The first year after the breakup was like a hurricane: crushing, chaotic, preceded by impending dread, and followed by devastation.
It’s embarrassing to remember how much of myself I allowed to get lost in that wreckage. I couldn’t find my laugh. I couldn’t find the energy to explore my city the way I used to. I couldn’t find a story to write about because all that came out were the words “I miss you.”
But the first year goes by quicker than expected. Before I knew it, I was out of the storm and surveying the damage, taking emotional inventory of what was left.
I learned that what you lose in a breakup is sometimes gone forever. I can never play In the Aeroplane Over the Sea without thinking about when she gave me the vinyl for Christmas. I can’t go to my favorite bar without remembering how she slipped on the ice on the sidewalk outside the night after a snowfall.
That’s why the second year is for rebuilding. What’s gone is gone, but I won’t leave vacant lots in my heart. There will be new records, U.F.O.F. and Be the Cowboy. There will be new bars and new memories made in them. There are new snowfalls every year. On this foundation, I’ll build a life to replace the one that was blown away. With time, it’ll no longer feel like my replacement house. It’ll just be my house.
Before I knew it, it’d been three years. Then four. Then five. I can go weeks without thinking about her. When I do, it’s mostly fond and casual, like remembering your favorite joke on The Simpsons.
That’s the goal, isn’t it? To get over it. To move on. To be better for the experience. That’s what all my friends expected in the immediate weeks afterward. That’s what Jen Sincero told me on an audiobook of You Are a Badass on my way to work when all I wanted to do was climb back in bed. That’s what my pastor told me in a sermon about how getting to God’s plan means I have to see my own plans fail.
I was so angry about all of that at the time, but I guess they were right. I did move on. I was better for the experience. I’ve loved since then, wonderful people who I never would have met in an alternate reality where my heart was never broken.
But then I’ll come across something. A smell, pasta sauce, like when she’d cook me vegan Bolognese. A sound, footsteps in a stairwell, like when I took the death march to her apartment to tell her about the mistakes I’d made. A face on Bumble whose lip curls when she smiles like hers did.
The hurricane will suddenly sweep through my life all over again. I can feel the splintered wood coming. I’m fixating, then regressing, then spiraling, then projecting, all in a five-minute span. I feel lost. This isn’t what my life was supposed to be like.
But now my buildings are sturdy. Things will shake, but not tip over. With time, these storms will come around less often. There are a lot of sunny days ahead. I won’t pretend it’ll never storm again. In a way, the sun is even more enjoyable when I get to see it peek through the clouds. And the rainfall will become cathartic, peaceful, a time for reflection and for gratefulness.
I’m almost over it.