When Writing Through Suffering Becomes Suffering Through Writing

 A lot of my writing happens when the stress of an experience or situation demands I think about what has happened. A lot of my analytic writing happens when I need to answer, for myself, the questions of “how” or “why” of a situation, which in turn helps me process the feelings. And a lot of my poetry happens when I just need to get the feelings out on a page. Either way, a lot of my writing is incredibly cathartic, but there are some articles that need to be written which, when I start to write, the feelings are so unbearable that I cannot even begin. I don’t know where to begin the analytic. Thinking about where I was feels like a wormhole to a different time where the analytic doesn’t exist – only the feeling exists, and I feel I am fighting those feelings to draw out a cogent analysis. And the feeling is exhausting to contend with. How do I write plainly, simply, about my understanding of what happened, when all that happens when I think about what happened is that I am trapped in the “when” of it. It feels like time travel but in a terrible way.


Every time I try to start an article about my unbearable heartbreak: ie: why it was unbearable, what I could have done differently, how I plan to do things differently, how gender and oppression and marginalization play into power and privilege in relationships – all of it feels like the dark part of a stage, and the only spotlit area is some stupid jagged memory of some stupid shard of a moment that I just can’t… think around, or think through. I’ve always written like this though – it’s just usually the writing eases the stress. But with this experience, I can’t even write a first sentence for an analytic piece without bursting into tears. Every article dies stillborn, I sweep away those sentences into the wings. Instead, the starring role is given to  some shitty new poem about pain a year old resurfacing and pretending like it’s a new fucking thing. It’s not new. The poems aren’t even cathartic in an overall way – they are just catharsis in the moment because I tried to write analytically and instead couldn’t but the truth is I have written so many shitty poems about a man, an unspeakably short “time” with him that I still feel so cuthroat vicious about that I actually hate every single fucking poem I’ve ever written about him/us/the “relationship”. I will never forget the fury I felt when he, in the aftermath, called a month long – fling? thing? nothing? – with me a “relationship”. Milk takes longer to spoil! I screamed. It wasn’t a fucking relationship. It was nothing you fucking moron. 

Months later I saw him on my blog reading my shitty poetry about himself. That’s what happens when you tell a bitch your vacation plans and she gets a bunch of hits from Morocco on her birthday, which, by the way, as a vague point of interest was almost exactly to the day 4 months when you dumped her in a fucking cafe, but hey it was 4 weeks long so why not actually just ghost, or send a text, or do it by phone, or whatever.

10 days after I saw him on my blog, I sent him a furious letter. It was titled: “It’s a Crazy Bitchy Ex kind of letter, don’t say I didn’t warn you – we’re done, man, khalaas and all that jazz” It’s a subject line that, I’m sure, in the right moment, makes him laugh because it makes me laugh.

Also it’s a subject line that is viscerally enraged for a letter that was also viscerally enraged.

And a few days after that I apologised. And then a few days later I told him it wasn’t a relationhip, among other things, because milk takes longer to spoil. And then I apologised again. If this sounds crazy to you, it was. I was. There was a lot of shit he did too in terms of agreeing to relationship norms and then changing his mind and yeah people are allowed to change their minds, so sure, go ahead, change your miserable fucking mind – look *deep breath*:

this is the problem. See what happened here? This. This exact fucking thing. When I try to think about how despite my feelings and acceptance of what happened, a part of me is SO, to this day, utterly enraged and disgusted and not even with him – no. With myself. No, not the self pitying “oh i was so BAD and NOT good” – no. My anger is not self-loathing. My disgust is not self-loathing. I am just so viscerally angry. I remember laughing when he wrote: “The whole trying to be friends after relationship thing is pretty challenging” – relationship? RELATIONSHIP? motherfucker, you better not be talking about me. You better not be talking about some bullshit NONSENSE that spanned a length of time SHORTER THAN MILK COULD LAST.

“I feel stupid,” I said, standing on the subway platform staring out at the train at the end of an evening. We had been trying to be friends – because he had wanted that and because I still wanted him in my life. We met a day after Valentine’s Day for an evening dinner, about 3 weeks after he had dumped me in a fucking cafe. Both of us wore red without planning, and we ended up in the same subway car on our way over. The whole dinner I remember thinking I don’t know who the fuck you are. When the waitress came by at the end, I said “we’re ready for the bills separate please” without any punctuation in the middle. Eventually we were on a subway platform heading back.

“Why?” he asked. I think it was a genuine question. I still have trouble answering it. I don’t feel stupid anymore, I just feel enraged. But at the time, I didn’t have words.

He reached in his pocket for something. “Keep it,” I said automatically. He looked at me surprised, his hand still in his pocket. “I got another one,” I said. I had left my contact lens case by accident at his place on our last night.

On our last night, the day he dumped me, (“Can’t we say it was mutual?” He winced. “No,” I said.) I handed him a letter from my journal. I had written it two days ago. And even though things felt good and ok, and I was a little nervous, some dark shadow caught me that day, and I had written a goodbye letter. A pre-emptive goodbye letter, filled with a sense of love and kindness for his life, thanks for what he had showed me about myself, explicitly, I had written something like “If this ends, it will be because you walked away from it, and I already know that now. I don’t know when it will be, but if it happens, it will be you who does it.” He dumped me, and then we did dinner. I think it was his attempt at offering me closure because I think he likes to think of himself as a good person and tbh, he is a good person and that makes all of this even more infuriating. And at dinner, I pulled out my journal and handed him the letter. He read it twice, jaw tightening. “This is powerful,” he said finally. Carefully, he folded it, a neat crease in the exact middle of the page.

At dinner, the day after Valentine’s day, our first and only meeting to “try to be friends”, he told me he kept it by his bed.

Months later, months of me feeling unsure if he actually cared, him making basically 0 effort to reach out, 0 effort to be in my life, 0 effort to make plans, 0 effort to set any pace for what our friendship would look like, ignoring me on my birthday but having the audacity to sit on this shitty blog reading shitty poetry about himself from Morocco, I snapped.

“Burn it,” I raged, in one of my emails to him, referencing the “powerful” letter I’d handwritten earlier the year.

We talk about objectification but not like this, like here’s a thought, like if I left a fresh apple out for 4 weeks would it still be ok like what lasts four weeks? and what doesn’t last longer? like what length of time matters? Eggs last like a month, right. Eggs. Hah, ok, a fetus of a relationship and then it was rotten!

Months later, I googled “how long does it take to fall in love?” and I saw a lot of bullshit articles for women and bullshit articles for men, but one random answer in a thread caught me completely off guard. “I’ve seen many answers, but the best answer is: a second.”

oh good. Instant tears.

“Maybe you’re a romantic,” he said, as we were heading into the subway station after our “friendly dinner”.

I was.

But I’m not anymore.

Romance requires a degree of imagination about the person that falls somewhere along the line of seeing the best of them but men are so many levels of trash that they leave women with no choice but to see them always exactly as they are, in order to emotionally protect ourselves. Men have the luxury of projecting their bullshit, seeing us as idealised figures, and women will put up with that shit forever. This, I have learned, is what most heterosexual relationships are: a man relating to his fantasy and expecting her to be ideal. A woman relating to a flawed person, because if she projects even a little, she’s fucked. it’s done. it’s over.

All women dating men are aromantic if romance is a subject position that asserts a romantic gaze.

“You’ve eroded my sense of trust and faith in romantic moments, in kindness, in reliability from partners, and in milestones […] You… have eroded my capacity to trust in moments, words, and promises. You have made promises completely unreliable.  Saying “let’s be exclusive’, like it or not, is a social contract. It doesn’t translate to ‘I’m going to dump you in a fucking week’,” I wrote in “It’s a Crazy Bitchy Ex kind of letter, don’t say I didn’t warn you – we’re done, man, khalaas and all that jazz”. Later, I read blogs by women who had been stood up at the altar, broken up with months after an engagement, dumped after “I love you”. I think about the men who have done this. How do they sleep at night?

“Did this matter to you?” I asked him. It was the morning after our last night. I asked for a last night when we “broke up” – lol. break up. how do you break up a thing that didn’t exist to begin with. Anyway, he said yes to a night with me. Actually,  he asked “Will it help?” and I said yes, and it did actually because it was like ok maybe he cares a little, maybe some of the intimacy we experienced was like not just in my own fucking miserable brain, and on some days (not today), I can actually believe that.

The morning after he answered without hesitation “Yes.”

But the truth is I don’t believe that. I will never believe that because anyone who breaks up within a week of deciding to be exclusive immediately tells me all their “yesses” were worthless. Were garbage, Were absolute trash. Were absolutely meaningless. So I will never believe that it mattered to him – not in the long term solid sense of what I thought about my “time” with him. Not in the way memories solidify and create a reality of “What was true” and “What happened” during my time with him. That’s what I describe it as, by the way: “My time with him” – yeah it’s longer than writing “relationship” but that word tastes dirty in my mouth applied to him. It tastes wrong, and false, and so UTTERLY – you know what it’s like? It’s like the feeling equivalent of counterfeit money. like, a really good replica of 100 dollars that you thought you were good for and then some shitty snot nosed cashier nasally goes “Ummmm actuallllyyy this is like…. fakkke?”Or, it’s like the exact same feeling I got when “friends” as a prank in high school, a time of intense bullying for me, sent me a secret valentine candygram and I thought someone liked me and was excited and they went “Surprise! It was us!” Because they were pieces of shit to be honest.

Or, it’s like Charlie Brown hesitantly attempting to kick a motherfucking football and that bitch Lucy just yanks it away last second like every second.

Except I’m not even self pitying about it because I’m not fucking Charlie Brown. I’m just ENRAGED. It’s the equivalent of Charlie brown kicking Lucy’s hands in the aftermath going “never fucking do that again you piece of shit”.

I’m still trying to figure out what my anger and disgust serve exactly – and maybe actually that is the article I should be writing instead of the article on the “how” and the “why”.  Retaliation. Consequence. Boundary. Room to be messy and to be flawed.

At least, I am never grounded enough  while writing the “how” and the “why”.

There are also moments where I remember how we looked at each other. Moments like that feel like a permanent wound because either it was meaningless and I misread his emotional reality or it was actually tender and he threw it away because…

“maybe you just weren’t compatible,” a voice says unhelpfully. Every time I hear this bullshit “chemistry isn’t compatibility” chorus I actually want to punch a wall because yes, I know what the fucking difference is, but if you agree to relationship norms at least do it sincerely? 

When I asked why, he said “how would it work long term? I – my parents wouldn’t accept you…you’re not Muslim…you’re so different, it’s really hard for me to stand up to them. ” Honestly, I wish I could say, a year later, that I give a shit but I don’t.

A year later, I want to scream choose your fucking parents, then. Marry them, then, I think viciously. Get them to choose a fucking girl for you, you fucking prick, marry her so you don’t do this again, how dare you implicate other people in your mess of a relationship with your parents – but of course that’s why he ended it. To not implicate me in his nonsense with his parents. But it was too late. It was too late because I have never been more confused in my life, never experienced a more staggering loss of sense of reality and trust. And I’ve been through some gut wrenching shit so.

I didn’t turn Hindu in the middle of four weeks. You didn’t turn Muslim in the middle of this week, you fucking asshole. How could you not know this would be an issue earlier?

He ended it early so that we could “preserve our friendship, because if it ends later… it’ll be too hard for us to stay friends.” That was his explanation at the cafe.Guess how many times he reached out after breakup for an actual friendship, even though he knew how hard it was on me to even barely trust that he was sincere at that point about friendship. As I cried in the cafe, he stammered “It’s already too late.”

“Too late for what?” I hiccupped. He didn’t answer. But I know now. It’s too late for friendship. He ended it too late. We should never have done anything.

“What does friendship look like for you,” I asked.

“You know… if you need me I want you to be able to call me. And if I need you I will call you too.” In that moment, I knew I couldn’t say no to that. Cool. That doesn’t sound like partnership material at all. nah. exact opposite of gf status. Coolcoolcool. Except a) friendship isn’t just about needs and deep crisis intervention – it’s also about just chatting and catching up, and b) he never needed me as much I probably needed him, and I voiced that concern. “Oh that’s ok,” he said. No, I realised belatedly, it isn’t.

The day after Valentine’s Day, I was colder, and he said: “I…feel like other guys after me will…have a harder time with you,” he said softly, seriously.

Oh good, I thought sarcastically. Yes, let’s think about how FUTURE FUCKING MEN in my life will be affected after your bullshit.

But he’s right. I am incapable of enjoying a genuinely tender, emotionally vulnerable moment if I think it will not last. And at this point in my life, there is never any reason to believe any of those moments will last.

“What did you even enjoy about your time with me?” I asked him, during the dinner the day after Valentine’s day.

“Your responses… the conversations were the best part,” he said.

“Talk is cheap,” I said instantly.

“Woah,” he said, eyes widening. He looked flustered.

Months later, when I try to talk about this, here is what I hear from people:
“Oh well…it was just a month”
“Oh well, you know, chemistry isn’t the same as compatibility!”
“You fell too quickly!”
“Guys like to chase!”

Anytime this happens, I just want to ask them: “Hi, do I look stupid to you? I mean, I must look stupid because those are entirely vapid responses so you must think I’m too stupid to have just not already thought intensely about these things.”

I hope I never meet someone like him again. I find dating exhausting. I lose interest so fast.  (Do I even have interest to begin with?) No one is compatible anymore because what is compatibility anyway. Or regardless of if they are compatible or not, I feel no chemistry. What is chemistry anyway? All the butterflies have died. I have broken over a dozen hearts since him. I watched butterflies die in men and viciously thought good. Good, because you deserve to feel this too.  And then after a dozen hearts, I lost interest rapidly in people, such that their dying feelings no longer interested me either.

“Why did you chase?” He asked me in the subway – not unkindly, just in confusion.

“Thanks,” I said, sarcastically. “Say it louder. I don’t think I chased – I just asked based on my level of interest – Why didn’t you say no? ”

Months later, I wrote: “If you didn’t like me enough to have me over for dinner, you should have canceled dinner like a grown ass fucking adult man. If you needed space, you should have said that like a grown ass fucking adult man. […]  Me reaching out to you to date you wasn’t me chasing youyou moron. Turns out when you like someone, you want to be around them. You‘ve never liked anyone, so how would you know what that feels like? You didn’t want to be around me haha!”

Because it’s true. He never has liked anyone, not really. He once said to me: “I’ve never fallen for anyone,” and he seemed frightened by it. I see now where that fear came from. Maybe it really is impossible for some people to love; if love is meaning, I certainly don’t know how to ascribe meaning to moments anymore especially when people leave.

I don’t know what to do with moments like us dancing in his apartment, me in sock feet, him twirling me around.

So maybe I’m one of those people now – the people who experience no chemistry, no attraction, no love, no nothing.

After him, I learned to be alone.

After him, everyone in my life could die and I would be fine.

After him, if I experience emotional devastation again, it will not be the same. I find it hard to imagine actually.

That girl is dead. And maybe that means the part of me that loved is also dead. Maybe that’s a good thing – there can be new better ways to love that I may find.

Maybe. And maybe not.

I don’t think I’m avoidant. It’s just that no one interests me, least of all men.

“Just die,” I say tiredly to myself in my room sometimes. I don’t mean myself, it’s not nearly so dramatic. It’s just the thoughts. The faulty memories.

I date people I don’t like these days because I don’t like anyone these days.

Maybe I feel frozen writing more analytically  because I already know I will not feel better by the time I finish such an exhausting piece. Maybe I feel frozen because I am not sure feeling so exhausted is worth the actual content of the piece. Maybe I feel frozen because I know after finishing it, I’ll never want to look at it again even if it’s really good, really solid, really critical. Every time I try to write more sharply, incisively, analytically considering my areas of growth, compassionately reviewing everything, all that happens are these thoughts, these moments just replay like a fucking videoreel where all the moments are mashed up and in random order.

Maybe it’s because I already worked out for myself what I need to do going forward, and, because the thinking through of the “why” and “how” has already happened, the personally driven “need” for this article no longer exists for me.

“Do you regret anything?” I asked, the morning after our last night.

He looked at me, sitting in his chair by the dining table, face serious and honest. “No,” he said. I nodded like I understood.

“Was it real?” I asked, after our dinner at another cafe, 3 weeks after we had broken up.

What is real? I thought.

“What is real?” he asked.

“I knew you’d say that,” I said, tiredly.

“There was, you know, a connection – just not, the highest?”

I nodded like I understood. “Right,” I said.

What? I thought.

I didn’t understand.

I still don’t.

Writing this did not help anything.

I do not feel better.

This entry was posted in Articles, Mental Health, Thoughts on Life, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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