February is break-up season in Cape Town. There is a wide-spread belief that break-up season happens at the end of winter, but this is mistaken. It’s in
February is break-up season, undoubtedly, which means February is advice-giving season, which further means February is the unfortunate time of year where I am reminded that I am not all that great at giving advice. It’s not that it’s wrong. “You will feel better eventually,” is always true, as is “You will look back on this in the nearish future and think: lol.” They are the truest things that one can ever say to a person going through the dissolution of a shortish relationship, and everyone knows this, but that doesn’t mean that anyone wants to hear them. It’s like telling someone to get some sleep, or to eat. When you are in the throes of a bad time and marooned on planet “Different From Every Other Person Who Has Ever Lived”, stuff like that seems far-fetched at best. I know this as a veteran of two bad February breakups, when I was so sad I had to lean my head against doors and walls and windows in order to keep my brain from coming out my ears. There is nothing anyone can say to make you feel better, and you sort of know that, but that does not mean you don’t listen avidly to what literally anyone has to say. You listen to kind looking women in the supermarket. You listen to freaks who phone in to talk radio. You are moved to tears reading the jacket copy on The Alchemist. It is a disgusting and helpless time, and I know it extremely well, and the only piece of advice that has ever been even mildly effective is as follows. It is an email, from my own exceptionally wise and kind mother, sent to me during my very worst February breakup, when I was so sad I drove with the handbrake on for the whole day without noticing. I assumed the smell was just an olfactory hallucination from being so sad.
Here is the email, which made me feel better, and which has counselled many veterans of the February wars:
I chanced upon the diary that I wrote when Lesley and I went to India and have been reading it for about an hour. I was just about the same age as you are now – had just turned 30.
There are some interesting and entertaining bits but the main thing that strikes me is how fucking tortured I was. I think I may even have been a bit nuts at times. The level of introspection and self-analysis and vacillation is truly alarming.
I had no idea then that my life as I know it now had not even begun and that I would be fine. Isn’t that strange.
lots of love
It’s true that everyone who has benefited from the wisdom of this email has also benefited from having met my mum at least once. It’s possible that there’s nothing to it and everyone who has derived comfort from it is just thinking about what a legend my mum is. I don’t think so though, honestly. I like to think that the substance of this message would be legible even to the people marooned on planet “Different From Every Other Person Who Has Ever Lived”. I’m not telling you how to live, but just read it again, and think about how far out it is that you can have no idea that your life as you know it hasn’t even begun, and that you will be fine. Isn’t that strange.