I’d have liked to mask what this entry is going to be about, but I’ll just go right ahead and say it- ending a relationship, specifically a long-term one, changes one’s life in a really big way. In college, I had all these ideas about how life should look like when I’m in my late 20s: a wedding at 28, a kid at 29 or 30 and a teaching job at a university. A teaching job, of course, because I have to have time to take care of my husband, like cook him real meals for when he comes home after a stressful day at work and I need mornings or afternoons free because I would like to be hands-on with our kid.Ten years later, I have none of these- not a dog I need to buy doggie food for, no nightly Lifestyle Network-inspired dinners, no-one’s calling me “prof.” or “mom” and especially not a semblance of a relationship that’s headed for the altar. You break up with someone that you shared a life with for a long time and you lose not just a person, but an entire orientation you have set for yourself.
Most days I’m fine with where I’m at, even grateful that I could claim “I’m not unhappily married.” However, you still have those other days when the lack of the security you once had eats you up – they could just be 4 days in a month but like PMS, those days can be hell.
As a society here in the Philippines, I think there’s pressure to be married off by the time you’re 30. And the pressure is not just external. Like Ala Paredes once tackled here, no matter how bohemian one’s upbringing may be, how high her level of education, or how long and astig (kick-ass) list of accomplishments, a Filipina has most likely internalized this pressure of marrying in her 20s, so consciously or unconsciously, “to be married before 30” is right up there in her list of must-dos. And that moment when she realizes she’ll most likely fail to live up to this deadline will be like swallowing a giant, ill-tasting pill. Some jump the gun and forget about their non-negotiables, bahala na si Lord kung sinong mapangasawa; some decide to stay put, keri lang sigurong mag-intay. For those in the latter category, there’s that fear- paano kung ma-old maid?
Because fear has a tendency to overpower logic, a pact with yourself is essential. Recently, my friends and I have jokingly made a promise of keeping each other from settling before we’re 35 and staging an intervention if we feel like the other person is jumping the gun at marriage out of cowardice. Though we do contend that at 35, it’s probably fine to get a sperm donor.
Of course, there’s also that void- the vanished person carries with him routines now erased, objects no longer to be seen, friends you’ll have to spend time with less and less, etc. But the thing that’s most torturous is having the plans you’ve built together disappear. One of the most wonderful things about coupledom, after all, is indulging in mutual dreaming. Which brings me to the following points:
- That lesson you learn in the Missing Piece Meets the Big O (Shel Silverstein) is true. Take heed. Your partner complements, not completes. So, if you find yourself rolling on your own again, know that you’re already whole.
Zero can be a great state. Zero is where possibilities lie.
There’d be slips, like drunk texting, pity shopping, trips on a whim, getting wasted, awakening zombie exes, wailing in public, etc., etc.– but you’ve been through/are going through a lot of madness, don’t you think it’s but fair to just laugh at yourself and then forgive? And, really, just try to do these things:
Surround yourself with real friends who will put up with sorry texts, retrogressive thoughts, and moments of unexplainable sadness.
Take a break from feeling fine and dandy. If you’re feeling weak, dammit, be weak. Everyone has those hours, those days.
Reach out to books, songs, poetry, etc. Derive not just comfort, but also companionship from other worlds.
Go someplace unfamiliar, not just to experience things on your own, but also to escape in a space where you are without history.
Reclaim what were once shared spaces. If too difficult, do so with people you trust.
Breathe through the fog, the smog, the dense air.
Be really okay being alone (easier said than done, I realize).
Believe (again, easier said than done).
When in a state of Ally McBeal-level neurosis, I remind myself, “the Universe can dream a bigger dream than I could ever dream for myself.” And I remember Ally and think about Larry Paul, who knew he’ll come by? Alternately, I also look at my unmarried aunts and see contentment and lives that are equally rich and fulfilled.
feature image via Jasmine Ferrer.