they really want me to shoot? The girl who hasn't played beer pong since senior year of college? It's too late for me to get out of it. Shit, ok. I can do this.

Round one, I miss. Fuck. Round two, I miss. FUCKITY FUCK. Then after I flip, this psycho girl starts to yell at me for no reason. She's screaming that I've drunk one of the cups they were supposed to be shooting into. What? I look down. She's right, I did. But seriously she was overreacting like whoa. It's no big deal. You fill up the cup, and put it back. She's acting like I took steroids or put cork in my bat. Finally, round three comes and I sink the ball. Wahoo! Feeling overzealous at my victory, I go over to psycho and say, "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't know that was my cup. But for real, this is not a serious game. Chill the fuck out."

This sassy new single life is really something else.

More antics continue. My new friend S, friend of my college best friend L, is taking me under her wing and really making me have fun, even when I'm feeling sorry for myself. She's having guy issues, which we talk through, and then decide to order another pitcher of beer. Then the DJ announces "Free shots for all the ladies on the bar!" My friend L says, "Get on the bar!" And I'm like, "Why the hell not?" S and I get up there and start acting a fool, dancing up on each other, trying to avoid uber-drunk and not very cute girl who's attempting a very sloppy pole dance.

The whole room is cheering for us, handing us drinks, and generally encouraging us way too much to stay up on the bar. And I have to say, it was probably the most fun I've had this week. I hate to admit it, but bar dancing is pretty fantastic. My friend L is shocked that I'm so fun now that I'm not in a relationship anymore. And although I don't want to make a habit of it, it is pretty awesome to have the freedom to spend a whole Sunday drinking, flirting, and dancing on the bar. I'm doing a lot of introspection and journaling and other navel-gazing activities, which are good for the soul, but after awhile, sometimes just dancing and acting silly is the best therapy.

I Feel Like a Psycho

There is really no other way to say it: I'm temporarily (hopefully anyway) psychotic. I'm not exactly sure why, but today I'm a fucking mess of snot, tears, and crazy thoughts.

I wanted to go to church this morning, but with serious Metro delays and no desire to drive into Georgetown or bike in the unusually cool weather, I chickened out. Honestly I just couldn't get the motivation to go, and I really wish I had. Now it's too late, and I'm in my apartment, feeling very mopey and acting like a complete psycho.

I'm REALLY beginning to feel resentful about the fact that my thoughts are so public on here. I'm being frank about my journey because I find it really, really helpful to get it out there. That's just how I am. But, damn it, I want to know what is going on in SCL's head! Even four weeks into the break-up, he has yet to live up to his promise to tell me why the hell he decided to end things. I told him on Thursday, "I don't believe you ever will." He said, "I understand why you'd feel that way."

Yeah, maybe because he NEVER communicated his feelings? Is that perhaps a little bit why I might think that? Yeah, no shit.

Ugh, the rage, the anger, the tension. It is bubbling up inside me. I want to tear up the apartment, going through each and every little bit of his things, look for some clue, some insight into his head. But I know I wouldn't find anything. He's too private; I'm sure anything like that he's taken with him. Except for one thing: there is a metal box in his closet with a big Masterlock padlock on it. I'm constantly wondering what's inside it and why he felt the need to padlock it.

That box is symbolic of his intimacy phobia. He literally locked me out of his life with a huge ass padlock. He did the same with his feelings, fears, and dreams--packed them away and locked me out. I am so resentful about that.

I want to take a huge fucking hammer and beat the shit out of that box and smash the lock into pieces. I've been googling various phrases like "Just broke up with my girlfriend," wading through all the results with the ridiculous hope that maybe he posted something online about it. I desperately, desperately want in. That's what I've always wanted, and he never, never let me in. He says he regrets it, but he's not changing it.

I don't know how to let go, how to accept that this is what it is. I'm not there yet. I don't know how to get there.

Stuck in a Feeling

And I can't get out of it. Just yet anyway.

After nearly two weeks of not seeing each other, SCL stayed at our apartment on Thursday. He came home much earlier than I was expecting (around 5:30), and it caught me off guard. I'd made plans for later that evening and had anticipated being gone when he got there.

It was the most awkward moment we've shared since the break-up. I didn't want to talk to him. I was still feeling really furious about everything, and wanted him to know that I wasn't interested in continuing to be the understanding, compassionate dumpee I'd been in weeks past.

Eventually, I came out of my room to talk with him, see how he'd been, catch up. It was pretty surface level stuff for the most part, but then I started to tell him how angry I was about how he was disrupting my life and couldn't even give me a reason why. He said he was sorry. He looked absolutely miserable, almost in physical pain as I told him how I'd been hurting. Even though I'm pissed that he broke up with me, I do know that he hates how he has caused me such pain.

I'm still confused about how, if at all, he can be part of my life. Certainly it's easier when I don't see him for long stretches of time. And when we are together, my feelings about things shift. I still haven't gotten an answer from him about why he broke up with me, and part of me thinks that's for one of a few reasons:
  1. He doesn't know, in which case why would he break-up with me if he didn't know why.
  2. It's too bad for him to tell me.
  3. There really was no substantive reason.
He told me that he's trying to change, but he's not sure he can. I told him, "Of course you can. You know you want to change; that's a huge step. And then you just do it everyday." Not rocket science. The fact that he recognizes that he needs to change gave me a dangerous, intoxicating little spark of hope that I hadn't felt in a while. If he sees his mistakes and he wants to change and he's really trying to change, maybe he can and maybe then he'll want to try again.

Sigh. I'm stuck in this false sense of hope, and I feel I can't get out of it.

I don't get it. Why is it easier for him to affirm me, to tell me how special I am, to tell me what a wonderful person I am now that he's not in a relationship with me? Was the relationship a barrier to him actually seeing me as I am? Or is that he now realizes that he should have been expressing it all along and finally he's committed to actually communicating both the positive and the negative?

I sense his regret, and it saddens me. Why does he think he has to work on this apart from me? Just because he has issues doesn't mean he can't work through them with me. I don't understand his need to separate himself when I'm perfectly willing to walk beside him through the process. Why would anyone throw that kind of commitment away?

I feel stuck. I want to get out, but I don't know how.

Too Soon for the Online Profile

I don't know what came over me, but the other night I was feeling shitty and decided it'd be "fun" to make an online profile just to see what it was like. Let's not even think about how it's not even been a month since SCL and I broke up, and how I am still clearly a big giant mess. I went onto okcupid, which my friend had recommended to me, and stretched my little artistic wings with the whole "who am I in 100 words or less." I also agonized over what picture to put up and what username to use. Let me say, I think there's an art to this, and it probably also requires more time and thought than I gave it that night. More than anything, though, I was there to explore and to see what this whole online dating scene is like.

Let me save you the trouble: it's essentially the meat market on Friday night at the club, but in online form.

At least the site I was on was. That might have been partly because okcupid is free, and that I was looking for men in DC who, at least in my eyes, are notoriously douchey anyway. I answered a bunch of their questions as honestly as I could, but as soon as I started looking through my matches, I start to feel depressed. NERDY. Not cool nerdy, but NERDY nerdy. And not cute. And just all in all not what I'm hoping for in my next guy at least on a surface level. Some were definitely witty, but not so much that I actually wanted to say hi.

Then the influx happened--I could see how many visitors had been to my page (30 in the first 3 minutes of being online!) and then the messages started. I tried to play along, be flirty in my responses, but I felt like a damn fool. This is so not what I had in mind. This is so not what I need right now.

Making this profile just made me panicky about the future: I'm never going to find love again, I'm never going to get married, I'm going to die alone, etc. So the next day, I got up and deleted my account. I'm not ready for that just yet, not even a little. And a little pat on the back to me for knowing that deep down and doing something about it.

So, when am I going to be ready? My therapist C says "You'll know when you are." Real helpful, C. Thanks. But what I do know is I'm not ready now, and today that's all that matters.

A Day of Being Inconsolable

I'm typing this post in between watching recorded episodes of Chelsea Lately (this break-up has me seriously behind in my TV viewing) and whipping up some chocolate chip cookie dough, which I may or may not bake. Perhaps I'll strike a compromise, bake half of it and eat the rest raw. I haven't decided yet.

Anyway, I was a real pain in the butt today--for myself. I was cranky, irritable, and peevish. (Just realized I'm PMSing, which actually makes me feel better because I'm not a total psycho for no reason! And now the cookie dough makes so much more sense.) I woke early this morning up feeling anxious and it just got worse after that. Anxiety has got to have some of the worst physical effects of any emotion for me. It manifests itself in an elevated pulse, feelings of "inside shivers" as I call them, and an upset stomach.

Realizing I was feeling anxious (because I'm so fucking emotionally self-aware), I say to myself, "Ok, self. What will make you feel better?" I know, I'll go run! So I hop up to the gym in my building and run. And run. And run. I'm all by myself in the room and take the opportunity to lip sync along with my iPod, skipping around on the"F*** love" playlist and really channel Kelly Clarkson and Pink's bitchiest songs as my feet pound the treadmill. I was getting some relief from the anxiety and was feeling like a badass as a result.

But as soon as I stepped off the treadmill, the damn anxiety washed over me again. After all that running, how did my body even have enough energy to fuel that? So again being self-aware, I say, "Ok, self. Let's go back to the self-care menu. What else could we try?" I know! I'll take a hot bath with lots of bubbles, candles, and some soothing music. I thought I would be extra brilliant and bring my netbook into the bathroom, so that I could turn on Pandora. I put on what I thought would be a relaxing station, but then all these damn love songs came on! I couldn't just reach out and change it because my hands were all soapy and wet. So, I sat there in the tub and cried. Not exactly what I was going for.

Eventually I got out of the tub and thought again, "Ok, self. FOR REAL, WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING TO SOOTHE YOU?" Easy there, self-talk. Getting a little irritated. So, I decide to get dressed and just get out for awhile. Then it became this whole inner battle of why was I going to Costco when I don't really need anything, or why was I going to the library when my books weren't due for another 4 days. All this negative talk. I felt like I needed to justify my decision to leave the apartment.

In a moment of clarity/grace (thank you, grace, for finally showing yourself), I said to myself, "I am leaving the apartment because leaving the apartment is good for me. It doesn't matter if I spend $100 or not, have a purpose other than leaving the apartment or not, but getting the hell out of this confined space is a good thing." And off I went, to conquer the world. Or just get 4 pounds of strawberries from Costco.

In his book Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, Thich Nhat Nahn talks about caring for our anger like a baby. When a baby cries, we don't yell at the baby (or we shouldn't anyway). We don't try to reason with a crying baby. No, we pick up the baby, embrace her warmly, and soothe her. I've been thinking of myself as that crying baby (well, I am an actual crying baby these days, but I mean in the figurative Thich Nhat Nahn way). I'm so quick to get pissed off with myself, get frustrated when something doesn't click, or when I don't get the response I'm expecting. That's about as effective as trying to tell a screaming baby to shut the fuck up. Yeah, it's disturbing, isn't it? Just thinking of saying something like that to a little baby? Yeah, so why in the hell would I treat myself like that?

Rather than beating myself up for beating myself up, I'm trying to pick up all that hurt, that anger, that pain I'm feeling like it's an innocent, fussy baby who just needs a lot of TLC. Kind of like this kid...

What's a Single Girl to Do...with These?

I have several what I refer to as "boyfriend boxes" at my mom's house in Georgia. You know, the places where all your cute couple stuff goes to die after a break-up? The box you try to stuff all the crap you had together but can't quite part with? If only it were so easy to do that with the emotional baggage--box it up and store it in the closet, out of sight, out of mind.

One of the traditional break-up rules is to put away the couple crap. I've removed what I can from my living space that reminds me of the sweet times SCL and I shared. The bigger items--the couch, the table, the apartment itself--obviously have to stay put for the time being. Even though we were together for nearly two years, the box is pretty small. SCL was never one for random gifts or cards; those were for the big days--birthdays, Valentine's Day, anniversaries. I always looked forward to them because he made it a point to write me a sweet card that brought tears to my eyes. Until this Valentine's day when he simply wrote "Thanks for being a best friend." Red flag, anyone?

The box has been packed, (loosely) taped (to accommodate additional items I come across that have earned a place in SCL's boyfriend box), and stored under the bed. I even put my journals from the last two years in there. They weren't all about him, but his name pops up enough that I just didn't want to deal with it. Even if I don't look at the rest of the stuff ever again, those I know I'll want to keep. Before putting the box away, I read through some of his old cards, and I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe how tender his words were, how thoughtful he'd been, how much he seemed to admire and cherish me. What happened to that person? I don't know when he checked out, but that's not the person I was in a relationship with a month ago.

So, the boyfriend box is stuffed, the reality about the bigger things has set in, but what about this?

The sexy lingerie. The lingerie I bought for him, for us. If I remember correctly, I bought this the summer after we started dating. Like a lot of guys, SCL was nervous in a lingerie store (too much pink, lace, and underwire for his taste), but I convinced him to come in and help me pick something out. As far as his tastes in lingerie go, he's pretty traditional--black, lace, silk, classy. When I saw this sexy little set, I knew I had to get it.

So, now what do I do with it? Do I throw it away? Seems like a waste. But wouldn't it be weird to save it for the next guy? Putting it in the boyfriend box seems kind of odd, too. For now, it's just sitting in the back of my underwear drawer, taking up space and occasionally showing up, constantly reminding me of my single girl status.

I miss the intimacy with SCL, and I don't mean just sex. I miss how he knew so many pieces of me, so many parts I never share with anyone else. The problem was he wasn't letting me into those private places of his heart and mind. That always bothered me. My willingness to let him in wasn't reciprocated. He never really trusted me. At first I thought it was just that he was more of a private person, and that I needed to give him more time. But as it turns out, he was never going to let me in. He did have something to hide.

Then, I have to ask, did we ever have true intimacy? I don't think so because it was mostly one-sided. I suppose, then, that I miss the illusion of intimacy with SCL. I miss believing that we really had everything going for us. As it turns out, we didn't.

From Shock to Anger: Week 2 of Therapy

Nothing like two weeks in between therapy sessions to show a person how much things change--and so quickly. The first session I was thinking, "I'm going to be SO GOOD at this break-up! I'm going to be mature, grown-up, and dignified about all of it." And then SCL and I had our first interaction in public; I ran into old roommate aka "Blondeboobs" (so appropriately nicknamed by the "L" spot); and I had a breakdown while visiting my friend in Atlanta. So, it's not surprising that the first words out of my mouth to my therapist (I'll call her "C") this session were "I don't care anymore about being mature. Right now I'm pissed!" And she, in all her brilliant counseling wisdom, said "That's normal."

Thank God.

And then I started to cry--tears of anger and hurt. It's been just over three weeks since SCL told me he was breaking up with me, and I swear the pain of it is worse now than it was the day after. The reality of what all of this means is beginning to hit me: having to move out of our apartment (HATE), being alone (HATE), carrying groceries by myself (HATE), not having SCL's companionship in my daily life (REALLY HATE). All this rage building in me makes me want to do some crazy shit. One of my mother's suggestions was to take his $300 coat which I bought him for his birthday this year to Goodwill. Better than destroying it because someone else would wear it, but he wouldn't be able to wear it. If I did this with all of the clothes I purchased him, then all he'd have left to wear would be some ratty pairs of boxers, mismatched socks, and dingy college t-shirts with pit stains. But, I digress.

C asked me if I had any more insight into what I want our time together to be about. I started crying. Again. I managed to get out something along the lines of, "My impulse to care for myself isn't as strong as I'd like it to be." That's the reason I contacted SCL over the weekend--because I wasn't thinking of myself. I didn't really have a reason to contact him; I just did it. And I felt like shit afterward. It makes me even more confused and angry. And I'm beginning to wonder about how, if at all, SCL can be in my life right now.

As "homework," C had asked me in our previous session to write down things that I do to care for myself and how I feel before and after. Here's what I wrote down:
  1. Napping: Exhausted--> Refreshed
  2. Blogging: Full, heavy--> Relief, release
  3. Exercising: Anxious--> Empowered
  4. Cleaning: Chaotic--> Accomplished
It's really interesting to be looking at my life through a lens of "Is this helpful for me?" I'm beginning to realize how important those little things--taking a nap, going for a run--really influence the way that I feel. C encouraged me to keep adding things to the list, so that no matter what I'm feeling, I'll have a bunch of choices, like a self-care menu of sorts. Brilliant. She's brilliant.

C asked me what this break-up means for my life. Tearing up again, I actually said, "There are some good parts." I feel like I'm reclaiming my life. All of that energy I was using to hold the relationship together I can now turn toward myself, and that's liberating. But it also means that I'm alone. Dealing with the loneliness has to be the hardest and most painful part of it. Being here in our apartment, the space we shared, is a constant reminder of what I've lost. When I'm not sad, I'm angry about it. I had thoughts of taking a hammer to his computer monitors, taking a Sharpie to his dress shirts, doing something destructive to his things because they're constantly mocking me. They're constantly saying, "He's not here anymore. He doesn't want you. He doesn't love you." I wish I could throw all of his shit out the window. We are situated right above the dumpster; it wouldn't be that hard.

Bottom line: going to therapy is not just a good thing right now, it's a critical thing. This week's "homework" is to examine how the relationship wasn't meeting my needs and to identify what I need right now and in a future relationship. I look forward to thinking beyond SCL and into my own heart, focusing on me instead of him. It's taking a lot of energy to do that because I'm so conditioned to think of him first. But I'm trying really hard to re-learn how to put myself first.

Sassy New Single Life: Kickball Edition

I mentioned in my first Sassy New Single Life post that one of my best friends signed me up for a kickball team. This was something I'd wanted to do since I moved here but never did. Part of that was my own laziness, but the other part was that SCL didn't really want to play. I thought it would've been something fun for us to do together, so when he didn't want to, I just never signed up. Bummer, huh?

Yesterday was the opening of the NAKID (No, Adult Kickball Isn't Dumb) games. At first I didn't really want to go because I was exhausted from the weekend. But I'm really glad that I did because it was so much fun. I was a little apprehensive about it. I had flashbacks to elementary school and thinking it was going to be all the cool kids on the team, and I'd be off on the sidelines, ostracized as both the new kid AND the nerd. So not true. My team was awesome, and I fit right in.

Now the real games started at the bar afterward. Again, I was a little nervous about it. Flip cup? Beer pong? I hadn't played those since college. But kind of like riding a bike, those flips of the cup and throws of the ping pong ball came right back to me. It was a blast and by the fourth or so round of flip cup, I was getting it on the first try. I didn't even know that I enjoyed silliness like that anymore!

Kickball was also my first opportunity to flirt and be flirted with. I'd forgotten that I was cute and fun, and it was really flattering to know that there will be other guys out there who are attracted to me. Now, I don't think kickball is exactly where I want to meet my next boyfriend, but for now, it's definitely a good ego boost to have boys pay attention to me.

Next time though, I think I may keep better track of how many beers I have...

My Two Non-Negotiables

I've been thinking a lot about dating and wondering how long I'll need before putting myself out there again. Naturally, I've been thinking about what I want (and don't want) in my next relationship. My friend asked me, "What do you want in your next partner?" My response was:
  1. Emotional Maturity

  2. Communication

Or, at least a willingness to learn them both. There are a lot of other things I would like--an athlete, funny, spiritual, social-justice oriented, sexy as hell--but those two are non-negotiable.

I really feel that SCL's lacking in these two areas contributed and compounded many of our problems. This isn't to say that I'm the poster child for emotional maturity, or that I've perfected my communication skills. But I do think I understand the importance of both and strive for them, and I want a partner who does, too.

My assessment is that SCL and I could have made our relationship work. We had all of the parts necessary for a successful, long-term commitment. The problem is that we could never get the communication part down. And while we both made mistakes, he failed, for whatever reason, to be a true parter in this area. Without mutuality in that area, we really had nothing.

This isn't to say that SCL never communicated his feelings or desires because he did, but he often waited to do so until things had gotten too intense. And because articulating himself was so challenging, it somtimes didn't come out as kindly or compassionately as it could have because he was just struggling to get the words out. I've said this before, but there would be times when I'd ask him a question and sit there for excruciating long periods of silence, getting frustrated all the while. I hated how he wouldn't even stumble through an articulation of his feelings. Maybe if he had tried to write down his feelings or something else, we would've been more successful. I never could figure out how to communicate with him. I suppose we just weren't that compatible in our communication styles. I liked to talk, he didn't. Kind of problematic.

Now, I'll admit my timing wasn't always good with bringing up difficult issues. I pushed him at times when he wasn't prepared or ready to discuss something. I would bring up the same issues multiple times (I'm a processor which requires mulling over things again and again). Maybe I should have found other people to turn to so as not to overwhelm him. When he did express doubts about our relationship, like when he told me he didn't know if he was in love with me anymore(!!!!), I got upset. Yeah, he was telling me really painful things, and yes, I did cry and feel like shit. What did he expect? But just because I got upset didn't mean that I couldn't handle difficult conversations. That should never have been an excuse for him to keep his feelings from me. Don't use that "I'm afraid of how you'll react" line. I can handle it. I've been through worse. Yes, I might cry, but believe me, I can handle it.

There were a few times when he said he didn't want to discuss whatever issue I'd brought up at the time, and I agreed to delay the conversation. But then we'd never get back around to talking about it. I'd say something like, "We don't have to discuss this now, but I would really like to set up a time when we can talk about this." And we'd never do it.

He would use "This is hard for me" as an excuse not to try very hard or avoid conversations altogether, and I really resented that. Just because I put myself out there emotionally and made myself vulnerable did not mean this was an easy thing for me to do. It was something I knew was necessary to my emotional well-being and our success as a couple that I be open and honest. I learned this after years of therapy. It wasn't something that came naturally, but something I had to develop and struggle to learn over time. Maybe SCL just never had a situation that forced him to grow in that way.

I resent him for not respecting me and our relationship enough to do the hard thing and talk about what was bothering him. And I resent him underestimating my emotional strength and resilience. He knew all the trials I'd been through--death, parents' divorce, sexual trauma, illness--and he didn't think I could handle this? He thought this would destroy me, that this would be my breaking point? Seriously, WTF?

I don't want this post, or this blog more generally, to be about trashing SCL, who truly is a remarkable person. In fact, I've had to revise this particular post several times to avoid doing just that (I hope it worked). But I do think that when I honestly look back, that is one of the major issues that prevented us from true intimacy and partnership.

This is all to say that in my next relationship, I want a man who is committed to developing the skills needed to make a relationship work--and that he'll lovingly help me identify the places I need to work on, too. One thing I've realized is that I can't make a relationship work on my own. I seriously think I used to believe that if I tried hard enough, I could make it work. A hard lesson to learn. A mistake I hope not to repeat.

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better, Right?

Being away from home hasn't exactly been the respite I was hoping for. I love my friend, and it has been wonderful to spend time with her but it has also meant being out of the familiar for me. She's going through a lot herself right now and is on her own path to rebuilding her new life, and I guess because of that I haven't had a moment to think of anything but my own situation with SCL. When I'm home I've got lots to do, people to see, and other things to keep me occupied. I've had a lot more time to think about my situation over the last few days, and in many ways, I feel like the pain is getting worse.

I went with my friend as she searched for a new apartment, and I was shocked by 1) how nice the places were and 2) how cheap they were. For what I would pay for a shitty studio in DC, I could get a spacious 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment here. It started to piss me off! I started thinking about how I'm going to have to live in a shithole come July--or I'm going to have to find a random roommate, something I really don't want to do. It would feel like I was going backward in my life. I started thinking I'd rather move here than live in DC. And then I started getting angry. REALLY angry.

At first I got pissed at having to look at apartments with my friend, but that was definitely not what was actually bothering me. It was the thought of how disrupted my life is now. I don't want to look for a new apartment. I don't want to pack up my shit yet again and figure out a way to move without SCL's help. I don't want to live in some crappy, tiny studio apartment because that's all I can afford now. He did this to me, and I hate him for it. We had a plan. Instead of bawling my eyes out every night because he broke up me, I'm supposed to have a fucking ring on my finger. I hate how he fucked things up for me, and now I have to pick up the pieces and figure out a way to move forward. I haven't gotten the opportunity to yell at him, to throw things, to get mad as hell. No, I've just sat back and tried to be mature about all of it, showing him compassion and care and understanding. Well, right now I'm tired of it.

I tried so hard in our relationship. I gave him everything I had. With his program, even though deep down I hated that he was going to be in school for God knows how long, I supported him. I engaged him about his school work. I asked him how he was doing with all of it, tried to understand the complex processes of a doctoral program. A few weeks ago he spoke at an event where he made lots of excellent connections--an event he never would have had the opportunity to attend had I not encouraged him a few years ago to apply for a position in public policy. I think he's forgotten that. I think he's forgotten how much I encouraged him, pushed him, supported him to pursue his dreams and his desires. He used to tell me that I inspired him to be a better person.

But how did he do that for me? Did he encourage me like that? Did he take the time to really understand my passions, my desires? I just assumed he needed more of that than I did. I was wrong.

So, thinking in these terms, if anyone was going to do the breaking-up, shouldn't it have been me? Shouldn't I have been the one to recognize that he wasn't holding up his side of the bargain? Why was I willing to settle for someone who couldn't with certainty even say that he wanted to be with me?

Because I loved him, I guess.

How could he reject my love that way when I was committed to him? I wasn't a barrier to anything he wanted, and yet he always seemed concerned that I'd be holding him back. Holding him back from what? At what point did something click off in his mind--and for God's sake, why? How can he be so stupid as to let go of me?

SCL was always concerned about not doing well enough in school, that he wasn't going to do a good job on a test or not write a good paper. Why couldn't he have been worried that he wasn't doing our relationship well? I know he's capable of committing himself to something and getting the job done. Why was his fucking program more important that our relationship?

I have so many questions, and there are no answers. And I'm pissed about that, too. After all of the love, time, and energy I put into our relationship, at the very least I deserve an explanation. And really I deserve a hell of a lot more that.

Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart

I've talked about how one of the hardest parts of this break-up has been when I'm expecting to be distracted and I'm not. I talked mainly about work situations, but now it's creeping into friend time, too. I'm in Atlanta this week visiting my best friend whom I've known since sixth grace (picture matching baby-doll dresses and sunflower hats ala Clueless). She's going through a divorce, and she's starting to figure out her new life. I hate that it's happening to her--and that I'm going through this break-up--but thank God for a friend who really gets it.

The difference, though, is that she sees where things went wrong, and I really don't. I'm still so confused about all of it. We're not angry at each other. We don't hate each other. We didn't cheat, steal, or lie. How did things fall apart? When?

My friend was having computer troubles, and after many different tries, I couldn't get it to work, so I left SCL a message to see if he had any ideas. Now, this was only the second time I've contacted him since the break-up. I wouldn't have done it had my friend not been really desperate to fix it without having to spend oodles of money at Geek Squad who probably wouldn't have helped her anyway (and SCL has made me so anti-Geek Squad or anything of the like that I couldn't stand the idea of her going there.)

When he called back, I told him that I'd figured it out but thanks for calling. We chatted for a few minutes. It felt fine, normal. I hung up feeling fine. Later that afternoon, after doing some online apartment hunting for my friend, I felt exhausted, mopey, and needed some space. So I listened to some Alicia Keys (hence the title of this blog) and rested. But I couldn't get thoughts of our broken relationship out of my head: what happened between us? What went wrong?

After sharing a French-like dinner with my friend and watching the Sex and the City movie, I was exhausted and decided to go to bed, but not without first checking my email and facebook. I should've known better, but I logged into chat and saw SCL's name there. I don't know if it was the sparkling wine we'd had or what, but I sent him a message saying "good night." He wrote back "good night." Then I felt all of the emotion, the hurt, the pain rise up in me. I wanted to tell him everything, I wanted him to tell me everything, I wanted to be us again.

I resisted for the most part. I did say that it was hard not to say more and that I missed him. And he replied "I'm sorry." Not "I miss you, too." Not "This is hard for me, too." Just "I'm sorry." What are you sorry for? Sorry that I'm not over this? Sorry that you've put me through this? Sorry that you did this to me? What does "I'm sorry" mean?

Before it went any further, I shut my laptop, curled up in bed, and cried for an hour at least. I sobbed. The pain felt as raw and deep as it did nearly three weeks ago. Now that the shock has worn off, the hurt is really setting in, and I'm having more difficulty remembering that pain is normal, pain isn't crisis. That all sounds like bullshit to me right now. It's easy to say that in the first few days, but as the weeks go by and it's still hurting so much, I wonder if this is normal and if I'm ever going to get over it.

Part of me still wants my old life back, and that part of me of hates SCL for taking it from me.

A Day of Being with Just Me

Monday was the first day I'd had since the break-up that I didn't have any kind of external distraction to get me out of the house. No briefing, no happy hour, no meeting friends for dinner. I did pretty well during the day--got lots of good work done, did laundry,worked out, and wrote an article for work. But when I got to be about dinner time, I began to feel a little anxious. After eating something I decided just to go out to my favorite hangout Marshall's (love discounted designer clothes), but as I was getting ready to go, I stopped. Why am I doing this?

Was going shopping another substitute, something to fill the void inside me? I knew I'd probably end up buying a bunch of random stuff, and just like stuffing my face, I knew I'd feel like shit afterwards. So I said no. Instead I got my stuff together, put on a bit of make-up and went to the public library. I perused the aisles, read a few inside corners. I took my time and slowed down, stopping to look at whatever seemed interesting.

One of the most noticeable differences I've experienced since the break-up is a new calmness, an ease with myself and with others (not including tourists). I don't know where it's coming from, but I attribute it to grace.

While at the at the library, I picked up the latest Psychology Today. There was an article called "The Expectations Trap" about the expectations we place on marriage in this culture. We expect it to satisfy all of our emotional needs, and when we're unhappy with anything in our lives, we find a way, either consciously or unconsciously, of attributing it to a lacking in our partner...and we justify that emotional discontent as a reason to give up and walk away. Rather than adjusting or accepting, we reject. It sounded so much like where SCL had been coming from that I printed him a copy of it.

But it's also something I need to pay attention to. I'm never going to find myself in another person. I have to do that on my own.

Do-Over Please: Encounter with Former College Roommate aka "Little Miss Perfect"

Last night there was a big alumni event for my college with about 300 people in attendance. A few months ago I'd gotten tickets for SCL and I to go, and I was really looking forward to it. It's always fun to show off the beautiful boyfriend to friends you haven't seen in awhile. But of course, things never work out the way I think they will.

Our alumni office is brilliant for many reasons, one of which is that when people register to attend an alumni event, they publish the names on an online attendee list. Back in February I was scanning the list and was shocked, horrified, and somewhat thrilled to see my freshman and sophomore year roommate's name on the list.

Let me give you a little background on this woman. She's a fucking blonde bombshell with huge (real) boobs, an hourglass figure, and perfect teeth. Do you all hate her already? She and I were actually good friends for the first year of our living together until she met her boyfriend, a senior hunky baseball player (now her husband), at a jungle-themed frat party and decided he'd be our third roommate. How fun for me, right? Things deteriorated, and we rarely spent time together after we both studied abroad in Florence our junior year. Despite this fact, I thought that after all the crap I put up with those two, I should have at least been invited to their grandiose wedding the summer after we graduated. Seriously, it was the least they could do after a year and a half of Three's Company in our tiny dorm room. I wasn't invited, and even though we weren't really friends anymore, I felt totally dissed and my feelings were hurt.

So a few weeks ago when I saw that she was coming to this event, I thought, "This is a great time to see her. I've really got my shit together now. I've got my ivy league degree, my awesome consultant job, and my beautiful boyfriend." I don't know why I even care about her--or that I thought she would give a rat's ass about what I was doing now. But for some reason she serves as a source of self-doubt and lack of confidence for me even to this day. I think it's because she at least has the appearance of having her life together. She married the first man she slept with, has a flawless face and figure, has lots of money, a wonderful family, and a great job as a lobbyist. Even in college, when the rest of us were packing on the pounds from pizza and beer, she maintained her svelte figure by eating broccoli in the cafeteria and doing leg lifts before going to bed. (She had seriously disordered eating, and I was one of the few people she told about it.) The college boys drooled over her and pursued her. Our first week we had a mixer with a guys' freshman hall, and one of them, whose father owned part of a professional baseball team, hired a magician for her because it was her birthday and hoped to woo her. Meanwhile I was crushing on a dorky sophomore who after I confessed I liked him told me "I'm not ready for a relationship right now" and then two weeks later started dating my friend. Seriously, FML.

Yesterday before I had to leave to go to the event, I was crying. I didn't want to go. I didn't want to see her and her fucking perfect self. But I put myself together as best I could, struggling over the perfect outside to impress her with, and went. I ran into her on the way in. She gave me a big hug. And y'all, she looked EXACTLY the same (except for a few deep wrinkles around her eyes which secretly gave me great joy. Should've stayed away from those tanning beds, babe!). "How's DC?" she asked. I told her all about my new job and how fab it is to work from home, trying to play up how great life is. "Where are you living?" I told her and then she asked, "By yourself?"

Now let's just stop here. Why in the HELL couldn't I have just said "Yes, by myself"? Because I'm a big doof, that's way. Instead of using that filter of mine that usually accompanies me in social settings, I say, "Well, I used to live with my boyfriend, but we just broke up." "Oh, I'm so sorry, " she said. And I think she really was. But I felt like an idiot. Why would I tell someone I'm not even friends with about the biggest pain of my life right now? I don't know why I did it. I felt like an idiot afterward. We chatted for a few minutes and said "see you inside", but we never said good-bye to each other. She, not surprisingly, didn't stay for the whole thing. I'm sure she had some fucking fantastic gala or other A-list event to get to. Secretly, I was relieved not to have to interact with her again.

This morning I'm still thinking about it, still beating myself up over it. Why did I have to open my mouth? Because I'm human, that's why. Because I'm not perfect. Because right now I'm an emotional mess and hurting. And even though I see her as perfect, I know that she's just a person like me. She might be better at concealing her humanness, but that doesn't change the fact that she is still a human being. And what I do know about her is that in order to maintain that image of perfection, she never takes risks. I remember how she used to back out of things, not put herself in a situation where she might fail. She did what was easy, comfortable, and least embarrassing, and frankly, that's not the kind of life I want to live.

I'm not blonde. I don't have big boobs or blue eyes. I don't have the perfect man by my side. But I take risks. I put myself out there all the time, and I get hurt. I'm hurting like hell right now. But I know that I am really living my life, not standing by as opportunities go by, too scared to take chance. And deep down I know that I'm pretty awesome all on my own.

Sassy New Single Life

Most--ok, all--of my posts over the last two weeks have been about the break-up. I figure this is probably to be expected, but that you'll probably all start losing interest in my emotional drama as it relates to SCL. And I'll probably get tired of writing about it. I'm not saying I'm going to shut up about it completely (it's currently my muse; I have so much to say!), but I will try to balance it with my new life as a sassy single girl. So, here's a run down of what good things are happening in this single woman's life.

This break-up has been great for my waistline. Like a lot of women in relationships, I started packing on the pounds when SCL and I got together. The eating out, making lots of pizza, and our collective sweet teeth really did a number on my body. It didn't help that he hated working out and didn't really like exercising with me. Like a lot of other things, I let my health slide. But now that I'm in need of every pick-me-up I can get, including endorphins, I find myself in the gym everyday and really enjoying it for the most part. My real focus is no to lose weight (though that's a nice side effect), but because it feels so damn good. I'd forgotten. And I've lost about five pounds in the process. Not too shabby.

I'm doing the things that feel like me. In addition to eating better and working out, I'm reading a lot of fun books (never read Bridget Jones's Diary before; I know!), spending more time having drinks with friends, going back to church, and generally being my normal social self. I'd let myself get confined to the routine of hanging out with SCL in the evenings and on the weekends. Now I have all of this time, and many more things I want to do with it.

I'm reconnecting with my spiritual side. Although SCL and I met in divinity school, he's not a religious person, and he wasn't too enthusiastic about going to church. But I am a deeply spiritual person and view the world through a theological lens most of the time. I'd been missing that part of me, especially living in DC where I am constantly having to adapt to speaking politics instead of religion. Now that I'm going to church and getting to know people there, I feel more at home and more like myself. My prayer every morning: "Grace to get me through the day."

I'm having a good ass time. I thought that becoming more predictable was just part of growing up, but I realize that it was just that I'd become kind of a boring person. SCL and I had good times together, but excitement was not a big part of our relationship. We fell into a rut and ended up spending a lot of Friday nights eating homemade pizza, drinking wine, and watching a movie. Nothing wrong with that except that I need to go out, dance, and see other human beings sometimes. Now there's nothing holding me back! I've been out with friends late at night, I've been trying new restaurants, biking to new places, catching up with old college friends, got signed up for kickball. I'm cutting down on the stuffy networking events and upping my fun intake for the time being. Time to live it up.

Here's the truth: While I'm sad about the loss of my relationship, I'm not unhappy. I thought I would be miserable for months and months, and instead I often feel liberated, alive, and more like myself. Maybe this will end up being the best thing for me.

Life/God/Universe, you are a funny, funny thing.

A Public Affair

This Friday SCL and I had our first interaction in a public setting since the break-up. I was performing in a community production, and he came to see me. I saw him before the show and really wasn't phased by him being there, even when I was on stage. But when the show was over, that was when everything shifted.

He was there, waiting for me--to give me a hug, to congratulate me on a job well done. And it felt so normal for him to be there. In some ways I felt more supported and loved than I did when we were together. All of the feelings of comfort, familiarity, and support felt so good to me. I looked around and thought, what do the people in this room think of us? What does this look like? I knew the answer: it looked like we were a couple, a partnership, a team. And for the first time in many days, I wanted that again. In that moment I didn't care about all the ways he'd hurt me, how much pain he'd caused me, that he didn't communicate or affirm me. I wanted his familiarity back. I wanted his presence back. I wanted the life I'd grown accustomed to back.

We walked back to the Metro, rode back to our stop side-by-side, and walked back to our apartment hand-in-hand. "This is hard," I said. "I feel like we're together right now. This feels so normal." There was something quite different about being outside of the apartment together that made it feel like we were just as we were before all of this happened, when I still thought all was well, when I believed it was just a matter of time before he came around and decided he truly wanted me.

I cried and cried. Then I worried that if I continued crying SCL would think I couldn't handle this, that we couldn't see each other at all anymore. That we couldn't navigate a new way of handling this pain and transformation in our relationship. He held me as I cried. And as he held me, I felt completely alone. Yes, we were together physically, even touched each other, but I knew that he wasn't going to give me his heart. And I felt so horribly alone. I thought about how if he hadn't come to my performance, I wouldn't have had anyone there who knew me to say, "You were great up there." What loss to consider and to mourn.

He was the reason I was crying, and yet he was comforting me. But who else would? I can't comfort myself, can I? I can't hold myself, stroke my own head, pull me against my own chest, wrap myself up in my own embrace. And that place in his arms--that has been my place for so long. On Friday I still wanted it to be mine.

Eventually I put myself together and went to bed. Mostly I was worried that he'd think he needed to pull away, and I didn't want him to make yet another decision about what was really best for me, for us. I still want to try this new way of breaking up. Sometimes it's just really hard to be this strong.

Break Up Blues: Music That's Helping Me Get Through

Anyone who has gone through a break-up probably understands the importance of the Break-Up playlist (oh, modern technology, how I love thee, how we are no longer confined to the mix-tape or CD). For me, I've got about six playlists so far that range from "Melanchology" to "I'm OK' to "Woman Power" to "The Healing Room." Here are a few tunes that are quickly becoming my go-to songs. Many lists to come in the future!

1. Ciara's "I Found Myself" from The Evolution

Why I Love it: Introspective, mournful, but also about moving forward and learning from love that has been lost.

What Playlist It's On: "I'm OK"

Best line:
So long, farewell
My lifes moving forward.
My ship has sailed,
And I'm so glad it's over.
My heart mends well,
After all that I've been through
I found myself.

2. Kelly Clarkson, "Don't Let Me Stop You" from All I Ever Wanted

Why I Love it: It's about reclaiming one's power by letting go, not begging your love to stay if what he really wants to do is go on and pursue other things...and other women.

What Playlist(s) It's On: "Woman Power" "I'm OK"

Best line:
Even if I end up broken-hearted/
I won't lie.
I don't want to hear goodbye/
But either way I'll be alright.

3. Sara Bareilles, "Love on the Rocks" from Little Voice

Why I Love It: She embodies all the mixed emotions of a break-up, especially the far-fetched hope that she can still patch things up. It reminds me of John Legend's "Ordinary People," a song I cannot listen to right not because he was an artist I shared with SCL. Don't you hate that?

What Playlist It's On: "F*** Love"

Best line:
Here's a simplification of everything we're going though/
You plus me is bad news.
But you're a lovely creation and I like to think that I am too/
But my friend said I look better without you.

4. KT Tunstall "Heal Over" from Eye to the Telescope

Why I Love It: It's the most soothing song, almost a lullaby for girls with broken hearts. And it reminds me that the pain isn't going to last forever.

What Playlist(s) It's On: "I'm OK" and "The Healing Room"

Best line:
Doesn't take a genius to realize/
That sometimes life is hard.
It's gonna take time/
But you'll just have to wait
You're gonna be fine/
But in the meantime/
Come over here lady/
Let me wipe your tears away.

5. Nora Jones "I Wouldn't Need You" from The Fall

Why I Love It: Heart-breaking in the most cathartic way. Plus I love her soulful voice.

What Playlist It's On: "Melancholy"

Best line:
If I touched myself the way you touched me.
If I could hold myself the way you held me.
Then I wouldn't need you, no, I wouldn't need you,
No, I wouldn't need you to love me.

There are many others, but I'm curious if you all have favorite songs that lift your spirits, are good for a cry, or help you say "f*** love." Please send 'em my way!