Pulling It Together (A Short Story)

There I sat, waiting in the therapist office sitting with my ankles crossed in the middle of the couch as if I was waiting for the school principal. I had made an emergency appointment shortly after crying hysterically on the phone to one of my best friends for an entire 20 minute but before I had gotten a parking ticket that threw me into a tizzy later that afternoon.

“I just… don’t… understand… why I’m… taking it so hard…” I had heaved while pulled over on the side of the road an hour before my AM staff meeting.

I was somewhere between a complete mess and total disaster nearly 48 hours after calling it quits with a guy I had only sort of been seeing for the past two months; so my reaction felt a bit extreme even to me. Yet I had also started a new, but somewhat overwhelming job, and my mother, my usual confident, was refusing to speak to me after a falling out a few weeks prior. On top of that I was financially trying to steady myself and it was harder to get a wine date put on the calendar with any of my close friends than it was to stop crying. I felt alone, abandoned, and like I was slowly being smothered to death with the monster of all emotions – heartbreak.

“You need to pull it together Chelsea.” My best friend Tiffani had advised between my soft sobs into the phone. I knew that. I knew I needed to pull it together the day before when I had started tearing up at a Air Force Base event I went to for work. The truth was I was not pulling it together very well at all and everyone was starting to notice. However, the more I tried to get a fucking hold of myself the more I seemed to break at the seams, feeling all the more upset at myself for even being upset at all.

I wiped a few tears away as I sat waiting for my therapists arrival down the hallway, ironically embarrassed by my spilling over of emotion. I grabbed a Bon Appiete magazine off of the coffee table to preoccupy myself with and tore out a page of a vegetarian pasta recipe that looked promising. I put it in my purse and immediately felt the sting of my heart as I realized I didn’t need it. I had been looking for vegetarian pasta recipes to make with him and now that was over….. I fidgeted over wether or not to put it back but was interrupted by the sound of my therapist standing in the doorway.

“Now what seems to be the matter here?” he asked, his voice booming throughout the empty waiting room while I got up somewhat alarmed. He was a short older man, and I tended to like male psychologist, especially him. I followed him down the hall and took a seat in his half tribal, half hippie office that faced out above a park in the throws of the Denver suburbs.

“We ended things. On Sunday. I’m a wreck.” I spit out in a huge jumble, no longer able to conceal my tears or the shakiness in my voice.

“I see. You do seem very upset, tell me what happened.” He said not bothering to gloss over our usual small talk that prefaced our intense sessions. I teared up more avoiding his gaze.

“What happened? Shit if I knew I wouldn’t be sitting here.” I thought. I had spent the night Saturday, we had started a conversation about how emotional detached I was getting from our relationship Sunday morning, the conversation was interrupted and the next thing I knew a few hours had passed and I was agreeing we shouldn’t see each other anymore over a delicious beer on a hot a humid Denver Sunday afternoon. I woke up Monday feeling as if a cement truck had just run over my heart and spent the entirety of Monday trying to grasp all the emotions I was feeling. I had cried myself to sleep only to wake up Tuesday to the feeling that I had been having a terrible nightmare just to be struck back down to emotional hell when I realized it wasn’t.

“I just don’t think I’m handling this. I’m just so sad.” I managed to mumble.

“Well that makes sense. It’s only been a few days, it’s normal to feel this sad considering how much you cared about him.”

I only went to see Jeff once a month for a few hours each, finding that weekly therapy sessions were a) too expensive for me and b) a nuisance to figure out with my schedule. This meant that I saw Jeff once a month for a few hours and thus had seen him 3 times during the period  of seeing this guy.where he was easily one of the top three topics in my sessions; following the usual suspects of work, my friends, and my family depending on which was annoying me more that week. Our last conversation about him had happened less than a week ago where I happily exclaimed that I felt that him and I were making progress and that I had reached a new level of patience with him. Of course what I described as patience to my therapist was probably more acutely disassociation from feeling connected or even romantic about the guy who I first describe as everything I had ever imagined.

“.. but it wasn’t that serious, it was only casual, why do I feel so bad.” More hot tears ran out of my eyes and he made a comment about being out of tissues.

“That’s ok, I’ve been a regular water works these past few days, I can barely even tell when I’m crying anymore.” I laughed a little which he smiled at and took a minute just looking at me before saying, “so tell me, what your theory on why you’re so upset is then.”

I grew quiet for a minute. Wasn’t that what I was paying him for?

“I don’t know…. I don’t know what’s going on it’s just… he was different… he was special.. I was willing to wait while he figured his stuff out I mean… I just didn’t want it to be all over. I’m disappointed and I feel like he just quit on me.”

Nuggets of truth lined my poorly articulated “theory”. I was disappointed, and sad and angry, none of which explained why I also felt so devastated. Yet we had developed a connection, an emotional intimacy that’s rare to find these days and I had been looking forward to getting to know more about him and spend more time with him in doing so.I had not expected to feel this way, I was out of control I didn’t know how to stop it. I had happy things in my life and but this was bringing me down, way down.

“What would you tell yourself if you could give yourself one piece of advice right now?” Again with the questions I pay you for?! I looked at him sharply before drawing in a breath and saying.

“I would tell myself it’s okay to feel this way. It’s human, it shows I was genuinely connected and invested in him. I would tell myself to try to enjoy the things that make me happy and keep reaching out when I think I’m spiraling it too far.” I took in another deep breathe and wiped my eyes again.

“Exactly.” he said writing something down on his pad while I looked at my watch realizing the hour was almost up.

“Try not to be so hard on yourself. Nobody think’s you’re overreacting except you.You can’t write off your feelings for him at this moment, which is something you’ve been doing for a few weeks so right now they probably feel extra intense.

I nodded.

“I’m grateful you reached out to me. You’re not so upset that you aren’t reaching out for help and that’s another positive thing…. and I have a feeling that you and him aren’t exactly over Chelsea.

“I can’t think like that.” I snapped, getting angry for the first time all day. I new feeling bubbled into my head that rarely made an appearance – cynicism.

“Yes well, I suppose we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” He said watching me as I pulled on the jaded girl exterior that would protect me from feeling any hope and therefore any more pain.

“Maybe…” I said doubtfully as I stood up to leave. It was easier for me to think the door was closed otherwise I would pine, another unhealthy thing just as bad as it’s counterpart – skepticism.

As I walked back to my car I read all the notifications of people who had sent me positive thoughts on this hard day. I wanted desperately to see his name too but when I didn’t I felt only a twinge and not a tear spilled over.

All I could do was breath in and out and take each day one step at a time, knowing I would feel better but knowing at the very least I had a heart, and it was still  very much beating.


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