“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” – A Tale of Two Cities
I’ll never forget the summer of 2010. Like a good parent does to every child afraid of the water, my mother had finally pushed me out of her rent free house and into a rather shallow public pool. Yet still I was barely floating my $600 rent despite my three part-time jobs, my least favorite of them driving a van around town to pick up kids from six different schools and deliver them to afterschool care. At the top of her lungs, Jessica’s crackly 8-year-old voice screeched the lyrics drowning out Beyonce.
“Sit down and put your seat belt back on,” I yelled. “This isn’t American Idol, sit down!”. Jessica was that precocious only child who probably spent too much time watching grown women be grown. What did she know about heartbreak anyway? What did she know about laying on your hardwood floor of your studio choking on your own breath, or dry heave vomiting, or sleeping excessively because it’s the only place where you can alter reality? What did she know about heartbreak so incredibly painful you weren’t sure if you weren’t actually physically dying?
“Why would I want to be with you when….” It had been five months since he’d uttered these words so effortlessly over the phone. “When what?” I asked. For months now I’d been completing the sentence myself; when I didn’t have a “real job”, when I lived in a crappy studio, when my car was shitty, when my clothes weren’t fancy, when my hair and nails didn’t stay salon done, when I wasn’t always happy and cheery about life? It was all of that really, but especially the last one. I had been going through a rough patch for a while, but he had too. When we met, it was that 20 something strife that connected us.
I was a fixer and a nurturer, like my mother. For 14 years, I watched her be the hope and faith of my fathers’ business. When he finally sold it, and took a day job she was there to continue to build and rebuild him through whatever personal discord he felt. This was what women did for men they loved. When I met him he was gridlocked, unable to step back from the recent pain of a bad breakup, and afraid to dig deep enough to ask himself what he really wanted in life. He was stuck in a 10 min. excerpt of Groundhogs day. But now he was better. Now he knew his passion, his life’s work. I’d loved him enough to show him what made him so loveable. And once he could see it, he broke the gridlock. I had modeled my mother so well. But unfortunately, he wasn’t my father. We weren’t in a 35 year marriage, with three adult kids and a paid off mortgage. We had no historical resilience, no shared triumph.
“Why would I want to be with you when…”. Five months later I was almost passed pity and graduated to pissed. When what? When I picked up your pieces when you were at your worst? When I showed you how to see the positives in your situations? But I was the negative one? I was the one gridlocked and unworthy of a relationship? Unworthy of love?
The rest of that summer was defined by its heat; hot humid beach days, hot black dresses, hot un-airconditioned studio apartments, hot parties, hot men. I drowned myself in the heat of the summer and changed the radio dial from Beyonce to songs about shots. Do more, think less was my motto. In my head was where the dying was real, the self-loathing, the unanswered question. All I needed to do was keep dancing, keep working my jobs, keep the music loud, keep the party going, and keep not thinking. After all, this was the best of times.
But if you’ve ever actually experienced a bad breakup you know this is temporary bullshit. It isn’t really the best of times. It’s stalling and ignoring. So how do you face the music and address real issues to get past a serious heartbreak?
- Stay sober. If you drink, then drink to feel even better, not to feel better. In other words depressive drinking doesn’t work, remember alcohol is a depressant.
- Graduate from the self-pity and consider this. The universe uses all of us as tools to help one another. We are meant to cross paths with various people in order to be marked, learn lessons, and impact one another. Maybe you were a tool in helping an ex through personal development, but stop taking all the credit and understand the powers and energy of the universe.
- Get your life together. The truth is, it’s a lot easier to help someone else sort through their issues than it is to face your own. Take less pride in your ability to sort through others issues and start focusing on your own. What is your own purpose in life? What do you independent of anyone else want to be happy? What work do you need to do today to start moving your life in the direction you want it?
- Be beautiful. Yes, it cost money to stay in salons, and budgets are ugh in many people’s twenties, but you can still experiment with new hair styles at home, do your own nails, mix and match clothes with friends to try out new looks, and etc. Do whatever it takes to master your best look and own it. Feeling beautiful on the day to day matters. It affects your confidence and the energy you project into the space around you. And don’t delay this. Don’t say, I’ll be beautiful when I lose 10lbs or when I have more money. You are beautiful now, as you are, so do what you need to feel that way today.
- Start knowing that you are loveable. No one is perfect, literally no one. And you were made exactly how you were supposed to be made, love that. Love the texture of your hair, love your height, love your body type and know that you are many someone’s type. You don’t need to change yourself, you just need to love yourself. Write down your 10 best attributes and post them to your bathroom mirror. Don’t include physical attributes, focus on internal traits. Read through your list every morning. Don’t undervalue any traits, just write down what comes to mind. On my list I’d include:
- I enjoy helping people identify their strengths, and this makes me feel good because it makes them feel inspired.
- I’m good at connecting people for professional and personal reasons.
- I’m great at cheering people up.
- Stop telling your break up story. If you retell your breakup story at any chance you get to whoever will listen, you are enjoying this victim role. It’s not healthy or helping. Stop owning this story if you want to be ready for new better stories.
- Get relationship advice from someone 8-10 years older than you. If your circle of friends is your age, you may be passing bad or inexperienced advice around. You need fresh experienced new advice. And always consider the source. Ask someone in a healthy long term relationship for relationship advice if this is ultimately what you desire.
- Decide to want someone not to need someone. Perhaps the last breakup hurts so bad because you feel you needed the person. Did you need them to love you? Did you need them to validate you? Did you need them to help you in some way? If so, then the worst thing you can do is to hop into another relationship to fill that void. That’s a bad cycle. What you need to do is work on not needing anyone for these things. You need to start with loving you, independent of anyone else loving you. Say to yourself and believe it, if no one else loves me, not friends, family or a significant other, that’s okay because I still love me. This is hard, but you need to mean it. Address the ways in which you felt you needed your ex to help you and learn to be self-sufficient in these areas. Once you no longer need someone you will find that you are able to want someone. Breaking up with someone you wanted, is painful but it doesn’t feel like dying, it doesn’t feel like your world is spiraling out of control because your control was never dependent on that person.
- Get a routine. My mother always says if your whole life feels unhappy, then create categories. Start by trying to make just one category awesome. This requires some discipline and routine. My effective routine would involve waking up in the morning and exercising. In good weather an outdoor walk, or jog is the best because you also get the fresh air and mental space. The gym is fine in bad weather. Exercise is known to increase endorphins that make you more energetic and happy. Furthermore, if your job sucks and everything else you have planned for the day sucks, you at least start the day feeling like you’ve done 1 selfishly productive thing for you. You’ve practiced some self-love. The second part of my routine is making and eating a healthy breakfast and then meal prepping for the day. Once these two things have become a routine, it will be easier to add more things to your routine. The more discipline you start to have in your life, the more things come together. As things come together you will feel more confident and less in need of validation.
- Date more but keep it non-physical. Monogamy is for marriage, trust there will be plenty of time for it. Don’t be a serial relationship hopper. Not every first date needs to turn into a relationship. The process of dating should be an opportunity to explore and discover traits in a partner you must have, would be nice to have, and deal breakers. When you apartment shop you don’t need to trial live in each place before choosing one right? Likewise not every date needs to turn into an emotional or physical commitment. Invest less in the people you date. Don’t allow dating to be a diversion from the work you need to be doing on yourself. Enjoy dating, keep it casual and use it as experience to learn what kind of spouse you desire.
What are your thoughts? Have you had a bad break up in the past? What things helped you get passed it? What advice can you share? Are you going through something heavy right now? Want to chat offline? If so feel free to visit the contact page and send me an email offline.
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