3. Do not text L.
3. Do not text L.
1. Do not text V.
2. Do not text S.
I know I haven’t written in a while. No, I haven’t given up on yet another blog. I just wanted to make sure I had something quality to say every time I wrote. Something that wouldn’t make an older me cringe a few years down the line. Also, I use this as a platform to work things out in my head and I have been fortunate enough to not have any pressing concerns in the past couple of weeks.
Yes, it has been an unusual period of bliss-ed out contentment for me. One that I am very thankful for. I figured it would be appropriate to take a few minutes out of a day off that happened to fall on the eve of Thanksgiving Day to log my gratitude.
A lot of things have factored into this joy. I am doing well at work. I love my patients. I have found enjoyment in studying Medicine again. I am excited about my future. I have learnt to appreciate my family for how absolutely wonderful they are, and not take them for granted. I may have finally found my clan in Chicago – a group of smart, funny, decent Malayalees around my age who I met at a Meetup event, almost all of them having lived in Bangalore at some point in their lives! – can you sense my excitement? Now it may all fizzle out but I am OK with that possibility. I have learnt not to have lofty expectations of people. I have spent lot of time in the past dwelling on being disappointed by friends. Now I realize that is probably because I hold them to very high standards. Most importantly, for the first time in my life, I am not looking for love. I really really like myself and seem to not mind not having constant validation of my worthiness.
Now this may seem to be contradictory to that statement but I recently went to a Dabble class on “How to attract with allure and approachability”. Yes you are allowed to laugh at me now. It was something I had signed up for before this whole I don’t-need-a-boy emancipation came about. I decided to go anyway, and boy, am I glad I did! It was a small intimate gathering of of five single women sharing their stories of love over wine at the host’s apartment. All the while our wonderful coach gave us eye-opening tips on things that must be holding us back in love. It was as delightful as it sounded. What I liked best was how honest everyone was with their vulnerabilities. It was interesting how even though we all might have our individual hurdles, the common theme was self- doubt. It was yet another instance where it was evident that we as women, tend to put ourselves down so much in our heads, that we might be really really far from our truths. I came out realizing a lot of my mindsets that must have been holding me back for years in situations that I could have taken to my advantage. Oh and guess what? We enjoyed each others company so much that we ended up exchanging numbers and making plans to catch up again this Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong. I am terrified that this will all come crashing down come December 6th on Fellowship Match Day. I like to think this time around I have enough maturity and wisdom to approach this period of uncertainty with balance and grace. I hope I can manage to keep my sense of hope and purpose in case things turn out unfavorably for me. I really struggled the last time during Residency Match two and a half years ago. In hindsight, things really did work out for the best. But I was young and naive and used to winning all the time at the time. I have learnt to forgive myself and others for my perceived failures. The fact that I said “perceived” in itself is a revelation to me of a change in mindset. I now have a mindset of acceptance and pride in myself and all that I have achieved. And I am finally happy to just live in the moment, doing the best I can each day, not agonizing about what people think of me, or what the future may look like for me. I am paying my bills on time. I have a 401k. Going to the gym daily has become a habit. I am reading, listening to podcasts, watching the news, making conversations with strangers, going out of my comfort zone. I am also making time to hang out by myself in my living room that I so lovingly decorated two years ago but never used much as a result of being too high-strung all the time to just relax on my couch. Thank you, Whoever is making all this happen. Please make it so that I am this happy come what may for the rest of my life. And please help me keep my feet on the ground while I am at it.
Past few days have been really good. I am glad to report that I did not falter. I did not spend any time thinking about S. Or V. Or anyone else. I think a lot of it had to do with this fancy new gym/club I joined. Self-care is the way to go when you are trying to move on from a relationship. Self-care and putting yourself in close proximity to good looking white boys for a few hours each evening;).
I kid. While it’s nice and reaffirming to have a cute boy smile at me at the gym every now and then, I actually am not looking. For the first time in my whole life, it’s not about having love in my life. I am happy. And I really like myself. I enjoy my own company. Also, I am completely focused on the task at hand. I finally have managed to entice myself back into taking care of my body.
I think as women we are unfortunately conditioned by society to base our happiness on our looks. As a result, the fact that I put on 40 pounds in one year post my breakup really played into my unhappiness. It was easy to turn to food for comfort. Suddenly having developed severe shin splints did not help either. Nor did the antidepressants. Running was always my way to get back into shape when I fell off the wagon a little. But now I couldn’t do that anymore. Besides, I found my gym incredibly dull. It was the local suburban YMCA, more catered to families and the elderly. Nothing made me want to go. I had given up on yoga. Tried noom coach. But the vicious cycle continued. To be honest, and vain, I felt like an attractive woman trapped in someone else’s body.
Then early this week I finally had some time in front of me without any planned travel, and I was ready to get out of the rut. A friend had told me about this gym a while back, situated at this hip neighbourhood a few miles from mine. The distance had put me off initially. Then three days ago I casually Googled them, and Google Mapped them, and was blown away. It was everything I was looking for. And there was a bus right at my doorstep. It would take me less than 3 dollars and 15 minutes to get there! On a whim, I signed up. I was ready to make a change.
And man, was I in for a surprise. I don’t know if it is my naivete, but the place was fancy as fuck! The kind that made you actuallyy want to go to the gym. Ok just to give you an idea here is a list of amenities.
1. Open 24 hours on weekdays
2. Group classes included in membership. Hello again yoga, pilates, zumba and spinning. It is nice to see you all again.
3. My wonderful, kickass personal trainer, J. Weights? Woah. Comfort zone nowhere in sight at this point.
4. Eucalyptus infused towels for your face after working out (wtf!)
5. Clean bath towels
6. Clean gym towels
9. TV with cable on each cardio equipment! I don’t even have CNN at my place!
10. Climbing wall
11. Volleyball leagues
15. Hot tub
16. Fancy exercise bikes with simulation videos
17. Healthy food bar, with smoothies and shit
18. Incentives for working out
19. 30 day guarantee
20. Aforementioned cuties.
Best thing I’ve spent my money on recently.
This is nice. I find myself looking forward to writing daily. Like I can’t wait to tell the internet how my day went. Which is also kinda sad as clearly I am compensating. Well, who cares? Survival.
The thing I realized about getting over somebody is that one needs to build a life that does not contain that person. I think my breakup affected me so much because that relationship was the only thing I knew. We went to the same classes, spent every meal together, studied together, basically spent every waking moment together. We had the same set of friends, had similar dreams and ambitions and similar values. And it was all fun. I have had so much fun in my twenties with S that I must have been seriously blessed. He made me laugh. There was that constant back and forth, the fun banter. I was entertained constantly. I lost all of that. And that happened when I was in a whole new country with a whole new, stressful job, away from my friends and family. I never got to go get drunk with my friends, lamenting my breakup. I never got closure. It did not help one bit that the people I was exposed to initially during my time here were not even close to the kind of people I would have allowed in my life if I had a choice. I clung to my memories and my life back home for dear life. But now, things are different. All the bad guys are no longer in my life. I have been fortunate to have met some genuinely nice people since. People who have actually managed to make me laugh for the first time in a long time. I am yet to let anyone in, but at least I am happy when I am with them. I finally feel like I am ready. To start moving on.
My friend and mentor Dr V once told me she used to make a list of all the things she did not like about a guy when she had a breakup, and that always helped. I always hesitated to do that because as it must be obvious to you by now, I tend to justify everything S did. I always found excuses for his behavior. When he could not commit even after 7.5 years, I thought it was because we were too young to get married. I often wonder now, was it all even real? Was it all in my head? Come to think of it, he had wanted to break up with me at least three times before. He even did once. Ok. I don’t have the energy to go into all that right now. Bottom line is, I should stop being blind in love and be an adult.
Honestly, I love my life otherwise. I have nothing to complain about. Work is good. I enjoy what I do. The future holds promise. I have hobbies again. My skin looks great.
Jokes aside, I hope this feeling lasts. I hope I don’t fall back into old patterns again. It is hard though. Like this morning. I woke up confused. I was dreaming. I think whoever makes dreams is so cruel. This one was cruel, and weird. It was about how S and I had a child, and now that we were not together he got custody. In the dream I was terrified about someone else becoming my child’s mother. Wtf. I mean, where did that come from? I did not know I was ready to have a child. But apparently my subconscious thought I did. We were on a bridge. It was a boy, and he was adorable. I remember that, although his face is kind of blurry. S and I were on either side of him, holding one hand each. We were doing some kinda amicable co-parenting shit. It was a bad dream but I woke up and realized I preferred it to my reality. At least S was in my life. I could see him. He was not in a different city. We had a baby. God. I am sounding like a crazy person even to me. But you see my point about it being fucking hard to build a life without him, when even if you forget, your fucking dreams remind you of what you lost?
Fuck. I am angry and exasperated. I am tired of this, really. I think I need to tap into that part of me that gets angry at S sometimes. P says even she thinks it is time he came around. It has been two years for heaven’s sake. If he even cared an ounce about me he would have made an effort by now. He knows how much I struggled with this. He knows that by not giving us a chance he is throwing away almost a decade of both of our lives. And a lifetime of happiness. Well, I guess he does not care. So that’s that then. Its all on him from now on. I have done my part. I fucked up, but I made amends. I am going to stop beating myself up now. I don’t think I have any more left to give this relationship. Surely I have better things to do. And better people. So help me God.
I was reading Anna Faris’ new memoir Unqualified today. It was something I had picked up on a whim at the airport. I wasn’t engaged in her life in any way before I bought the book. But for the past two days, I haven’t been able to put it down. It was heartfelt, honest and personal. I have always loved memoirs. I am glad I found another good one. One of the chapters was on how to get over a breakup. It was a collection of advice from different people who had responded to a Facebook survey by her. And boy, it was good. It got me reflecting on how universal this experience is. Everyone goes through heartbreak at one time or the other. That puts a different perspective on my predicament. It helps to know I am not alone in my loneliness. That chapter got me searching for similar advice on the Internet. Here is what I found:
Note: None of this is mine. This is simply a consolidation of things that I found particularly helpful from Anna’s book and elsewhere, so that I have a reference to go to at times of weakness.
1. There is no timeline. It may take three weeks or three years depending on what that relationship meant to you or how invested you were. So don’t beat yourself up for your inability to move on.
2. Fill your life and mind with other things that you love.
3. Don’t be in a hurry to date again. It is not fair to whoever you are dating if you are still hung up on your ex. Give yourself time.
4. Make as many friends as possible.
5. The no contact rule. This is one I particularly struggle with. It does not mean you can never talk again. It does not have to be a set number of days. It is for however long you need to heal. And it is essential to healing. So do it.
6. Again, there is no timeline. You don’t have to get married by the time you are 30 and have 2.5 kids by 35. It may still happen. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll be just fine. Don’t sweat it.
7. Go on hikes.
8. Tidy up things in your life. Your apartment, computer screen, closet. It requires just enough focus to give your mind a rest.
9. Volunteer. Focus on things bigger than yourself.
10. Write about your feelings.
Well, check on that last one.
C silently apologizes to those five people who kindly decided on the basis of her handful of posts that her blog was worth following. She hated following up such an uplifting post with yet another one stemming from heartache. But that is why she was here in the first place, after all. She did not want to sugarcoat her feelings. She wanted this to be a place where she could to be raw, honest and herself.
It started out as yet another day of happiness in solitude for her. Work was good. She liked all the new people she worked with. She managed to finish her tasks for the day at exactly five pm. She had helped a lot of people. And done that well, she thought. She managed to do some reading as well. She came home, with an entire evening ahead of her without any pressing tasks. These kind of evenings were hard to come by in her life. She switched on the TV. She loved watching the news nowadays. It amused her how much she enjoyed this one thing that she used to think was boring as a child. Must be a side effect of growing up. She was pleased at herself. It was raining. She loved the rains. Perfect, she thought. She ordered some Ramen for dinner.
She settled down on her couch, and pulled a throw over her bare legs. She loved that warm fuzzy feeling of winter. After about an hour spent between a new book, Instagram and Grey’s Anatomy, she finally logged in to Facebook. And there it was.
The details would be laborious and unimportant at this point. But it involved his first Facebook post in along time. It also involved what could be construed as flirty comments from a girl he had mentioned was interested in him. It was good that C was alone at home, so that no one had to witness the full blown panic attack that ensued. She had sobbed uncontrollably, gasping for air. Why was she saying that in public? Are they dating? They must be dating. How could he? She couldn’t breathe. It was so strange, seeing another woman talking to her man like that. HER man. What was this strange world she was trapped in? Is this a nightmare? God, please let this be a nightmare!
She couldn’t stop herself from texting him about it. He brushed it off, like he had done every time she had asked him if anything was going on between him and the woman he cheated with. They exchanged a few texts back and forth, and then he said “Sorry for being curt, but I don’t have the time for this right now”. That stopped her in her tracks. She put down the phone, curled herself into a ball on the sofa where he had once held her tight, and cried her heart out.
She was not crying because some girl made an inconsiderate post on her ex boyfriend’s wall. She was crying because his callous comments reminded her of every single time a boy had treated her with disrespect in the past two years. The one who had ghosted after getting what he wanted from her career-wise, the one who had done the same after getting what he wanted, not career-wise. V, who had pledged his heart and soul for life to her, only to find a new girl in the blink of an eye to do the same for. “Sorry”, he had said too, “but that pretty little girl is waiting for me”. It made even less sense when he was the one who still pursued her. “Sorry”. It was interesting how a word that is meant to convey care and respect, can cause such humiliation. She could not fathom how these men who apparently had loved her, could be so unconcerned about the effect their words would have on her.
Through her tears, she texted her friend, P, who was back in India. She was among the few wonderful friends who had stuck through it all with her. “You need to get your life back”, she had said. “You have come this far in life and achieved so much…you deserve more”. God bless her sweet heart. But C knew all that already. She had tried and failed at getting back her life. She had decided she was never going to get over S, and that that was ok.
She had a vision of her old age, alone. She saw sick old people at her job every day. She knew what the deal was going to be. Old age is hard as it is. But to add loneliness to that, to have no one to witness her life? Jesus. Was she really ok with that? Was she ok with this, her life right now, being it? She pushed the thoughts away.
Don’t get her wrong. Neither the men nor the other women had tainted the self-esteem that she had developed at an early age one bit. She was thankful to her parents for that. She knew what she was worth. Question was, did they? Did S ever really love her? If he did, why couldn’t he give her the forgiveness she had once given him? She would never hurt anyone who loved her like that. All the time when V had feelings for her that she could not return, she was gentle with him. She never blew him off once. She never let a text go without a response. Did she not deserve the same dignity? Is there going to be a day when all this erodes on that precious self-esteem, finally causing her to wither, and give up?
One thing her self-esteem had never quite figured out was how she rated on attractiveness. She knew she was incredibly blessed terms of intellect, talent and heart. But how did she compare to these women on physical beauty? Surely she was not one of the pretty ones. Those same parents who had praised her intellect every chance they got had never once called her ‘beautiful’ growing up. Or a princess. Or <insert other adjectives bestowed on little girls along with story after story of happily ever afters>. It might go to her head, they must have thought. Consequently, she had never really thought of herself as one of the pretty ones. But then years later the boys from her school had told her how back in high school almost every boy in class had a crush on her. She could not believe it at the time. She was popular in high school?! Damn. She wished she had known. She apparently had lived a completely different life in her mind compared to what was actually happening. Other instances came to mind. The first and only time she had gone to a club in America, four different men had tried to hit on her. But that probably happened to every girl in that room. Her hairdresser always told her she was pretty. But she probably said that to all her customers. That one time her friend J, who always teased her for her shortcomings, got drunk and then told her how hot he thought she was? Well, the guy was pitch drunk. S of course had told her a million times that she was pretty, hot, cute. But isn’t that what boyfriends are supposed to say? Part of her wanted to believe them all, even though most of her did not dare to.
She comes back to the present. She tries to reason with herself. Was she actually as much a victim as she was making herself out to be? S had not even replied to the flirty girl. At least not in public. Did she have any right anymore to ask S about what he did in his own time anyway? Probably not. He had every right to flirt with or date whoever he wanted to. But they were not like other couples. They were S and C. They had a once in a lifetime love. The kind of love that matures and grows over time. Din’t they? These were all questions she did not have answers for. All she could do was write.
And so she did.
P.S. Did she mention the flirty girl was a model?
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.
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.
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.