Balls Deep

Was Sean’s idea to “edit” our June work calendar like so, I swear.

I started working on a blog post in June, shortly after the end of a 6 month relationship, as a way to process what-the-fuck-just happened. But I’ve struggled with it. Blindsided and still in shock, I knew I wouldn’t have the clarity to write about it well, but I started jotting things down anyhow.

The temptation to vilify him was strong – there were lies, you guys. Well, one big one at least, that he coated our days with for months, about being in love when he actually wasn’t.

As crushed as I was by his confession, I knew it wasn’t fair (or even all that interesting) to call him out. Besides, he isn’t a plotting or evil person. But being that good at feigning love? Something inside him is broken, and unresolved. But we’re all broken in places. The only consolation I had in this was that it wasn’t really about me.

I’m not condoning how poorly he treated me, which was very, very poorly. But focusing too much on his fuck-ups kept me from really looking at myself, which, if you ask me, is the only work left to do when someone eats your heart, then vanishes.

When I wrote, I found myself trying to justify my response to the breakup. I was really upset. The day after, I wailed and sobbed, my head on my friend Martin’s lap, while he handed me tissues. I barely ate or slept for two weeks. I was so embarrassed by how I felt. I desperately did not want to shed tears for him. And I just kept wondering why it hurt so much.

The more I dug into the original post, the more I saw that the pain of this breakup was tightly tied to the pain of the two that preceded it. The first one knocked me down so hard it took me 5 years to be able to fall in love again. The next time I fell in love felt like redemption, but it wasn’t, and it took me a year to bounce back from that.

In theory, or so I thought, this breakup should have hurt less. After all, I was only with this person for 6 months. But in the first few weeks, it felt way worse than the last one, and I was astonished by this.

Days after the breakup, I admitted to my co-worker/friend Sean, how pathetic I felt for being so upset.

He threw his arms out, exasperated, and said, “It’s not pathetic Louise! You two were balls deep in a relationship!”

Succint, validating, and so Sean.

And it is true. I, and everyone else, thought we were “balls deep” in a relationship. But even though he was driving the relationship fast in every other way, he wasn’t in it deeply at all. He had one foot on the gas and one on the brakes the whole time.

At some point it dawned on me that I’d never had my trust betrayed like this, at least not by someone I was madly in love with. So, even though it could have been worse, it made sense that it still hurt like hell.

And it’s not like this shit gets easier. But at least I’ve made progress. This I know.

My own issues around intimacy are deeply rooted in my childhood, and I have worked hard my whole life to repair what was broken. Those issues make it tough for me to open up and trust – and they also make bouncing back from heartache and disappointment more difficult.

But describing precisely how my issues factored into the pain of this breakup? I was worried it let him off the hook somehow. But more so, it is so difficult to be that open and vulnerable about your own shit.

And there are some people who chalk that shit up to “crazy.”

But then there’s the rest of you.

As difficult as it was to start the breakup post, it’s been more difficult to wrap it up. I wrote redemption into the end of it, because I know it will soon be true. I loved. I got hurt. I will (very likely) love again.

But I still have days of heartache and anger that don’t yet feel like redemption.

For instance:

A week ago, after a proper stretch of feeling better, my phone rang while it was in my hand. It was him. I just stared at my phone, bewildered. I didn’t answer. I knew it was probably a pocket dial, and to my relief, the 2 minute muffled voicemail confirmed this.

But then then a profound disappointment took over – revealing a hope for reunion that I wasn’t aware I even harbored. I deeply resented the feeling.

How could I want that, after how much he hurt me?

It took days for me to get back on track. What did the trick was admitting to a friend how foolish I felt for still pining for someone who didn’t even love me. This friend, of course, reminded me this was just part of the process. Lots of steps forward, a few back. Simply by revealing a feeling I was ashamed of, it all but disappeared.

Turns out the road to redemption is curvy as fuck, and paved with messy, embarrassing emotions.

So I decided that if I’m still just a butt-dial away from a gut-punch of uncomfortable feelings, maybe the original blog piece needs more time. Or, as another friend pointed out, maybe it served its purpose in helping me process things, and doesn’t need to be shared.

And while I only half believe it as I write this, I know redemption in love is possible. My gynecologist, of all people, assured me of this as we wrapped up a routine appointment. She asked about any recent partners, as these doctors do. I briefly explained the relationship and breakup, trying to gloss over it, but my stupid eyes welled with tears.

Usually funny and slightly irreverent (she calls my uterus “that sucker”), she got quiet, and pulled her stool up close to my chair. Then, dead serious, she looked me square in the eye and told me of a breakup she went through that was nearly identical to mine. She explained how the next man she met (now her husband) was so careful with her heart, knowing she’d been crushed by the last man she was with.

“I know this sucks,” she said, “but promise me you won’t give up, and that you’ll keep doing the work, and I promise you that you’ll find the right person .”

My eyes filled with more tears.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked.

“Of course,” she replied.

“Do I have to pay a double co-pay for this visit?”

She laughed, said this one was on the house, then sent me on my way.


I don’t know if my story will have the same arc as hers. But I hope it does.

And I don’t know that I’ll ever finish the original blog post. Maybe I need a few more steps forward, and a few less back before I can fully believe the bit I wrote about redemption.

In the meantime though, I’ll follow my doctor’s orders.

More Food, Less Pain,