John Brier writes about his first breakup—crying, rejection, innocence and inner worth—and an exercise in vulnerability.
Anna’s mail has been accumulating in my mailbox since we broke up. It was funny how the timing happened with her mail coming here instead of her old apartment. I moved to my own apartment for the first time in January. She pretty much lived with me from the beginning, but the lease for her old apartment didn’t run out until August. By chance, we broke up around the same time, but not before she told the post office to forward her mail here.
After she first moved out I was taking her mail into the apartment and putting it aside. I told her about this and she told me to just leave it in the mailbox, which I did for new mail. However in addition to the mail that I already brought inside I had some other things like clothes which she forgot that I wanted her to have. So we arranged for her to come by and pick them up.
This was a few weeks ago and still, just thinking about it, it makes me teary eyed and choked up.
I remember when she came in she had to say hello to Mr. Wyatt, my dog. He tried to jump on her and she ignored him so that he would sit down as I trained him to do. I showed her the mail. She got it and I remember not remembering what else I had for her. I told her, asked her really, “weren’t there some more things?” And she reminded me about what I had messaged to her: the clothes. So I got them and handed them to her.
Here, at the doorway I remember her inquisitive look at me, like she wanted to see if I would say anything more, something relevant to what was actually happening, our first meeting since we broke up. But I couldn’t, because my grief was coming on, just like it is now as I write this. So I looked away and she said something like “Okay well I’ll see you later,” and closed the door behind herself. At the time my grief was so strong I couldn’t even respond. I locked the door like she had always asked me to when we lived together and I cried. Just like I’m crying now.
I remembered this event and started writing about it because of what just happened. It was another accumulation of mail. As requested I had been leaving her mail in the mailbox and just letting her know as it arrived. This way it’s more convenient for both of us, I suppose. After she picked up the first batch of mail two letters related to her new health insurance arrived. She was transitioning to a better job through our break up, so this insurance was from her new employer.
I told her about this mail and figured she would come pick it up soon since it was important. She didn’t, and other important and not so important mail came. I think I messaged her three or four times over two weeks, including the last time, which was last night when what looked like a book from Amazon.com arrived. I told her it was getting tight in the mailbox. She apologized and said she had been working late and that she would get it soon.
While laying on the couch that night, I would occasionally look out the window at passing cars to see if one of them was her. I never noticed her. The next morning I was thinking about whether she had gotten the mail. I remembered that my Mom had called recently to tell me she had mailed two books. One was supposed to be about writing. I thought my Mom’s package wouldn’t fit with Anna’s book still there. I had to bring Anna’s mail in. This morning while walking Mr. Wyatt I went out and opened the mailbox and saw that it was empty.
I was sad. I really wanted an excuse to see her again. I am struggling with the intellectual knowing that seeing her will only give me more confusing things to think about. I really need to feel and let go of the emotions I have from her loss, not add new experiences with her that I will have to feel and let go of, or that will complicate the ones I haven’t yet felt, and let go of.
Since Anna was my first long-term-relationship I had no experience with break ups. I used to hear about how some people will remove everything related to their ex from their life, tearing them out of photographs, burning things, stuff like that. I used to judge that as immature or childish. I don’t think so anymore. I think you should do whatever feels right at the time, but more importantly, do it with a questioning awareness, because for me, and I am certain for others, the things we think are good for us, or the things we want to do, are not always what are best.
For me, and this is something my therapist helped me see, when I want to see Anna, it’s because I want her to tell me I’m okay, to tell me I’m innocent. I know I could have been good enough for her, but in her rejecting me by leaving me, she has given me incredible doubt about my worth. Here again, I am crying, but damn if it doesn’t feel good.
I know my worth comes from inside, never outside. It’s my job to remember that and remind myself of that, especially now, because there are so many strong emotions. It’s difficult not to let them take control. With awareness, I’ll be able to take care of each and every one, and for the ones I don’t, they won’t spin me out of control, because they will happen in a mostly stable environment. Instead, they will teach me to be more aware, so the next time something like them arises, I will be aware of them too.
photo: puyol5 / flickr