I’ve been through *eh hem* a few breakups.
I mean, I’m pretty much an expert. (Look at me, asserting self love wherever I can.) Breaking up with, being broken up with, literally just leaving the country mid-relationship (twice)… You name it, I’ve suffered through it. Some were more significant than others. A couple of them fucked my world up and others didn’t break my stride in the least.
But one thing that they have all had in common is that, in some way or another, the way I felt during the breakup always seemed to mirror the relationship itself.
When I was 18 (ah, so young, so naive) I became one half of a relationship that lasted almost four years. Like mixing oil and water, we just didn’t work. I think we both knew all along that we never really could have. But that didn’t stop us from trying. We pushed each other’s buttons and fed each other’s neuroses and fought to keep it together tooth and nail. But before long, everyone but me could see that the entire relationship was designed to breed my insecurity. To make me question everything I thought I knew and wanted. To invalidate my opinion and silence my voice. To make me small and less sparkly. And piece by piece, in ways so sneaky I barely noticed it was happening, that relationship stole my identity. As he tried to mold me into a woman he might like better, I became unrecognizable. I was a stranger, even to myself. And once I finally worked up the courage to end it, I was lost. Wholly and completely. And what is a girl with no identity to do in a big city where no one could remind her who she was, once upon a time? …She is to invent someone new.
That new girl moved to a faraway land, determined to find her independence at the bottom of a bowl of pasta. But instead she found a boy who lit her on fire with his passion and his unpredictability. They were the stuff of fairy tales. Every romance readers’ dream. And their love burned bright and hot until that fire torched them both to the ground. Their intensity became insanity. The adoration turned narcissistic. A constant push and pull. “I need you” “Yes, you need me too much” Anchors weighted with the words “I love you” were dropped each time he felt she was drifting too far. And to her, he was the one-man-search-party who rediscovered her. So she clung so desperately that he might have shattered had he not been made of putty–ready to be shaped by the hands of whomever he let hold him. Over and over they played with that fire until she finally lost him for the last time, her heart, cauterized by unrequited love. She began searching to be important in the eyes of strange men. Important in the way she would never be to him. She adopted his narcissism, collecting the affections of foreign bodies in order to bury her dejection.
Back in her home country, in her pursuit of infatuation, she found some happiness in the arms of a man who was never really hers. They sweetly fed each other lies of love; each one uttered, an attempt to convince the liar as much the listener. Playing house was their way of staying afloat when they were both slowly drowning. So he told her she was the woman he had been waiting for. She played that role because it was easier than being herself. She told him she would stay and he would smile and nod, because it was fun to pretend he believed her. Anything to keep warm. She eventually ran away, back to that same faraway land. For a moment or two, they pretended to be torn-apart- lovers, simply because it was something to do. But they both knew that they didn’t care much either way. It was all just part of the charade. They both let go when they were finally ready to become the people they had been running from.
And then with some work, that girl became me. At last, a woman content. I stopped seeking validation because I found it all within myself. Boldly teetering the line between fierce independence and affectionate, open heartedness. I let the tumult of interrelation just happen to me, feeling all of it but recovering quickly because I knew I didn’t need any of it.
But then, in the middle of my revolution, he appeared. A boy with handsomely disheveled hair who made me laugh with authenticity. One who really listened when I spoke. Who wanted to know me just as much as he was willing to let me in. He put in real effort. He fought for me when I was difficult and reminded me how strong I was when I had moments of doubt. We were patient with each other and always kind. He knew my soul and I knew his and it was just that easy. We didn’t need each other. No, it was better than that. We wanted each other. Not because it filled some weird void in the pits of our souls. Not because we couldn’t be happy if we weren’t together. But simply because we were happier if we were. Because when we were laughing together all the world fell away.
I felt like I had won. Like I had finally gotten it right. This was it. We talked about all the beauty our future together held. We both believed in it.
And I went on believing it, for better or for worse, until just now, when I realized that, without hardly a word of warning, our happy present and hopeful future is unequivocally over. What I thought was unmistakably real has turned out to be nothing more than a ghost.
And so, another breakup for the books. (my first ghosting…yay.)
In the past, the fact that the breakup mirrored the relationship meant trouble. I was so often consumed with dangerous emotions in love and the breakup would just invite more of the same. I would feel lost, broken, empty or cold.
Today I don’t feel lost. And I don’t feel empty or broken or cold. For a while, our love was stable and beautiful because we are fairly stable and beautiful as individuals. And still, right alongside the disappointment, I feel like that same happy and empowered woman.
I may not feel much like laughing today. Because my favorite person to laugh with is nowhere to be found. But that’s okay. I know I’ll have a good laugh soon. And I don’t feel much like a winner, right now. Quite honestly, for the very first time in my turbulent love life, I feel defeated. An eternal optimist’s worst nightmare. But I’ll find that optimism again, as I always do.
It’s not a seamless breakup. I have moments where anger flares up inside me. I cry in the car when a really good love song comes on. And I’ve been drinking a little too much gin with my girlfriends.
But I’m perfectly okay.
And I know, now more than ever, that I’m not willing to put my heart into things that aren’t happy and healthy. Because happy and healthy is the path I’m on. I’m not willing to give my affections to anyone who isn’t totally stoked to be with me. Who doesn’t feel lucky that the girl who easily dances away from everyone is happy to slow down and be still with him.
I want to have relationships that, if they must end, leave me and my person (whomever he may be) better than before it began. I want post-breakup me to remain the happy, vulnerable, strong, sexy and inspired, always-me. And I believe that eventually, all of these relationships and all of their lessons will shape me into a woman ready for the right love when it finally comes my way.
And I know now that all of this starts with the love I choose for myself.
The love I give myself.
The love I decide I am worthy of.