After rock bottom.  

It was another Sunday alone. She could go on about that but she was not going to. Instead she reflected on her journey through these tough times. She had come so far. One year ago she struggled to get out of bed every morning. Now, for the first time in a long time,  she could say she was genuinely somewhat happy.

She never thought she’d be one of those people who said this, but her healing had begun through Yoga. It was December last year, when a friend asked her to go with her to the Yoga studio that was just a few steps from her place. She did not think much of it. Her mother practiced every day, but she herself was definitely never a smoothie-drinking, yoga pant-wearing kinda chick. But her friend wanted company and she had a hard time saying no to people so she agreed to go. But it turned out to be her first step towards the self-care that she desperately needed. It was a slow progress, with definite setbacks. But now, finally, she was at a place where she could look forward to her days. Days that she had filled with art, culture, learning and self-growth. And accomplishments.

She decided to make a list of her accomplishments in the past year.

1. Pased Step 3 USMLE boards with a good score.

2. Earned laurels at work.

3. Learned to dream about the future again.

4. Decided on a future career path.

5. Managed to complete the fellowship application procedure in a timely and effective manner.

6. Managed to bag over 80 interviews across the country.

6. Found the drive to travel and attend interviews at her top choices.

7. To the best of her knowledge, did well in those interviews.

8. Developed the grace to accept the outcome of the application come what may.

9. Read four books in the last month.

10. Started listening to music again.

11. Became interested in her work again.

12. Attended church regularly, without expecting anything in return from God.

13. Started following the news.

14. Learned to switch the TV on to a news channel when she found herself lonely or brooding at home – focusing on things larger than herself.

15. Went to her first meetup group and decided to return.

16. Started a skincare regimen. And stuck to it.

17. Started getting monthly massages.

18. Started getting monthly facials.

19. Paid every single bill on time.

20. Improved her credit score.

21. Signed up for a Volleyball game.

22. Developed restraint in her social media postings.

23. Bought herself flowers regularly.

24. Started having breakfast daily.

25. Stopped beating herself up for her mistakes.

26. Started really loving herself, for the person she was, and not for her achievements. Stopped caring about what other people thought of her, like completely.  She knew she was kind and good and special. That’s all that mattered.

27. Started listening to podcasts on long journeys, on her walks.

28. Stopped feeling sorry or self-conscious about going to places by herself.

29. Finally found not one, but three perfect shades of lipstick for her skin (Sephora ColorIQ is an amazing tool ladies)

30. Learned to curl her hair, for the first time in her life.

31. Learned to contour (Sorry boys, this is another girl thing. You don’t wanna know).

32. Started developing female friendships, for the first time in her life.

33.  Discovered who her real friends were. Forgave the rest for abandoning her in her time of need.

34. Started this blog, to turn her grief into art.

35. Accepted that S was the love of her life. And that she would be happy with having had the chance to spend seven beautiful years with him.  Accepted that she would never find it in herself to love anyone else, and that that was ok. She would love him unconditionally from a distance, without ever expecting anything in return.

She smiles in relief. She still had a long way to go,  but her heart was already full.

Bread.

Today is the 26th of October, 2017. Nine years ago today, sometime after midnight, ‘she’ had ceased to be. ‘Us’ was the only existence she knew since then.  Even now, when he no longer wanted any part of that.

She smiles through the pain at her memories. They were all she had. She held them close. They would always be hers, after all.

One of her most precious memories happened when they were in Sweden together. It was four years ago. As blessed as they were to be able to do an exchange scholarship together, they had had some of their worst fights in Sweden. They were all about the other woman. This was just a few months into her finding out. She was prone to angry outbursts, sobbing late into the night, hating him and loving him all at once. They fought for their love every day. He was determined to make up for what he did. Still, she was hurting, filled with doubts. About his love. About their future.

It was the end of April, the beginning of summer in Scandinavia. She had always wanted to check out the lake. And he was devoted to doing all he could to make her happy. So here they were, barbecuing. They were a long bus ride away from their dorm. But the setting was worth the hike, exactly as she had imagined it would be. It was a beautiful day. The lake was flanked by woods on all sides. There were barbecue tables set up in a clearing at the lake front. A group of music majors from the University were playing their violins nearby, as if they were a part of the forest.  Children were running around, screaming in glee. Retired couples were walking the forest trails, hand in hand. He was cooking. She was chatting away, forgetting all their troubles for a few moments. It was idyllic. And then, they ran out of bread.

Not a problem. She had remembered seeing the local ICA store on their way to the lake. She told him she would be back in no time. She ventured out on foot, like a dutiful girlfriend. Now this was back when Google Maps was not really an everyday thing.  So naturally it took her a while to find the store. Once she was there, she took her time selecting the best bread for her man. Some things, she reasoned, she could still make sure were perfect. She paid for the bread and started walking back. By then of course, her phone had run out of charge. No big deal, she thought. She had barely been gone half an hour. As she walked back through the woods, she hummed a song to herself. She was almost there. And then, she saw him. He was…running.

He was running towards her. Through the crowd. Like a madman. People were watching him. The music majors had stopped playing. For a moment she was puzzled. Why was he running?

As he scooped her up into his arms, she suddenly knew why. To her utter disbelief, she  realized that this grown-ass man, who was so tough that most people would think their life choices over before saying a cross word to him, was worried sick for her. This man, who had always hated making a scene of any sort, was unabashedly declaring his vulnerability to the world. She was his priority. She was his weakness. SHE was the love of his life.

At that moment, all of her doubts vanished.

A Sky Full of Stars

Yellow was the first Coldplay song she had ever heard. It was early on in their relationship.  They were both nineteen at the time, sitting at their favorite steps on campus one night after dinner. It was before she had opened up to him completely. She was introverted like that when she first met someone. Once she knew you for a while though, she would talk your ear off.  For now, he was doing all the talking. She racked her brains trying to think of something witty to say.  Nope. Nothing. Just awkward silence. She mentally cursed herself. Why couldn’t she think of anything to say like a normal person?! Aaarghh! And then he did the most unexpected thing.

He broke into song.

“Look at the stars…”, he sang, “….look how they shine for you…” Her heart swelled. She sang along. She smiled, knowing then that she had found something special. It was a magical night.

Years later, one cold February in Chicago, she found out that Coldplay was playing at Soldier Field the next summer. She was ecstatic. This was before S had made it to America. And his prospects were not looking good. She bought two tickets anyway, as his birthday gift. She knew in her heart of hearts he would be there by July.

She was right.  He made it. Only, she had broken up with him in March.

She had planned to sell the tickets, but her mother convinced her to go at the last minute. It was a beautiful night. Coldplay provided Xylobands during their concerts to everyone. Millions of glow bracelets that lit up with the songs. It was indeed a Sky Full of Stars. She is certain it was magical. Only she wouldn’t know. She was back at the steps the whole time.

The Flight. 

She looks out the tiny window of the airplane at the universe, earphones in her ears, exhaustion in her eyes. Her loneliness feels poignant from this vantage point. As if this is a story and she’s the protagonist. She keeps playing the same song over and over, so many times that it feels like the background score of her life. The interview trail has meant a lot of time spent on flights lately. She always picks a window seat. It gives her a chance to go into her cocoon, where it’s just her and the universe. Also, that way she doesn’t have to look at all the young happy couples with their adorable babies. Why do all Americans marry so young?! She feels annoyed. The sitcoms she grew up watching were so misleading! Nobody falls in love at work! Yeah, you can stop looking for your Jim Halperts and Derek Sheperds girls. They don’t exist. The dearth of desirable single men in her everyday life has been so profound that she would now be very surprised if a cute guy did not say something like “so my wife and I moved here two years ago.” She had tried signing up for Tinder and it’s likes, only to always end up deleting her accounts in frustration. They simply did not work for her. The best place to find a mate was in college, she realizes. Men and women who are intellectual equals put in competetive environments for extended periods of time? Sparks are bound to fly. She imagines the subconscious drive to be something like “Oh you and I got into Harvard so we must pair up immediately so we can make ultra successful superhuman genius babies.” Like when she met S. It wasn’t his looks or charm. It was his intelligence, wit and talent that made her weak at the knees. Well she blew that, so thanks for that again universe. She scowls at her reflection in the window. As for the old school going to a bar hoping to get picked up? Well, that was another thing her Indian Catholic upbringing had not prepared her for. The fact that she was in a committed relationship during the ages of nineteen to twenty six did not help either. It might sound unbelievable to the average American but she simply did not know how to respond when she was hit on.  Her responses have involved a lot of incoherent sentences, fumbling and the dropping of things. Besides, what if they were a serial killer? A great comedy show she had recently watched at the Second City had commented on how women repeatedly put themselves in physical danger in the hope of finding their Prince Charming. Maybe we don’t need a Fucking Prince Charming was the much applauded conclusion. The show had left her all goosebump-y with inspiration. Well, for a while at least.  Before she had to come home to an empty apartment and Chinese takeout. S used to cook for her so much. He would have elaborately baked chicken dishes waiting for her when she came home after a long day.  And wine.  There was always wine.  And comforting hugs. And slow dances around the kitchen. Yeah, the boys on Tinder never stood a chance.

Her.

Her fingers rested on the keyboard, wondering where to start. She had started many times before, only to stop immediately through unbearable tears. Now she felt that uncontrollable urge to write again. To pour out her self. Her weary, ragged self. Two years. It had been two years since she last knew happiness. Since she had been carrying that heaviness in her heart, that knot in her chest that let her know she may burst into tears at any moment. She had been with S for seven, eight years? Until she left him for the first smooth talking soldier that came along. She always had a thing for soldiers. Those damn men in uniforms. There was something undeniably romantic about being a soldier’s girl. Those first few days she had felt jubilant, feminine, beautiful even. Like those delicate women in movies who waited for their men at war. She sighs. How foolish had she been!

It was barely a month before her jubilation paved way for an uneasiness. And then horror. She realized that the smooth talking soldier was mostly just that. And couldn’t compare to the man she had left behind. The man that she now realizes was home. She had thrown away almost a decade of love and friendship for her vanity. She had lost the love of her life.

It had felt like the absolute right thing to do at the time, she remembers wearily. She was so sure. Like an inevitable decision. Still, she remembers getting out of the house so she did not have to hide her agony from her mother who was visiting. She remembers walking to the park. There was no stopping the tears once she was there. Why was she crying if it was the right decision? Why did that not stop her in her tracks? Instead she had told the man who had done everything possible to make her happy, that she wanted a break. Over text. When it had been barely a week into a huge career setback for him. She had fucked him over when he was at rock bottom. She screwed her eyes shut trying to block out the memory.

She had pleaded with him and begged him since then to take her back. To no avail. He was beyond hurt. He said he had sworn off relationships, at least for the foreseeable future. Made sense. It was time to move on now, everyone said. She wanted to tell herself that she had accepted that it was over. But in her heart of hearts she knew she never could. She held out a glimmer of hope that he would show up at her door. Maybe this weekend?

She feels a flash of anger. It was one of those rare moments she remembered why she might have left him in the first place. She sighs. If infidelity were a person she would tell them to go fuck themselves.

They had been together almost five years when that woman destroyed her world. A. She din’t let herself remember the details for fear it would unravel her. Like she did at church today. One minute she was thinking the ‘exchange of peace’ was her favorite part of mass, the next tears were rolling out of her eyes. It baffled her. She struggled to wipe them away discreetly, her voice faltering on the hymn that she knew so well. She wonders how the woman must be doing now. She surely must have heard they broke up. Ugh. She felt weak again. Well. She was always weak. Her protected Catholic upbringing had not prepared her for the other women. It had not prepared her for the aftermath of  her man’s infidelity. She had struggled to get over it for three years.  She could not fathom how someone could do that to a person they love. Maybe she would be able to get over it if she did it herself. Jeez. She had been young and stupid. And a perfect fool for the next smooth-talking soldier that came her way.

She wipes her tears again now at her kitchen table trying to put in words the anguish that permeated every moment of her life. It had been a real roller coaster. She had felt empowered this morning. Maybe she din’t need a man after all! She had made herself coffee, watched the morning news, had a long shower before stepping out for mass. It was a cool fall day, slightly overcast – her favorite kind. Then she had looked up her clinic patients for the next day, deposited cash at the ATM and paid her bills. She had felt like a responsible adult. She had then settled down under the covers for a few hours of Netflix. She had been on the road for a month interviewing – she deserved rest, she reasoned. Before she knew it, night fell. Darkness crept into her room and her mind. She absently Facebook-ed his name again.

He wasn’t at all active on social media these days so she had to be satisfied with looking at his old posts. Something about him wanting milf’s back in 2012. Wtf. Yeah, they were still together then. Year six. The guys in their class were telling him something about him already having one. He retorts, “Which bloody idiot would not want more than one?” God. She thinks. Offensive to her on so many levels. She hates herself for still wanting his arms wrapped around her. She wants to confront him about the post. She decides against it. She gets up. She needs to get up. She should get out of the house. Maybe she would go out for groceries. Wait, she needs to get her laundry done first. She gets the washing machine going and then sits back down to write.