The Race to the Bottom

Who can move on the fastest? Who is more miserable? Who is better at pretending they are okay and well-adjusted? Which one of us can still look at the world with the same refreshing optimism?

Off the heels of a break-up, I feel like this is the unspoken competition that couples embark on. Which one of us can sweep our relationship under the rug best? It is a sad commentary on the way people view emotions and the depth of our time with someone. A series of beautiful memories are reduced to a thing we should quickly get rid of, because who wants to be the last one wallowing?

When I was younger, I felt no shame in being transparent with my feelings–elation, sadness, joy. When I was sad, I spoke brazenly about how much my heart hurt on whatever form of social media was available at the time (ie: Xanga, facebook before it was widely used). I posted lyrics or quotes that un-subtly hinted at my pain, or shared songs that outlined my heartbreak. I was unafraid of how I would be perceived and relieved to let out my emotions. I was young and naive.

Then I grew up, as did the avenues of social media, and I realized how pouring out your hurt is perceived as weakness and pitiful. I realized that in today’s swipe-left, swipe-right, attention deficit society, dwelling on our emotional injuries is seen as abnormal and irrational. Moving on is seen as a positive, self-affirming action. It means you know your worth, and recognize your value.

So I did what most people did: hid all remnants of me and you and never once hinted at the pain I was going through. No sad lyrics, or provocative quotes, no mention of you, or us. Everything calculated to ensure that no one could construe that anything was wrong, that I gave you a second thought, or that you still lingered in my dreams.  And it sucks.

But here is the thing that no body knows…Our relationship is something I never wanted to pretend didn’t happen, to be swept under the rug, to be forgotten. It happened, it was the happiest I’d ever been in my life and it makes me sick to my stomach to act otherwise. My love for you was never some flippant decision, and my heart was never something freely distributed.


Love Grows

Before you, I felt like I was always on my own. I never knew what it meant to be cared for, or how it felt to be part of something more than just myself. I had siblings, and loving parents but always felt that I could never fully depend on them at an intrinsic level. I learned my own lessons, faced my own problems and solved them alone. Everything was from my own creation and my own destruction.

I drove by the South Lake Union loop the other day and remembered how the summer leading up to meeting you, I used to run the entire 6.5 mile circuit. I pushed myself harder and harder yet I found myself wondering what I was thinking back then. Where was I running to? It makes me sad to realize that I ran with purpose but no destination; conviction but no meaning…so obliviously, heart achingly alone in this world, and to the fact that my perception of life would change when I met you.

When you came into my life, for the first time ever I felt that I belonged. I felt loved and cared for. I mattered to someone. I felt like I could run the entire length of the Earth, and know that you would be waiting for me when I returned. I felt like I had a place, a home in this world. It was calm and peaceful…Is this what love feels like?

Sometimes, I feel that I was tricked, that you roped me into this relationship and promised me things I would never have. Love, completeness, security, forever. I was uncertain at first, but felt that you were genuine and real with me. I wonder if you were also just tricking yourself. I don’t believe that you are a bad person, or that you planned this with malice, it just spiraled too quickly and you wanted to believe it, so did I.

But in the end, I found myself in love with you. I loved you… I really truly did. I didn’t know it at first, but love is a gradual thing and it is unlike anything I ever prepared myself for. It is not what they tell you in the stories or movies or love songs. It is so much more complex. It is the residuals after the sparks die out. It is having a home to come back to, having someone listen to your theories and philosophies, having someone make you coffee in the morning or rub your stomach when it’s upset. It is all these little seeds that plant themselves in our soul and sprout into trees that flourish with giant blossoms.

Love grows where you water it, and in this moment, I have decided to stop feeding my delusions. Love was, but cannot sustain itself with only water and no sunlight, or sunlight and no air. Love needs us both, not just one.

A Life Worth Sharing

I have learned that though some things, like the tranquility of a summer hike or the vastness of the Grand Canyons, can be enjoyed alone; most experiences are more fulfilling with the person I love. Sunny days make me miss him the most, but so do drizzly days nestled indoors watching the television, or things as mundane as going to the grocery store.

It’s funny how something as boring and tedious as grocery shopping became little adventures; it was never just a chore. Everyday felt special with him, even if it was just coming home after a day of work, popping a frozen pizza in the oven and watching the latest Marvel series on Netflix together. Waiting to hear his footsteps on the steps outside my apartment never became ordinary.

I always question whether people who believe they are better off alone truly mean it. Some people are perfectly content living out their lives solo with perhaps a dog or cat as companionship. But I wonder, as humans, do any of us actually believe that happiness can be found in a life not shared?

When My Words Run Out

We get old and get use to each other. We think alike. We read each other’s minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted. But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. -Johnny Cash


There is a protocol that exists when we experience a break up, apparently. First, we cry and it’s socially acceptable to do so. Then, we’re supposed to look within ourselves for happiness. We are obligated to “find ourselves” again, and find joy in being alone. If we can’t be alone, then we must be broken, so we’ll need to take this time to rediscover and fix ourselves–we have to “love ourselves before we can truly love others.” We are told to sweep our memories under the rug, because he obviously wasn’t Mr. Right if things have gone so horribly wrong. We are supposed to think about all the negatives instead of idealizing and obsessing over the positive aspects of the relationship. Stop clinging onto the memories, because they obviously weren’t that great if it ended in heartbreak right? We are told to channel our energy into doing the things we love, and find inner peace in being single. And then we are told that it will be difficult, but we need to stop crying, because it is no longer okay or healthy to wallow so long. When “we are ready,” we should start dating again and keep our hearts open.

Let me be blatantly honest: this is a bunch of shit. Yes, perhaps this applies to some women. These types of articles are about empowering yourself to climb out of the rubble; to learn from mistakes and mend broken hearts, to vilify him so we can feel better about no longer being together. Yes, perhaps if you came out of a relationship where you fought all the time, where you treated each other like crap, lacked respect and understanding or were overtly codependent.

But it is entirely possible that we already knew ourselves when we entered the relationship. What if we were already strong, independent women before him, we were already content being single…but we wanted more. What if we wanted what everyone inevitably wants out of life–to share it with someone? What if we had already learned much of life’s hard lessons, already experienced the feeling of loss over and over again, yet still managed to keep our hearts open? What if the relationship was not toxic or abusive? What if the positive aspects of the relationship outweighed the negative? What if the happiest moments of your life were a result of the relationship? What if the relationship made you a better person?

How do we then overcome the feeling of grief? We know our inner strength, we know our own worth, we know about letting go, we know we should occupy ourselves with hobbies and surround ourselves with friends and family. We know it’s a part of life. We know all that. This is for the women who love themselves, who know what it means to be with and without. This is for the women who are smart enough to know they should move on, but also understand that there was a profound value and significance to the relationship.

This is to say that it’s okay. When you have a firm grasp of yourself, you know your limits and capabilities. You know more than the repetitive insert-a-number step guides to getting over him, because you know yourself. The real comfort is in knowing what you felt was real, despite any other circumstances. You were true to yourself, and to him. You loved deeply and with intention. You loved him when he drove a rusted Ford Contour, when he spent his food stamps to buy groceries to make you a romantic dinner on one of your first dates, when he opted for a kiss on the forehead after your first meeting. You loved him when he set aside his discomfort to spend time with your family, when he offered to pay for half of your new laptop (but you declined), when he planned a Marvel movie marathon, and bought two-player video games just so you could play together.

That love is real, un-replaceable and unforgettable. Getting over this break-up is not so much about finding myself as it is about taking comfort in knowing that I loved him wholeheartedly, purely and without malice, or ill-intention. It’s in knowing that I don’t seek vengeance, or retaliation, that I loved him in a way that was sincere and true to who I was. This is the real way to accept what you cannot accept–to face it head on.