The road back from a difficult breakup can tell us everything about ourselves—and the trail ahead.
There is a specific moment when you realize that you don’t have the emotional effort and stamina to push, force, restore, and revive your past love. It’s the whole process of ‘letting go’ that you have been ignoring. Who’s to blame you? With enough persistence and effort, it looks like things may work out! Then one day something happens and you feel different. The pain of not knowing where you stand stops gnawing at you. Not because it’s gone, though.
When the moment of exasperation arrives, it is suddenly freeing and confusing. Although you still see the hole in your chest, you no longer are upset when you see it. It can ooze with the juices of the past or it can fill with hopes for a good future. In either case, The Hole is acknowledged and doesn’t hurt anymore. That space in your chest has been slapped, stabbed, cut, punched, poked, picked, and flicked to the point of numbness.
It doesn’t hurt when you talk to your ex anymore (if you decide to do so at all.) Not because the hole in your life isn’t still there, you just simply can’t feel the stinging agitation of it anymore.
You realize that you’re not ignoring the hurt and loss like you have in the past either. It’s an entirely different sensation than hiding your past behind lock and key.
You accept what has happened as reality, and there is no changing it. You realize you have to align your sights on the present and the future, and on your reaction to what’s happening right now and where you want to be.
The lack of pain hasn’t been created from the nights of endless gin on the rocks, cases of Miller High Life, or drinking whiskey and smoking too many cigarettes. It’s the weariness and acceptance that you have in your heart and in your mind now. This isn’t going to work out at all if I keep doing things the same way that I have been. Something needs to change. This epiphany is much more sobering than those cocktails.
I realized this because two years ago I was engaged to the woman of my dreams, but I hadn’t been prepared for what engagement meant and the hurdling commitments that needed to be made every day and heretofore. Meeting the woman who would sleep in the back of a truck with me on a freezing cold November night is a fairy tale I made up in my head at a very young age. After meeting her I realized that this was only one of many moments in our relationship that would punctuate how much I loved this woman.
I spent the next three years with her nearly every day and every free moment that I had, slowly becoming more and more self-deprecating and losing every ounce of confidence I had. This probably only amounted to two ounces at the time, and a quickly depleting source at that. I became scared that she would leave me for another more impressive man with more money, a man with a better story than the one that I had created over my lifetime, prior to meeting her. I found my backstory is mostly depressing and not nearly as exciting as I thought hers was. When I would express myself I felt like I was burdening her. I thought that she would tire of my untreated depression and find the man with the soul made of iron. I did what any pragmatic man would do.
I left her first.
After leaving—I’ve made a mistake
When I left her in California in the fall of 2014 I found myself coming to an immediate conclusion, “I have made a huge mistake.” Shortly after landing in New York I delved deeper into my drinking problems and the phone calls made to her became a nightly drunken affair. Becoming more frequent after two months of being back. I tried to stand my ground and say that I had made the right choice, but I knew that I had willing flew away from the most important woman in my life.
In the shabby apartment that I ended up in, I quickly became manically depressed and anxiety riddled. The job I landed proved to be a mistake too.
My anxiety took its toll and I had locked myself in my apartment only making trips to the local grocery store to purchase the cheapest alcohol I could afford, which quickly became a problem as I refused to show up to work and continued to call my ex. Once I was fired I realized I needed to seek out some help. I started reading self-help blogs compulsively to fix what I had done to the relationship I had dreamt of my entire childhood and adult life.
I got back up on my feet relatively quickly. When I was sitting at my local watering hole I told the bartender that I lost my job and I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. I was offered a job and started working three days later. This was great timing because I had accepted being homeless in the coldest year in Rochester, NY record if I didn’t find work.
When I would get ahold of my ex during my drunken tirades I was able to tell her I was doing something positive with myself. I didn’t know at the time how bad it sounded while I slurred my words and was professing my love and my mistakes to her while I was going through my highs and lows of depression. I told her every time that I loved her and that I wanted her back.
We got into a few arguments that I always instigated because I wanted to know who she was dating, what she was doing in her personal life, and how that related to me. Completely losing perspective of the life I was living 3,000 miles away her. I wanted to force myself back into her life. She was dating another man and it drove me up the wall when I found out. I acted out immaturely and got audibly angry which I quickly found out is a surefire way to get the love of your life to start stepping away from you. Inch by inch.
Still madly in love
I didn’t relent, though. I wanted to get in control of my temper. I wanted to work on being a better person for her, for me, for us. I was reading about how to communicate your feelings effectively, how to be a present partner, and all the ways that I could improve myself while I had that time alone. I put my head down and started to focus again. I wanted her back. I didn’t know if she had the same end goal as me, but as long as there is a glimmer of hope I knew that I had to try.
The output of energy to restore and heal your love life is finite if you don’t see and feel any return on your work. The reward of mutual effort, however ugly it can be, can keep you going. If you don’t see someone else running up beside you to pull and tug the baggage of your mutual past, your muscles give up and your hope drains alongside you.
There came a few points when I said to myself, “Screw this. I can’t deal with this anymore.” Usually after weeks or a month of unanswered phone calls. Then I would get one phone call and I would hear the tone of her voice, the one that implies hope in the future. That’s exactly when I realized I had more energy to put into restoration work. To push for my life and for the relationship that I wanted to rebuild.
Right then I would put on the working gloves with my newfound energy and get back into the foundations and fix the cracks and leaks as best as I could. I knew that I was dealing with my soulmate, the woman who knew my thoughts by the way I looked at someone. Sensing my uneasiness without me saying a word. She was my other half and any affirmation I got from her created a cacophony of energy and motivation to be a better version of myself.
Firstly, I needed to get myself moving and focusing on the future, which I had largely avoided my whole life. Partly out of fear of commitment and partly out of always looking from the back window of a vehicle in forward motion. Secondly, I needed to get a hold of my emotional instabilities and insecurities so that I didn’t burn the structure of our possible future from both ends. Creating an insecure environment for a relationship to grow and succeed. Lastly, I needed to somehow create a little financial security in case anything went wrong. I have always been bad with finances and continue to struggle with it. These are all things I believe I could do, for her and for myself.
All the energy I could muster
Phone calls would go unanswered again, I would get scared, then I would hit the end of my energy banks again and say the same phrase, “Fuck this. I’m done. I don’t have it in me anymore” Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It became A cycle that I couldn’t stop until I had absolutely no energy left. It happened time and time again. I wanted all or nothing. I wanted so badly to be in control and to know what our outcome was, romantically speaking. I didn’t have the patience to work things out slowly. Energy comes from forcing things to happen, and I had finally become expelled but I was still madly in love.
Using the pushing, prying, forceful approach, I had created an unseen implosion. When it happened I realized that I don’t have any more last-ditch efforts in me to restore a relationship that crumbles in my hands. I saw how much my efforts were crushing someone I love. I watched her crumble under the pressure of my hard work, like an anvil being dropped on a house made of paper.
This is the woman I love and I was being inconsiderate with her emotions. I loved her and I realized that one should never force such a gentle and delicate emotion.
I think it was important for me to keep trying up until that point, to know the difference between forcing a relationship and creating a loving one. I wanted to prove that I had the effort to try, however late I may have been, I wanted to show that I could work on love. That I wasn’t going to give up on restoring our connection no matter what happened in between. When that time finally arrived it came as a cool blanket of understanding over my shoulders. I am going to love this woman no matter what happens.
I wasn’t upset that she wouldn’t take me in her arms, although I miss her terribly. I didn’t dwell that she was 3,000 miles, even though I want to hold her every night. I’m not worried that my life isn’t actually turning out anything like I planned it. I was finally okay with what was/is happening. The outcomes will never be as expected.
I think that putting all of my effort into one place was a beautiful, and an entirely important, learning experience. After a lot of hurt I caused on myself and other people, I was then able to realize what is important inside of myself.
The proper placement of happiness
With newfound perspective and understanding on the past you may find that this was all just a lesson you needed to learn. That heartbreak is just a point in time that you needed to experience to find what is truly important. If you rely all of your personal happiness on someone else, you will soon realize that you won’t have lasting happiness. They won’t always be happy with you, and if you don’t have that personal acceptance and happiness within yourself, you’ll find a way to hate yourself. You won’t have any groundwork to maintain a healthy relationship. Two people will be working against you when one person gets upset.
The most important of all of these lessons is recognizing that it takes work to be a better person. It takes work to realize your self-worth. It sometimes takes years to see that there is more opportunity ahead of you than what lies behind you. What’s behind you now is the knowledge and experience you need to move forward. It’s healthy to revel at Rock Bottom Lounge, to be a regular tenant at Hopelessness Hotel, and to talk to the shadows underneath the Bridge of Self-Doubt.
It’s healthy to revel at Rock Bottom Lounge, to be a regular tenant at Hopelessness Hotel, and to talk to the shadows underneath the Bridge of Self-Doubt.
Just don’t forget that all of these places are only trying to teach you, to guide you away from them, and to show you that there is more outside of their barriers than in the safety of their walls.