I’m not really sure how to write these days.
Some mornings I wake up super energized and stoked on life. The possibilities are endless when you’re single, unemployed, and have endless amounts of free time. Two zoom yoga classes in one day? Sure! Vacuuming the house at 10pm on a school night? No problem! Random trip to the mall just because? But of course!
Other days I pull the covers back up, hit snooze, and only reluctantly get up out of bed when my not-really-a-puppy-anymore takes to smacking me in the face so that I can take her, and her more well-behaved bff, outside to go play before I’m at my dining room table, applying for jobs I’ll probably never hear back from, and reality from the last two months hits, hard.
Lately my days have looked more like the latter and it’s started to take its toll, both physically and emotionally. Breakup weight loss is a real thing. Many of my clothes no longer fit and I’ve had to source belts for my pants in order to keep them from wriggling down to my ankles. I’m not glorifying unhealthy eating habits or anything like that, it’s just the blunt reality I’m living in right now.
Navigating loss and who you are outside of a longterm relationship can really do a number on your appetite…and while some may turn to food as a source of comfort, for me, it’s been a source of immense pain because cooking meals together was something I looked forward to almost every day for the last several years.
Now, I can barely stomach one meal a day, let alone three.
Outside of puffy eyes from incessant crying and protruding bones from infrequent eating, there’s the emotional toll of a longterm breakup, but not the kind you might think about. Sure, you miss the routine of homemade breakfasts, walks around the neighborhood together, and just because flowers he picked up on his way home from work because he was thinking about you, but I feel like no one talks about the emotional toll a longterm breakup can take elsewhere in your life.
In the last few weeks, I’ve had several good friends, who’re in the early stages of planning weddings in the next year or two, make it abundantly clear that since I am no longer engaged or vaguely in the realm of a committed relationship, I am no longer privy to the plus one they’d extended to me when I was engaged, let alone able to extend the invitation to anyone else in his place.
On one hand, I get it, I’ve done the wedding planning thing (literally every detail from invitations and bridesmaid gifts, to tasting menus and vendor contracts) and every guest has a price per head. I get that. On the other hand, I also just went through this as a bride-to-be a few months ago with guests who were in complicated relationships, or whose spouse had recently died, or someone who was in the middle of a gnarly breakup or divorce. When I was in that position, I didn’t even mention my upcoming wedding when we hung out. I only brought it up up when it got closer to sending the actual invitations and/or giving numbers to the caterer, and then I asked to see if the person was comfortable coming solo or not.
Some were totally cool with it, even invited the opportunity to mingle on their own. Others were not and quite bluntly told me they likely would not attend because, and I feel this more than ever, it’s terrifying to attend a social outing alone, let alone an occasion that’s all about love and finding your person, when you’re so acutely reminded that you don’t have that anymore (both directly and indirectly).
This isn’t to say that I’m mad at my friends for what they said, just that it hurts. It really hurt more than I thought it would and maybe in hindsight I’d wish they’d been more sensitive to what I’ve been going through, but then again, they haven’t been in my situation of recently calling off a wedding, getting broken up with, and left to live in the place we’d been making a home for the last year and a half.
I get that they’re excited about what’s going on in their own lives, and rightfully so. It’s exciting to love love and I truly am over the moon for them and I’m really happy that they want to include me in their upcoming celebrations.
But when your world internally combusts and you feel like a top, endlessly spinning into oblivion without purpose, it’s a bit difficult to find one’s bearings and make sense of feeling like a social pariah all the while your heart feels like a dustbin of broken shards of glass sitting on the curb on trash day.
So simply put, that’s where my head is at these days. Throw in the mix some absolutely abysmal first (and second) dates (have I told you about the one where the guy told me I’d have to keep dating him to find out what kind of felonies he has?), an uptick in violent health flares (like the one where I threw up spaghetti and got it stuck in my windpipe for more than an uncomfortable few seconds), and all of the self-doubt and woulda coulda shoulda’s that happen in the wake of a breakup…let’s just say 2020 can kindly see itself out.
It also doesn’t help that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, so nights out on the town with friends or really any kind of in-person social activity aren’t all that accessible (to do often and safely). It’s really not a surprise then, that for the first time in weeks I broke down. Like, on the floor, weeping uncontrollably, because the reality of everything finally set in.
I’m almost 30.
I’m starting over again, for what will be the third time in the better part of a decade.
After almost eight years and two longterm relationships where I think I’ve solved that eternal mystery of true love and “found my person,” I have yet again metaphorically had the rug pulled out from under me and left with remnants of what was and what likely will never be.
I started reading some old posts that I’d written on here after my last breakup in January 2018. Oddly enough, it was that breakup that prompted me to publicly share 2LWithIt. I’d written on here for a few years prior to that, but I was afraid to share it with anyone I knew (hence the pseudonym). But then, the day after that breakup, I wrote Thoughts | 5 Things I Learned From a Breakup. I shared it everywhere (forums, personal social media, the works) and the post blew up.
For the first time in a long time, I felt purpose, like my words might be able to help someone else navigating life after a longterm breakup.
Well, fast-forward to 2020 and here I am again, but this time I’m not in my last semester of law school with uncertainties like studying for and taking one of the hardest bar exams in the country. I’m also not uncertain of what an engagement to a man who loves me might look like; I’ve had both of these wonderful experiences, and while passing the bar happened and walking down an aisle in a beautiful white dress did not, I’m still optimistic that both experiences helped me to become who I am today.
It’s also oddly comforting to know that I’m not the only person going through a breakup during a pandemic right now. In fact, most people I know who’ve been or are still in relationships, at some point this year, have dealt with extremely difficult moments, in part brought about the uncertainties of COVID’s impact on their lives, but also because tantamount stress can put pressure on other parts of the relationship.
In 2019, I wrote Thoughts | One Year Later. It was a reflection on that first breakup and lessons I’d learned while navigating that loss. Among some of my oh so wise breakup wisdom, I wrote:
I’m going to be okay because the human heart is a resilient organ that keeps on beating, even though every cadence is a reminder that our lives have gone in two separate directions.
Shortly after meeting the guy I’d later become engaged to, I wrote Thoughts | You Should Date a Thoughtful Man, in which I wrote:
“Date a thoughtful man because we all need to be reminded that we’re worthy of a connection with someone that’s unlike anything we’ve come across before. Don’t look for perfection. It doesn’t exist…Someone who reminds you to be a little (or a lot kinder), even on your most difficult of days. Someone who reassures you that it’s okay to fall apart sometimes, because that’s how you get stronger.”
While I still think there is some truth in those words, it hurts to read them back and know that the story veered sharply away from how I thought it was going to go.
I recently listened to a podcast (the Papaya Podcast with Sarah Nicole), in which she talks about life after her eleven year marriage ended. Something that she said that stuck with me was that her now-husband and her no longer see divorce as a non-option. Both were previously married, and for them, having an open dialogue about divorce being on the table should either or both of them no longer want to show up for the other, helps them stay present and invested in their relationship on a daily basis.
Now, I should preface that while I’m not looking for exactly that kind of a set up with someone in the future, I do think I’ve spent a lot of time in my last two relationships thinking “if I get to this point, then they won’t leave me.” In the first relationship, I thought “once we get engaged, then he won’t leave,” but he broke up with me two weeks before he was supposedly going to propose. Then in my second relationship, we did get engaged and it was cloud nine for a minute, but in the end we didn’t end up getting married and broke up shortly after the wedding was called off.
I spent a great deal of time and energy thinking that there was this safe or sweet spot, that if we could just get to xyz, then our relationship wouldn’t inevitably fall apart. Part of that thinking stems from living through trauma and just wanting someone who won’t hurt you. Part of that is living with chronic health issues, where literally nothing is predictable or reliable, including your own body and mind.
But at the end of the day, I can’t fault either guy for leaving because there is no safe or sweet spot in a relationship.
I think that is my greatest takeaway from these last seven and a half years. For years, I searched for a love that wouldn’t leave, but maybe I was looking at it all wrong. Relationships can fall apart before they even begin. They can fall apart after you’ve been dating for years and have bought Christmas gifts for all of his siblings and parents and then awkwardly don’t know what to do with them because you’d put these gifts together months before your life took a turn in another direction. Relationships can fall apart decades down the line, after building a life and a home and a family together. My point is I’m starting to acutely realize that there is no safety or guarantee that someone won’t leave. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve invested, literally or figuratively, into it.
Maybe the key to all of this heartbreak is to take it in stride and brace for impact, anticipate loss, but don’t let it deter you from getting back up again. That’s not to say treat every date that’s peppered with red flags as a fun side project, but instead look at milestones like an engagement or a wedding or a marriage not as guarantees that the relationship won’t fall apart, but rather snapshots of happiness, however bittersweet and fleeting.
Just some thoughts on a Wednesday afternoon. You’re damned if you do open yourself up to love, you’re damned if you don’t and stay closed off from it.
Maybe all we can do is our damnedest to keep trying even when our hearts look like kindergarten projects of misshapen blobs of paste and confetti, instead of the safe havens we’ve come to romanticize over the years.