A letter to myself

Dear Cath,

You won’t believe this, but . . . you will be ok. Turns out you were dating a compulsive liar these past two years. He cheated on you an obscene amount, lied to you more than you will ever know, and broke your heart. But you will be ok. Buckle up, though. Because this is gonna be hard as fuck.

Your friends will prove to you once again that they are as good as family. They are the family you chose. The people who will drop what they’re doing to hold you while you cry. To rant with you. To remind you that you are still you and you will be just fine.

You will swear a lot. You will eat ice cream. You will have days when it will be hard to eat at all. You will cry more than you ever thought possible. You will cry out of pain. Anger. Sadness. Fury. Gratitude. Fear. Exhaustion. Confusion. Because you just feel like a lil baby who needs to be held and coddled and wrapped up in a burrito blanket.

I promise you, the diarrhea will not last forever. Your appetite will come back. And you won’t wake up every morning wondering “did that really happen?”

You will watch Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 and cry at the part where Tibby and Brian have sex for the first time because you’ll wonder if anyone will ever kiss you like that again. Someone absolutely will. And they’ll do it better than he did.

Lizzo and Hailee Steinfeld and Kesha will be godsends. Go to them.

You will remember that time you watched Beyonce’s Lemonade with him and he said “who would cheat on Beyonce?!” and you will think to yourself “but I am Beyonce,” and girl, you can be Beyonce for a minute. But you are also Catharine Fucking Savage. A force of life. A queen in her own right. A strongass, bossass, lovingass person. And you don’t deserve that shit either.

There will be moments when you will wonder how did he trick me like that? How did I get so played? Why didn’t I see the signs? And to that I will say, you knew. And you asked. And he lied. And he lied. And he lied. And he lied. And he lied. And he lied. And he lied. He is a compulsive liar. And he treated you like you were insecure and crazy and mean for even asking. And you tried to believe him because you loved him and you wanted to trust him. But eventually, something would feel too wrong and you would demand answers. You’ll get a teeny tiny fraction of the truth out of him and that will be enough for you to kick him out of your apartment, out of your life.

But then more and more truth will come out. And it will hurt. It will hurt that he told side chicks that you gave him permission to sleep with them. It will hurt that he told people you were sleeping with other people too. It will hurt that the night you asked him to come meet you because you were scared, he was fucking someone else. It will hurt when you’re around Cubs games because you’ll know what he did the night they won the World Series. It will hurt to know why he wasn’t around when you were sick. It will hurt to know why your anxiety has been through the roof. It will hurt that he put your physical health, your reproductive health at risk; the man who told you he wanted you to have his babies someday risked your ability to have babies someday. It will hurt that you shared your whole self with him and you don’t even know who he is. It will hurt. For a good long while, it will just fucking hurt.

He took advantage of a really kind person, a really good person. And you’re not good because you once bathed in some eternal bath of divine goodness. You’re good because you make the decision every day to be good. To treat people well. To reach out to people who need help. To always tell the truth, even when it’s hard. And you were so, so good to him. You held him when he was hurting. You advised him when he was lost. Reassured him when he was doubtful. Shared in his joy for every little success he had. You were so good to him, Cath. And he took advantage of your ability to see the best in people. And that is just so freaking unfair.

He will tell you that no one will ever love you as much as he does. And you will scoff at that. Because first of all, what the hell does he know about love?? To quote the magnificent Halle Berry in the film Boomerang, “love should have brought his ass home.” Second of all, he can’t tell you what your life is gonna look like because it will be more glorious than he could ever imagine. And finally, someone will sure as hell love you better than he ever could. People already do. Because other people in your life don’t cut you down or blame you because they’re feeling small. People in your life don’t make you feel crazy or stupid for feeling what you’re feeling. People in your life don’t make you choose between loving yourself and loving them. Because that’s not love. That’s a sickness.

You will feel jealous of the women who just got to experience his good parts. His act. His charm and charisma. They got to feel desired by that guy. And yet you’re standing here holding a reeking bag of shit that he dumped on your lap because he’s too weak to carry it himself.

You will think about how he described his exes as needy, crazy, unhappy, unstable, mentally ill. A tool used by cowardly men to dismiss women all the fucking time. You will beat yourself up for not dumping his ass immediately upon hearing these excuses. But ultimately that’s what you called him out on. And he can go fuck himself. Women are incredible. In our courage, our resilience, our power.

You will not be intimidated when he tries to bully you. Not when he talks shit about you onstage. Not when he makes up ridiculous lies about you. Not when he shows up at your office, or when he shows up lurking in the shadows behind the theater you’re performing in and watches you as you get into your car. Not when he logs into someone else’s Facebook to contact you. Not when he creates an alias and contacts a theater three times in an effort to get you fired. Not when he creates a Facebook account for that alias and friends every improviser in Chicago. Not when he pisses in the rainboot you left on your back deck. Not when he follows you around the building you both work in. He will go after your career, and your reputation. He will make you feel unsafe. His actions will force you to do constant mental math about what you would do on the street, on your stoop, in your classroom, in your apartment, if he were to show up to try to hurt you.

He is an abusive coward who never learned to take responsibility for himself in this world. He will say over and over and over again that he’s trying to be better, he’s trying to learn, but again and again he will try to pin the shame he’s so afraid to feel back onto you. But you will stand up to this bully and you will hold him accountable for his behavior. You will drag his ass to court and make it extremely clear you have boundaries and there are consequences to violating them. You will not let his sickness keep you from telling the truth or living your glorious life.

The hardest part will be knowing that he was harassing women while you were still telling him you loved him, while you were telling him he was good. But, eventually, you will forgive yourself for that. You didn’t know. You didn’t know, babygirl. And it is not your fault. It is not your fault that he is a colossal piece of shit.

You will remind yourself everyday that you did nothing wrong. You loved that fuckboi with your whole heart. Maybe he’ll do something good with it.

Babygirl, you are gonna be so proud of the way you handle yourself through this. You will be the woman your mom raised you to be, the fighter your dad raised you to be, and the motherfucking queen your sister raised you to be. You will handle every bit of bad news, every side chick, every lie, every intimidation tactic with grace and love and hard-earned confidence in what you deserve. You will not hide from the world. You will put one wobbly foot in front of the other. And you will wipe tears and snot from your face before jumping onstage and making a room full of strangers laugh. Or before walking into a classroom to teach children how to play. And girl, you are gonna light it up. He cannot and will not stop you. He cannot and will not break you.

Please do not for a second think that you are not good enough, or interesting enough, or sexy enough, or beautiful enough, or funny enough. YOU ARE ENOUGH, baby girl. If anything, you were too much for him. And if you ever start to doubt yourself, call a friend. Your friends won’t let you wonder. They will look you square in the eye and remind you that he’s the fool, not you.

Be kind to yourself in these coming months. You are allowed to be a mess. You are allowed to be the drunk girl at the party once or twice. You are allowed to cry in public spaces. He will show up at the party you’re at one night and you will lose it and that is ok. At least the party will settle the question of who is looking better since the breakup (hint: it’s you, bitch).

And even in the face of all this ugly, you will be reminded that you have made a beautiful life for yourself. You have friends who will let you crash on their couch when you’re scared, who will cook you ramen because you have to eat something, who will make you laugh even when you didn’t think you could. You have family who is fierce, who will remind you that the best is yet to come, and that you are not in this alone. You have people — so many people — in this community who have your back. The love you put out in the world really will come back to you. Maybe not in all the ways you expected, but it will.

Be careful not to confuse disappointment with regret. Don’t spend time trying to understand how he could do this to you. That’s his shit to figure out, not yours. Watch dumb movies. Listen to fun music. Dance naked in your apartment because baby, you’re gorgeous and you never needed any man to tell you that.

Soon, he won’t be the villain in your life. He will just be some pathetic dude who took advantage of you for a while. You’ll think of him and you’ll think “damn, I hope he got help.” And you’ll go back to eating a delicious meal with wonderful friends, and you’ll look out at the ocean — or whatever beautiful thing you’re looking at — and you’ll be grateful for who you are and who you’re with.

You are gonna be ok, babygirl. I promise. You’re not only taking your life back, you’re making it better. I can’t wait to see all the good you’ll do in this world. Keep working, keep fighting, keep loving. You are golden.

Love you,

Cath

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