Last year, a boyfriend (now ex) left me stranded on a stranger’s floor in Germany. A woman friend ( now ex) falsely accused me of deliberately dating her quasi-boyfriend. So I quit writing. Frankly, I just felt too damn stupid. So I sank into loneliness for awhile.
When writing an essay, you’re trying to impart a sense of curiosity and openness. You’re seeking that moment of transformation when the reader sees the writer’s hard-won wisdom. This does not include telling people that after five years of widowdom, my best advice is to hunker down with Breaking Bad, DoorDash, and an unrelenting commitment to misanthropy.
“People suck” is not a good life philosophy.
Resilience for Dummies
In reality, I started hiking 30 to 40 miles a week with a meet-up group of good people, fighting the loneliness. I put up new photos on OK Cupid to prove I wasn’t visibly damaged. (It’s something far more insidious). Then I went back online and told my dates about my desertion because I was too sad to have any filters.
I’d tell them my story of abandonment and ask, “What do you think is wrong with me?”
“He’s just a jerk,” they’d answer. “No one just leaves their travel partner abroad.” And upon hearing their answers, I’d sigh with the closest thing I could feel to pleasure.
At the end of the summer, I took the trip to Eastern Europe I was supposed to have taken with my ex. Only this time I went with a tour group. I crossed the Charles Bridge in Prague alone at sunrise, toured the Vienna opera house, and saw way too many castles. The few girlfriends I had left after the false dating accusation told me I was a fighter.
But I was just restless.
In the Fall, I started an MFA program. If I felt lonely, I’d go sit in the graduate student lounge with the other millennials, laughing with them at Game of Thrones memes. I learned to love fragmented poetry and apocalyptic young adult fiction.
And I worried I would die alone.
Let’s Get Cynical
So that’s why I haven’t been writing. That and because the MFA program was really time-consuming. But mainly, because I didn’t want to admit I’d made yet another bad dating decision.
After this and this I thought I’d shared enough “life is twisted” after widowhood. Now, I had to admit to a whole new failed relationship. Which of course I’d shared online when things were good. Before I went off Facebook and Instagram because I didn’t want to see any more photos of people doing what I wasn’t.
Just landscapes, many landscapes, while hiking over steep ridges and contemplating the human condition.
But I will not succumb to shame. I did not deliberately date a friend’s boyfriend, ex or otherwise. (It was tempting to resurrect my California bar license and sue for defamation, but no).
My break up scenario was all kinds of embarrassing on my part. But it’s wrong to abandon a travel partner by springing it on them without any warning. Especially after you insisted on staying with someone your partner doesn’t know so she didn’t even have a hotel room after being dumped.
And yet, all this was nothing compared to losing my George.
What I Did to Recover: Just Keep Opening the Door
- I did not go to events where I knew my ex was going to be. Even though I wanted to go stare at him just to unnerve him. And show him a photo of my leg injury from our trip that made getting back home alone that much harder. But I just would’ve looked pathetic.
- I gave up on friends who I’d reached out to twice, but hadn’t reached back. I’d been so lonely I’d clung to past friends who’d been too busy to get together after repeated offers. So I stopped. And felt much lighter now that I’d stopped trying to resurrect relationships that had expired.
- I got off social media. That way I wouldn’t have to see what the instigators of my newfound bitterness were doing. No judgment (ok, much, much judgment), but no more FOMO.
- I found new people to fill my time. Even if it did involve a maniacal hiking schedule. But if I was outside, talking to new people, I couldn’t be that fucked up. At least in theory. I also took a few writing classes in the City. All of this saved hours of self-loathing.
- Within a few days of getting home after the great debacle I scheduled my trip with the tour group. At my lowest, I wanted to know I had something on the horizon. I spent my birthday last year in Vienna at a dinner with some lovely folk from the tour group. It restored a thread of my faith in people.
- I did not give up on love. Even if it was after binge watching four seasons of Breaking Bad. I met several more schmucks, and some nice men who weren’t for me, but then I met my second unicorn. I’ve been in my current relationship with my new person for a little over a year now. We’ve been through his job changes, his super long commute (now a thing of the past) and my stress from starting school and teaching a writing class. He has many of the qualities I loved in my George. So yes, you can find a needle in a haystack if you’re willing to endure a lot of pricks.
I’ve had several friends who are in need of a dating coach. Tune in next week when I crack the code of middle-aged dating.