Breaking Up Like an Adult

What is the politically correct time frame for moving on?

When I was in school, the intensity of a ‘relationship’ was just as strong it is now. The only difference, which of course you only see in hindsight, is that those relationships are not meant to last. Those are days of puppy love and holding hands, and chaste pecks on the cheek, and giggling and blushing uncontrollably.¬†It was also the time when I got over the so-called pain of separation very rapidly. After all, it was not real love.

There was a boy in my year. A gorgeous, green-eyed (unusual for an Indian), fair-skinned (Indians love fair skin Рracists) guy with light brown hair, and fairly tall too. I interacted with him very briefly when we were very young, and promptly forgot his existence once I grew older. Idiotically, he fell for me.

I found out about this crush/spate of puppy love through a common friend. She came up to me one day in class, and told me of his undying love. My rather unromantic response was: “Um. Thanks. Who is he?”

After I had run the gamut of terrible replies, I agreed to give him my number. My parents were very encouraging since they thought I had a serious dearth of male friends. He called me that night, and a heavily awkward, extremely stilted, shoot-me-now painful telephonic conversation ensued. We exchanged email addresses and ICQ IDs.

Over the course of exchanged emails and instant messages, I got to know him. But the awkwardness was ever present. He asked me out, and we went on a date. I remember being paralysed with nerves and panic. It was terrible. I sat like a mummified sphinx, replying in monosyllables to this Greek God before me, who was inexplicably interested in me. I wanted to sink into the floor.

The interactions became easier after that though. I was still painfully conscious and never able to let go completely. The ice broke a bit more when I had my first kiss; a wet, slobbery event, which left me grasping for tissues. We visited each others’ homes and made out a bit more.

Then, his father caught us one day, and forbade all further interaction. I must add that we were both 15, and obviously too young for this sort of thing. I was an idiot puppy, with fluff for brains.

I hadn’t been in love with him, and I knew that much at the time. I had previously convinced myself otherwise, because in my mind making out equalled a forever relationship. Um, no. (Refer to fluff for brains statement above.)

A few months later, I went to a party with my whole year. He was there. I was happy to be invited, so I was dancing with my friends and a couple of boys too. He, on the other hand, moped around like a moron, channelling the emos of today.

Numerous friends came up to me and berated me for being heartless. I was stunned! I wasn’t heartless; not by a long shot. I was a kid, and I had moved on rapidly from a non-serious teenage relationship. But I was clearly expected to be heartbroken and devastated. Well, I wasn’t, and it left me confused and miserable.

Fast forward 17 years, and I have recently broken up with the love of my life. I am experiencing devastation on the scale of losing a loved one to death. And yet, the expectation is to put on my adult face and go about my life as normal.

My colleagues and boss expect work from me. I am doing it. My friends expect me to be in touch and participate in their lives and life events. I participate. My parents need my support with their ongoing illnesses and other household bits and bobs. I support them.

How come this isn’t heartlessness? Life is so weird.

I’ve Become a Parody of Myself

The breakdown of any relationship is painful. That’s why, I presume from my limited knowledge of the human psyche, people go back to their abusers. It is hard to live without them, because when you separate, you tend to remember only the good times.

In my case, I was not in an abusive relationship by any means. Not emotional nor mental, never mind physical. My relationship was like a warm, comforting blanket of love and peace, and I cherished every moment, even those I was angry with him for being stubborn and not understanding.

But in this painful aftermath of a love gone wrong, one thing pains me deeply: I see no outward manifestation of his grief. I am grieving, as openly as I am able, where my social networks have fallen silent, my laughter dies after two seconds, and the warmth in my heart has been extinguished. He isn’t a public person, and while I know that, I still have the all-consuming desire to see that he is grieving after losing me. But I can’t, and that is making me do stupid, irrational, downright wrong things.

I never checked his email once when we were together for three and a half years, unless he had asked me to book tickets or check it because he didn’t have Internet access. He had given me his passwords, and I had trusted him with mine, because of our strong belief that we would be together forever. I wasn’t being holier than thou for not checking his inboxes; I trusted him, and I didn’t care. I was secure.

But now, I am drowning in insecurity, after the fact. It makes no sense that I want to find proof of him moving on so soon after our breakup. I want to see proof of either his grief or of his having moved on. I want to gauge whether he really loved me as he said he did, or I was delusional.

Thus, I have become all the things I hate about clingy girlfriends, past and present. My grief is a palpable thing, consuming all my thoughts and energy. I wish so desperately to be able to channel that negative energy into something positive and productive, but I can’t. I carry on because I have to, and the pain and heartache lies just under the surface, walled up in an dangerously close to overflowing dam. And the walls are as thin as eggshells, and I feel close to panic and storms of tears all the time.

In spite of knowing his lack of emotive power, I still desperately want to see a mirrored grief. I need to see that the love I believed we shared in equal intensity reflects in the pain of losing it. Part of my pain is from being so disposable that in the maelstrom of trouble in his life, our relationship became a luxury he could cut out to deal with other problems; whereas, I put everything on the line to salvage it.

Why was I so dispensable?

A Sense of Identity

At the time of writing this, I am not sure whether I will have the courage to allow this post to go public. I am writing it because, short of writing a note on my laptop, I have no where else to vent my feelings.

I recently broke up with my boyfriend of over 3 years. On a side note, none of my relationships has ever touched the 4 year mark. But that’s tangential to what I want to express right now. Today, I want to talk about identity.

By the dint of breaking up, and desperately seeking every last tenuous connection with my beloved (yes, he is still my beloved), I read his Twitter bio carefully for the first time. And his Whatsapp status message. And then recalled those over a period of time. They talk about him. (I have a point, so bear with me.)

I, on the other hand, have bios talking about my identity, and the people that go into making it. My profession doesn’t form a part of my identity, neither does my age, sex, nationality, or religion. Or any normal categorisation that people fit into. My identity is made up of the people I love. My family: consisting of a nutty father, a small mother, and a slightly crazy aunt; my dog, who I loved beyond all reason; and finally my boyfriend. My intense love for him became a part of my identity, and in more tangible terms, my bio included ‘proud Navy wife’.

He couldn’t publicly proclaim his love for me because of his pending divorce case. It didn’t matter to me, since I knew he loved me. But in places that were practically private to both of us, there was no ‘proud husband of writer’ or anything along those lines. I just didn’t figure in his identity.

I am not upset about this phenomenon, because everyone is different. My family is my life, as everything else got stripped away early on. They are my lodestone and my anchor, and I adore them. Just as I adored him.

However, I only realised this today. It is the reason I am feeling rudderless and lost after losing my relationship. It was such an important part of me that I have to redefine myself in the aftermath.

The only problem is that I have absolutely no inclination to do so. I decided long ago that, if things didn’t work out with him, I would never give love another chance. It was this, or nothing. I am comfortable right now to contemplate my life alone, since it cannot be with him. That is how much of myself I poured into my relationship – I have become indistinguishable¬†from it.

Voices in my head

I’m not really a music person (I like it, but can’t be bothered to keep track), but I do love podcasts. I listen to several, but due to a lack of time, I can’t listen to each episode of my subscriptions. But there are those I don’t miss, no matter what. Here are my favourites:

The Moth
Storytelling at its finest. The Moth covers real stories from real people, and can be stirring on many levels. The episodes are culled together from recordings of live storytelling sessions in front of an audience, and given a theme. What is particularly amazing, is that the effect of the person’s words on the live audience. A spontaneous burst of laughter, the odd chuckle, the pin drop silence of poignancy or sadness. It makes each story come alive.

The Memory Palace
I stumbled upon this podcast by accident, and my very first episode was Guinea Pigs. It was such a compelling episode, I was hooked. The voice betrayed very little emotion, but the very flatness conveyed so much. I love history, and especially the untold stories within those annals.

Invisibilia
All the things unseen which affect human behaviour. What’s not to love?! Episodes are long, but beautifully crafted. There is effective use of sound effects, music, repetition, narration, interview snippets, and more besides, skilfully woven together to create a sound picture. Can’t stop listening, once I’ve started.

Beats from the East
It’s music. I need to be spoon-fed new music, and so a podcast is a great way to discover someone else’s curated songs. I find a set I like, and listen to it forever. That’s sad, hence this podcast.

BBC Radio 4: Comedy of the Week
British comedy is one of my all-time favourite loves. My only complaint with this show is that it is just once a week. That’s just not enough laughs for me.

BBC Radio 4: Friday Night Comedy
British comedy again, but this time it is about the news. There is the odd bit of international news, but the targets of these comic masterminds are generally British politicians. Whether it is the News Quiz or the Now Show, the laughs are well worth learning about British politics.

Hidden Brain
Another psychology find. Brilliant in every way. I’ve even decided to buy all the books mentioned in the podcast, because clearly there are very interesting.

Serial
Another podcast that has swiftly become a favourite. Investigative and in-depth reportage is always magnetic, and this one is particularly excellent. I haven’t heard its parent shot, This American Life, as yet, but I certainly intend to after hearing Sarah Koenig deftly weave a compelling narrative. Apart from the actual content, which is excellent, Koenig’s impeccable delivery and incredible vocabulary is a huge draw.

Dragon Tongues
Wildly different from my usual fare, but I love a science podcast which is approachable. Sean Willett, the host, doesn’t talk down to one, even though you aren’t an expert. He doesn’t fill the podcast with unexplained jargon either, so manages to effortlessly tread that fine line between both undesirable extremes. Fantastic bite-size podcast episodes. Highly recommended.

Snap Judgment
One episode in, and I am totally hooked on this one. A bit like The Moth, above, but doesn’t seem to have a live audience. I am only gutted that I discovered this magnificent show so late in the podcast!

Some of these are temporary shows, others have seasons, and some are on throughout the year. The topics range from psychology to music, to comedy and news. Sometimes all together. But they are truly well worth a listen.

I’m always on the lookout for something new, preferably funny though. Do drop me a comment if you think I’m missing a masterpiece. I’ll keep updating these, as and when I find something new I like.

Update [20/05/2016]

Beautiful /Anonymous
Discovered this one through another podcast, and was instantly hooked by the preview. The host takes one call which lasts for one hour with someone. The host isn’t allowed to disconnect during that one hour, but the caller is. The caller decides what to talk about, and cannot divulge any identifying information. It is brilliant, and the episode I heard evolved into a therapy session of sorts. It was truly beautiful.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
Not a new discovery as such, but because the episodes are so long, and so far between, I took my time getting to one of them. Good thing too, because it is perhaps one of the most well-researched expositions on history I have ever heard. It is a work of art, and I am only sorry that I haven’t heard older episodes.

2 Dope Queens
I adore good comedy, and these two certainly are hilarious. Their guests are hilarious. I love it, and I listened to episodes back-to-back as a result. Amazing stuff, with the added attraction of being multicultural. Their first guest was a Indian-origin American (Aparna Nacherla), and my tricolour heart fluttered a little in response.

RadioLab
Again, not a new discovery. But thanks to the overwhelming number of episodes I have to delete because my poor phone is groaning, I listened to an episode pretty late. Worth it though. The sheer variety of stories is staggering, and it serves up beautiful insights into situations hitherto unexplored.

Lexicon Valley
I have a dream to be a linguist at some point, because that’s how much I love languages. However, I am a dreamer and not a doer most of the time, so I needed to take a concrete step. I do subscribe to many blogs, but so much of the information there is so complicated for a raw beginner. So I downloaded this. It isn’t basic, but it is simply explained and wonderful. My first episode was Blaccent. Too lazy to find a link, but so wonderful. Hooked.

This American Life
I am a little ashamed to admit that I missed out on many, many hours of this wonderful gem, just because I thought it would be exclusively about American stuff. Now, I cannot really tell if it is only American, but the quality of content makes it a negligible concern.

Historical India
I do know a little Indian history, if not the actual dates. However, I also know that there is a wide ranging spectrum of happenings in this country, of which I am woefully unaware. While I love world history, I do think that knowing the history of my own nation is important. It is important to me, at any rate. I would love to know Russian history too, but for the time being, I’m happy listening to Vivek.

On Being Opinionated and Judgemental

So I have opinions, just like everyone else. Shocker. However, I am not overly critical (in my opinion – Ha!). I cannot nitpick a movie or a book, unless stuff is glaringly bad. I sometimes love stuff that is considered cheesy or terrible by those who know better, and that’s mainly because it manages to evoke emotions. I sometimes don’t know the racist tropes because I live in India, and Hollywood movies are, well, just movies.

What I am trying to say is that I generally take stuff at face value. Unless it talks about India and Indians, in which case, I will become super critical and incisive, because I identify with that diaspora.

Finally, as you may have realised from the paragraphs above, I do not promise to be absolute or consistent. I may love a movie today, read a Cracked article picking it to pieces tomorrow, and hate it thereafter. So I would like to stress that these are my opinions. Feel free to ignore or applaud as you wish, but please do not leave vitriol in the comments. If you disagree with my views, please do write in and tell me, but don’t attack me or my statements. I am very open to changing my views when shown a better perspective I had been hitherto unaware of. I do admire logic and not afraid of saying I was wrong. But please, be nice.

So without further ado (and disclaimers), I am finally going to start posting reviews on my blog. I will create a new section right on top, and take it from there. Bear with me, while I find my feet. I don’t have time to plan stuff out, so when I have a moment, I jump in with both feet and tweak away later.

Thanks.