5 years ago, my then girlfriend and I broke up. We were together for almost 3 years. Not long at all to some, sure. But for a relationship that, for me (if I am completely honest), started on the most improper of foundations, that surprised me. For her too, if I were to hazard a guess. So I daresay it was a pretty successful relationship. We hit the milestones: graduating from school together; her starting a career, me serving national service; practically moving in together; planning and somewhat saving for a future ahead. For our purposes, it’s enough to say it meant something and we saw a future. Then it all went to shit and it hurt. All that’s left now are the memories.
That’s what this is about. Memories; the accompanying rabbit hole of melancholy, resentment and emotional aversion; and how it feels to think I’m in the clear, only to find myself stuck in a loop.
It’s just feelings… No big deal
I lost many things that day. I’m not going to repeat the cliches, save for these two examples, about how your significant other is someone you can be completely yourself with and how they motivate you to be the best version of yourself. You’ve read them elsewhere. They’re all true. In our time together, I wanted to tear my hair out some days and grin like a besotted fool on others. Today, I still remember why I felt that way each and every one of those days. I think I do though, what with the ghosts that have replaced what were once clear memories.
There was the obvious sadness from being in familiar places, hearing familiar songs, seeing familiar films. When this started, I refused to trigger it by going to these places or doing those things. Later, I tried to weed them out with superseding memories. It was just sadness after all… it’ll pass.
Moving forward doesn’t mean you’re not moving in circles
I can stop myself from watching The Blacklist, listening to Copeland or playing some Goo Goo Dolls on the guitar. And I was pretty glad to be rid of the Kardashians. But Singapore is only so big. Bali, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Phuket and Tokyo too, as I later found out. I could only run away for so long. I started hating those memories and sought to replace them. What darkness I stepped into by doing that. No one could offer any assistance along the way. Why? Because I too busy replacing the memories by redefining the narrative of each and every one of those moments so that I could preserve my instinctive idea of how a guy should deal with a breakup. Boy, did it hurt. Could my friends know? Over my dead, heartbroken body they could.
I had such a full on, all encompassing distraction from the remaining one year of my national service job that I never fully processed what happened in the lead-up, the emotions that followed the split and the choices I had to actively make from then. Simply put, I never actually dealt with it. What I did was convince myself that I had done the best I could and that breaking up was probably best. Put another way, I believed she was at fault. Think enough of something for one year and eventually it becomes part of your mental stock. I thought I was moving on.
For better or worse, time dissolves illusions
Thing is, you can’t exactly move on if you haven’t moved on at all. You know you haven’t when you find yourself looking at her Instagram profile and reading her blog enough to be caught by site analytics. You know you definitely haven’t moved on when, 3 years after, you act like an insolent child when she asks to meet you to catch up, and perhaps talk about why you’ve been accessing her password protected blog. It’s also not far-fetched to say you haven’t moved on when you tell your parents they shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t get married. Or when it takes you 4 years to find someone you’re finally interested in but that you take a whole year to make a move on. You also sure as hell know you haven’t moved on when you’re still writing about the breakup 5 years on.
I write this like I’m pining for the unbroken past. I do. That’s obviously not possible. So I look at the past to recognise what I want in my life. I’m an asshole if I’m not able to admit that relationship had meaning. So I do. Now, this all feels like progress. Only that 5 years on, it feels like progress a little lesser each time through. One of these days, I’ll either be alive or numb. Depends on whether I climb out of the rabbit hole or sink further in. I keep going back and forth. Yea, I can’t decide.
But thankfully, I can still choose: to get the going going or, as Mike Shinoda sings, watch time fly by as the pendulum swings.
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