¡Hola Papi! is the preeminent deranged advice column from writer and author John Paul Brammer, now living on Substack! If you’ve ever wanted advice from a Twitter-addled gay Mexican with anxiety, here is your chance. Support this column by sharing it and subscribing below, and send him a letter at firstname.lastname@example.org
I write this with my heart in my throat, still hurting and feeling like I have no idea what comes next. Several weeks into quarantine (and out of what feels like nowhere) I'm single again for the first time in two years. Within 24 hours of hearing "I don't love you anymore," my room is half-vacated and feels empty. I can't go out to distract myself, I can't visit the only family that would be any help, and I don't know what else I can do to get over this.
I know breakups are hard no matter when they happen, but social distancing and isolation makes this seem like an impossible situation. Not expecting you to solve my heartache, but it would be nice to have someone understand how I feel.
Broken and Alone
Hey there, BA!
Oh goodness. You know, I’ve thought a lot about you and people in situations like yours throughout this ordeal. While crawling up the walls, I’ve frequently stopped (mid-crawl) and thought, “what would I even do if a personal crisis happened on top of everything else right now?”
I’m glad you’re not asking me to fix your heartache, because that’d be hard. I can barely buy myself the right groceries right now. They say “buy two weeks of food at a time,” but I don’t know what that even looks like. A wheel of gouda? A sack of yams? A banana? I miss restaurants. Any restaurant. I’d sit down in an airport TGI Friday’s right now and call it the Four Seasons.
In any case, if you’re here to feel understood, well, that’s something I’m better equipped for. Because you’re right, BA. The thing about this situation is that it’s robbed us of our trusty coping mechanisms. Even if I lost a job or (Dolly Parton forbid!) a loved one, I’d typically have all the human retreats at my disposal: drinks with friends, a shoulder to cry on, a warm hug.
Now all we have is FaceTime, which carries approximately none of the benefits of physical presence while including the bonus torture of “my face.” What a world we find ourselves in! It really does hit me all at once sometimes. I gotta be honest here, I don’t love it.
We’re all dealing with different levels of distress right now, BA. Some of us have the privilege of social distancing, while others do not. Some have to worry about how they’re going to afford “living in America” during a pandemic, while others do not. It’s not impacting everyone equally. But I do think that there’s at least one unifying element in the slow-rolling chaos that’s squishing us right now: Loss.
No matter if we’re married or partnered or single, I think we all to some extent have had to grapple with loss over these trying weeks. Some have lost loved ones. Some have lost their jobs, or their big plans, or their peace of mind. Others are simply mourning what feels like the loss of the world as it was.
And if there’s one thing most people are simply no good at, BA, it’s mourning. The idea of things being transient, the notion that what was available to us yesterday might not be available tomorrow, is unsettling. Because the thing is, death is final, but loss is not. Loss is change. Loss demands that we restructure our lives around a newfound lack: of a presence, of a person, of something we were deeply accustomed to.
With any change comes the shock. In your case, it’s the shock of not having your partner with you anymore. It’s perfectly normal, in the initial shock of loss, for your brain to attempt to continue living with a phantom presence. You might know this physical sensation well if you’ve ever broken a bone or simply taken your hat off after a whole day of wearing it. It feels like something ought to be there, and the truth of the matter hasn’t quite registered.
In this period, the sting of loss might feel like it’s happening again and again as we must realize anew, every few hours or so, every morning and every night, that things are different now, and that they have changed in a direction we are not terribly excited about.
But all the while, BA, something else is happening too, even if it doesn’t feel like it. We adjust. We heal. We get used to moving around our new landscape. Nothing lasts forever, and that goes for the bad times too. You still have the capacity to love and be loved, to be kind and receive kindness, to live and witness life.
The world is constantly rearranging itself as a matter of entropy, and you are a part of the world, and so you are no different. Things have changed, yes. But you will change too. When push comes to shove, don’t underestimate yourself.
Meanwhile, I suggest reaching out to your friends (they’re still here!) and letting them know what your needs are right now. If I, for one, knew that one of my friends had been broken up with, I’d absolutely want to make sure they were tended to as best I could. I think all this time in isolation has made me put an even bigger premium on non-romantic types of love, BA. Those relationships are the ones carrying me through right now, and they’re more precious to me than ever.
Engage in the hobbies that bring you joy and distract yourself with new ones. So many of us are trying to push through each day right now. On that front, you are absolutely not alone.
Al mal paso darle prisa, BA! You will get through this. If you need me, I’ll be gnawing on this gouda wheel. Like a rat.
Con mucho amor,