The process of going through and getting over a breakup has, somehow, become fascinating to me. I’m amazed at the fact that even after the breakup I’m still learning things about myself. (Not least that I’m hugely wary of entering into a relationship now. They’re so emotionally taxing. A two-year high - albeit spiky high - followed by an incredible low. Not keen for a repeat any time soon.)
Honest to god though, people should collect resources and hand them out to people when they go through various stages of their life, like having your first period, your first kiss, your first boyfriend/girlfriend/etc, your first heartbreak. And then there should be another version of that called “This is for when after your heart broke for the first time and you thought it was as bad as it could get, but now you’ve realised what a REAL breakup is and that it gets worse as you grow older and learn more and love differently.” Then there should be little mini pamphlets or brochures within that for the different stages you go through, like “the first night”, “the first week”, all with helpful bits of text and how-to guides and illustrations where necessary and of course a FAQ section. The way I feel now is like I could write some of my own, either for myself in the future or for others, god, I don’t know, but all this fucking pain should NOT go to waste, that’s for sure.
So many things change. The way you look at people change. After I went through this break up, I couldn’t walk through a crowd without wondering if anyone else was also walking around with their heart absolutely shattered into a million fucking pieces but on the outside they looked pure and whole. And how awful it must feel, to walk around feeling like your chest is seven times heavier than normal and to continue with life because life goes on, after all, and even the way your limbs and organs and bodily functions just keep supporting you but you wonder what the heck is the point when I’m feeling this awful, and you feel almost resentful at how life just goes on when you’re not ready to face up to the reality of the passage of time, and how it never stops for anyone, ever, even though you feel it should, for you, and how rude of it for it to go on like nothing ever happened, because clearly you are dying inside.
And so for the next few weeks and months you have an active inner life. Your feelings are changing all the DAMN time, and you have so many THOUGHTS and FEELINGS taking up residency inside you, and then you have FEELINGS about THOSE feelings - you HATE feeling this way, feeling this way SUCKS, you WISH you could stop feeling this way but you CAN’T, so you HATE yourself instead, wonder why you’re so weak, punish yourself for feeling something that you can’t yet admit is outside of your control. And I remember that part of me wanted to record all of this, but mostly my effort was all going towards just trying to eat enough to subsist. The first day of my breakup all I did was drink so much water that I peed clear, forced down a peach for breakfast and ate one third of some tabouli/salad for dinner. I got so skinny during my first week of my breakup that I was almost pleased, or amused - if I knew breaking up could get me this skinny this quickly, well, wasn’t that just a pleasant side effect.
And then so many things happened. I can’t bear to list them all in detail, to relive them again, to think about the fact that I went through this ordeal with this person I remember loving, once in my life, even though I feel disembodied with it, detached from it, as though I am looking at someone’s face and I feel like I recognise them but I simply don’t know who they are. And that’s how I feel right now, two months and two weeks after the breakup, looking at photos of us. I’m in a place where I have, completely unexpectedly, encountered some calm for the first time in my life. I’m not pulled around by my emotions. Not trying to tell myself to feel something I’m not. Not telling myself off for feeling something I’m not. Not trying to compare my progress with his. Not needing to talk about him all the time to my friends because it’s simply not on my mind as often. Or, if it is, I’m content to let it linger there. The thought of him has inhabited my mind for so long I’ve grown used to its presence. It can stay there as long as it wants, because it doesn’t bother me too much now, so I’ve no need to desperately shoo it out.
And perhaps this is how he felt all along? Happy to let time take its place? Not carried away by his feelings, not witness the fluctuating of his feelings over time… And even now while I type this, I am unwilling to ponder too deeply on this. I have been repeating to myself, like a mantra, that I can’t keep caring about what he’s thinking and feeling anymore. There’s no “us” and I’m finally becoming properly accustomed to no “us”, which means that I’m not upset about there being no “us” anymore. “Us” doesn’t feel right. In fact it feels so strange that I can’t even look at photos anymore because I don’t understand what I’m looking at. It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t register it in my head, as thought the image is there but the meaning behind it is confused. Like abstract art.
But at the same time, if a magic genie popped up right now and asked me if I wanted to be completely over it by the time I woke up the next morning, I wouldn’t want that. Because somewhere deep in my psyche the relationship was (is?) still precious to me, and I don’t want to part with it yet. It’s maybe like an old item of clothing that has gone out of fashion and doesn’t fit me anymore, but there are so many good fucking memories and I love it so much and it was so damn expensive that I can’t yet bear to part with it, even though I know one day I will, because some new clothes might come along and fit me and I can’t be clinging onto something old forever, because new clothes are nice too. But right now maybe I don’t want new clothes, I still want to keep this old one for a little while, and even though I won’t wear it around, I’ll let it sit in a box and look at it once in a while and one day if I realise I’ve forgotten about it, then I can give it away.
I still think this city would’ve been amazing if you were here and we were still together. I’d pick you up at the airport, hold your hand, excitedly help you hold your things, not be able to let go of you at all. We’d kiss and I would be so excited to tear your clothes off later but also to show you around my city and to show you the food I think you’d like. We’d get back to my uni and I’d quickly show you my bike, because I get distracted like that, and I’m just so excited about EVERYTHING, because you’re HERE. I probably would’ve been daydreaming about it for ages, and on the bus ride or cab ride back to my dorm, we would’ve sneaked so many kisses that could’ve quickly spiralled out of control and I would’ve been so content with my head in the crook of your neck. And we’d walk confidently past the front desk towards the elevator and I’d point out that the receptionists don’t even look up, and how easy it’d be to sneak you in and out. And you’d get to my room, and I would’ve changed the sheets and cleaned up and cleared some space for you, and you would’ve grabbed me and pulled me onto the bed and I would’ve been so ecstatic just to finally have you hear and giggle into your mouth. But now that you’re here I want to show you a good time and not rush anything, so I would’ve told you to go shower first because you’d’ve been travelling for a day, and who knows what would’ve happened after that, if I would’ve convinced you or you would’ve convinced me otherwise. But we’d go for dinner afterwards, starving, probably, and then I’d take you to XiHu, which is beautiful at any time of the day, and gone for a walk, and we would’ve talked the entire time. I would’ve stopped to kiss you so many times, stopped to snap you, because I’d be so fucking proud you were in my city, that I could show you around, that I had a bike that I couldn’t wait to see you on because I KNOW you’d be amazing on it, a natural, like you are at all these other things.
I’d show you the boats on the lake and tell you we should go on one one day, and if it was nice weather and during the daytime may be would, and then we’d just look at the murky water and hold hands and enjoy each other’s company and talk about whatever. I’d take you sightseeing, consult you on where you’d want to go or what you’d want to do, because what you want would matter to me so much, and all I want is for you to have a good time while you’re with me and do things you might want to do. And ultimately we’d have a good mix of us time and time with friends and you’d meet all of them and I’d be so fucking proud of you, proud to have you around, proud to show you off, proud that you’re mine.
I can recall all of this, how I felt about you, I can still so acutely bring up what I’d feel or say or do if we were together. And yet when it comes to looking at old photos, I can’t. I don’t GET IT. I don’t understand it. I don’t know what I’m looking at because that’s not real anymore, that doesn’t exist anymore. And I’m in a place where that’s both sad and okay at the same time.
I miss you, but mostly because I don’t know what else to do. I’ve been left in the wake of a fucking star exploding in my night sky and I’ve been used to such a bright light but it’s dimming and I’m forgetting how bright it is. And with forgetfulness comes peace, because the more I forget the more painless it is, even though I’m forgetting something sweet.
See what I mean? The psychology of someone going through a breakup is so interesting. Funny how you and I both seemed to unconsciously turn to something creative - me with writing (I keep wanting to write my thoughts these days, I’m usually never able to string anything substantial together to maintain a proper line of thought but my suddenly activated inner life seemed to have done the trick) and you with your sketching. I wonder how that’s going. I wouldn’t know, because I try not to initiate contact with you, mainly because it was too painful. Now it seems like you feel the same, or maybe you could tell I wasn’t responding much so you backed off, or maybe a friend told you. Either way, I wonder how you are. But I dare not ask, because I dare not care.