When I woke up, the tone had already been set: it was going to be a real shit day. I knew it and feared it and hoped against it anyway, because you can actually do all of those things simultaneously. People and feelings are often complicated.
The morning started by having holes drilled into one of my teeth, to fill in the lone cavity of my adult life. The only thing inflicting more pain than the actual drilling itself was the feeling I had disappointed my angelic dental hygienist, Rhonda, by having a cavity. She is so kind that I usually don’t even admit it when she hurts me during cleanings… and I am not a person who typically holds back. She is just so nice!
After the drilling and the self-inflicted shame, I walked across campus to my office where I could obsessively ruminate for hours. Not unlike a monotonous game of ping pong, my thoughts bounced back and forth between 1. why I hadn’t gotten the job I had been turned down for the week before and 2. all of the possible ways the day might end.
But I already knew how it was going to end, had known for a month how it would end. It was going to end.
Before the work day was over, I trudged the half-mile to my parking spot and drove across town in my mega-old, air-conditionless car to go to the podiatrist. There, I had a wart on my foot cut off and then burned with the acid of a crazy expensive African beetle, of all things. I am still not sure why I scheduled those two appointments on the same day, but it was not my best laid plan…
It is worth noting I am weird about feet to begin with, so someone staring at my warted foot with a microscope and then continuing to do hurtful things to a highly innervated area was just icing on the shit, anxiety-laden day. This was my third or fourth visit to get said wart taken care of, so you can imagine my delight and horror. My warted foot felt hopeless, doomed to forever be disgusting.
Following this appointment, I limped out of the office building to discover my keys were locked inside my car, because of course they were! I had just spent $30 on a copay for my gross little foot, an actual fortune for my 24 year old self with a Master’s degree and a half and a job that paid me like $26,000 a year; now I had to spend even more money to have Pop-a-lock come and bail me out– which they did, approximately two hours later.
Two hours, in the heat of August in Kentucky, waiting and thinking and worrying and sweating profusely. I remember debating if I should call or text my boyfriend to see if he was back in town and could swoop me up, because I really needed to be swooped up and cuddled a little bit; however, I don’t think I ended up deciding to do that.
My memory is fuzzy, but I don’t thinkkkkk I called him. When someone leaves for a week long vacation during a fight, and then stays away for four weeks and barely communicates with you during that time, you start to get the impression they don’t want to cuddle you anymore. Or swoop you up when your life is an actual wreck. Or decide they do want to marry you and let you have as many babies as you want. Or even just answer their phone, really.
This was the set-up for the day my boyfriend of three years broke up with me, after essentially running away for a month to dodge the inevitable. My first ever breakup, with my first ever boyfriend. I am, of course, choosing to not remember those other times we broke up. I’m the one telling. this. story.
Finally, I was rescued by the company that capitalizes on flustered people locking their keys in their car, and returned to my apartment. My ‘boyfriend’ and I had agreed to meet there in the evening to go for a walk and talk, after he made it back in town.
Then, just like that, there he was.
For probably three of the four weeks he had been gone, I had been building myself up for the disappointment of the break-up. But then I saw him, and my heart told my logical brain to STFU because it wanted him back, earnestly.
It was a weird weird feeling, seeing the person you love the most in the world, after not seeing them for a long time, and wanting to hug them but knowing better. Instead, we awkwardly looped around my neighborhood while he worked up the courage to tell me:
“You’re ready to get married and I’m not, so our relationship cannot continue.”
What I am sure of: I cried a lot. A scary lot. The third biggest cry of my life.
What I am also sure of: I asked him if I could rub my buckets of snot on his shirt.
What I am certain of: he said I could. So I did. I wiped my snot all over him, while he held me.
He broke my heart and ran away, yes, but he also let me rub my snot on his shirt when I was sad; therefore, I cannot pretend he was a cold-blooded monster.
Mid-snot rub, I looked up at the man who was holding me, with whom I had survived all kinds of hell over the course of three years, and had loved more than anyone. Through sobs, I said, sincerely without intending to be mean: “you will probably never have sex again.”
And he said: “that idea has occured to me.”
I don’t know if it would be funnier if I had intended it to be mean… but as previously mentioned, I did not. I was just stating what I now understand to be a pretty rude sounding, intuitive prediction.
While I am an introvert, he was an extreme introvert. He was perfectly happy spending a lot of time alone, and filling the rest with his two best friends and his family. He didn’t ever really seem to need or want people beyond aforementioned individuals. Save for my annoying friendliness and persistence, he probably would not have ever dated me either.
BUT PEOPLE GROW, OKAY.
If I, for one, can learn to not say every seemingly true thing that occurs to me and makes me sound like a socially-challenged witch, then surely he can have fallen in love again and be in a healthy relationship. And I have mostly learned, I think. It’s a process…
Back to worst day: the entirety of this song and dance took about ten minutes, and then he left, snotted up– never to be seen or heard from again. Not even once.
He was gone.
There I was, completely alone, with a migraine from my cavity fill-up, producing more snot and tears than is possibly good for any one human, with a big old broken and bleeding heart. I had nothing to do but attempt to limp back up to my apartment without completely alarming my precious roommate. It felt like the worst day of my life, and that day it was.
I felt it all over again whenever well-meaning old people I only kind of knew asked me when we were going to get engaged and I had to tell them we had actually broken up, and every time I had to go to scary doctors appointments alone, and every time my best friend’s baby asked where he was in her precious innocent baby voice, and every time someone told me I had dodged a bullet with him when they learned we had broken up.
It hurt like hell, for a long time.
Then gradually, over the course of about three years, it stopped.
It would be easy for people to look at my life and say this story had a happy ending, because I ended up married to Sean— a saintly man who always carries a handkerchief that can be acquired easily when my nose is extra runny; however, I would argue my happy marriage has nothing to do with this story.
Good things do not cover-up or erase suffering.
But past suffering can squelch the good stuff, if you let it.
This breakup story did not end with a husband sweeping me off my feet, saving me from dying alone. It ended with me starting my former blog as a way to cope, making the decision to try to redefine myself after the relationship ended, and it ended in therapy… several rounds of it, with several therapists (because not all therapists are actually even helpful).
Time didn’t heal those wounds, nor did any subsequent relationships. My decision to heal did, and it took me awhile to commit to it.
My decision to go to therapy meant agreeing to look at myself through a microscopic lens to see ways I needed to grow, so I could try to be healthier in future relationships. It meant being open to owning my shit, and accepting that life doesn’t just happen to me. It meant acknowledging I sometimes give people less than they deserve, and I sometimes accept less than I deserve.
Because of my hard work in therapy and my own introverted self-analysis, my husband doesn’t have to deal with any baggage from that relationship (don’t you worry, I do have other baggage he has the privilege of carrying with me), and instead can just laugh at a story he thinks centers upon my past foot problems.
Now, I, too, can laugh about the “worst day of my life.”
That day only ended-up being the third biggest cry of my life so far. In fact, an even bigger whammy of a heartbreak wrecked me down the line.
One day, I will tell you about my first and second worst all-time cries and my incontestable biggest heartbreak, but sharing those stories will take a lot more courage and obsessive editing than I have in me right now, or will likely have any time soon.
For today, saying “shit” like seven times in a blog post, admitting I slept with my long-term ex-boyfriend, and owning up to having the worst possible social skills and saying accidentally hurtful things to people I love took enough courage.
Oh, what a day.
We’ll see how brazen I feel next week.