write hard and clear about what hurts
Ernest Hemingway once wrote,
Write hard and clear about what hurts. Don’t avoid it. It has all the energy. Don’t worry, no one ever died of it. You might cry or laugh, but not die.
And so I will.
Three weeks ago my girlfriend told me she was emotionally cheating on me and decided to walk away. My commitment issues have helped me avoid heartbreak like this up until now. But she was so gentle and kind and loving, the safest place I found to hold my heart, and I trusted her without restraint. All of which makes the news that much harder to swallow.
It’s four in the morning and I’m exhausted, but a crushing pain in my chest keeps me awake. I have nobody to call at this hour and nothing to hold onto except promises I made to not call or text her. I want to turn off my brain, tear out my heart, and scream but can’t because I’ll wake up my parents. The agony is so unbearable I can almost glimpse what pushes people to jump from tall places. Even when sleep does eventually take over it is fitful, tortured slumber, filled with nightmares of her spending time with her new love, sweet memories gone bitter, and reruns of hurtful things she said. She used to tell me she had nightmares of me cheating on her. It’s my turn to have them now, but they’re not mere nightmares anymore.
Earlier today I went outside to play football, one of my favorite pastimes, but gave up after a few minutes of kicking the ball around aimlessly. Maybe the football doesn't bring joy, but rather helps you channel the joy you carry inside. I didn’t have any to give it, so I went inside to write instead.
I’ve been mentally absent at work for weeks. Frankly I’m quite worried they’ll fire me, and they'd be entirely justified in doing so. Some friends urged me to bury myself in my work to distract me from my grief, but work only succeeds in stressing me out. In any case, I'm sleeping so poorly I can't focus even when I try to. Only talking and writing openly about my pain helps me feel better, and I can only do one of those when I'm at work.
Yesterday, in a characteristic moment of weakness, I called her; I wanted to know why she'd left me for him. When she told me I recognized the way her eyes lit up when she talked about him—it's the same way she used to look at me. The jealousy drives me mad. I can feel it eating me alive from the inside. I'm furious too, that she's betrayed and abandoned me like this. I'm trying to hold onto that anger to move on, but I have to be careful not to let its flame warp our memories or harm anyone. After all, I still love and care about her deeply and I know I always will, even if I can scarcely believe how all these seemingly contradictory feelings coexist.
Maybe the worst part is just knowing that I wasn't enough for her. After getting to know me and feeling all my love, she chose to walk away. This realization and the feelings of inadequacy that follow will sting forever, long after I move on. I've never struggled with low self-esteem before, but knowing that I'm not someone's first choice anymore emboldens all my insecurities. To love someone is to see the world through their eyes, and it’s harder to believe in your own magic when those who used to see it no longer do.
Hemingway says that no one has ever died of the pain. He might be right, but pain drives people to do terrible things to escape it. Fleeting thoughts of escape visit me from time to time, but they never seem appealing for longer than a flicker. It feels unfair: unfair to my beloved friends who will have to bear my departure, to my parents who worked so hard to raise me, to her who would be burdened with unwarranted guilt, and to myself to end a journey prematurely over something that happened largely outside of my control.
Part of what makes this breakup so hard to bear is that it's ripped off the band-aid and forced me to reevaluate my life at point blank range. I always knew that I lacked purpose, but our love distracted me by giving me a semblance of direction. Without someone to follow and care for, I feel lost, like a castaway drowning in a vast ocean. And without someone to talk to everyday it's painfully clear I don't have nearly as many friends to count on as I would like.
Writing is the best way I've found to make the pain more bearable. Talking to close friends helps too, but it doesn't always work. They give me good advice and tell me I deserve better, someone more loyal to me. Maybe I do, maybe I don't. But convincing my mind is one thing, and the heart another one entirely. At times I don't feel comfortable articulating uglier feelings, and I worry I'm trauma dumping too much and taking advantage of their kindness. So I turn back to writing, and churn out thousands of words every day, more than I even have time to edit and publish here. While I'm grateful I can write as an outlet, I would trade every last noun and verb to turn back time or to erase my memory. Even eight hours of uninterrupted, dreamless sleep sounds like a good deal at this point.
I've never found myself in a place this dark before, and I don't know where to go from here. I feel a duty to mend from this emotional trauma and learn to carry my emotional baggage gracefully so I don't pass it on. I don't know if I will ever come to know pure, unalloyed trust and happiness like I used to, but I feel like I owe it to myself and my loved ones to try.