only better

So now, an epilogue of sorts (in two parts). Full disclaimer: I'm going to get a little granular, so I can get it all out and behind me. And I'm going to get a touch TMI. Sorry.

After Timo broke up with me, I was a mess. I just couldn't make sense of his decision. We'd been happy, I was sure of it. He told me all the time how much he cared about me, how much he appreciated my love and support. He was incredibly expressive and caring. He did nice things for me all the time. We exhausted ourselves to spend as much time as possible together, work be damned. We positively lit up whenever we saw one another. The sex was unreal. Half the reason I didn't blog about us (well, other than work taking up so much of my energy) was that I didn't feel I needed to. I had absolutely nothing to prove about my romantic/personal life. I was just...happy.

So those first two weeks were unbearable. I couldn't focus at work, couldn't talk about anything else with my friends. So, so much crying. Crying the likes of which I haven't done since Chaucer died. Meanwhile, I did everything you're supposed to do in a breakup; rather, everything that has previously been really helpful.

I made a list. On this list were things about Timo that I had never allowed to bother me. That I had chosen to overlook. That I had weighed against my gratitude for just simply being loved and treated well - and therefore just didn't amount to enough to matter. On this list were all of his shortcomings. Some were petty; most were valid, and truly objectionable character flaws. I let myself drum up every time he'd been callous or unfair, and I put it on the list. Also on the list were reasons we probably, arguably, weren't great for one another. The ways in which our values clashed. Our preferences, ideals, interests, passions, etc.

I looked at this list hourly. It helped.

I deleted a lot of photos. And as I went through and revisited these memories, I had to admit something to myself: many of these times we spent together? The day trips and the getaways? They were not actually spectacularly great. In fact many of the photos gave me a sort of uneasy feeling, as I remembered a fight we'd had that day - or, to be honest, how dull the day had actually been. So I added these revised memories to the list. That helped a lot, too.

I made a goal grid on the wall in front of my desk. Just eight small squares of paper, stuck up with washi tape. Physical, financial, and intellectual goals. Bite-sized goals. Ones I can achieve easily and quickly enough, to give my self-confidence a boost. As soon as I knock one out, I put another in its place. Putting the focus back on me.

I watched Guy Winch's TED talk on heartbreak. It gave me a lot to think about.

I forced myself to say "Hey, beautiful" every time I looked in the mirror. I didn't believe it, it made me laugh to say it to my puffy, miserable face--but at least it got a laugh out of me.

I made the decision to reclaim some things, lest I fall into the trap of thinking I'd lost them - or that Timo had taken them with him.

For one thing, I ordered myself a small bottle Noir 29, which is a Le Labo scent I'd gotten for him, that had been a very special and meaningful choice, because I adore that scent. Rather than let it be ruined for me, or allow myself to feel triggered every time I smell it on another man - because it is LA, after all; men here wear Le Labo - I decided I would make it my scent, now.

For another, I forced myself past the sexual block that had formed in the breakup. Our connection had been priceless to us both, and a huge source of joy. When it ended I felt doomed. Like no one would ever get me the way he did. And then it dawned on me that 50% of that connection was due to me - my openness, my communication skills, my being comfortable with me. And I'm still here. So after spending several nights feeling sure I'd never want sex again, I forced myself past the wall. I cleared my head, cleared my night, and took myself on a mental and physical date the likes of which I had not done in years - 2.5 years, to be exact. I did things to myself that even Timo had not, even when invited. And holy fuck. Holy fuck. So yeah: I took that back, too.

Another thing I did? Play German language YouTube videos. The most banal or cornball shit I could find. I did this to desensitize myself to something I had fetishized about Timo. I have always loved the way that language sounds, always found it incredibly sexy. I know I always will. But I listened to it with new ears, and in new contexts, until it became flat and a little ridiculous, and I could start to see why so many people find it harsh and discordant.

And finally, I decided that I'm going to Instagram our Tulum trip, which I'd never done. Only he's not going to make much of an appearance in that episode. He chose to take himself out of our story, so it's mine now. Lots of selfies on the way, folks. You've been warned.


So that's all the work I was doing, in a desperate attempt to just get on the far side of the pain. And it helped, definitely. But there were all these interstitial moments that were still just breathtakingly hard. And there were nights, alone at home, when I wanted to crawl out of my skin. When even the love and support of my un-fucking-believably amazing friends was not enough.

And it was in one of those moments that I asked him for one more conversation. The six, seven minutes he'd given me in my apartment were not enough. I needed to understand. I could not let go until I understood.

So we talked (this was a week ago today). And while I expected cold stoicism from him—a level-headed coolness that would leave me no room for doubt--what I got was the absolute opposite. He was conflicted. He was in pain. He cried. And most damaging and confusing of all? He would not straight up tell me that he didn't want to be with me. I asked him to say it -- and he wouldn't. "Why won't you say it?" I asked, my heart racing. "Ellie, you're asking me to jerk you around."

And that was it. When I heard that I thought I had him. I thought that meant he just needed time. So I offered it to him. I took control of the conversation and told him I was very much still wanting us, but that he could have some time to figure out his path. The door wouldn't be open forever, I said - but it was still open. I don't remember exactly what our last words were, but when I hung up the phone it was like I'd taken heroin. I felt so high on hope I almost threw up. I walked into work so jacked up on the fantasy that Timo was maybe still mine, it was like I'd shot adrenaline straight into my heart.

Well, that hope turned out to be utterly corrosive. Pure poison. I thought I couldn't concentrate before? Every ding of my phone sent my heart straight to my throat. I was sure he was doing it again - coming back to me again. I'd given him the most amazing deal ever: take your time, do your thing, I need no commitment, see ya when you're ready--and with that, I'd draped my heart out over a metal spike. I lived like that for about a week: consumed. Telling myself I was keeping my expectations low, but not believing the lie one bit. It was fucking hell.

And when the day I knew he was coming home from Europe came and went and he didn't appear on my door, contrite and full of renewed love -- then I knew I couldn't live with wondering. And I very quickly, very completely, lost my mind, and reached out to him again.

And how he responded - and what he responded with - were exactly what I needed. And all in a rush, I fell out of love with him. All in a moment I was launched as if by a ballista to that far side of pain I'd been desperate to get to. He showed me who he was and who he's always been.

I will tell you what happened and finish this sorry saga tomorrow or very soon. But now: bed and sleep for the first time in three weeks when, hitting the pillow, I know for sure what my future holds.

(Me, only better.)