Chapter 7: March 2009 The End As I Knew It

You know that scene in any disaster movie where one person knows something really, really bad is coming, and no one else believes him?  In my life, that guy wasn’t there.  Instead, I was the guy in the rowboat facing the other way when the tsunami roared in from behind, wondering why everyone was leaving the beach.  That tweet above was typed literally an hour after I realized my relationship was over.

Ahh, March of 2009.  I remember it like it was six months ago. (looks at calendar) Oh, it was. March was the catalyst for everything that’s followed it, most of it positive. The life I’m living now is 180 degrees from where I was then, and it seems very distant in a lot of ways when I look back.  It was a rebirth of epic proportions.  But at the time, it was not a happy month.

I think this is a good point for a disclaimer.  This book is not just about me, it’s about the people on Twitter that affect my life.  Although I talk about them a lot on here, I’m still attempting to give them some anonymity, which is not an easy thing to do in an autobiographical account of a year in my life, a particularly tumultuous year.  I want to preface this chapter by saying that I am not placing sole blame on any one person over the end of my relationship.  There are always two sides.  My purpose here is to tell you what was going through my head and my actions during this time in my life.

I woke up the morning of March 4th thinking it was a day like any other day.  I jumped on Twitter, checked my email, and drank coffee.

Then I found out that my girlfriend was leaving.

It’s like when @the_beth promises to bake you a cake just for the hell of it, and then comes over with a plate full of crumbs, and frosting all over her mouth going “Cake? What cake?”  Relationships end for lots of reasons, and in many different ways.  One thing that’s almost always the same is that there are signs that things are wrong, things that you might ignore or overlook for a long time until it’s too late.

I started the day by checking tweets, and saw one from someone that the girlfriend had been talking to quite a bit.  She had booked a trip out of state a few weeks prior, just to “get away,” and I suddenly wondered if there was any connection.  It was like this weird “sixth sense” that the something that wasn’t right was really, really bad.  I glanced to see where he lived.

It was the same state she was visiting.

And the same city.

I pulled up the cell phone bill.  There were calls on the cell phone bill to an area code in that city.  Then I saw that the calls were frequent, for hours at a time, and the last one had been from midnight to 4am, just 2 ½ hours before I got up.  I was starting to feel sick.

There was one other place to check: email.  That’s when I found out that she was leaving.  Her friends knew, her family knew, the guy on Twitter CLEARLY knew.  I was literally the last one to know.  My stomach dropped; I can remember the feeling just by typing it.

The end of my relationship came with very little warning.  I knew something was “off,” but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Never in a million years did I think it was as cancerous as it was.  I remember the second I realized it was all crashing down, I could feel my entire insides drop into my stomach, like a fall on a rollercoaster, but slower.  I was sitting in the exact spot I’m writing this sentence, on this computer, that morning at around 8am, trying to process the information.  4 ½ years is a long time to be with someone, and the band-aid was pulled off in one yank.  I remember it rained all day, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave the house.

I woke her up and told her I knew.  I wasn’t angry, I was feeling like the bottom dropped out of my life and I wanted desperately to fix it.  She said very plainly that she wasn’t in love anymore.

The end of a relationship is like going through the death of someone.  A therapist I went to about a week later, who sucked so bad I’d put his name in here if I could remember it, once told me that, in order to move on from a relationship, you needed to picture the other person being buried at their funeral.  This image actually made me cry in the therapist’s office, but it also made me want to punch him in his stupid face.  Instead I dumped him for a better one.  But he had a point.  You go through the seven stages of grief when you get dumped.  For me, the first four happened in March, and the last three (which have to do with moving on) happened at the tail end of April.

Shock and Denial I remember distinctly that I couldn’t believe it was happening.  I thought, “Wow, universe. This is a doozy of a dream, good job freaking me out, but I’m ready to wake up now.  Let’s go.  NOW.  Seriously.  This isn’t cool anymore.”  I felt very detached from what was happening, and it was very dream-like for the first few hours.  I couldn’t process what was happening, I wanted to go back to sleep and pretend that the day hadn’t started yet.

Pain and Guilt Oh.  My.  God.  It hurt.  Not so much with the guilt, because there wasn’t anything to feel guilty for, but there was regret.  I wanted to build a time machine and go back so I could fix whatever the fuck it was that caused things to get where they were.  I’d been through it before, so I knew what the pain of your heart breaking feels like.  It was almost familiar, like a bully who stopped picking on you for awhile, and suddenly resurfaces.  Yes, I’m talking about you, @migroddy.  Miguel used to take my pants every day after school and throw them on the roof.  The janitor always got them down, but then he watched me put them back on with a creepy smile.  That janitor was @robmader. Actually, @robmader and @migroddy are amazing musicians I met on Twitter, and never bullied or violated me.

Until I was an adult.

Anger and Bargaining There wasn’t anger until much later, and it was directed more at myself than her and the person she was involved with.  I was, however, all about the bargaining.  I spent a week trying to coerce her back, trying to fix whatever it was that caused the rift.  The problem was, it wasn’t something I could fix, because it had very little to do with me.  Ultimately, it was about her attempting to fix herself.  This makes bargaining frustrating, because there’s nothing for me to fix.  You can’t force someone to fall back in love with you, and you can’t fix someone else.  But I tried like a motherfucker.

Depression, Reflection, Loneliness This was the theme for the month of March, and all three of them hit almost immediately.  As with most things in life, I used sarcasm to mask my pain.

One of the problems I had fallen into in the five years previous to this month was a lack of close friends, friends that I could confide in.  I had very few people around me, and only one that I could really talk to, @kimberlyprendez, who was in the “Happy Relationship Place” & I didn’t want to crap on her cereal.  I’ve known Kim for years, and she’s been an amazing friend, but she was really my only friend.  My introversion had finally backfired on me.

I remember I jumped on Twitter that morning and posted a rather cryptic message about how the day was sucking. Almost immediately I got a Direct Message (otherwise known as a DM on Twitter.  It’s a private message you can send to and from people you follow and visa versa, no one else is privy to the information in it.) from this guy I’d just started following, @jamiefishback.  Jamie asked what was wrong, and I hesitated.  Not because he was an actor, although that should have been reason enough, but because I was trying to keep Twitter mostly professional, and this guy was asking me to open up.  But I was still in a state of shock, and I was desperate for someone to talk to, because the girlfriend was already on the phone with friends talking about how it was all out in the open.  So I decided to let Jamie be my friend and I told him.  And he was there with a virtual hug and encouraging words, which surprised me.  People didn’t do that shit on MySpace.  Why was Twitter any different?  Jamie also offered to meet up for coffee and told me to keep him posted on how I was coping.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this moment was the turning point for Twitter and I.  (I realize that, upon reading that statement, @jamiefishback’s head will grow to the size of a large watermelon and burst with excitement, spewing seeds and pulp everywhere)  He really was the catalyst for Twitter becoming “Not Just Another Social Network.”  That should be their tagline.

After I got off with Jamie, I was at a crossroads.  I’d been tweeting with all these people I follow every day for months, and I wanted to tweet now about the things that were happening.  My brain was consumed with the breakup, and that’s all I wanted to talk about.  But I was using Twitter to look for leads for film scoring, and I was pretty sure those people were not going to be interested in my drama.

The deciding factor ended up being my conversation with Jamie.  I didn’t really have anyone I could talk to, no one to get drunk with and drone on and on about what went wrong.  But I had Twitter, the only social network I was actively participating in.  So right here, at this desk, I made the decision to shift and tweet about my personal life on Twitter.  If people were offended, or didn’t want to deal with someone else’s drama and depression, then screw them, they could unfollow me.  I needed a place to vent, to rant, to whine about the huge event that was going on in my life.  And I did.

I didn’t want to whine, I’d read enough tweets from people with problems who came off “whiny” on Twitter (I’m looking at you, @dr0id.), and it almost always came off way too emo to be mainstream.  My process was simple:  I wasn’t trying to gain followers or purposely lose any; I just wanted to talk about how I was feeling.

Now, anyone who knows me (and those of you who have read this far into the book know me better than some people in real life do) knows that I’m sarcastic 98% of the time.  It’s a trait that comes naturally, and I love being that way.  I try hard not to go too far over the edge, although there are times I do because it’s necessary for the joke to work.  For instance, @Kevin_Slack likes it when I send him pictures of me wearing just black socks. I don’t know what he does with them, but he keeps asking for more and complains about the tendonitis in his right arm.

See?  Over the top.  Also, scary visual.

I am a very positive person, and I can find a bright spot in any situation, but my way of dealing with that is to make fun of it.  Most of my tweets are a perfect example of that.  I expected to lose a lot of followers when I started tweeting about the breakup.  But something funny happened.

People listened.

Not only did they listen, they followed like mad and responded.  It was the strangest thing I’d ever experienced.  Here I was, my heart on the table for everyone to look at, and they weren’t turning away.  It was then I realized not only the secret of Twitter, but the power of Twitter.

When I say “secret,” I don’t mean that other book that’s sold a gazillion copies.  I mean that the “trick” to getting people to listen and interact on Twitter is to be human.  Everyone has shitty things happen to them in their lives.  People die, get cancer, divorce, cheat, and lose their jobs all the time.  If you’re relatable to everyone else, they see themselves in you, and you see yourself in them when they open up on Twitter.  The heart of Twitter is not what you’re selling, what your job is and who you know.

It’s who you are.

Since this book is about who I am, let’s keep going.  As a special treat, I’ve arranged for @PostcardCoptors to bring you all refreshments during this part of the chapter because it’s so long.  If he hasn’t knocked at your door with beer and/or wine by now, it means he drank it all single-handedly and is passed out at home, possibly urinating on himself.  Dammit, Robert.  You told me I could count on you this time.


I’ve neglected to mention that, during this month of mayhem, I still had to tweet from the set of the feature film “11:11.” Every weekend in March we were shooting, and I had to talk about it.  Breakup or no breakup.  Yay me.  So I went, and I tweeted.

I tweeted from Huntington Beach, from the park, from the inside of a house, everyplace we had to shoot.  And I did it with the same snarkiness and sarcasm I had now employed to deal with the fact that my girlfriend already had a new place and was preparing to move by the end of the month.

People will tell you to find a distraction when intense, stressful events occur.  It’s a load of shit.  There was no way for me to forget what was going on in my life by watching a movie being made.  I will admit that there were times when I, either because I was laughing at something one of the PA’s (Production Assistants) was doing (like flying a kite… literally) or because I was immersed in the shot Director Rocky Costanzo was getting (and I’d eventually be scoring), temporarily forgot that my life was so full of suckage I was suffocating.  I’d be caught up in laughing and then suddenly I’d remember real life.  It’s a lot like when you wake up from a dream you thought was real, and then reality slowly seeps in and you remember where you’re at.  I suppose if you were looking at my face during this moment of realization, you’d see the interesting transition from laughing to depression, like some creepy time lapse.

If you ask anyone, with the exception of Rocky (who I talked to about the situation), none of them were aware of what was going on.  I’m very good at hiding that I’m stressed when I’m upset.  I tend to get quiet, which is actually a huge warning sign that something is wrong, since I never shut up.

The girlfriend, after ending things, took a trip for about a week and I was alone at home, with WAY too much time to think about where she had gone, who lived there, and what they might be doing to each other.  The first day was not bad.  After taking her to the airport, I had a coffee meeting with a producer, and lunch & margaritas with another composer, @kevinrieplmusic.  I slept fine, got up early and went to the set of 11:11 on the beach.  It was a great day for it, and I was in a good mood.

Around 4 in the afternoon my imagination, which apparently had been napping all day, decided to wake up and kick into overdrive.  All I could think about was what the ex was doing, who she might be doing it to, over and over and over in my head.  I wanted to get away from the set, but I also didn’t want to go home.  I remember feeling antsy, like I was just going to explode into a million pieces right there at the craft services table, all over the bags of chips and vegetable platter.  I was also taking the on-set photography that day, so not only did I have to be awake, I had to pay attention. When we wrapped at 8pm I bolted for my car and raced down highway home.  I figured once I got there things would be better.  I could not have been more wrong.

I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I drank, but didn’t get drunk.  The thoughts of her were cancerous, spreading throughout my head and enveloping everything.  I remember looking at the clock at midnight and thinking, OK, I’ve got to be on set at 8am, I should try and get some sleep.  I thought the same thing at 2am when I was in the exact same spot.  And again at 4am.  I started contemplating the quickest way to find someone, anyone to have sex with, hoping it would make everything go away.  Which was out of character for me.  Not that I don’t love sex.  There’s nothing like cuddling up with @jamiefishback on a bearskin rug, next to a roaring fire in a cabin…. but I digress.  Sex, for me, is an emotional thing first, physical thing second.  I need a connection with the person first or it just doesn’t work for me.  I realized this as I thought about where I could find someone to fill that hole (no pun intended) and make all the bad thoughts go away.  I knew it wasn’t going to make anything better, so instead I popped a handful of nighttime medication and passed out.

The next morning, which was actually about three hours later, was not any better.  I woke up drenched in sweat, and it was air conditioned in my room.  I stumbled to the set in a not-so-good mood and proceeded to tweet.  And then people tweeted back.  None of them had a clue about my night, I wasn’t that specific about what was going on, I just talked about who was playing with themselves on set (Roy), who was drunk when we started shooting (Rocky) and who was tweeting lots of lies (Rob).  But the thing is, the people of Twitter cared about what was going on in my life, even if I didn’t.  And my mood started to change.  By the time we wrapped that day, which was the last day of shooting until the summer, I was laughing and feeling OK.  This is a pic of me a few minutes before we wrapped production.

See?  There’s at least a half smile there.  Yes, I was tweeting before and after this shot was taken by the illustrious Shawn Gorritz, @3quartermoon, who was the on set photographer for “11:11,” who, knowing what I was going through that month, brought me the most amazing burrito all the way up from her home in San Diego.

In hindsight, maybe it was the burrito and not my followers that changed my mood.  Sorry guys.

A week later, a strange thing happened when the ex-girlfriend got back into town (yes, I picked her up from the airport. I parked in the wrong terminal and had to walk across all of LAX, wondering why the hell I was there picking her up). When we hugged at the airport, it felt… strange.  Like hugging your uncle Mort, or like when @heathvinyard goes in for a hug and puts his hands on your butt, and you want to say something, but you hesitate just a moment too long and then it’s just easier to let it go.  I expected to miss her, to get emotional when I saw her, but I didn’t.  It was like in one week apart she went from girlfriend to roommate, and I had no clue as to why.

During this time, I was also helping her furnish her new place with furniture and dishes.  I know what you’re thinking. Why the hell would I help her move out?!  It’s because things were amicable at this point, and I still cared about her and didn’t want her to have to do it all herself.  So we took a trip to Target.

The trip to Target was not fun.  Not even close.  It started off OK, but then it just went downhill very quickly.  I very clearly remember a moment in Target when the ex-girlfriend took a phone call that was very clearly from the guy she’d been talking to and saw during her trip, walked away to take the call, and left me standing in front of the mini-blinds with a tape measure.  It was very much a “What The Fuck” moment.  I looked to my right and I found myself staring at a display of dishes and glassware.  I had this strong urge to walk over to sporting goods, grab a baseball bat, and destroy the display.  I thought about what all the different colors of glass would look like mixed together in a pile, broken and reflecting light.  I didn’t do it, which is good because then I’d have to wait in a jail cell for someone to come bail me out, and I don’t think @ekfomo has that kind of cash on her during the weekend when the bars are open, so I’d be stuck in there with @TheUserPool, who’d be there without pants because, well, that’s how he rolls.  If I could do it over again, I’d still go to Target and help her pick out the things she needed, because, regardless of the situation, it was the right thing to do.

Moving Day

Normally, a breakup is spread out a bit.  You know it’s coming, you’ve been fighting, things aren’t going well, even if you think you didn’t see it, you really saw it coming miles back down the highway.  You know the spot, back when @farwyde was hitching a ride and you wanted to stop, but your girlfriend said “No, you are not picking up a hot girl hitchhiker,” and you argue that she’s not hot, but secretly you’re hoping that your girlfriend will think she’s hot too, and your girlfriend says, “Maybe she’s a serial killer, you should be thanking me,” but all you hear is “blah blah blah hot girl blah blah blah,” and you can’t get in a word edgewise and before you know it you end up at Trader Joe’s picking out wine for dinner at your girlfriend’s parents house, where you’ll spend the night wondering about the lucky bastard that pulled over instead of you and gave @farwyde a ride, and how it had better not be that sonofabitch @TheUserPool, because he’s only got one thing on his mind 24/7.

Where was I?  Oh yeah. Moving.  The day the movers came and took her stuff away was very…. weird.

The two weeks between her getting back and moving day were up and down emotionally.  I was OK around her most of the time, and slept (somewhat), although I still wasn’t eating almost at all, which is how I cope with stress.  It’s the most effective diet plan I’ve ever been on (and the only one).  Yes, I realize it’s incredibly unhealthy, but it’s not like I was hungry and refusing to eat.  I wasn’t hungry.  I was digesting the big ball of stress sitting in my stomach instead.  The two trips to Target happened during this period, but, despite this, I felt emotionally that I was ready for her to move.

I wasn’t.

When I got up the morning of the 30th, I was ready.  All her stuff was packed, the movers were coming, we just had to get all the boxes near the door and load up her car with the stuff she didn’t want on the truck.  But something happened.  I didn’t realize it, but I was slowly getting angry for the first time since it all went down on March 4th.  I rarely get mad, and when I do I get real quiet.  It’s like my stress response, but… angrier.  Not yell/scream/break things kind of mad, because I don’t get mad like that, I internalize.  And not in a physical way either, I’ve never laid a hand on a woman, and aliens would literally have erupted from my asshole before that would ever happen in any situation.  I wasn’t mad at her, I was mad at the situation and that it had actually come to this, the end.  I mean, what the fuck, universe?  Really?  Am I really watching 4 1/2 years of my life come to an end in less than 30 days?  I was mad at the relationship.  I suppose I should have been mad at the asshole that was taking her away from me.  But if it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else, because she was ready to move on regardless.  So instead, I was angry at the relationship itself.  With no one to take it out on.

Then the Mormons came to the door.

Now I don’t have anything against any religion.  I think people should be free to believe whatever they want to believe as long as they’re not hurting anyone in the process.  I do, however, have a problem with pushy salespeople.  And really, that’s what they were there to do, sell me some religion.  I heard a knock at the door and walked over to the stairs (they look down to the front door) and I could see them through the screen.  I very calmly said, “This is the worst possible day for you to be here.  You need to leave now.”

If they had left, there would have been no incident.  But one of them said, “Are you sure you don’t have a minute to talk? Can we come back another day?”  Really, it could have been anyone at the door. The UPS guy, the mailman, a creepy old man selling candy.  But it was the guy trying to sell me religion who took the brunt of my anger over the end of my relationship.

“What part of get the fuck off my porch did you not understand?”

I started yelling.  And cursing.  Loudly.  There was a moment when they started to go, and one of them turned to say something.  I haven’t been in a fight since I was 10.  But I was SO ready to punch him in the face if he said one word to me.  Fortunately for both of us, he turned and left.

And I felt better.

In hindsight, I should have gone into the bedroom and yelled at the wall hours before that happened, it would have helped me get it all out.  Unfortunately, that guy had to take the brunt of it.  I felt bad, but at the same time it was cathartic to get it out.

That was also the point when the sadness hit harder than @os1019 when you insult his cooking.  He’s very sensitive about it; entire legions of men have been wiped out because of an insult to his culinary prowess.  OK, that might be a lie.  @os1019 has been a great friend throughout the entire year, was there before March reared its ugly head, and is still my friend now.

Well, as much a friend as he can be since he’s a cyborg.

Much like @thebookjournal.  She’ll tell you she’s human, but there is no way a human can read as much as she does. One day I’m going to find her wiring harness and proclaim “AH HA!”  And then she’ll vaporize me while @os1019 looks on.

Then the movers showed up.

I was starting to feel really shitty really fast.  I’m not afraid to cry.  There are movies and TV shows that bring tears to my eyes (the episode “The Body” from Buffy chokes me up every single time I watch it), but there had been very little crying the month of March.  I remember there were tears on the 4th, the day everything ended, but none in-between.  I’d been running at full speed all month, helping her pack, changing over utilities, working from the set of the film, I didn’t let myself slow down and grieve, because I was afraid to.

What took 4 and 1/2 years to accumulate took about 20 minutes to load into a truck in front of the house.  It was so fast, suddenly we were hugging at the top of the stairs, and she walked out the door.  I can’t remember any time in my life that I felt more alone, unloved, and the smallest I’ve ever been.  It was the last time she ever set foot in the apartment.  I remember like it was yesterday, I walked past the dining room, through the living room to the bedroom.  I stood in the corner facing out, leaned back and tweeted.

And then I slid down the wall and cried.  For a long time.

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