How I Got Over a Breakup by Getting Over Myself
I came home to an empty house that afternoon and walked into the bedroom to survey the wreckage. Everywhere mashed down carpet fibers in the shapes of dresser, cedar chest, and antique nightstand legs announced the finality of her absence—like the chalk outline left at a murder scene after the body has been removed, except there’s no body at this scene, just the ghost of a relationship that had long outlived its vigor.
I rubbed the tip of my sneaker into a spot marking the former location of our (her) bed, trying to revive the flattened strands. I sighed deeply, wishing one room in the house was free of her imprint and wondering when I’d feel normal again. But first I’d have to figure out what normal was.
With no furniture delivery men to wait on at the moment, I embarked on a journey to the grocery store to restock my fridge and cabinets with food I liked. A delicious taste of liberation is found in shopping for meals and snacks that only have to please you.
I swung my cart with the stubborn wheel into line three. The teenage cashier finished her text tapping pink gel thumbnails on her phone and then dragged my items over the scanner.
“Oh, look how cute!” She indicated the dainty container of a half-dozen eggs and quart-size milk and OJ bottles as though they were toys meant for a little girl’s plastic kitchen set.
I forced a curt grin, miffed that even a quick trip to the grocery store stung me with reminders that life was different now. And if I wasn’t being paranoid, I could’ve sworn one of the older, regular cashiers observed that I was shopping alone.
In the days since I came home and found her set of house keys on the dining room table, I’d come to realize my sadness wasn’t from the notion that my happily-ever-after with her didn’t work out the way the fairy tales promised. It came from the massive upheaval to my life that I had not consented to. Even though it was a change that needed to happen so we could both be happy again, logic rarely stands a chance in that seemingly endless epoch following the demise of a long-term relationship.
Even then, I wasn’t angry at her for leaving. What I was feeling was a generic sadness, that grieving period self-pity at being “abandoned” that we need to allow ourselves in the early stages. In fact, in the weeks after she left and I began to regain my bearings, I grew to be grateful to her and the woman who inspired her departure.
My lingering anger had been directed at the universe for assuming agency over my mediocre, static life. The perspective I chose was that it stripped me of the privilege of growing up and growing old with the same person who would know me better than anyone else, not by genuine effort, but by default because we had grown up and grown old as a team. I felt gypped that I would never be half of one of those cute, elderly couples who take an Alaskan cruise to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary, regardless of the expense. After all, they’d earned it weathering the trials and tribulations of decades together. I was bitter that I’d never experience the poignant beauty of searching my partner’s wrinkled, age-spotted face and discovering traces of that youthful smoothness and shine I’d fallen in love with fifty years earlier.
It was a totally self-defeating way to view the situation, but prior to the breakup I was a self-defeatist. It came naturally to perceive things as happening to me rather than as simply happening. “The pain is in the resistance,” they say. I was forced to redefine everything I knew. I had to redefine myself as a whole person, not half of a couple, and I feared there wasn’t enough of me to accomplish the task.
At a friend’s suggestion, I immersed myself in Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. It helped me recognize how much my ego was holding me back from achieving personal growth and how I’d never move forward until I accepted my present situation for what it was instead of fighting it for what I wanted it to be. Sometimes breakups are like taking shitty-tasting medicine as a kid. Your mother had to grab hold of you and force it down your throat as you gurgled out shrieks of protest, but then a few hours later you found yourself running around the house, eager to go outside and play. Think of how much more expedient recovery would be if we could’ve shifted our perspective to how much better we’d feel afterwards rather than on how horrible the medicine tasted going down.
A few weeks after moving out, my ex came by to pick of a few things she’d left behind in the initial move. As she was leaving, she asked, “Is your life better without me in it?”
It was the last question I’d expected, but my swift response sounded as though it had been rehearsed and queued up since the day she left.
“Yes,” I said, surprising us both.
I never inquired how my response or the zeal with which I’d blurted it made her feel. I’d only said it because it was the truth. By that point, it had felt wonderful to feel confident in something again.
It has been eight years since the breakup, and I’ve evolved into a far better person than I used to be. I understand that, in life, loss and gain work sporadically and mysteriously but always with purpose. I also take care of myself now and refuse to second-guess every decision I make; two things I’d either lost the ability to do or never knew I could do as a young woman in my first serious relationship. And most importantly, I don’t feel guilty about doing either.
I started this essay years ago after seeing, for about the hundredth time, those divots in the rug where her bed had dug in nine years earlier. But for some reason, I’d never finished writing it. As time went on, I just stopped noticing the dents when I’d walk in my room and had moved on to more exciting writing projects.
Then the other day, while vacuuming my bedroom, contemplating the many positives in my life as I often do during mundane chores, I noticed the carpet at the foot of my bed was flush with the rest. Those bedeviling divots had all but vanished. I’m sure if I’d got down on my knees and searched, I may have detected some lingering traces of them, but then why would I want to do that?
Talk about a sign for a writer on summer vacation wrestling with writer’s block.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a relationship expert. I am but a humble writer of lesbian fiction and essay blogs.
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