I am looking at the clock as I type these words. I have a little over thirty minutes to go. Thirty more minutes to mourn. Thirty more minutes to indulge myself in the agony of my heartbreak. Thirty more minutes to allow myself this anger, this bitterness. Thirty more minutes to hate him. Thirty more minutes to love him.
And when the clock strikes midnight on March 1st, I will take a deep, deep breath, close my eyes, release the last of the tempest from within me, and take the first, unsteady steps forward into the next chapter of my life.
I have thought a lot about love over the last two weeks, over the month since he broke my heart. I have thought about a great number of things aside from love, actually. True to my self-doubting nature, I held a figurative mirror up to my face and asked myself over and over again if maybe I was the one who was wrong. For some reason, I have always found it infinitely easier to hate myself than to hate the ones I love. It’s something I’m trying to grow out of, my tendency to absorb the blame for the cruelties of others. Did I overreact? Did I ask for too much? But I asked for none of this. I didn’t ask for love. I didn’t ask to be loved. I didn’t ask for commitment. I didn’t ask for promises.
He made me want things that I had grown afraid to want, because I’d been hurt by them already before. And then he hurt me with them again.
Sometimes I wonder if he thinks of me. What he thinks of me. I wonder if he thinks that my love could not have been real, because I could not find it within myself to forgive his betrayal, to look past what he seemed to consider such a minor, insignificant indiscretion and forget it. I wonder that, too. Is it just my pride getting in the way? But my pride, my self-respect, these things are all I have left to cling to. To ask me to sacrifice them would be too great a sacrifice to demand. Did I really love him, if I wouldn’t give up my pride for him? Oh, it would be easier to say that I never really loved him. I would feel less stupid, I would feel less foolish. But I know my own heart, and that isn’t true. I wonder if he looks back on our brief time together and is retroactively finding fault in me. “My friend told me Filipina girls are crazy,” he told me once. Does he believe it now?
I loved him. I loved him so much, I was giving up my life as I knew it, and doing it gladly. But if there is anything I have learned about myself in the last two weeks, it is that I love myself, and will never, ever apologize for loving myself more.
I have thought a lot about love over the last two weeks.
Love is not a string of pretty words and prettier promises. I’ve heard many of those over the years, and believed in too many of them only to have that faith shattered and my heart broken. No, love is what you do. Love is a verb, an action. Love is a choice. Love is a decision you make, and continue to make with each passing moment.
Love is not a feeling.
Feelings are fleeting, feelings can change, feelings can fade. Infatuation is a feeling, and it is one that I can’t help, one that I can’t control, and that helplessness has frustrated me all month. I would like nothing more than to feel nothing more for the boy who broke my heart, but I can’t. I have to wait, I have to be patient. I know those feelings will fade again, like they did before, and before, and before. Maybe not yet, but they will.
Love is not a feeling. It is a choice.
Love is walking into a club full of gorgeous, half-naked women who all want a piece of you, and still choosing me. Love is not looking for other options because you know that there are none — I’m not an option, you chose me. You chose me for a reason, and love is remembering what those reasons are, remembering why you said I was the one, and remembering the value of that. Love is choosing me, even when I’m inconvenient to choose, because what we have is worth the struggle. Love is never forgetting all the ways I told you I’d been broken before, and taking care not to do the same things to me again. Love is being afraid to lose me, but being self-aware and self-possessed enough not to.
He wasn’t afraid to lose me. Hell, he didn’t even fight for me. He took the easiest way out. And I suppose there is a part of me that appreciates and respects that — that he was considerate enough to not make me hope any more than he already had, because I know that if he had really tried to make it right with me, the girl I was a month ago would have gone running right back to him. She would have given him anything. And when he failed her again, she would have gotten her heart broken all over again, worse than before.
I hear so often from people older than me that I need to be understanding because there are cultural differences between us. “He’s white, they’re all like that,” they say, which I think is an insult to white men who don’t cheat on their girlfriends, long distance or otherwise. Like they’re telling me that my standards are too high, like I’m asking for too much to expect someone who promised to be loyal to stay loyal. But those were promises I didn’t ask him to make. He made them, and he broke them. And in so doing, I’ve come to learn what I will and will not tolerate. I will not lower my standards for love. I deserve to be with someone who will never make me doubt him, or doubt myself, because I know he will always choose me.
He didn’t choose me. And if I had gone running back, like such a big part of me so badly wanted to, to just brush it all aside and pretend it never happened “because it was only sex anyway,” to be the way we were, to be happy again, I feel that I would never have been able to let go of that fear. That fear that no matter how much of myself I gave him, that even if I gave him all the love and attention in the world, that it would never have been enough. It would have made me feel so, so small. And love is not supposed to make you feel small.
He didn’t choose me. I was choosing him every single day.
Now I am going to choose myself.
If our ideas of love are two different things, then that is okay. Neither of them is wrong; we all love in different ways, we all understand love from our own frameworks, our points of view. We are made and shaped by so many things, in so many ways; how can two ideas of love ever be exactly the same?
Perhaps what was wrong was us, for each other. And that is okay, too.
I have spent the better part of the last month making myself busy. My day journal is filled with bullet point after bullet point of places I’ve been going, friends I’ve been seeing, things I’ve been doing, and new people I’ve been meeting, and the pages are littered with the little red hearts I draw next to entries that make me feel good, make me feel happy.
If there is anything good about heartbreak, it’s that it makes you so hyper-aware of the good things that come into your life, and doubly grateful for them. There has been no shortage of love, or kindness, or empathy, or mirth, or affection. I find all those things in so many places now. Many people (whether they knew it or not) have come together to inadvertently fill a void that was there — some of them, people I never expected. It’s wonderful to be surprised again. It’s wonderful to find wonder in a place I thought I would never be able to wonder again.
But I know, I know, that the massive emptiness he left within me can and should only ever be filled by the hopes, dreams, and love of one person: myself. And that is what I am going to do now, slowly, with all the patience and tenderness and care that I deserve.
I am stronger today than I was expecting I would be. To be honest, I half expected to still be a crying mess. But I’m not. I half expected to be looking for unhealthy ways to cope with the heartbreak, but surprisingly, I’m self-aware enough to know that trying to fuck him out of my system will never be the answer. Because I know myself, and what I value, and I seek love and validation in things that will last. So I rebuild relationships, and I work.
Early on, I was telling myself that I was not as strong as I wanted to be, but that I was making the decisions and doing the things that I believed the stronger version of me would be making and doing. And I still believe that. I am not in a rush. I’ve surprised myself already, and I’m proud of myself for it. There are things you can’t hurry, and healing is one of them.
I will take all the time in the world to become whole, and not a second less.
I am half an hour over my deadline. I gave myself one to begin with because while there is a part of me that is entirely capable of being hurt and bitter forever, the smarter part knows that I’m the only one who will be damaged by that. Nobody benefits, least of all me. It will not make him any more remorseful. It will not change what happened. It will be like picking at a wound until it bleeds again, never allowing it to heal, and all that does is create uglier scars that take much, much longer to go away.
I don’t want that for myself. I have enough scars already.
So it is half past midnight, and I have missed my deadline. But that’s something I can forgive myself for. I can give myself five more minutes. Just five more minutes.
Five more minutes to grieve what we were. Five more minutes to mourn what we could have been, and what we will now never be. Five more minutes.
I am taking that deep, deep breath. I am closing my eyes.