Holding Onto What Was Good

You know how it is.

One minute, I feel strong and invincible and sexy: ready to join with Pippa Middleton in effortlessly conquering the male hearts of the world.

The next, I feel small and unwanted and vulnerable: rejected by the handsome, married passenger the row ahead of me on the airplane who I’m pretty sure never saw my face; rejected by the butch bikram yoga teacher who seems concerned with everyone’s alignment but mine.

I’m trying to focus on those former moments–the strong and heady ones–and less than a week post-breakup, there are more and more coming. But still, not quite enough.

So I’m trying to hold onto something S told me, one of the most important things I’ve heard in the last few days.

“You’ve gained so much in this relationship,” she said. “I don’t want to see you lose all that just because it’s over.”

She was referring to a few things–my ability to talk more openly with my mother, for example, and my sharpened focus on certain writing projects–but mostly she was talking about my confidence.

“You’ve just seemed so secure,” she told me. “When you were with him and when you were alone. Please don’t let go of that.”

I’m working on it. It turns out that holding onto the products of a relationship isn’t easy, though, once it’s over.

The small things can feel like the hardest.

Hours after the breakup, I wrote an email to D asking for my things back–dutifully heeding my friend M’s advice to do so “without saying anything about feelings.” The next day, he overnighted them.

Before I got the package, I anticipated how hard it would be–the steep emotional challenge of separating those items I’d kept at his house–a nightgown to sleep in and a sweater, because it was always cold–from the association of him, and from the association of hurt.

But I didn’t cry when I opened it. Instead, I put both things on. (The sweater over the nightgown–as N noted, they happen to pair well together.)

“I have to reclaim these clothes,” I announced to S and N as we stood, solemn-faced, at our kitchen counter.

And of course that’s just the beginning: there’s the sight of the salad tongs in my drawer that D’s mother sent him and he passed on to me. The thoughts of spending time alone this month in Taos, where I’d long imagined being–going to readings, running B, doing crosswords–with him. The sound of the Replacements songs that I put on his mix. (I’m not listening to it intentionally–I’m not that masochistic–but I have been putting on REM, my comfort music, compulsively, and the Replacements come right after in iTunes.)

I don’t know that I’ll ever shirk these associations completely. You never really do. (Though I suppose I should admit that until D, I associated the Replacements with someone else. Something about me and Paul Westerberg, go figure.)

So yeah, the sting will lessen. Someday I’ll be mostly nostalgic instead of mostly hurt. We had something lovely, that–when the anger and sadness wears–will be worth feeling warm and nostalgic for.

But in those moments when the mere sight of a stranger’s wedding ring makes me tear up (it happened, once, in an airport–travel makes me particularly fragile), it’s hard to imagine that time coming very soon.

When I talked to M, I briefly bemoaned the mental ache of returning to the single life.

“It really isn’t that bad,” he said, in that sincere tone I could almost believe. “And you have so much going on. Just keep doing your yoga, keep writing, just keep doing your thing.”

Not the most original advice, but important nonetheless. And so I do. I thank heaven for yoga and for cooking, for unbelievably loving friends and family, for the knowledge that I am committed to being serious about writing

Of course, I’d like to find someone else who makes me happy (and, apparently, mistype) before too long. But that’s one thing I can’t control, and therefore don’t want to think about, right now.

What I can think about are those things I can control: and at the moment that means working to put distance between D and the good things–from salad tongs to self-esteem–that he came with.

And in the meantime, watch out: me and Pippa are coming. Any day now.

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6 Comments

Filed under Love Life

6 responses to “Holding Onto What Was Good

  1. B

    Throw the nightgown away, throw the sweater away, throw the salad tongs away. Chapter closed. He didn’t make you any of the greatness you were, you did. So get out of this rut and get on with your bad self!

  2. Em

    Sorry lady. This stuff is hard. I feel the same way about my D’s things, (which I mailed to him before I moved), and I honestly don’t know what I got out of our relationship besides learning experience. You are awesome, as B stated above, and all that awesomeness brought out in your relationship was always there and didn’t leave you. Good luck!

  3. Lizzie,
    I don’t know if you remember me. I graduated a couple of years after you from Mac and we worked on the Weekly together. I ran across your blog randomly via something you wrote for NPR and wanted to say I love it. I too recently broke up with a semi-long term boyfriend, so I can relate to everything you’ve written about in the past couple of weeks down to the crying in public and drinking too many overpriced lattes. I thought I had reached the point of a little healthy anger and distance, but then his mom subscribed to my blog, which is one of those weird things that results from living in a digital world. It almost caused me to start crying in the parking lot of REI, but I was able to hold it together. Anyway, focus on the positives, keep doing the things you enjoy and let yourself get excited about what lies ahead. It hurts and it will for some time, but it gets easier.

    • Sara: of course I remember you, and thank you so much for the sweet comment. I’m glad this stuff is striking a chord. I hope you’re well on your way to getting over the fool who left you…and hope all else is well! So funny and awkward about his mom!

  4. The better D here (signed in as JT), I hope this weekend provided you with lots of Brooklyn love that you will hold onto. Toby says he misses you!!! xxxxooo we love you!!!!

    • Awww, Tobs! I can’t imagine more Brooklyn love than two days with Team Tannen. You guys are an amazing crew. Thank you for everything…I love you more!!!

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