Thanksgiving

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.

A rant

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.

 

Note to self: How to get over a breakup.  

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.

Facebook.

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?

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.

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.