It’s Valentine’s Day.
I’ll admit I’m not thrilled about it.
Seven weeks ago, my partner and I broke up. But I’m actually not going to talk about that.
I’m going to talk about what comes after. The “numb slog,” as Patton Oswalt puts it.
This is me admitting that I’m not doing so hot.
Why the hell would I admit that? In a professional context, no less?
Because if we all pretend we’re doing great all the time, then we’re participating in our own dehumanization.
Because maybe, the day-to-day details of rebounding from loss might be more useful to someone than the neat package I could put it in after the fact, once I feel better.
Because sometimes, we don’t need inspiration. We just need to know we’re not the only one.
Especially on Valentine’s Day.
So this is my numb slog:
My alarm goes off; I stay in bed. Months ago, I created a gorgeously rejuvenating morning routine for myself; now I stay in bed for at least an hour instead. Sometimes sleeping, but sometimes I just lie there. My sleep is total garbage lately.
If my cat is sleeping on me, that’s a nice thing.
I finally turn on my meditation app, and try to stay present; I prefer to do 20 minutes, but often I only have time for 10. If there’s time, I journal. If I’ve only got five minutes, I’ll just make a 10-point list - the first ten things that come to mind. They might be, “Take a walk today?” or “Does my cat hate me?” or “GAH WHY DID THAT PERSON SAY THAT THING I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT” or “Remember to breathe.” I check my email and social media and try not to get sucked into either one.
If there’s time before my first call of the day, I’ll make myself fried eggs and hot buttered toast. Good God do I love fried eggs and hot buttered toast.
If not, I just eat a protein bar. It’s got collagen in it. It’s supposed to be good for your skin.
I do my first call. Sometimes I do it from bed. I forget about my life and focus on another person for 50 minutes.
I think I am still excellent at my job, even right now. This is hilarious to me. Being excellent at anything right now is hilarious to me.
Sometimes after a call, I get sucked back into social media even though that leads to me feeling like shit because the world is terrible. It’s the least nourishing thing I can think of to do, yet I keep returning to it.
It’s after noon. I ponder how quickly the day is slipping through my fingers. I feel like a failure.
I breathe. “All you can do is all you can do.”
I make myself tea.
I think about the Mountain Goats song that Amanda Palmer just covered, about a couple who keeps going on vacation because they can't admit that their relationship is over, and maybe I cry for an hour, and then I’m mad at myself for not being better at tabbing back and forth between crying and working.
Sometimes I make a list of everything I want to do that day, and then never ever ever ever do everything on the list.
If I do three things on that list, it’s a red-letter day. This is rare.
Often I end up doing like five things that were not on the list.
I take another call.
I love my clients.
They keep showing up for themselves. They remind me to do the same.
I try to trick myself by moving to another room to work, and sometimes it works.
The downside is that my bedroom is the only place where my cat will lay down on me.
I have so many projects I want to do. I have online courses I want to roll out, that I started the process of creating and then halted. I have a podcast I want to make. I have books I want to read. I have a room to finish cleaning and decade-old boxes to sort through.
But for now, it appears that the big project is…me.
This does not sit well with me. It’s driving me nuts how slowly I’m moving.
I get a friend to go to Planned Parenthood with me. Turns out the weird lump in my breast was just a blocked duct or something. I don’t even need antibiotics.
I have two coaches of my own. My coaching buddy Cloe from my training program, and Orion, a sex and relationships coach (both highly highly recommended).
They give me homework. I used to be so good at homework.
They remind me to be gentle with myself.
Orion walks me through a guided visualization where I come face to face with my 41-year-old self.
My 41-year-old self is HOT. She has a few more wrinkles than me but basically the same haircut. More tattoos. An eyebrow ring.
She has wings. Actual wings. Big purple ones. And she flies me up into the sky, and we look down at the world together.
And then she writes me a letter. She tells me that my pain will make me bigger. She sings me that John Grant song, “Glacier.”
She tells me that with each successive loss, I will have more to lose - a deeper, increasingly hard-won sense of self each time. And she tells me that this sense of self is what will get me through that loss.
(I’ve been saving up for a wings tattoo. It may take me years to save up enough.)
I try not to leave my dishes in the sink. This is hard. I hate dishes. But I love my roommates, so I work to hate dishes less.
I return over and over to this adrienne maree brown poem. “perhaps love can only be as large as grief demands.”
I love the string lights I put up in my room after the breakup, and the new mattress that I will be paying off for a year, and my new warm flannel sheets. It’s part of what makes it so hard to leave my room.
I’m not terribly interested in substances right now, so it kind of feels like blowing off work is the only vice I have available to me. So Orion had me make a “fuck work” list - things I can do to blow off work that aren’t the wasteland of social media.
I can nap.
I can make a snack.
I can snuggle my cat, if she’ll let me.
I keep my “fuck work” list by my bed.
I go to therapy. My therapist doesn’t seem concerned. She tells me I’m too resourceful to stay in this funk for long.
I get sick for two weeks and fall out of my yoga practice.
Returning to it is less humiliating than expected.
Sometimes I do a Qoya video.
I shock myself by throwing together a submission for an audio drama contest.
Over and over, I buy tickets to events that I do not attend.
I’ve determined that I can do events with close friends or strangers, but not acquaintances. Small talk feels like death right now. But if I don’t know someone at all, that’s fine. Starting at zero is fine.
Often, though, I just decide not to leave the house.
I think about that movie Don’t Think Twice, about the improv team that gets torn apart when one of their members gets onto SNL. I think about the character whose partner keeps trying to pull strings for her and take her to the top with him, and how she keeps sabotaging every opportunity that comes her way. I start crying again.
But I don’t have time to cry. I’m running late for yoga.
I barely squeeze in on time.
Afterwards, one of my classmates tells me, “By the way, your aura is brilliant. Like, glowing.”
“I’m surprised to hear that right now,” I say, “because I’m going through a tumultuous time.”
“Oh no,” she says, “you’re very well-protected. Whatever you’re going through, you’ll be fine.”
I’m agnostic about auras, but I’ll take it.
I worry, even as I type, that this piece of writing will make it seem like I’m not having a hard enough time to be as sad as I am.
I simultaneously worry that this piece of writing will make it seem like I’m having too hard of a time to be trusted professionally.
And I also know that if one of my clients were asking me whether she should write something like this, I would tell her yes.
My profession as a coach keeps finding ways to create irony in my life. It is, on some level, hilarious to be coaching others and help them live their best lives, when all I want to do is lie in bed and wait for my cat to come lie down on me. Maybe more so because my coaching calls are one of the only things that can get me to be present, to forget about my own shit, to show up.
But maybe it’s not ironic.
Maybe it’s the most fitting thing in the world.
If you're reading this right now, whether you're currently a client or just enjoy reading these little notes:
Thank you. You are teaching me whole worlds right now.
Your strength makes me stronger. Your growth makes me bigger. Your resilience helps me to stretch and recover.
I know that I can only show up for you if I show up for me, so I’ll keep doing my best.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Keep it up. One day at a time.
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