Surviving a Break-up
two weeks? three days? a month? when was the last time you thought of him, you wonder. something has brought him into your thoughtstream and instantly you realize that you feel nothing; numb to the person who so effortlessly dropped you from his life after four and a half years, who made you cry for 3 months straight, the person you had almost written vows for. how can it be that your heart doesn’t suddenly start pounding out of your rib cage you aren’t cringing to hold back tears, your breathing is slow and controlled.
there were days you thought this moment wasn’t physically possible. you had unsuccessfully tried to rid yourself of that feeling for months. you sobbed over photos, over old letters, over cold sheets. you wrote yourself lists upon lists of why you couldn’t be together and why you should forget him. you learned how to cry silently at work so no one could hear you when the swelling in your chest from an 2-day unanswered text message was unbearable. you tried to convince yourself that you were better than the dramatic overreactions you were having, but it just made it worse because you couldn’t stop. you became your own worst enemy.
similarly, your friends become therapists. they tell you you’re pretty, they tell you you’re smart, they tell you how you deserve better. you found yourself laughing inside at how cliche these moments were. were you really the girl that everyone felt bad for? you wondered if your behavior was only following the motions of what we’ve learned of break-ups through cinema or if all those sappy rom-com’s actually reflect our bizarre behaviors. as they nodded in agreement over the reasons why you couldn’t and shouldn’t get back together, all you think about is how you will, you have to. in order to cope with the situation, you revert to Disney princess fantasies of happily-ever-afters and tell yourself he’ll come back to sweep you off your feet. deep down you know it’s a lie, and as much as you didn’t believe them at the time, reassurance and support from your friends meant everything.
somewhere between the constant word vomit of breakup woes, the ‘there are more fish in the sea’ encouragements from friends, and subsequent internalization of the whole thing, your body silently gives up. you’re heart takes a nap, your muscles relax, and your fingers paint ‘fuck you’ over the deep breath you were holding in. you realize that although you may be at your lowest low, the world doesn’t stop for you. on the days you feel like you can’t muster up the energy to get yourself out of bed, you do, because you have to. it’s a blessing in that you realize life moves on, and slowly you do, too. you become okay with not knowing the details of his life. you realize you’ve lost the privilege of being the first person he tells things to. when a text goes unanswered, you hardly notice.
it’s when you get a phone call from the hospital that throws you for a loop. a bike accident, broken bones, and a boy on lots of medications telling you he wished you could be there makes you feel uneasy. you remind yourself that he is not in the right state if mind. it scares you to realize that you aren’t the person who is first in line to visit him at the hospital. when would you have been notified if it had ended up worse? you want to calm him down and remind him that you love him. can you say that? do you? it’s a different kind of love this time. i love you, not as my soul mate. i love you, not the way i love chocolate. i love you, not the way i love my mother. in greek there are four distinct words for love - agápe, unconditional; éros, passionate; philía, friendship; and storgē, affectionate - and yet I can’t find a word to properly convey this feeling. weeks later when you run into him on the bus you’re taken aback when, instead of your nickname, he addresses to you like everyone else… “hey allie”. ask how he is doing, get a few tid-bits and updates. you ask about work, about family, and even about her. you really just want to make sure he is doing alright.
losing someone for whom you cared so deeply for is just as destabilizing, humiliating and cliche as they tell you. what’s even more cliche is that failed relationships offer an unmatched learning experience. there is something to be said about coming out on the other side, that moment you realize your scars have healed. be grateful for the things you were able to learn about yourself. you’re almost relieved to know that you can feel and hurt in a way you didn’t know was possible. relieved to know that you can overcome, forgive, and move on. realize your resilience, realize your strength, and realize that you are now a better person.
surviving a break-up doesn’t mean you hit the delete button on all of your memories and moments. there will always be sounds, smells, days, and places that make you think of him. acknowledge that what is no longer right for you once was exactly what you needed. appreciate the intangible memories, the way you learned what love was supposed to feel like, what trust and honesty sounded like.
stumble across an old email where he reminded you that you’d always be his greatest friend. close the computer and walk away into the kitchen. when you turn the faucet on to do the dishes, tears flood your eyes, roll down your cheeks into the sink and down the drain. life is made up entirely of loving and losing isn’t it? turn off the water, wipe your eyes and walk away. it won’t be easy if it happens again, but at least I’ll know I have it in me to survive.