The heartbreak train has been doing the rounds and I’ve just about had it up to me bleedin’ gills with the sadness. Too many lovely people being unceremoniously discarded by significantly less lovely people. Bereft and left to wonder what they did wrong, which of their crippling insecurities over non-existent inadequacies was the straw that broke the straying camel’s back.
That’s an expression I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time pondering lately.
From narrative trends, it seems to me there isn’t a more adept image for heartbreak. Some big eejit decides they’ve had enough, they’re giving up, they can’t take the load of a relationship anymore and yet somehow, it’s the weightless straw, the opposite of encumbrance, that is tarred with the blame. The responsibility rests implicitly at the feet of the unwilling dumped – they broke the camel’s back therefore the fault, the issue, the irreconcilable ‘why’, must ultimately lie with them. Why?
Why don’t we blame the animal incapable of fulfilling its physiological purpose? The one that couldn’t even manage one small load of responsibility, of accountability? Why is the camel not the fool – it was the one too idiotic, too cowardly to live up to its promise of strength, sturdiness, of being good for something and good enough by ingesting enough calcium to fortify it for the back-breaking work of commitment? Why aren’t we talking about the fact the camel clearly had no backbone in the first place (oh, the beauty of the pun!) so one tiny straw, however perfect, was predetermined to be too much for the lummox?
Confession: I might be biased. This may be one of those times where something suddenly seems omnipresent in your world because of your newfound empathy or interest in a certain topic.
Like when I first found out what hummus was and that same night it was all Leah could dish up in Home and Away. Had hummus already been a prominent food fixture on the show and ignorance made me oblivious? Or had pesky fate colluded with my subconscious in a blissful tryst of rare universal harmony? We will never know.
What I’m trying to say, in some roundabout stab at lighthearted joviality is that I, too, have recently been wounded by the fickle whims of love.
And while there is the full spectrum of emotion happening in the pit of my stomach, I’m told I’m handling the fact my whole life has essentially been torn to pieces with little reason to ever shower or eat anything but porridge again, quite well. Surprisingly well, in fact. Even those unaware of my neuroticism and penchant for the melodramatic have been stunned by my togetherness – it appears I’m even coping well by NORMAL standards. Hello, evolution? Yea, you can stop now, it would appear I’m done.
And so, with the big, black abyss of spinsterhood widening before me, and because I now find myself with an extra ten minutes to spare every other day, I find myself writing down the ways I’m learning to accept my fate as brittle straw and yet be the most kick-ass bale of hay ever to break and be broken.
And because, like, do you even blog if you don’t write a list outlining how to better your life?
PUT ON YOUR RIGHTEOUS CAPE AND NEVER TAKE IT OFF:
Indignance and insurgence will see you through this. Every second you spend embracing the impassioned righteousness that comes naturally with an unnatural end, is a second well-spent. It’s your armour, your talisman, your tiger balm towards healing. When that sense of righteousness is thin on the ground, remind yourself of how damn fine you are (first remind yourself that words like damn and fine are part of your vocabulary now). Snap your damn fingers more times than is necessary (and by that I mean once) and substitute walking for swaggering. Striding works equally well if you make sure to take up the entire footpath – everyone must be made to appreciate the statement you’re making. Wear even more outrageous clothes than normal and, as you’re putting them on, have an inner monologue consisting of words like ‘fierce’, ‘gorge’, ‘fab’ and all these other damn adjectives that have never been used in reference to you or your person previously…and with very good reason.
Let red be at the root of every outfit; imbibe its wrath and ostentation and arrogance and claim it as your own! It is your flag – your aesthetic ode to righteousness and everything other than surrender. Rouge your lips to a maddening colour of blood and feel the euphoria of fierceness, the delicious revelry of knowing you’re truly better off begin!
Full Disclosure: You may notice strange things begin to happen when you start doing these things. You may become intoxicated with proud liberation and begin making demands that, outrageously, will be granted.
Apparently serial killer eye contact, a beckoning index finger, a coy (I think) smile and 1.5 bottles of savvy B can get you things. Phone numbers, free drinks, looser morals. All part of the fierce righteous package and all 100% worth it.
Scream why at random intervals of the day. Wail it, howl it, open that trap as wide as it can go and bellow the emptiness of your heart into the abyss until the whole universe is alive with your grief. Think Tommy Wiseau when Lisa’s tearing him apart. It helps.
Preferably do this in front of your dad or any other male acquaintance close to hand who is acutely incapable of dealing with a distraught and possibly deranged daughter. His facial expression alone, watching you transform into something far less than human, feeling so completely out of his depth the only thing he can think to say is “Shit Happens” but still can’t bring himself to leave your gasping presence, reminds you that true courage really does exist. Heartening, fortifying, comforting. Eventually the ululations morph from WHHHHHHYY to WIIIINNNNEE. This is your subconscious realising the need for wine. Take it, drink it and the why seems suddenly irrelevant!
READ YOUR HOROSCOPE.
Everything you need to know about life, the universe, your finances over the coming week, is contained in that small window into the psychic world. Proof: “There may be a dramatic end to a relationship. Don’t be floored by the shock as everything will work out for the best.” This was printed the day of the unceremonious ceremony of my uncoupling. To say there was a dramatic end was about as apt and accurate as a horoscope designed to resonate with millions of ambiguous situations can be. The irony of knowing my humiliation was preventable, that I could’ve avoided being floored had I not been too stingy to spend the 1.85 and invest in my future, will haunt me forever. On the plus side, I now have unignorable proof that the RTE Guide is more than just a guide to broadcasting – it’s a guide to life. Get yourself a damn copy and start tuning into those stars – they know what’s up.
WOULD YOU RATHER
I think the worst part about breaking up is the powerlessness of feeling you had no choice in it. Your life has been stripped of colour, your dignity held for ransom, your best friend cruelly stolen from you and you are supposed to sit there and take it, accept it and still show up for work with mascara intact.
You are supposed to be able to understand that this huge decision has been made in your life without any consideration, input or decision from you at all.
As one of the most stubborn, controlling and independent people I know, this is not something I cope with very well.
I was not coping well watching Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal be generally chiselled and doe-like in ‘Love and Other Drugs’. Watching a man fight for the love of a woman against all odds, reason, logic – because life without her is too unfathomable, too impossible – tends to draw rather harsh parallels with your life and the boy too indifferent to fight for you.
And so the grief-stricken, panicked wallowing begins again and all you can think is how you would do anything – just anything – to have them back, to have them want you the way Jamie wants Maggie (chasing a bus to Canada kind of want). Hating yourself for how powerless, pathetic and pitiful this makes you yet still formulating a list longer than limbs of everything you would endure for ‘them’ so that the self-loathing monologue roars into being, the descent into darkness feels unavoidable, welcome, even.
Nope! Nahuh. No damn way.
Throw self-pity, sadness, grief, the fervent pleas and promises to the curb!
Just as I was sinking into the sweet comfort of my mourning shroud, I made a decision. Done with the deathly cocktail of equal parts helplessness and worthlessness I’d been subsisting off, I was taking power, choice, agency back into my life. Instead of losing minutes thinking of all the things some punk wouldn’t do to be with me, I started thinking of all the things I wouldn’t do to be with him. Spoiler: the list is satisfyingly long.
Would you choose to contract Parkinson’s disease if it meant he would love you ceaselessly and devotedly? Nope.
Would you never eat another potato if you could have one more year, night, walk together? See title of blog for obvious answer.
Would you revert back to your bowl-cut hair style of circa 2012 PERMANENTLY if his affection could be guaranteed for infinity? Not for one questionably-layered second.
I realise my potato example won’t resonate with most of you but for me, just being reminded of how amazing potatoes are and the fact I still have at least a dozen other varieties to taste in my lifetime was just about as close to self-actualisation as I’ll ever get. Maybe I’m very sad, but I find this empowering, hilarious and healing in equal measure. Because you realise this thing you convinced yourself you couldn’t live without really isn’t much of a sacrifice, when you think about it. You might not have had a choice in that one decision, but you are the decider in every decision impacting your life from now on – the life that, after this fun and interactive game, suddenly seems much brighter and far more full of reason to hope than it did before. I mean, POTATOES, man. Damn.
AMY SCHUMER. NO EXPLANATION NEEDED BUT SUMMARY BELOW FOR YOU FOOLS.
Watch the ‘I Feel Pretty’ trailer about 12 million times. She is the goddess of all us underdogs thinking we need to be small in the world. That’s it.
I know, you’re supposed to have pride and dignity in these situations and guard your fragile heart from prying eyes. Unfortunately, you’re also supposed to possess a filter so those options were pretty much obsolete from the get go for me. Except, talking helps and people’s indignation on your behalf is chicken soup for the soul! Never have I felt so validated as when I told friends, acquaintances, bus drivers about the unprecedented severing of my relationship.
1. People will buy you chocolate and lotto tickets when they know you’re sad – FACT.
2. If there’s a limit on the amount of times you can be told that you deserve better, look great, are worth more, I haven’t reached it yet. If people who barely know you still have the ability to be invested in your happiness, or even to have an idea of your worth, then maybe there’s only an 82% chance you’re the walking humiliation you’ve come to fondly refer to yourself as.
3. You realise people other than the camel not only think you’re a fairly passable human being but actually care about you. This shouldn’t be as shocking as it is. Suddenly, miraculously, joyously, the fudged blurs of beings on the periphery of your life – the ones you always liked the look of but were too preoccupied in the busyness and self-absorption of love to have time to truly get to know – become pixellated into friends. You begin to see all of the hearts protecting and saving yours, invisible until you need them but ready to keep your heart beating until its strong enough to forego their stabilisers and you find reasons to be thankful – a miracle in itself.
4. Basic principles of comedy: misery is funny. It’s much harder to feel your life is one gaping, black, loveless hole when everyone’s doubled over at your imitations of the wailing banshee. Also, if he’s decided this is how your story ends, then make damn sure you’re the one delivering the punchline. The power of a story lies only in the voice of the person telling it – they’re only an anecdote in the landscape of your life and yes, you may get this tattooed where you see fit.
TAKE TO THE BED
Revel in the glory of being shit and not getting dressed and sleeping all hours of the day and night. I mean, what is the point of all of those ridiculous stereotypes if you’re not going to wholeheartedly embrace them? Bleach your sheets of the smell of him, douse them in softener and real fancy detergent so instead of the stench of bitter regret, you’re nasal passages will be clogged with heady aromas of lavender, sandalwood, petunia. Knocks you out for hours. Ideal.
And don’t just get under the duvet – wear it. Eat in bed, watch TV in bed, send your friends excruciatingly long voice recordings detailing the minutiae of your day in bed…the sky’s the limit in the bed department. I am writing this from bed.
WRITE A POINTED BLOG POST ABOUT HOW WELL YOU’RE DOING
If nothing else is working for ya, take your humiliation public and start a blog that, even on the most superficial of levels, is very clearly a message to let them know you’re still alive, kicking and opinionated as ever. Assume it’s going to go viral and then the whole world will know that he’s an idiot and you’re available. Just kidding, this is good old self-loving catharsis and he never read or liked my blog anyway.
Is this cathartic?
I have spent so long feeling foolish, humiliated and betrayed that I wrote this in some attempt to defy those feelings and to let other people who have felt or continue to feel this crap know that they’re not alone. To reclaim my pain as mine, not his, and reclaim who I am without him – someone happy, someone whole. To come back to myself because if I could just remember who I was before everything I believed in was crushed in one fell swoop, then maybe I could find out which part of me was too much. Which piece of me was the final straw, the bit that was too much to take, too much to ask somebody to commit to, too much to love.
Because, up until a few weeks ago, I thought I was the best of straw for him. I thought I was a golden field, spun honeycomb, a rippling wave of dappled sunshine and gleaming stalks. I thought I was the straw of Sleeping Beauty’s hair or Eva Cassidy’s fields of gold, bright enough to make even the sun glower jealousy and envy. I believed these things because I was told them enough times to make them easy to believe. I believed them so much so that I allowed myself to relax, to stop waiting for the disappearing act, the storm; now when the camel came and ran his fingers through me I didn’t preen, prickle, glisten for approval. I allowed myself to be exactly what I was – brittle, itchy, vulnerable, blunt. I was straw. Sometimes golden, maybe sometimes even brilliant – if the sun shone just so – but also dun, brown, often dull. I no longer was the weightlessness of glossy, untroubled illusion. I was cumbersome and caustic and in need of nourishment.
And that’s what broke it. That’s what broke my poor, lovely camel and my poor, lovely heart. My being too real, my being too imperfectly me.
Or so I convinced myself in those first few days of anguish when the ‘Why’s’ were incessant and the pajamas necessary. And then, somewhere between beginning and ending this mammoth essay, somewhere in the substantial, fulfilling, purposeful life I have been continuing to live in the aftermath, I realised I might be the straw that was thrown, strewn, severed on the ground, but I am not the thing that broke this.
When someone sees into the very core of you and decides that they can’t find enough there to love, our automatic impulse is to turn inwards, look at all the things inside ourselves that need fixing, that can’t be tolerated or forgiven or accepted. WHY DO WE DO THIS? I’ve seen the most beautiful, strong, generous, intelligent friends cry rivers, stare at phones, wade listlessly through their private dark tormented by every insignificant thing they “did wrong”, every grotesque flaw and failing that could explain the cruelty of someone else’s actions.
Darlings, we are not the reason someone can’t carry us. We’re not asking too much. We are not too heavy. We don’t need to lose one stalk of who we are to make ourselves into an accommodating, amenable load. We are not a cross to bear until we can be borne no more.
You see, the problem isn’t that we couldn’t be small enough to fit their love, maybe they’re simply not big enough to be enough.
So, lash on the lipstick. Cry hysterically, flirt outrageously, sleep soundly, drink copiously. Accept that it’s just shite and going to be shite until it’s not anymore. You did the bravest of things. You gave willingly, selflessly, vulnerably. They couldn’t. That camel’s back was made to be broken and you were made to be picked up. You just have to wait for the combine harvester.