It was on a cold night last December when my world crumbled down around me in one big heaping mess. We were on our way home from celebrating Christmas with his family when my boyfriend of 13 years dropped a bombshell on me out of nowhere. He wasn’t happy anymore and wanted out. I was given no real explanation, no reason that made sense for his sudden change of heart except that he wanted “a fresh start in the new year.” In so many words, he told me I was no longer good enough for him and he was moving on to bigger and better things, greener pastures. To say that I was blindsided would be the biggest understatement I’ve ever uttered. He left me standing in my driveway, sobbing, as he drove off like a bat out of hell. He couldn’t get away fast enough, and I haven’t heard a word from him since. Not a single phone call, e-mail, text message, letter, nothing. It was like as soon as his car turned the corner, he just fell off the face of the earth. In a matter of minutes, my life changed drastically. The person I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, who told me countless times we would get married, have a family, and live happily ever after, was gone. The relationship I had committed more than a decade to, more than a third of my life to, that started when I was still a teenager, was over. Just like that. The future I thought for so long that I was going to have disappeared in an instant. I felt like my life was over, that I was over. I was completely and utterly shattered.
The next few days and weeks were some of the most difficult I’ve ever experienced. I turned into a zombie and barely moved from the couch I had planted myself on. It was almost as if I lost the ability and will to function. I felt like I had to remind myself to breathe because my brain was so busy processing what had just happened that it wasn’t able to perform even the most basic of its inherent tasks. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t focus on anything at work. I was a complete, disastrous mess. It seemed like the only thing I knew how to do anymore was cry. I cried myself to sleep at night. I cried while taking Christmas decorations down. I cried in the bathtub. I cried in my car. I cried in my office. I cried when someone simply looked at me. I sobbed when someone asked how I was doing. I cried for no reason at all, except that I was just so sad. I’ve never cried so much in my life. I was no longer me, wasn’t even a person anymore. I was just this blob of sadness with no sense of direction or purpose whatsoever. If ever there was something that could make a person feel absolutely worthless, it’s hearing from someone they truly love that they are just that – worthless. I bought into it. I believed him when he told me I had no value. I’ll admit there were a few times when I thought perhaps it would be better if I simply wasn’t here anymore. That it would be better if it was all just over, completely and with finality. Thankfully those moments were fleeting and I didn’t give them any real consideration, but they did cross my mind more than once. I was in a depression. It was dark and very deep, and I had no idea how to come out of it. This was a sadness like I had never experienced before and I was consumed by it. I was lost.
That’s when my family and a few wonderful friends stepped in. They saw that I was broken and rallied around me to start the process of putting me back together. It was as though my mom, sister, dad, and step-mom formed this protective circle around me, shielding me from the possibility of any more pain while gradually bringing me back to the world in tiny baby steps. My mom did anything she could think of to try and take the pain away, from bringing me funny greeting cards to censoring the TV shows we watched together to avoid anything that might make me well up with tears yet again. Before I gathered enough strength to go back to work, my dad took time out of his own hectic work schedule to pick me up at home and take me on walks around the neighborhood, just to get me out of the house and to get some fresh air into my lungs. After I returned to my job, he took me to lunch every single day for two weeks so I wouldn’t have to be at home alone during my lunch hour. My step-mom gave me an unconditional, completely non-judgmental ear to listen any time I needed to talk. My sister was my rock. She did for me anything I needed that I just wasn’t able to do for myself. She made me eat when I couldn’t even fathom putting food in my mouth again. She made me get out of the house when I couldn’t even consider getting off the couch. When I had no strength, no will to do anything, she gave me hers for as long as I needed it. My family did all of this for me while they themselves were hurting, too. My ex had become a part of our family. He was like a son to my parents, a brother to my sister. They loved him, too, and he was as much a part of their lives as he was of mine. They were dealt a striking loss just like I was, but they chose to put their own feelings aside while they tended to mine, helping me to get back on my feet.
One of my coworkers – I’ll call her “B” for anonymity’s sake – was my saving grace when I returned to my job after taking a few days off. B is also a very good friend and I’ve known her for many years. She’s like family to me and I’m not exaggerating when I say I wouldn’t have been able to get through those long hours in the work days without her, sitting alone in my office staring blankly at my computer monitor, unable to concentrate or focus, consumed in sadness. B checked on me several times every day, always starting and ending our conversations with much needed hugs. She gave me sage, unbiased advice that my family couldn’t give because she was more removed from the situation, wasn’t attached to my ex like my family was. She helped me make sense of things I couldn’t reason out on my own. She gently pushed and guided me toward accepting the situation for what it was and helped me get started in moving on, to grieve the loss while looking forward to new possibilities. I valued her advice and wisdom greatly, and still do, and I’m not sure I would have come through all of this without it. I will never, ever be able to tell my family and B how much they helped me, how much they healed me, and how grateful I am for them, because there are no words big enough in any language to properly express it. All I can say is that I absolutely would not have made it through without them.
Others helped to pull me through, as well. It was a group effort, for sure. A friend who lives too far away in Oklahoma checked on me frequently, listened when I needed to get something off my chest, and she sent me messages that never failed to pick my spirits up just when I needed it. I reconnected with old friends – friendships I had let go of largely because of my relationship with my ex and I thought were gone forever. I got back in touch with one of my best friends from high school, “L,” and my cohort and very good friend from my days working at my college newspaper, “E.” They welcomed me back with open arms and I can’t even describe how good it was for my soul to have them back in my life again.
Eventually, and thankfully, the sadness waned and morphed as I made my way through the grieving process. Anger replaced the tears and with anger came more clarity. I was angry that he had left without giving me a real explanation, a real reason. Although looking back on it now, I don’t know that any explanation he might have given would have made any sense. There usually isn't a good explanation for treating someone you supposedly loved like a piece of garbage. I was angry I had wasted so much of my life on him, on our relationship, and I wanted those years back. I was angry that he took his family, who I had come to love like my own, away from me, especially his mom and grandparents. I was furious that he treated my own family with such disregard, like they meant nothing at all to him, after everything they had done for him over the years. I was angry he had made me feel like I was nothing. I was even more angry at myself for letting him make me feel that way.
As I worked through the process of putting my life back together, the anger subsided, too, and I feel like I’ve become more introspective and more able to accept what happened, if not the why. I’ve realized the reasons don’t matter. It happened, and what matters now is where I go from here. I’ve done more soul searching in the last few months than I have in my entire life and I feel like it’s been good, for the most part. Part of it was recognizing and owning the mistakes I made and negative aspects I brought to the relationship that contributed to its ending. I’m not perfect – far from it, in fact – and I never will be. It’s not easy to recognize and examine your own shortcomings, but I think it’s an important part of the process. It’s too late to go back and change anything, so I just have to hope I’ve learned from the experience and I won’t make the same mistakes or bad choices in the future. Sometimes life just drops a big pile of shit in your lap. It’s not the shit that’s important. Yes, it’s hard to come to terms with a big, steaming pile of crap that’s just been dropped on you. But after you do, you have to decide if you’re going to just sit there and wallow in it, or stand up, clean yourself off, and keep going. I’m done wallowing.
That’s not to say I don’t still have difficult days now and then, because I do. Every once in a while, a day will sneak up on me when I just feel downright sad or angry. They have become much fewer and farther between, but they still come and knock the wind out of me for a while. It’s usually triggered by something – a song, a memory, a specific date, or simply a random occurrence that brings back waves, sometimes floods of thoughts and feelings. What’s curious to me, though, is those days are no longer about him. I’ve come to realize I don’t miss him anymore. I miss his family. I desperately miss the two cats we shared literally from the day they were born, but who live with him. I can’t let myself think about them or wonder if they are being taken care of because that’s one thing that will send me quickly on a downward spiral. But I don’t miss him. All that soul searching led me to the realization that I was not happy in our relationship. But I stayed, somewhat out of being comfortable and afraid of change, but mostly out of loyalty. I’m fiercely loyal, to a fault and often to my own detriment. When I make a commitment to something, to someone, I keep it. Period. I’m still deciding if that’s a good trait or a misguided way to wander through life. The sad days now are more about the life I thought I was going to have just disappearing into thin air. More related to the questions I have now about how my life will turn out. Will I ever be able to love anyone again? Will I find the person I’m supposed to marry and spend the rest of my life with? Does that person even exist? Maybe the whole married with children thing isn’t in the cards for me. I have no idea, but I’m becoming more resigned to just letting life happen and letting fate do its thing. As the very wise Kermit the Frog once said, “Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it.” (Don’t judge – the Muppets are full of nuggets of wisdom.) I truly believe everything happens for a reason and what’s supposed to happen will happen. But that still doesn’t always quiet the questions rattling around in my brain.
I guess the bottom line is that I’m better. As hard as it was, I’ve come out of a really terrible situation and I feel like I’m better for it. I feel like I’m better off because of it. I’m doing things now I never would have done while still in that relationship – writing this blog, for instance. I’m getting better at accepting myself for who I am right now, in this moment, warts and all. I feel like I’ve come a long way in the past several months, and happiness has started to come back to me. I’ve started to come back to myself. Where life takes me now, I have no clue. As much as I would like to be able to plan out the rest of my life down to the very last second, I realize it might not be up to me as much as I thought it was. I was nervous about writing this blog, about putting these thoughts and feelings on paper and even more nervous about posting it for all the world to see, or even just the handful of people who actually read my ramblings. But I had to get it out. The door has been steadily closing on that chapter of my life and maybe getting this out will give it the final nudge it needs for the latch to click. Maybe someone in a similar situation will stumble across this blog at a time in their lives just when they need a little bit of hope. Maybe I’ll come back in a few months or a couple years, read this blog again, and realize just how far I’ve come from being a broken-hearted wreck. The good thing about broken hearts is that they heal. I know there’s always going to be a scar there. For better or worse, this experience has played a role, and still is playing a role, in the person I am now and the person I’ll become. But I’m at least hopeful now that when my heart is done healing, it will be stronger than ever and ready for whatever life decides to bring.