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December 26, 2013.
Today marks one year since my break-up.
One year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days of the utter bullshit that is a break-up.
It’s past two in the morning, and I’ve just cried into a glass (read: bottle) of pinot grigio and a packet of cigarettes for the past hour.
Don’t get me wrong, I just enjoyed one of the best Christmases with my amazing family and friends, eating, drinking, and generally being merry in one the greatest hometowns that ever was.
But yet... here I sit, red-rimmed and glassy eyed.
This is not the ramblings of a broken, mid-twenties female bitterly dwelling on a failed relationship. Oh, no; this is the story of an epiphany.
We’ve all heard of people having these moments. The moment you catch a reflection of yourself in a shop window wearing track pants and your ex-boyfriends t-shirt (just because it smells like him), hair in a bun with three months of re-growth and yesterday's mascara...
This is not one of those. Tonight, I overheard a friend of mine describe me to another as “broken.”
Everyone has a descriptor, you know? “Oh, come on, you know, Amber with the big rack,” or “you know, super-slut Sally?!” Mine, apparently, is broken.
To be completely honest, I’m not sure what was worse: being referred to as broken, or the look on the friend's face as she nodded in sympathy, knowing exactly to whom she was referring.
But that was it for me. And so, I decided to journal my “road to unbrokenness.”
God, where the fuck to begin?
We started dating in high school. I was 15, he 16. I was trying to hook him up with my best friend and he, unbeknownst to me, only had eyes for me. Weeks of texting and subtle flirting went by, and he finally had the balls to make a move.
The long and the short of it is that we dated for six years.
I moved my life away from family and friends and set up camp 1,200 kms away. And I was happy.
We were all a young couple should be. We laughed, we fought, we watched DVDs on the couch, we walked on an afternoon, we had sex, we dined out, and drank too much. And yet, I never saw the signs.
To this day, I wonder, and I guess I always will, whether they were there and I turned a blind eye... or if I imagined and conjured the relationship that I so desperately wanted.
I flew home to spend Christmas with my family. He had to work, so I ventured solo. He kissed me as I left for the airport. And still, I had no idea. Not a clue that the relationship that I had enjoyed, and poured myself into, and consumed me, was about to fall apart beneath my feet.
The day I left, I had lunch with two colleagues from work, both in serious relationships. We were discussing where we thought 2013 would take us. “It’s my year,” I said to them.
“I’ve put in the time, and now it’s my turn.” I laugh now, but that is where I thought I was headed.
“Will he propose?”
We’d spoken about getting married: the type of ring I wanted, the dress, the guest list, whether or not to elope, even getting married on every continent in the world, just to say we had.
I returned home for the first time in many months, bragging to my friends and family about how happy and fulfilled I was. Everything was falling into place; I had finished Uni, gotten a job, successfully moved cities, and had the most amazing man to share my life with.
He called on the morning of Boxing Day, and my gut told me there was something wrong.
Christmas Eve, we had argued when I questioned him about a girl he had added on Facebook. “Why are you like this?” he yelled, “She’s a girl we met out the other night, a bar tender; you would actually really like her.” I scolded myself for being so overprotective and let the issue go.
I don’t recall the beginning of the conversation, but I do remember the end. I don’t think I will ever forget.
“What if I said I didn’t want to be together anymore?”
Those were the words that brought my world crashing down around me.
Not one ever tells you what true heartbreak feels like. I’ve read that it’s an emptiness; some say your heart literally aches; for some it’s a crippling numbness.
I remember the pit of my stomach feeling as though it was occupied by snakes, and vomit, and sadness all at the same time.
“It’s OK,” I told him, but it wasn’t.
I said that we would talk when I got back. I had a return ticket for five days' time.
I remember telling myself that everything would be OK, that everything would sort itself out when we saw each other and assured myself that he still loved me.
And then he turned his phone off.
Uncontactable for three whole days, I rang and texted and begged him to call or text or at least make contact. I called his mum, I called our roommate, I Facebooked—I did it all. And still, no reply.
I laid in bed and thought of everything I could have, should have, would have done. I didn’t sleep. I made myself sick, I didn’t—no, couldn’t—eat. I’m embarrassed to say I could barely function.
I forfeited my ticket and booked an earlier one to fly home and sort it out.
I remember my nan asking if he had been unhappy, or if there were any signs that he was anything but content. “No, none,” and I was adamant.
I flew home on the 2:00 PM flight and caught a taxi home.
I knocked for 20 minutes.
Still unable to call, I texted our roommate to let me into the unit.
I heard a phone go off in the house and remember thinking to myself how odd it was that there was another phone inside. A work phone, I thought flippantly.
I sat on the step of our unit for 45 minutes. I sat, and waited, and thought about all of the things I wanted and needed to say. I planned the begging and forgiveness in my head. I planned it all.
And then I saw him. I saw him in the communal pool area and my face lit up.
He was still here, he was still within reach and I could still fix things.
I still had a chance.
I smoothed my dress and left my suitcase at the foot of the stairs.
I remember the walk to the pool, I was nervous about remembering everything that I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it, I remember smiling as I reached the top step, seeing him.
And then my world really did fall down around me.
It most certainly was him, and that most certainly was the bartender that I “would really get along with” attached to his lips with her legs wrapped around him. In my pool, at my house, with my boyfriend.
Needless to say, we didn’t really get along.
I remember lots of yelling, lots of swearing, and the feeling of holding down the vomit. I vaguely remember calling her a harlot.
Have you ever been so angry that you see a veil of redness around the peripherals of your vision?
I haven’t since, and never hope to again.
But most of all, I remember the look on his face. Three hundred and sixty-five days later, that face is etched into my brain as though it was paused on a movie. A face and expression I will never forget. It was the face that undid six years of love, six years of caring, six years of him being my world, my partner, my everything.
He told me to leave. ME! Leave! I told him to get fucked.
He asked again and I pushed my way inside to find that her things were in my room strewn everywhere—her clothes, her makeup, her phone. In my room, on my bed, in my bathroom.
Oh, her phone... funnily enough, it was her phone I’d heard. Numerous messages from our roommate warning that danger (i.e. me) was on her way.
I think everyone has a memory from their breakup that hurt the most. Funnily enough, finding them sucking face in the pool wasn’t mine.
The seminal point in my breakup was finding that my lover, my best friend, my partner had deliberately and systemically hidden all of my belongings from around our house—my photos, my shoes, my clothes, my razor... everything. I still can’t to this day understand why it cut me so deep, and perhaps I’ll never understand but it hurt beyond belief.
The next few days were a blur. Him having to work, him wanting to stay elsewhere, me begging him not to, begging for forgiveness, begging him to take me back. Losing the final scraps of self dignity that I had left. I begged and cried and yelled for as long as I could. I slept when he was at work, and talked at him when he was at home.
I called my mum and she came along with my dad to save me from everything that I needed to get away from.
I have never loved my mum and dad more than I did that week. They were my saviours, asking no questions and trying to pull me out of the hole I had been placed in. My mum made me eat, my dad made me sleep and they held together the parts of me that were so desperately pushing to break apart.
The successful, beautiful, confident, and talented young woman that I had worked so hard to become was gone.
I’ve always strived to be someone I would be excited to meet, someone engaging, someone that my mum, my sister, my friends would be proud of. I never thought that I could break into so many pieces in such a short time.
I turned into a zombie, crying at the drop of a hat, wanting so desperately to change my life to fit the ideal perception of his that I lost myself.
I tried for months on end to become the person I thought he wanted me to be.
Then I tried to be the opposite of everything that I was.
When that didn’t work, I just tried to survive.
It sounds melodramatic, but breath by breath, and each day by each day —I got there.
And tonight, I stop trying.
Twelve months of pain, 12 months of self-pity, of trying to be the person that I wanted him to love so desperately, just died with my last sip of pinot and my last drag.
In the past 12 months, I had thought of every excuse to see him — and he, mind you, had taken them. Dinner here and coffee there, always ending in tears — always ending in me losing the self-worth I had built in the weeks since I had last seen him. A glutton for punishment. Aching to be rejected and yet desperately hoping that one day he would show up to my door and cry and tell me of the horrible mistake he had made; that I truly was the love of his life and how he wanted to spend every waking minute of every day from here to eternity with me and only me.
That hope hadn’t ended when he started seeing someone else. It had, in fact, improved. I thought that if he spent enough time with someone else that he would see how perfect we were and how wrong he was to give up on us.
I saw him last night. For the first time in months. I saw him, and I was so happy to see him.
I was cordial, and classy, and elegant for all of about three minutes. I stupidly asked if he had exchanged gifts with his new flame, to which he replied yes, he had gotten her an exercise watch.
“A-ha!” I thought, how romantic — a watch. How much can you be interested in someone if you buy them a watch?
I was too busy gloating in that revelation that I nearly missed the next part. “And a ring,” he said.
That was it. I was done. I remember nodding and holding my stomach whilst mumbling something incoherent and heading for the toilets.
Where I lost. My. Shit.
Thankfully, two of my best friends were on hand to witness one of the most guttural breakdowns to ever have graced the disabled toilets of the tavern. I don’t know what it was; I don’t know how to describe the feeling other than empty. I felt empty and alone and lost and sad all at the same time.
I wiped my tears, determined for him not to ruin another Christmas and I ventured out into the crowd, swollen and puffy but rather stoic and determined that no more tears would be shed over him.
There’s a saying that says you should cry, but you should never cry for the same reason twice. I broke that wisdom long ago.
My friends had made me vow not to speak to him again, not to put myself through it. I was better than that, and he deserved no more of my time, of my tears.
But I did.
I found him in the crowd and did the old, “Can we talk?”
Can we talk, how ridiculous.
All I had been doing for 12 months was talking. Talking and begging and yelling and shouting and accusing and apologising. And he had sat there and endured me, listened to my ramble, and said nothing. Absolutely nothing. Barely making eye contact.
Countless times, the response to my 30 minutes of demanding was, “What do you want me to say? I’m sorry.”
I wanted you to say that you wanted me back, that you couldn’t stop thinking about me, that you loved me and she meant nothing.
But this time—this time was different.
This time, he wasn’t sorry. This time, I could see in his eyes that he just wanted to be as far from me as humanly possible.
This time was different.
And so, 24 hours on here I sit — armed with a glass of wine, a packet of cigarettes and a laptop.
Tonight, I’ve made a vow to myself to never, ever let anyone look at me that way again.
And so, here goes. A year afresh — time for new adventures and new loves and new heartbreak.
Because about 30 minutes ago, I decided to leave.
I had moved 1200 kms away to be with him. I had given up everything to have everything with him.
I remember bringing this up in a fight once.
His reply was, “I didn’t make you move.”
Oh, no, darling, you didn’t, but I loved you with everything that I had, and had no other choice.
Have you ever loved someone with so much of yourself, that they become part of you? Is that every love? Is it just young love? Unhealthy love? Or complete love?
I used to joke that I loved him more than he loved me. He’s recently said to me that this was the main reason for his insecurities. He said that you should both love the same in a relationship, but that’s not true, is it? There is always someone in a relationship that loves more and one who loves less. I hope the universe proves me wrong.
It took us five years into our relationship for us to go on our first couple's holiday together.
I remember discussing a trip to Europe with him.
He was vague and flippant, and I remember thinking at the time that it was because he was nervous to travel abroad. I now know it wasn’t that. It was the commitment of booking a holiday with someone that he didn’t truly love.
I asked him last night why he dragged it out for so long.
“I didn’t want to hurt you,” he said. “I thought that if you wanted it so badly, then one day I would want it, too.”
The stem of the hurt from a breakup is selfish, isn’t it? I hated him for not wanting what I wanted, I hated him for not feeling what I felt, but most of all for leaving me when I was prepared to forsake so much.
But now, I’m leaving. I’m leaving the security bubble of the new hometown that I’ve come to know. Leaving the job that I love, leaving the friends that I’ve made.
Leaving means leaving all hope that we will be together, leaving everything that we built.
But, more importantly, it means giving up on something that I have wanted for so long, something I thought I could fix.
The relationship and the love that I thought would last forever, the pain of letting it go.
The security blanket of living in the same town as him, shopping at the same shop as him, going to the same gym as him.
LONDON’s calling. And I’m finally ready to listen.
Three hundred and sixty five days of deafness, halted every so abruptly by one thing: the want of not wanting to be the victim anymore. The want to be happy. The want to have my old head back and the want to find whatever it is that I’m searching for.
I am no longer broken.
Sometimes you meet someone, and it seems so clear that the two of you, on some level, belong together. As lovers, or as friends or as family, or as something entirely different. You just seem to work, whether you understand one another or you’re in love or you’re partners in crime.
You meet these people throughout your life, out of nowhere, under the strangest circumstances, and they help you feel alive. I don’t know if that makes me believe in coincidence, or fate, or sheer blind luck, but it definitely makes me believe in something.
I’m ready to look again.
EDIT: So, this blog started as a break-up self-help guide, and has turned into the adventures of a girl who gave up everything to run away, find herself, and learn to be happy again.