In a way, my imagination and ability to daydream is a gift. It lets me think up complex stories, work out plots and characters and settings, and fills me with joy when I get lost in a wonderful vision for a minute, an hour, an afternoon. It makes me a great storyteller. But it’s not just fiction I think about. There are memories, faces, people, experiences. Real ones. I like to replay good moments, imagine conversations in my head, think about the future and all the wonderful things it holds.
When I was happy and in love, this was amazing. Every day was full of exciting, real possibilities and smiles and hopes.
Now that I’m heartbroken? Not so amazing.
My brain still does the same thing: dwelling on memories, imagining conversations, thinking of perfect futures. But it doesn’t fill me with joy. It doesn’t make me happy. It torments me. Because those times are over, those memories are tinged with sadness and regret, and the person I wanted that future with is gone from my life.
And it fucking sucks.
I know what the best advice for getting over heartbreak is: stop thinking about it. Don’t dwell on it. Focus on the future, not the past. And it is good advice. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to follow. I’ve spent the last eleven weeks in a daze of sobbing and wailing and aching. It’s always on my mind: the whys, the what ifs. The incessant worry of was I too this? Too that? Did I do X when I should have done Y? I can’t even escape it in my dreams.
I’ve made a small bit of progress this week. With the help of a very patient friend, I’ve come to (maybe, almost, a little bit) accept that I’ll never understand why my ex broke up with me. Not properly. There were no arguments, no dry spells, no bad behaviour. For whatever reason, he changed his mind and didn’t want to be with me anymore. It happens. It’s awful, but it happens.
Dipping my toe into accepting the shock and confusion of it helps me stop blaming myself, and dredging my memories for hints or clues or things I’ve missed or moments that might make his action make sense. Because that was exhausting and got me nowhere.
Something positive this heartbreak has taught me is that when I love, I love a lot. And despite the pain I’m feeling now because that love has nowhere to go anymore, I think it’s a good thing. To be able to care so deeply about another human being, to let them in, to trust. That’s something I hope I never lose.
So even though right now I wish I’d refused that first date, kept my walls up, and not opened my heart to someone who would so easily break it, I think in the long run I’ll be glad that I did.
But not today. Not yet.
For writers, procrastination is an annoyingly common activity. Distractions are bad. Checking social media, staring out the window, thinking and daydreaming… Those things are especially bad for me, because they’re dangerous. They trigger sad thoughts. They lead to crying, and howling, and going through an entire box of tissues. But right now, those things are my default. They’re my inescapable everyday.
It’s writing that’s the distraction.
And I need it.
I’m working on my novel with two drafts open in different windows, reading the one on the left and retyping an improved version on the right. Even though the book is riddled with themes of heartbreak and loss and rejection, it’s captivating. The typing, figuring out language, acting out scenes in my head… It consumes me. To the point where sometimes I type until my fingers ache then stop for a breath, for a sip of water — and I’m in tears. Because I remember. Suddenly. Desperately. And it’s the worst thing in the world.
But for that feverish sprint of writing, I didn’t. I was distracted.
And I was fine.
So as bad as the remembering is, it shows me that I can forget. I’m capable of it. And one day, I won’t have to be distracted to not feel it.
I’ll just be better.
So right now, writing is my distraction. Like a typical writer, I still find it hard to get into. I twiddle my thumbs. Stare out the window. Refresh Facebook and Twitter. But the answers I need aren’t there. The person I care about most won’t pop up in my feed. Procrastination — which used to be for fun and relaxation — is torture. It dulls my mind to the point where my imagination hijacks my thoughts, and not the fun, creative imagination I love. The dark, sad, you’re-a-worthless-piece-of-shit-and-you-know-it imagination.
So I write. I edit. I focus as wholly as I can on my book. Because when I’m lost in that world, I don’t have to think about my own. And it’s the most wonderful escape.
To heal I have to move forward. And there’s no better example of that than turning the pages of a book and getting to The End.
I won’t be writing much next week. Tomorrow at stupid o’clock in the morning I’ll be off to Cornwall for my annual family holiday. Usually I’d call it the best week of the year. I’d be counting down the days. But I’d be lying if I said I was looking forward to it this time.
2017 was supposed to be the first time in over twenty visits that I had a plus one. Someone to share that big bed with. Bathe with. Chill on the balcony with. Walk barefoot across the sand with.
My hopeful imagination had already mapped out this holiday with a person who now won’t be there, and I can’t unimagine that. Despite being alone in that hotel room literally every other year of my adult life, this time it will sting. This time it will feel like something is missing.
So I’m going to have to reclaim it for myself.
I’ll try to smile. Try to enjoy myself. Wear pretty bikinis, drink fancy cocktails, starfish on the bed. Eye-up sexy waiters. Take pretty pictures. Eat as many desserts as I can.
Because even though it’s great that I can distract myself from real life through writing, I need to be able to live my life, too.
Because I had one before him. And I have to let myself have one again now he’s gone.