“Do you love her?” I finally asked my ex in the midst of our screaming match last late night. He paused for a minute. I could hear him breathing deeply over the phone line, slow and steady—he could have been at a yoga studio, contorted and wearing orange spandex, or practicing Lamaze breathing for the birth of his first child. Instead, he was verbally (and angrily) tracing the end of our relationship. The truth of his new relationship had been so obscured in various manipulations, that despite approaching a year of us not dating I really had no idea where “they” were.
“Yes,” he said, and my heart grew very still. Somewhere after he listed the third or fourth reason why she was better than me, I interrupted, “Stop. Just. Stop. I can’t do this with you anymore.” I hung up the phone, curled up in bed, and went to sleep.
The next morning was like any other day—I woke up to my cat ripping apart a New Yorker I had left by the toilet, made a pot of coffee, turned on some Mariah Carey as “wake up” music, considered eating yogurt but opted for eggs and bacon, and decided that, despite the remnants of birthday cake on my jeans, they were still work appropriate. Totally normal—except, somehow, everything felt fresh. Like it was mine and mine alone. Like I had never been one of those terrible “we” couples that planned out a future so intricately woven together that the other couldn’t exist alone. He didn’t love me, and that was just fine.
I think his admitting, finally, the extent of his new relationship had been sort of like a fairy godmother waving her wand and breaking a spell. Only instead of awaking to find myself a rosy-cheeked princess with seven dwarf buddies and a glass shoe, I was 17 pounds heavier and ecstatic about life. (Guys, please note, it may be easier for you, but it’s actually meaner to continue to try to be a “nice guy” when all your actions scream “a**hole.” Sometimes, you just have to live up to the hurt you are putting on someone else and allow them to move on.)
My therapist had told me it would be like this. But when you are depressed, there is no believing that one day that inexorable feeling of being removed from life, of seeing everything through a foggy telescope, is just going to up and disappear.
Sure, these days when I get dressed I have to think carefully about which outfit will make me feel least like a tightly squeezed sausage about to be fried in my overheated office. And sure, at this exact moment, the majority of my butt is covered in swollen red pus balls from a terrible case of poison oak I got while hiking in Big Sur. (Ok, I admit it, it was actually while popping a squat in Big Sur.) But mainly, I find myself looking around and thinking, Everything is awesome.
That’s not to say that I don’t still have small waves of anger and nostalgia that hit me out of nowhere, like when I add to my alligator collection (which I started while we were dating) or think about that first grand road trip. I think the thing that hurts the most is how quickly he moved on, how soon he was in the same type of serious relationship we’d just ended—like “we” had never existed. Sometimes I picture them telling the story of how “they” met, laughing over fancy cocktails, and I know that it will never include the part about how he was still dating me. That hurts. Even worse than the anger is the gut feeling that I’m somehow losing the race to the “Happily Ever After” finish line. I know that across it, all the girls are wearing white and cheering or something, but I have no idea how to even walk, much less run, in the kinds of heels donned by the women who seem to “win” these kinds of things.
Despite all that, I’m just really glad to finally be at the point where I’m comfortable enough to—in the wise words of “Jersey Shore”’s Ronnie—“Do me.” So far, “doing me” has meant roaming California, starting to jog, writing like a madwoman, slurping down oyster shots, dying the tips of my hair blue, making rabbit stew, and being satisfied—excited, even—to step out of the race.