After a devastating breakup, one man refuses to give up on himself, finding solace in his daily grooming routine as a therapeutic distraction that builds up his confidence.
“Hey, I need to talk to you.”
My heart sank into the pit of my stomach. Her distress was palpable. Something was definitely wrong. I had just returned from a three day camping trip and was still wearing my pack, covered in dirt, sweat, and all the detritus of a weekend spent in the woods.
“Can we talk after I shower? It’s been three days and I feel disgusting,” I asked.
“Sure, once you get out of the shower.”
In the five or so minutes it took me to shed my camp gear and disrobe, we sat there in a strained silence. She stared at me despondently. I’d never seen that look in her eyes.
As I showered, I couldn’t stop imagining different scenarios of how I would react, of what she would say, what I would say… of how I could stop it. What if we just took a break? I thought. What have I done? I tried to convince myself there was something I could do to ensure she’d stay. She had to stay. I needed her to.
She was breaking up with me. And there was nothing I could do to stop her.
After moving out, I could hardly sleep. I’d wake up in a cold sweat almost every night, staving off panic attacks with deep-breathing and mindfulness exercises. Then, after laying back down for a few more hours, I’d wake up again, sweating, terrified, alone.
Each morning, I’d drag myself out of bed, exhausted and depressed. Then I’d saunter into the bathroom and stare into the mirror, only to become painfully aware that I looked like I felt: like shit. My eyes were bloodshot and sunk in, my hair disheveled from restless nights of half sleep, and my beard in desperate need of a trim.
I’d turn on the shower, step in, scrub myself, wash my face and hair, and then get out, towel myself off and finally move on to shaving my neckline, keeping my beard looking somewhat tidy and neat. After that, I’d rub some pomade into the palm of my hands and slick my hair back. At least you can still look good, I’d think to myself. Just because you feel like shit doesn’t mean you have to look like shit. Keep it together.
I didn’t have a girlfriend anymore, but I did have a job. A job that I needed. People depended on me. I wanted to look presentable… not only for them, but also for myself.
I’d dutifully keep my beard in check, get a haircut regularly, keep my nails trimmed, and deodorant stocked. This wasn’t an exercise in narcissism, but a way for me to develop a positive daily routine; one where I refused to give up on myself.
It’s been a few months since the split, and I’m still not 100%, but I no longer feel I’m adrift in an ocean of sadness and isolation. Sure, storm clouds form periodically, but I’ve been thrown a few life preservers to help me weather the swells. Now, the storms don’t seem to last as long, and they certainly aren’t as powerful as they used to be.
So I’ll continue to wake up every morning, brush my teeth, wash my face, groom my beard, and slick a dabble of pomade into my hair. The man in the mirror, once unrecognizable, is starting to look more and more familiar. Like the man I was 3 years ago, before the storm.