When the going gets tough, the tough fall apart (and that’s OK)

I haven’t been sure how to approach this topic in a public way.

My fiancé has left me.

This would have been the Worldcon post, but my fiancé has left me.

I wish there were a way to explode those words. I wish I could yell them loud enough to crack concrete. I wish I could whisper them so weak and frail that the very air corrodes and destroys them. I wish the thoughts could be exorcised through expression, and I wish that the breath it took to say them would carry away the feelings, too. I have always been averse to marriage, and tying my destiny to someone else’s, but this one felt right. I knew it would be a journey. I knew it would be rough, but I was pretty sure it would be worth it, and work out in the end.

I wish I had the Weirding Way, so I could shift my perceptions and slip around physics to alter reality. Not to make him come back (I love him, and respect his choices), but to facilitate my own healing process. To alter my neurochemistry — to accept and move on. I can’t imagine a world in which he doesn’t love me, and yet, that is the world that now exists. It’s here. It’s real.

When I was younger I relied on anger as an energy source. I still do, now and again. In this situation I find myself unable to access it. I’m not angry at him, or myself. I just feel lonely. I feel sad and ashamed. I feel so deeply sorry.

For the last week, since he announced and moved out, my brain has put my heart in quarantine. These are the steps I have taken since that day.

  1. Posted the Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay list, and checked it every few hours to make sure my body is being properly cared for. Yes, it’s hard to eat. Eat anyway.
  2. Listened to Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art commencement speech, as a reminder of the work I must do, and to consider ways to transform this experience into fuel for that work.
  3. Said something kind and/or encouraging to at least one person, at least once a day.
  4. Observed that my hands shake.
  5. Cleaned my apartment.
  6. Cried so hard my knees buckled.
  7. Re-organized my apartment.
  8. Cried continuously through other practical tasks, like dishes.
  9. Joined a gym.
  10. Set an alarm and a schedule to actually go to the gym.
  11. Pet a friend’s cat until the cat fell asleep.
  12. Sought a new roommate.
  13. Sought a therapist. I am open to the idea of medication, but mostly just want to talk to someone.
  14. Apologized to his mother (I liked his parents, too) that things didn’t work out.
  15. Skyped with my family.
  16. Requested company in the evenings, for dinner and/or visits. This is probably the most critical part of self-care for me — I’m extroverted. Most of my friends are not, and I don’t want to exhaust them.
  17. Reached out to a mounted archery instructor, and scheduled a facility tour.
  18. Reached out to a range owner from whom I can test/buy better arrows.
  19. Applied for freelance writing jobs I hadn’t previously considered.
  20. Sat down to write this post.

A lot of people have told me that I am strong, and that strength will carry me through this. Maybe that’s true. That’s the kind of constructed image you’d expect from the person who runs a Women & Warriorship panel at every con she attends… but I respectfully disagree. I am crumbly. At the Beyond the Chosen One: Meritocracy in Fantasy panel, I brought up Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on the Power of Vulnerability. By being vulnerable, by being willing to say “I love you” first, we create connections with our fellow human beings that lead to feeling safe and secure. I don’t want this experience to embitter me. I have discovered that I genuinely enjoy the partnered mode of being, and plan to again with the right partner — but I need to re-establish my sense of self and identity first. Thus, going after mounted archery. I put that on my bucket list in high school, but even that might need reevaluating. Who you are and what you want changes, right?

I still have a long way to go. Frankly, all I want to do is convalesce in bed and be fussed over by nuns; but life keeps going. This is all terribly hard, and I haven’t figured out why shame has decided to compound everything else… But I do feel ashamed. I’m embarrassed to ask for help, and to admit that I need it, and to find myself in this situation at all. I really thought I was a good partner. Perhaps there are no bad people per se, just bad matches.

The biggest thing I’ve yet to do is mourn. Therapists are very difficult to come by in the Bay Area — most of the people I’ve called are booked or not taking on new patients (and I have insurance!). Once the other logistics of my life and living situation settle into a stable period, I will take the time to mourn. If you’re in a similar situation, I hope that this demonstration of what to do has been helpful. I hope it turns out to be helpful for me as well.



8 thoughts on “When the going gets tough, the tough fall apart (and that’s OK)

  1. Laura

    Sorry to hear you’re having a rough time. It’s totally okay to fall apart (and cry into the dishwater). Just keep staggering along. The sad stuff will fade.
    And yet even in the midst of this desolation you are able to express yourself through elegant writing.

  2. Gregg

    You are strong and courageous Setsu. Those qualities do not eradicate the pain, suffering and “crumbliness” you are experiencing, it merely says that you have the skill set and tools to get beyond it – after you have experienced the things you need to learn, grow and take with you. You are magnificently constructed; it is an ongoing process that this is a part of. Just proceed as you are, eyes – mind- heart – spirit wide open and listening. You will get through. Friends will be along and waiting on the other end as well.

  3. www.laurensapala.com

    Ok, but seriously you really are one of the strongest people I know. I think being vulnerable is also a sign of great strength. Your courage in sharing your real feelings here takes a lot of guts and a lot of grit.

    Love to you and hope things are getting better.

  4. kibitzer

    Hi Setsu. I barely know you but believe me when I say, I am so sorry to hear this. What a heart-wrenching thing to happen. I doubt there’s anything meaningful I can say to help so I’ll just say, do look after yourself and I hope your friends can give you the company you need.

  5. Pingback: Anger for Sprints, Humor for Marathons | Setsu Uzume

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