¡hola papi!

‘Will I Ever Get Over My Breakup?’

Illustration: Pedro Nekoi

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.

¡Hola, Papi!

My boyfriend and I broke up in October after dating for six months. I know, not a long relationship, but I was completely blindsided. His reason was that he just didn’t want to be in a relationship anymore. I tried to understand what was happening, but I couldn’t and still can’t wrap my head around it. There was nothing wrong. He (allegedly) still cared for me but he somehow was able to just flip a switch and not want to date anymore.

I don’t know if he thought saying that would lessen the blow of being dumped, but all I took away from it is that he would rather have nothing than me. I felt really helpless in all of it because this decision was made for me and my feelings, and what I wanted weren’t taken into consideration at all. He actually was surprised I was so upset about it.

I know that I shouldn’t be dwelling on this person, that I’m better off without him, but I haven’t been able to shake this. And not for a lack of trying! I’ve been focusing on myself and my health, have been trying new things, and have really worked on relationships with my friends and family. Unfortunately, there’s only so many hours in a day I can distract myself. Sooner or later, the heartbreak comes back fresh, and I’m back at square one.

I understand it takes time to process things like this and I think I have a good handle on understanding everything that has happened. But emotionally, I can’t catch up to where I am mentally. I am tired of feeling sad, lonely, and less than. The more time goes on, the more I worry I am not going to be able to move past this. Help?

Spinning My Wheels

Hey there, SMW!

Have you ever thought about bones? I think about them all the time. They upset me. If you’ve ever seen a skeleton, then you know there’s a lot going on there. We have so many bones, and all of them have the potential to break.

A tiny hairpin fracture in just one bone holds the power to rearrange our entire life. This happened to my arm once, and for a solid two months, everything was different. I couldn’t do many of the things I was used to doing, like going to the gym or carrying groceries or pushing people out of my way in midtown.

But most of all, my injured arm, my hairpin fracture presented a new set of thoughts and concerns. Every morning I would wake up, and it would be the first thing I thought about. I would wiggle it around, gauging the pain, hoping it would be noticeably less than yesterday. It rarely was, because such is the healing process. It happens so incrementally as to be invisible. All the while, though, something was happening, and I want to tell you about it now.

When a bone breaks, new bone starts to form at the edges of the fracture. To fill the void between the broken ends, cells produce soft stuff called cartilage. This is similar to what happens when you’re in the womb, when you first develop a skeleton.

This soft stuff is the body’s temporary solution. It is no substitute for bone. It isn’t strong enough to withstand the daily pressures our bones can. So the body replaces it as soon as it can with bone-like callus; strong, but still not quite as strong as it needs to be. It isn’t until around a month later that new bone starts to form. It can take a long time, depending on the size and site of the fracture. It can take years, even.

I submit this information to you, SMW, not because I think bones and hearts are a one-to-one metaphor, but because I think it illustrates a useful truth we can cling to when everything has gone to shit: Healing is hard to notice, and in the process of healing, we will often find ourselves in those in-between places, places between fracture and bone where we will just have to make do with what we can, with whatever our bodies and minds temporarily fill the gap with.

We are made of such fragile stuff, SMW. We can be hurt at a moment’s notice. We may not even get a reason why. To love, to jump, to trust, to climb: These are risks, and as you are well aware, there is always the chance that we might break. You can think about it all you want. You can meditate on the pain. You can come up with explanations for it. But it won’t go away until it’s gone. Your job right now isn’t to will it to disappear. Your job right now is to continue as best you can until you get there.

I’m glad you’re filling that temporary void so wisely! Nurturing your other relationships and focusing on yourself are efforts that will reward you later. Be kind to yourself, be patient, and remember that deep down, in the end, you are a skeleton just like everybody else. That’s pretty weird.

Con mucho amor,

Originally published on January 2, 2020.

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessonshere.

‘Will I Ever Get Over My Breakup?’