Yesterday I followed a friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook and came upon Metal Nose Boy’s profile. When we dated, he was the type of guy who hated having a cell phone or an email account, so I never thought he’d be on Facebook. But there he was, looking happy, with his arms around a young, athletic-looking, very attractive blonde. In front of a monument in D.C. At a pool party. At the beach, tousled and sandy. And a little further back, there was the obligatory engagement selfie with champagne glasses and the (really gorgeous, I might add) ring.
Despite my being happy with my life, I felt a gnawing horribleness in my gut. As I scrolled through their history in photos, I mindlessly chomped down animal cracker after animal cracker until I felt slightly sick and only legs and elephant trunks were left in the bottom of the bag. Then I felt sicker, because there’s something weird about a bunch of animal limbs in a pile. It means I just ate a bunch of limbless animals, and who the fuck does something like that. Then I can’t eat the leftover limbs, because who the fuck does something like that.
I had to get up and go outside and work the earth, which is my second coping mechanism after mindless eating. Several years ago, when I was in a bad relationship and suffering from debilitating anxiety, I’d go out to our community garden plot in the blazing late summer heat and work to exhaustion. For one thing, movement helps: digging and breathing and sweating means surviving. I can’t die or self-destruct because look at me; I’m present, I’m moving the earth. There’s also something comforting about being close to the ground. Psychically, anxiety is like being untethered, like floating away, and when I get down and touch the earth I feel safer. This time, I went outside and pulled weeds along the driveway, as fast as I could for as long as I could. And I thought about what was wrong with me. Why I would begrudge a former lover—from ten years ago, no less—happiness. Why I’m so petty and vindictive.
If he hadn’t broken my heart, I probably wouldn’t care. I wonder if the exes I’ve broken up with have ever had the same feelings looking at photos of me in a happy relationship. If so…gah. It feels awful and unsettling. People who hurt you are supposed to end up unhappy. It’s karma. Metal Nose Boy was never supposed to get married. If he ever did, it’d be because he got a woman pregnant and felt obligated, or because he decided he was getting old and caved to social pressure—but in either case the marriage would be a loveless sham inevitably ending in divorce. He’d live out his days in lonely misery, never able to truly connect with another human being.
His being in a committed relationship doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit with the story I’ve been telling myself about us. It’s causing me cognitive dissonance and disturbing my equilibrium.
Superego: If you truly cared about him, you’d want him to be happy.
Ego: We DO want him to be happy.
Id: ME ME ME! MY sexual partner! My provider! My offspring! My resources!
Ego: Id, Metal Nose Boy’s happiness does not diminish your happiness.
Id: ALL THE RESOURCES!
Ego: This is getting a little too primitive for me.
Superego: I think this is the part where we rush our sexual rival with a poisoned spear.
Ego: Id, would you please put the spear down?
Superego: He is embarrassing for so many reasons.