Recently I broke up with my partner of five years. Let me assure you now, at the outset, this will not be a post describing in excruciating and uncomfortable detail my heartbreak, no, but the information is relevant because it sets the context.
In five years you set patterns, you develop routines, you build a sense of yourself that is, in part, reliant on the other person. My break up forced me out of the familiar little rut I had burrowed into. In what felt like an instant, everything well-known, every habitual instinct I had in my home became foreign and awkward. The activities and past times I used to use to fill the hours between work days were no longer available and I found myself as an unsure guest in my own home.
This is a jarring experience. The usual jokes I would make, ideas I would express, and places of comfort I would seek were no longer there. I was alone. It was just me. And I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I have hobbies, yes, but the beauty of a hobby is both in the picking up and putting down, and once I had placed my hobby down and raised my head I found myself asking, “Now what?”
The first week was spent in justified idleness. I was sad and therefore entitled to unrestricted wallowing. I would do small things to maintain the house and feel immensely proud for continuing to act like an adult in my time of hardship. People told me I was doing well and I believed them.
It was into the third week that I found myself walking up and down my hallway. The dishes were drying in the rack, my lunch was made for the next work day, and I was pacing my tiled walkway in silence. The same question came to me that has probably just occurred to you. What the hell was I doing?
The truth. I was waiting.
I know how break ups go. We talk about them, we analyse them, we watch them in countless movies and television shows. I knew the stages of grief and felt like I was moving through them at a satisfactory pace and in a satisfactory manner. And what comes after. Life, right? It’s after the shock, after the depression that the dust settles and life comes barreling in to whisk you, newly single, into the next stage of your life. This is how it had felt after previous break ups. But my previous break ups always came at a time when my life was changing anyway. The end of high school, the start of university. Now I had a full-time job, I had my own home to return to. I had unbroken routine, and life, if it was going to happen, was happening. So with life happening, why the hell was I wasting it walking up and down my hallway?
The truth. I was impatient.
A prickle began to build, a thorn of impatience growing within me that snagged every time nothing happened. When I had done the necessary tasks of caring for myself, when I had watched television, read a book, cooked and eaten, I still found myself with empty hours to fill and no real drive to fill them. I was lonely, I was bored, and I was impatient because life wasn’t rushing in to entertain me and fill the hours with action.
A month after the break up I took a week off work and reassured myself that life would begin now. I didn’t have work to blame or use as a crutch. I used the week to visit friends, to reorganise my home, to spend time with family, and gave myself room to think. To feel whatever it was I was feeling and the space to recognise it. It was perfect, and healing, and in the end I found myself back in my home, alone, with hours and hours to fill.
So rather than wait, rather than let the impatience build and boil, I set out to fill them. I began a painting. I didn’t have a date in mind of when to finish it, and with so much time on my hands I was in no rush to do so. I started it with an outline on a canvas. That was day one: just the outline. The next day I squeezed out one colour of oil paint and dabbed spots of black in the appropriate parts. The third day I chose three colours to work with. By day four my palette was a mess of hues and I wasted no time in setting to work. I had an audiobook playing in my ears and my hands were busy applying paint, and I was happy. I was engaged, and unaware of the hours that needed filling.
This small act of starting something open a door in my head. Months before my cousin visited wearing a beanie someone had crocheted for him, and at the time I told myself I would learn how to replicate the beanie. The burst of inspiration was diluted by the cycle of normal living, and was forgotten. But now I found myself in a situation with nothing more pressing to attend to. I started by buying wool and a needle. Since then I’ve completed ten beanies — one for each of my family and a few of my own.
I started the first steps to decorating my house. I hung photographs and put together furniture.
I started getting fit. I ran four kilometres before gasping and spluttering to a stop. The next day I ran four and a half. Yesterday I ran ten.
I started to write again.
The lesson I learnt from this experience is not to wait. Not to sit back and wonder why life isn’t unfolding the way you want it to. In short:
If you’re impatient for something to start; start something.