I’ve fixed a date in my mind because of something my Colombian friend said to me right after my ex first moved out. He took me out to offer his solace and, because he’d been through the same thing a few years earlier, his hard-won wisdom from the depths of the marital trenches.
After asking if he had any hot Latin friends he could hook me up with, (alright, it was half of a good joke; best I could do at the time.) I wanted to know how long I was going to feel like the world had its jackbooted foot in my neck and was pressing my entire self down into the dirt?
The Colombian thought about it for a bit and said one year. Although he also said that it took him much, much longer to resume a friendship with his ex. The Colombian is graced with a forgiving nature. I can’t even imagine a time when I’ll like my ex enough to be voluntarily in the same room with him, let alone entertain feelings of comradeship. But the Colombian’s a bigger person than I am.
I know him well. We’ve travelled all over the world together in the course of our work and I have the greatest respect and love for him. I like him more the longer I know him. He is sick, vulgar and very freaking funny, which are traits that I admire in other mammals. He does his job well, and with good humor. I trust him. And I trust his judgment. If he can ace a nasty breakup in a year, then I can too.
The trouble is, that a cursory glance at the calendar shows me that my breakup anniversary is swooping in crazily, like plane with a drunk pilot. It’s six weeks away. It’s going to be here much sooner than I want. February is so short! Why does it have to be so short?
And dismayingly I continue to step onto the landmines that my ex left thoughtlessly lying around when he left. I keep thinking of the things he said and did and what a defective person I must be for someone to be so desperate to be shot of me. I wonder what he’s doing with his new girlfriend. How are they going to celebrate his birthday and Valentine’s Day? Which restaurants will they go to? Will he buy her flowers? I flash back to the dark days after he first left when I saw their flirtation all laid out on Twitter and how stupidly puzzled I felt. If I’d read his feed earlier, I would have known that something was up, and not been blindsided by their affair.
Like a whiny child I tell myself how unjust it is that he got everything he wanted and I got a year that I wouldn’t wish on someone I don’t like very much. I think bitter things about karmic retribution.
I see happy couples now and I have that old, familiar feeling of being locked out. Of somehow being separate from the human race. A fraud.
Yeah. It’s a big useless waste of brain energy.
So these thoughts are shuffling around. Over and over I think them. I have quite quickly stopped being disciplined. Which is surprising because I’ve been putting a great deal of effort into being positive. I approached the New Year with something that, for me, passes as optimism. I genuinely thought that things were going to get better, because, realistically, how could they possibly be worse? Yet the other night a friend came over for dinner and when he asked me how I was doing, I burst into tears. I seldom cry of late. I might punch something, but I don’t cry. Later, he asked me if I had considered online dating and it was only with the greatest will that I didn’t cry again. But who the fuck would want me? I’m a walking cautionary tale, was the thought that sprang, uncensored to mind.
It came as a shock to realize the other day that I am unhappy. I was at work, waiting for the elevator, and the voice in my head said, “You’re unhappy.” It was one of those situations where it’s so clear that for a minute you think that somebody else said it. But no. It was my emotional alarm clock.
I am unhappy. We are supposed to be happy in this country, it’s practically mandated by the constitution. I am not and, unless I magically acquire the ability to order a drone strike on my ex and his squeeze, there’s little I can do about it.
So I’ve decided to let myself be unhappy. See what it feels like. Examine its contours. Maybe even draw a little map, here be dragons, that kind of thing. Unhappistan is where I’m living. No amount of counting one’s blessings can move me out. Yes, yes, I have my health, but why hasn’t he contracted a disfiguring illness? Or better yet, died?
Like I said. Not edifying.
I’ve always been competitive and generally, when I set my mind to do something, I can get it done. But I think this one year deadline that I’ve whimsically imposed might have to slide. It’s too much of a burden. Beating myself up for not having pulled it together in 365 days after 21 years of marriage doesn’t seem to have much of a point. Even for me, the undefeated queen of pointless self-loathing.
And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned hard this past year it’s that nothing lasts forever. Not the good things, not the bad things. At the moment I feel unlovely and unloved and imagine that I’ll stay that way until the oceans run dry.
But I won’t. The days will get longer and the weather will get warmer. And I will get back on my feet, run a comb through my hair and keep going.