an open letter to my ex

Hi. I hadn’t done the Indie Ink Writing Challenge for a few weeks, so when I got the sign up email this week, I figured I might as well. My challenge this week comes from Rachel McGowan:

the apology letter you will never send.

Yes, putting it on the internet instead of sending it seems like a brilliant plan. My challenge for the week went to AngieM357. I’m not really sure what I’m going to say, but I’ll just write until I’m done and publish it even though I’m certain now that I’d rather not. Let’s do this.


Greetings. How’s the weather? I bet I could guess. Here, it’s gross-hot, as it typically is during this part of the summer, though that doesn’t stop people from actually saying “Hot enough for ya?” as though that’s not the most stupid question, to which I usually respond with that not-really-laugh and say “Yeah,” even though I want to say “No, I’d prefer it just a touch warmer, so that when I walk outside, I have a better chance of bursting into flames. Shut up.” Though I suppose it might be difficult to burst into flames while sweating. I wonder what science says about that.

That was supposed to be a polite opening, but I think I missed the mark.

So. Here’s the thing.

I was walking down a street in Ann Arbor yesterday, and I thought of you. I’m not going to lie. It irritated me, walking down the street, and there you were, drifting to the forefront of my thoughts (isn’t “forefront” a bit of an oxymoron?) because I had other things to think about. But this was a stubborn thought, and it dug in its heels a little, refusing to drift by like most of the thoughts I don’t feel like entertaining. It was a memory, and I was inside it for a moment, walking with you down that same sidewalk on a different Saturday when the air was cold and clean. I snapped myself back to the present, let myself miss you for a moment, kept walking. Then this morning, I got my writing challenge for the week, and it was to write an apology letter. Ha ha, universe, stop being so heavy-handed. And writing this on my blog is the equivalent of not sending it: you don’t read here. You never really did.

I tried before to apologize to you, but even though I don’t really remember my words, I don’t think I was exactly apologetic. I’m good at blame shifting. It’s one of my more endearing qualities, I’m sure. I was never good at being vulnerable, and I’m still not, to be honest, because it’s a lot easier to be the opposite. That’s always been my own way of being a coward, but in this one instance, I pushed myself past all my usual bullshit and left myself open. I got hurt. It happens. I can’t see the end of us with any clarity, because I was too busy then, falling apart and lying about it. There was a lot going on, and I wasn’t dealing with any of it, because I seemed to think that if I just kept going, I could pass it all. (It didn’t work.) You were in the middle of your own shitstorm, and I didn’t have any patience for it. I was not the martyr at your altar that I said I was: lord knows I am good at crafting a narrative, though. You offered apologies and reassurance, and I said I accepted those things, but I didn’t.

Before I head too far down this path, I want to say that I’m not going to re-frame everything to make you a victim of my villainy. It didn’t work that way. You weren’t exactly great. Or honest. Or, you know, available. You hurt me. And though I like to believe in my own kindness, when I decided to trade the misery of our relationship (such as it had become) for the misery of a fresh breakup, I made sure I attacked exactly where it would hurt the most. Back then, in my haste to keep everything neatly categorized, I forgot that love is messy. You weren’t fitting where I wanted you, so I got rid of you. Liking things to be just so is not always cute.

For that, for my lack of kindness, for my lack of patience, for my lack of honesty, I apologize. Regardless of everything else that was going on, you still deserved better from me. Hurt is no excuse for being a bitch. I’m really sorry for that. Really.

I don’t know what happened to you since the last time we spoke back in January. I don’t know where you are. I don’t know if, um, all that stuff with the people (see, I’m still keeping your secrets) worked out the way you needed it to work. I don’t even know if you’re okay. I hope you are. I’m not angry at you anymore (I really even mean it this time), and have forgiven the fact that oh hey, you aren’t perfect after all. Maybe you’ve forgiven me, or maybe you haven’t. Since we don’t talk, and likely never will again, I’ll never know. If you haven’t, perhaps someday you will. Writing this has to count as some kind of penance, not that you’re keeping track.

I thought I was over it months ago, but I’ve still been secretly carrying it around, which I realized yesterday when I missed you so thoroughly it almost knocked me over. It’s like you died, you know? I know from experience that losing someone so close that suddenly and entirely leaves emotional wreckage to be sifted through, and I haven’t been patient with myself, either. I guess I needed to admit that, too. I’ve found it’s easier to get over a guy when I realize that I actually hate him, but I don’t hate you. Never did. (Praise indeed.)

Anyway, I hope you’re well, which is a genuine hope I’ll send out into the world without any caveats attached. I wish it hadn’t been quite so completely stupid there at the end, but alas, it was. Again, I’m sorry for the hand I played in said stupidity. It didn’t work, but from here I can see it was worth it.

Oh, you. Thanks for everything.



14 thoughts on “an open letter to my ex

  1. Perhaps C will never read it but I hope putting it out there and seeing things in black and white makes the closure a little tighter. Perhaps next time you walk down that street you will continue thinking about needing milk and paying your Visa bill instead of C 🙂

    visiting from Indie Ink


    1. This was poignant, so moving, so honest. I feel privileged to read it. I hope it gives you some closure on the relationship, thank you for being brave enough to share this with us.


  2. First… “And writing this on my blog is the equivalent of not sending it: you don’t read here. You never really did.” Ouch!

    Second… I have been divorced for coming up on sixteen years. While I know (and am constantly reminded during phone calls) that it was the correct course for us to have taken, there are always moments like yours that arise. There a many things about my P that I still miss very much. Moments come and go in which I imagine what things might be like had we worked together to make things right, but those moments tend to come less and less often with each passing day. When they do, however, the wave can hit rather hard.

    I don’t know that I ever apologized for my part in the failure. Once, I wrote a letter to her speaking to a lot of issues that we had never spoken of directly… explaining at least what had been going through my head and heart at various times. I had hoped to connect with her on a level I think I rarely tried to connect with her very often theretofore. I handed her the letter at a time in which I thought reconciliation might be possible. She read the letter, shook her head, handed it back to me and dismissively said, “You know… guys will just never get it.”

    She might just have well kicked me in the groin.

    I have not considered the possibility of reconciliation since.


  3. Oops! “my P” should have been simply “P” (I previously had written “my ex-wife” but for some reason, I don’t care much for that term.)


  4. great post! i loved reading it. sorry i played a part in one of those the-universe-is-out-to-get-me moments, ha! but i’m kinda not sorry, because you wrote a great piece. the best art comes from heartbreak 🙂


  5. I love the humor and the honesty and the sadness in this. I love the way you completely avoid the topic in the first couple of graphs. Terrific visuals of Ann Arbor (I love that city). And I’m left not feeling angry or upset, because you end on such a hopeful note. “Oh, you. Thanks for everthing.” So poignant.


  6. The circles containing ‘Empathy’ and ‘Heartbreak’ in the Venn diagram of ‘Breaking Up’ generally don’t intersect, which makes this letter infinitely more impressive. And science agrees that it would, indeed, be difficult to burst into flames while covered in sweat, though not impossible. Science would like to remind you that where there’s science, there’s the potential for flames, regardless of moisture. With enough effort, this might have the makings of a mediocre metaphor about love and pain and heartbreak, but science chooses not to go there. Science is no Dr. Phil.


  7. Man, you rocked this challenge. You said that you have weren’t good at being vulnerable, yet this letter expresses the opposite sentiment. Holy vulnerable you were in this letter! Well done. I appreciate your honesty so much.

    [I also have to say that Sir’s comment is also perfect.]


  8. Thanks for the kind words about this one. I didn’t particularly want to write it (it’s not like I relish opportunities to admit my faults in public), but I felt like I should. Despite knowing that my ex will most likely never read this, even though it’s uncomfortable to do so, it’s important to put things out into the world sometimes, if only to stop leaving them to stew in one’s head and heart. To step back and look at things for what they are — in the Getting Over It process, the tendency is to think of all the bad things about the other person, but the truth is that he’s not a bad guy… we both just hit a rough patch at the same time, neither of us dealt with it very well, and it all fell apart from there.

    Anyway, yeah. Love isn’t for sissies, and it doesn’t always work, but it’s always worth it.

    Also, gosh, I am SO RELIEVED that science isn’t Dr. Phil, because I like science, and Dr. Phil is a gasbag with a mustache.


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