At Weathering a Breakup

There is nothing not awful about the end of a serious relationship. Even if you’re the person who ended the relationship; even if there were parts of the relationship that weren’t all that healthy; even, sometimes especially, if the end should have come long before it did or if the two of you would prefer the relationship didn’t have to end at all. No matter what your time together was like, there is no circumstance that can make a breakup into an unsullied super happy fun time.

To use some lingo from John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, I have been both the “dumper” and the “dumpee”: I have ended relationships and been surprised when partners ended them. Despite popular opinion, neither position has an emotional advantage over the other. Of course, being the dumpee is no fun. In addition to suddenly being alone, in some cases there’s the added rank stench of the element of surprise. However, planning the big “It’s Not You, It’s Me” and dealing with the attendant guilt and waffling can be just as hellish as receiving a romantic pink slip.

I’m not terminating any emotional bonds at the moment. Odds are you might be, though, and if that’s the case, I’m so sorry. Early winter is one of the most difficult times to break up. Not only is cuddle season is in full swing, but everything from mistletoe to the first stroke of midnight on the New Year to that weird holiday everyone celebrates before Discount Candy Day on February 15th seems to scream “YOU SHOULD BE IN A RELATIONSHIP”.

The good news is, you’re not alone. (Okay, romantically, yes, you are, but not emotionally. Shhh.) People have been breaking up since the beginning of time, and you know what? Humans are still around. You can get through the aftermath of a breakup relatively unscathed, and maybe even a little better off. For now, here’s your guide to navigating the suck.

What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the realm of severing ties as dealing with the end of a romantic partnership in such a way that leaves the least emotional scarring possible on both parties.

1. If you’re the dumper, make it quick, respectful and permanent. I’ve learned from experience that nothing is more painful than flip-flopping for days over whether you’re going to stay or go, except maybe waiting for someone else to make that decision. Taking a while to make a weighty decision in your own head is commendable, but leaving someone else dangling is just cruel. Talk to your soon-to-be ex in person (over the phone, maybe, if the two of you live more than three hours’ drive apart). Give your reasons calmly. Have an escape plan. (Pro tip: If you live separately, don’t break up with someone in your own home. “So, yeah, it’s over… time for you to go now.”) And for the love of all that is good, do not, repeat, do not make the person you are breaking up with think that there is any chance that the two of you could get back together in the future. This is one situation in which it’s a lot less painful to have no hope at all than even a little.

2. If you’re the dumpee, do not call back. In fact, no matter who you are, do not call back. Put the phone down. Delete your ex from your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Myspace (if you’re in a time loop from 2004). If you write them a letter, do not send it. Get rid of your ex’s number if you have to—if you’ve memorized it, have a friend switch your ex’s phone number to a randomly selected other number in your phone. There is a reason that the two of you broke up. Impulsively getting back together is not going to fix your problems, nor is leaving fourteen apologetic/angry/drunken voicemails. Eventually, I’ve heard that some people can be friends with their exes, but give it at least a solid month of no contact before establishing that kind of thing.

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This isn’t just acceptable post-breakup behavior. It’s NECESSARY. Still from Gilmore Girls; original picture from fyeahgilmoregirls.tumblr.com.

3. Wallow for a little bit. The best breakup advice I ever got was from Lorelai Gilmore, of the TV show Gilmore Girls. After her daughter, Rory, broke up with her first boyfriend, Lorelai offered this sage bit of wisdom:

“I think what you really need to do today is wallow… Get back in your pajamas, go to bed, eat nothing but gallons of ice cream and tons of pizza. Don’t take a shower or shave your legs or put on any kind of makeup at all. And just sit in the dark and watch a really sad movie and have a good long cry and just wallow. You need to wallow… Your first love is intense and your first breakup is even more intense. Shoving it away and ignoring it… is not going to help.”

When done in small doses, wallowing isn’t self-pitying; it’s mourning, and it’s necessary. Take a day (or up to a week, depending on the length and seriousness of your relationship) and just hibernate and be sad. Sad is okay. Feelings are okay. Remember that.

4. Become a joiner. All mourning periods end, and when yours does, you might look around and realize you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. In your couple days, between date nights, hanging out with other couple friends, daily communication like texting and even just watching movies on the couch when you didn’t feel like going out, you had a guaranteed social life. Now you don’t, and it’s time to work on that. Remember that club you saw flyers for on campus a month ago? Remember how you thought you didn’t have time to go to the meetings? Better go sign up! Remember that hobby you dabbled in before you and your old sweetie became an item? Jump into it with both feet. Remember your friends—not the couple ones, but the single people you appreciated for their individual qualities and may have spent less time with during your relationship? Call ‘em up. If they’re mature humans, they’ll understand that relationships take time and effort and be happy that now you have more time to spend with them. If not, make an effort to go out and meet some new people.

5. Learn who you are by yourself. Now that you’re single, you can do whatever you want whenever you want, within reasonable legal, ethical and health-related bounds. Nobody else’s opinion, preference or plan has to interfere with your Tuesday night bubble bath/monster truck rally/[insert your favorite activity here]. No idea what you even like to do? These journal prompts are a good place to start figuring that out.

6. Stay single for a while. While you’re out and about being fabulous by yourself, you may run across a well-meaning person who says to you, “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” If you do, laugh and put a lollipop in that person’s mouth so they cannot continue talking to you. The best way to not get over someone is to convince yourself that you need to be in a relationship all the time and consequently date and/or hook up with lots of people who are wrong for you. There’s nothing wrong with playing the field, but there is a lot wrong with using others to get over your emotional issues.

7. Don’t impose deadlines. Remember how I said you should limit your wallowing period to a week, max? Just because you’re not lying in bed eating pizza and watching The Notebook by yourself doesn’t mean you don’t get to be sad. You can be sad or angry or nostalgic or whatever about your breakup for as long as you need to be. Don’t dwell on it too much; don’t try to use other people to get over it; if you feel like you need to, go talk to a therapist. Still, though, within those boundaries, give yourself permission to feel bad and don’t try to fake being okay. If you’re honest with yourself, eventually, you’ll get there for real. I promise.

I’d initiate a group hug, readers, but unfortunately this is the Internet. I can’t offer you a shoulder to cry on, but I can offer you a comments box to type in, a Facebook page to like and post on, and a Twitter handle (@hownottosuckblg) to tweet at. Much love to you all!

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At Being a Sick Adult

Being the loyal, dedicated, observant and stunningly attractive readership that you are, you’ve probably noticed that this week’s post is a little on the late side. That’s not because I forgot about you–far from it. I actually went on what you might call a short research 20140118-123410.jpg
sabbatical for THIS VERY POST. What kind of research sabbatical can a blogger go on, you ask? Well, let me ask you something: what better way to research being an adult with a temporary illness than to actually get sick?

… Actually, I can think of lots of better ways. Internet research. Reading library books. Visiting a sick friend while wearing a surgical mask and taking detailed notes while making them chicken soup. If I could have chosen one of those, I would have, but sadly my choice hasn’t really been involved in many decisions I’ve made recently.

I’ve been out of commission for the past eight days with a stomach virus. This has been not fun for lots of reasons, but one of the biggest ones is that this is the first serious illness I’ve had away from home. I’ve figured out that there are going to be very few people in my life who will want to hang out with me no matter how sick and contagious I am. One is my mom, the other one is my thus far imaginary future husband, and neither of them were with me last weekend.

Being sick sucks. Hopefully you never have to get really good at nursing yourself back to health–if you’re sick that often, please start taking some vitamins and go visit your primary care physician to figure out if you have something more serious–but just in case you end up catching a winter bug, here are some ways to make the whole experience less miserable.

What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the world of temporary illness as being able to adequately care for one’s self while in the midst of a flu, cold, or other bacterial or viral infection without going insane or causing a local epidemic.

1. Gather supplies beforehand. Try to always have things like over the counter medicines, a thermometer, Gatorade in your preferred color, tissues, tea and saltines on hand, especially during cold and flu season or if you live in close quarters with roommates. If you don’t know what kind of over the counter meds to get, call your parents and ask.

2. Perform self triage. Staying home sick from work or college classes has MANY more implications than taking a Ferris Bueller day in high school. If you have a fever, you’re finding your digestion to be more eventful than usual, you have a bad headache that doesn’t get better after a normal dose of ibuprofen or you generally have symptoms that are going to mess with your ability to perform normal activities, you’re probably better off staying home. This is also true if you have a bad cough. If you’ve just got a bad case of the sniffles or some irritating cramps, though, take some meds and suffer through the day. Your GPA and/or performance review will thank you later. (Note: that sniffles thing might be a little different if you work in food service. I’ll take my Subway sandwich without the snot, thanks.)

3. Get evidence. Selfies don’t count. If you’re in college and you know you’re going to miss class because you’re sick, get to a doctor and get a note. Attendance policies vary between universities and individual professors; this is where it pays to read your syllabi. Most workplaces won’t require you to get a note from a doctor, but if you have health insurance and you suspect you might be sick, a visit to a primary care clinic rarely hurts. That said, if you have an exam, those are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get out of or delay. Suck it up, go, take the test and be satisfied with the knowledge that you probably infected your professor.

4. Do what the doctor tells you. Unless, of course, your doctor has extra arms made of flexible metal. In that case, you should run far away from your doctor and consult Peter Parker instead.

5. Take it easy. If you take a sick day, really take a sick day. Go to bed. Drink lots of fluids. Read books, watch movies, binge on your favorite TV shows. You, my feverish, sniffling friend, have just stumbled upon a rare opportunity: a few days of adult life in which laziness is tolerated and even encouraged. Indulge in it.

6. … But don’t forget you have a life. That life is going to begin again with a vengeance once your doctor’s note expires. Make sure you’re reasonably keeping up with your assignments from bed, and ask friends in your classes for notes as soon as you’re healthy.

7. Know when you’re beat. If you have a fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more, you find it difficult to keep liquids down, you’re having chest pains or difficulty breathing, you’re hallucinating, there is blood coming out of places blood should not be coming out of or you feel genuinely afraid of what could happen if your symptoms continue, it’s time to go to the emergency room. Enlist a friend to drive you if you can. If there’s nobody around to drive you, STILL DO NOT CALL AN AMBULANCE unless you are absolutely certain that a) there is not one more single person you know who could drive you to the hospital, b) you cannot drive yourself without causing some kind of accident and/or c) you’re going to need care on the way to the hospital. For more information on when to go to the emergency room and when to call an ambulance, visit this page.

Feel better, readers! In the meantime, take a minute to like this page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @hownottosuckblg.

At Getting Up in the Morning

Hate to break it to you, readers, but Christmas? New Year’s Eve? New Year’s Day? All of it’s over. The world has gone back to normal, and I don’t think anyone’s more aware of it than college students. (Except maybe retail employees… the difference is college students aren’t happy about it.)

At my university, once you’re done with finals, you’re done with class for almost a full month—that means 26 to 28 days of sleeping in, endless Netflix binges, and minimal responsibility. The break is awesome while it lasts, but coming back to your regular obligations can be something of a shock, particularly when those obligations happen before noon.

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NBC’s Parks and Recreation on breakfast. Original still image from g33kpron.com.

Confession time: I’m a morning person. I like watching the sun come up when I can, and like Leslie Knope, I have no idea why anyone eats anything but breakfast food. I am almost embarrassingly perky before eleven a.m., which renders me persona non grata in some circles. I love being awake in the morning, but do you know what else I love? Sleep. My bed is one of my favorite places in the whole world, and even if I’m excited to begin my day, that makes getting out of it really difficult. Still, though, here I am, fully dressed, at a computer in my university’s library (as part of my New Year’s resolution to get out of my apartment at every given opportunity), having signed the roll sheet for my first class of the spring semester at nine a.m. just like I was supposed to. Am I happy about it? That’s a good question. It’s also an irrelevant one, because guess what? I did it.

You don’t have to be great at getting up in the morning. There is absolutely no need for you to be Rapunzel from Tangled, bouncing out of bed with a song in your heart at seven a.m. with nothing to look forward to but cleaning your house—but you still have to get up. Here are some ways to make it suck less.

What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the world of removing oneself from bed in the morning as being upright and mobile relatively quickly, without completely hating life.

1. Remember your mornings start at night. Plan to go to bed eight or nine hours before you know you have to get up for optimum daytime pleasantness. Prepare for your day the night before—there’s no shame in being the kid who plans your outfit for the next day and lays it out before bed.

2. Set an alarm you hate. If you wake up to your favorite song, you’re going to be content enough to stay in bed until it’s over. However, most of us know all too well that a few minutes of pleasantly lying awake in bed can quickly turn into “Well, just a few more minutes”… aaaaand suddenly you’ve slept through all your classes. Not good. The best way to make sure you get up and on your feet as soon as possible is to set a really annoying alarm and put it across the room from your bed. Mine is a beep that gets steadily louder, faster and higher pitched the longer I leave it on. Once your feet have touched carpet (or wood, or tile, or linoleum… I don’t know what you have on the floor in your room. We aren’t that close yet), getting into your morning routine will be that much easier.

3. Have a routine you can do while still mostly asleep. This is where laying your clothes out the night before can be really helpful. I don’t know about you, but it takes me about an hour after I wake up to gain the mental capacity to match clothes by color, and I don’t have that kind of time before my classes start. If you can, avoid thinking for a while right after waking up. Shower. Brush your hair. Brush your teeth. Fix cereal for breakfast. Do stuff that you can do mechanically and worry about complicated problems (“Does this shirt go with these shoes?” “Where are my keys?” “What should I do with my life?”) later.

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Thank you, Disney, for finally giving us a realistic depiction of waking up. Anna from Frozen. Original still from fanpop.com.

4. Do something that makes you happy right after you get up. One thing that can make getting out of bed a lot less annoying is pairing it, in your head, with something to look forward to. For me, that’s coffee. For you, it might be dancing to loud music, playing with your dog, or watching that paper delivery boy toss your next-door neighbor’s Wall Street Journal onto the roof yet again (is he doing it on purpose? Either way, it’s funny). Maybe it’s getting ready for the first ball your castle has held in over a decade, or maybe it’s just cleaning your house with your pet chameleon. No matter what it is, make sure it makes you feel pleasant enough to not completely regret leaving your nice warm sheets. They’ll still be there in twelve hours—trust me on this one.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? Leave a comment here or on the Facebook page or tweet it @hownottosuckblg (not “blog”. “Blg”, as in “Blg, I can’t believe I have to get up at 7 tomorrow”).