That stupid thing I did yesterday afternoon

So yesterday afternoon,  I did a stupid thing. Something I can’t believe I’m about to blog about. Whatever. I’m doing it for the sake of literature.

Who I am I kidding? I need for somebody to laugh with me. It was pathetic. A low point. I have a feeling that, despite my initial enthusiasm about my new apartment, I will find myself having many pathetic moments that will serve as good blogging material. When I say good blogging material, of course I mean self-obsessed ramblings that no one actually cares about. Nevertheless, I pretend everyone is  wildly entertained by the way I combine words. I suppose that’s a pretty good working definition for a writer: one who deludes herself into believing people find her word combinations intriguing.

Maybe I’ll return to that.

Anyway. I was home alone for the day with nothing to do. I had just returned from my parents’ house to see the new kittens and was feeling sorry for myself since even the damn cat had friends to hang out with. I only let that last a few minutes before I made plans for the night. But I still had plenty of time to be alone before I was going to meet up with my friend. So naturally, the only thing I could do was turn on Netflix and make a profile on POF – formerly known as Plenty of Fish.

Before you react, I’ll tell you that you’re probably right in whatever you’re assuming. Yes. I was lonely. Yes, I was feeling ugly. Yes, I was feeling self-indulgent. And yes, I was at such a pathetic point that I actually thought I would be comforted by strangers telling me I was pretty.

It worked for a while. Within two hours of making a profile, I had over 50 messages sent to me. Most of them were messages from men who I am not remotely interested in  (re: Men whose picture is taken with a camera phone in front of a mirror, men over the age of 13 who find it acceptable to use “u” in place of the actual pronoun, suspiciously old-looking 29 year olds, men who list beer pong as a hobby) that were just “wut up. u r pretty. wanna hang”.

I kept getting emails saying that men wanted to meet me. And then I had these bubbles pop up on the side of the screen, telling me that men wanted to chat with me. I didn’t really know what was going on and I ended up chatting with a guy for a while. He seemed like a perfectly nice young man. We got to talking about relationships and what we were looking for. As the conversation went on and each of his messages reminded me of his apparent animosity for punctuation, I realized I didn’t want to be doing this. I didn’t want to be chatting with some guy who couldn’t bother to separate his sentences coherently. Furthermore, I didn’t want to be comforting myself in such a disgusting and cheap way.

So I did the mature thing. I ended the conversation with niceties (“It was nice chatting with you. I’m sure we’ll talk again soon”) and deleted my account. That’s the nice thing about online anonymity – you can do things like completely blow off a guy you’ve been talking to for an hour without having to see what an asshole you look like.

I’m going to call this my own version of the rebound: shamelessly and selfishly taking advantage of someone’s affections to make myself feel better momentarily. For a few hours, I was able to quantify my allure. See? I am still pretty and at least 50 men wanted to meet me and/or rape and kill me.  But when I finally peeled myself away from the screen, I realized I was still alone in my apartment, wishing I was talking to one person and one person only. And until I get to a point that I’m just lonely in my apartment, I don’t have any business flirting with someone else. It’s reckless and selfish. No one wants to feel like he’s in a relationship with someone who feels she needs to be in a relationship. She should want to be in that relationship, not just any relationship.

And yes, it would be much less painful and probably a lot more fun to heal if I had somebody to hang out with constantly, somebody who I knew I could call whenever I wanted and have him come over and shower me with affection. But I also know that I’m not going to find the deep and meaningful connection I’m longing for in something right now, because at this point, I can only offer superficiality. I can’t share myself or my complex emotions with another person because I’m hesitant to deal with the responsibility of another person’s emotions since I’m still dealing with so much of my own pain. Momentary distractions might serve as a cheap salve, but they won’t actually help my healing process. It’s a bandaid over a bullet hole.

So in the meantime, I’m going to just keep drinking tea, watching Netflix, and singing along to Regina Spektor because she’s the only one who can truly express what I’m feeling right now.

Now that I’ve effectively scared off any future beaus, I’m going to go to take some nyquil and go to bed.

And then I reread Sloane Crosley…

If you have to ask someone to change, to tell you they love you, to bring wine to dinner, to call you when they land, you can’t afford to be with them. It’s not worth the price, even though, just like the Tiffany catalog, no one tells you what that price is. You set it yourself, and if you’re lucky it’s reasonable. You have a sense of when you’re about to go bankrupt. Your own sense of self-worth takes the wheel and says, “Enough of this shit. Stop making excuses. No one’s that busy at work. No one’s allergic to whipped cream. There are too cellphones in Sweden.” But most people don’t get that lucky. They get human. They get crushes. This means you irrationally mortgage what little logic you own to pay for this one thing. This relationship is an impulse buy, and you’ll figure out if it’s worth it later.

So, assuming you’ve gone ahead and purposefully ignored the first adage because it doesn’t apply to you and you are in love the way no one in the history of spooning has ever been in love: now what? You’ve gotten what you want, but the state of mutual ownership has shifted. Like that piece of jewelry that you’re never quite comfortable wearing, you become concerned with its whereabouts, who borrows it and for how long. You wonder if you’ll lose it, if it might look better wrapped around someone else’s neck. Admit it: wouldn’t it be less stressful not having it touch your body at all?

The first time I read  Sloane Crosley’s essay “Off the Back of a Truck” I was at the university gym almost two years ago. I was on the elliptical and I had to stop several times to make notes in my Kindle. The way she talked about relationships in such a frank way was refreshing. At the time I was with Bill and didn’t think I would ever need to seek salve for the pains of a breakup. But it resonated so fully that I wanted to stop other girls on the treadmills and bikes nearby and read paragraphs to them.

When Bill and I broke up, this book was the first book I bought, only hours after the initial exchange. I couldn’t remember the passages. I couldn’t remember the name of the title. I just knew that I wanted the paper copy of the book. I needed the tangible thing to hang on to and to underline those paragraphs that had literally given me pause. I also wanted to be able to point to something and say, “This got me through it! This got me through that first day and helped me make sense of everything in one fell swoop.”

Of course, the book didn’t really get me through it. What it did was remind me a couple things. First, that I needed to figure out how much this was costing me. Was it going to hurt me more than give me satisfaction? Did I have to sacrifice my self-respect, goals, hopes, interests, or even passing amusement in order to make this relationship work? What, exactly, was the cost? It was a rhetorical question, one I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to answer in a quantifiable sense, but I knew that for then, at least, I couldn’t afford it. The second was that I would eventually be okay. Eventually. Eventually I would be able to walk past his old house and think, “That’s where Bill used to live” the same way I might make note of a post office or grocery store. Eventually I would just look back on it as a part of my life.

That was what most struck me that afternoon on the elliptical – I knew what she meant. I had passed landmarks with ex-boyfriends and just seen them as cold facts. That was where we went on our first date. That was where he first saw me cry. We rented movies from that Blockbuster. We walked together along that trail. I recognized how those same facts that had once torn me apart now read like an uninteresting pamphlet.

I had the first promise of that the other day. I was getting ready for a wedding on Saturday night, and I digging through my desk drawer when I came across a picture from our sixth month anniversary. It was of us kissing – one of those barf-worthy things that I hate seeing on Facebook. But it was a picture I had once had framed and sat on the table next to my bed. Instead of crying and wiping my tears on my dress, I set the picture aside. “Oh,” I thought. “There’s that picture. I was wondering where it had gone.” And then I continued getting ready.

Later at the wedding, I was by the bar by myself for a few moments and I thought about how remarkable of a step that was for me. It was the first time I had come across something of us – something significantly tied to fond memories with him – that didn’t physically hurt me. It gave me hope that I was moving forward and that things would be okay. So when my friend returned from the bathroom and asked if I wanted to dance, it only seemed natural for me to accept his invitation and to enjoy myself, even if I was dancing to disco.

There is one thing you know for sure, one fact that never fails to comfort you: the worst day of your life wasn’t in there, in that mess. And it will do you good to remember the best day of your life wasn’t in there, either. But another person brought you closer to those borders than you had been, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Knowing what you can afford is useful information, even if you don’t want it.

You can find the above selections and more gems in Sloane Crosley’s book How Did you Get this Number. It would be a great book to read on the beach.

Ten Tips for Surviving the First Two Weeks, Ashley-style

As far as I can tell the worst part of this whole thing has been the unpredictable nature of my mood. I will go entire days feeling invincible only to have a line from a song I’ve been listening to all day long send me into a fifteen minute sob session. Then, just as quickly, I go back to feeling fine. I have to wonder if this is what it feels like to be bipolar. It certainly feels like some form of insanity, especially during the low moments. Regardless, I’m still fervently believing that each day gets a bit easier. I’m still holding onto the idea that there is a linear progress to this mess. How straight that line is, I can’t really say. But I’ve been trying to think of ways to quantify my progress, which is ridiculous since I’m operating at an 80-20 ratio of emotion to logic. Emotions cannot be quantified, but it sure as hell makes me feel better if I can pretend otherwise. I thought about tracking how many times I cry, how many times I think about him, how many times I feel the bottom of my stomach fall out, how many times I feel like hurling because I’m so sad. All of these things sound completely psychotic, thus my insanity diagnosis. Then I thought about the progress: How often I see friends, how often I do things that make me happy, how many times I’m able to pull a mental u-turn, or how many times I’m able to cancel the pity party. Again, this is impossible since I’m far too close to the situation to assess it objectively.

Tossing all of this aside, I’ve compiled my own list for how to survive the first two weeks after a breakup Ashley-style.

  1. After making the decision, listen to Taylor Swift songs for approximately two days. Do this in the shower when nobody else is home and you have the opportunity to interrupt Last Kiss with terrifying sounds you’ve never previously heard come from yourself.
  2. Since you will have virtually no appetite, nutrition will be a nuisance. You’ll feel the affects of hunger – the dizziness, empty bile-bubbling feelings, the headaches, and general feeling of lethargy – but you will have no desire to eat anything. This includes your beloved carbs, gooey caramel and chocolate bars, ice cream sundaes, as well as the salads you’ve been eating in an attempt to lose a few pounds. I recommend drinking a lot of fruit protein smoothies by Naked and Bolthouse Farms. Since you don’t even have to chew, these are ideal for the days when you’d rather be in bed than sitting in a cubicle.
  3. Listen to Somebody that I Used to Know at least 300 times in a period of 72 hours. Claim to enjoy the entire album after two or three obligatory listens, then plug in your headphones, abandon any sense of self-respect, and put the song on repeat. Hey, at least nobody has to know about this. At least until you advertise it on your blog like a real genius.
  4. Sing karaoke. Don’t feel like you have to go by yourself. Agree to sing My Heart Will Go On with two girlfriends, and Dancing Queen as a duet. This may require you drink four 7&7s. Apparently you will also close the night with Losing My Religion, have only a vague memory of that and laugh about it when you pick up your car the next day. Promise yourself and friends that you will sing Rich Girl next week by yourself.
  5. When things are just too much to think about, turn to Grey’s Anatomy. You’re in luck since Netflix has the first seven seasons. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you can watch McDreamy and McSteamy do their surgical thing, wonder how Cristina’s hair has so much volume, and decide Meredith looks best with bangs. Be sure to wear sweats and cuddle up in fuzzy blankets. Forget that one of the blankets is one that his mother gave you for Christmas two years ago.
  6. Go to bars with friends on and be reminded of the fact that the only  men who approach you are 40-somethings in pleated pants. Decide that men your own age are children who sometimes wear men’s clothing. After reminding yourself that you are single and the “I have a boyfriend” line is no longer valid, adopt your own dating mission statement that eliminates the possibility of you wasting time with boys who are afraid to ask you to dinner: “If you don’t know how to pursue me, I’m not interested in you.”
  7. Expand your breakup music collection to include Fiona Apple, Lykke Li, Ingrid Michaelson, Lily Allen, Kate Nash, the entire new Norah Jones album, and one Cake song. Do not include Adele  since her music requires you to be drinking from a bottle of red wine while weeping. Seriously, it’s obnoxious and you will not let yourself sink to that level.
  8. Make it official by throwing away his clothes and dying your hair one night. That same night, decide to be a fearless bombshell and go to a party on your own and rock that red lipstick look you’ve always wanted. Enjoy yourself. See friends you haven’t in a while. Realize the elation that comes when you’re not tethered. Do your best to savor that feeling. You’ll need it when you’re feeling lonely.
  9. Buy a new journal. Your old one chronicles the entire relationship, but it’s far to painful to actually put pen to paper and describe how it all came to an end. So get a new journal, or at least tell yourself to, one that will allow you to write about your new life as a single twenty-something.
  10. Go to your cousin’s wedding. Realize that family members will want to ask questions or offer words of support. Tell them through watery eyes that you don’t want to talk about it. Run into the bathroom when Norah Jones’s Come Away with Me is played. Allow yourself only to let a few tears fall. Return to the dance floor only to cry when a Bee Gees song is played. Tell your dad you want to go home. Realize the next day that it’s kind of hilarious that disco makes you cry.

I can’t guarantee recovery if you follow these steps, but I do know that for all intents and purposes, this will ensure your survival. You will not crumble and waste away and you will live to see another day.

Navigation

I hate how much more difficult navigation is after a breakup. Certain places, movies, tv shows, musicians, entire musics now feel off-limits. Because they’re sacred. Because the two of you shared them together. It seems blasphemous to do these things or go to those places on your own.

I restored the ipod Bill had lent me when mine was stolen. I kept his music on it for the longest time, expecting to eventually buy my own and return his with all of his music on it. We said our goodbyes last night. He told me to keep the ipod if it was still working. So I did. I restored it and started adding my music to it. One of my all-time favorite albums is Deja Entendu. We listened to it on one of our first dates. He cleaned his room for me and told me that I would never again see his room as clean as it was that day. I thought he was joking. But he wasn’t. That album reminded me of high school, so to have a guy play that in college made me immediately nostalgic and like a sponge to soak up new memories. Soak them up, I did. I think that was the first time we really kissed. The first exciting kiss that leaves you hungry for more than a brush of the lips.

Anyway, I’m not ready to put that on my ipod.

Most of our relationship took place in Oshkosh. It’s probably for the best that I don’t live in that city anymore. I don’t feel ready to go to my favorite bar because I remember the time we sat by the bar while jazz played, and he folded up a dollar bill and somehow managed to squeeze it in my locket. He told me to save it for emergency money. It came out of my locket last night and I had what can only described as an anxious breakdown over a very crispy dollar bill.

Aside from the tangible things, of course my mind has become a minefield. I’ll start thinking about something and one thought leads to another until I get to the slightest thing that reminds me of him and then I start crying. I did that a few times at the mall last night. I started out fearless. Andrea and I went with me to do some retail therapy. I saw a pad of paper. One of those tongue-in-cheek list things. We used to send them to each other. I have the pads, and I would mark off lists like “Things You Need to do to Make me Happy” or “Why I Need to Have Sex with You” or “Things You Need to do to Make the World Happy”. And I would spritz it with my perfume and send it to him. He’d do the same, only spraying it with his cologne, the one we picked out together. I saw it in a little boutique and I started crying. It was pathetic.

It’s just surreal how dangerous daily life feels. The slightest thing becomes incendiary. I feel like I need to shut off my mind, because so much of it is filled with him. Nearly every part of my day has the potential to be terrifying, simply because my mind is so vulnerable and as a consequence, over-actively making connections as a desperate attempt to hang onto something I never thought I would lose.

No, this is not the end of my life. Yes, this is the end of a very happy chapter, and moving on is going to be one of the most painful things I ever do.