One of my favorite quotes comes from poet Paul Thomas Berkey: “I can say with great certainty and absolute honesty that I did not know what love was until I knew what love was not.” It’s a favorite because it’s a few words that you can think on and dissect and make your own (the same reason that the entire book of Milk and Honey is my favorite (still not over that)). It’s simple: you cannot understand or experience love if you don’t know what makes love, love. In other words: You have to lose in order to win. While this post is not exclusively about romantic relationships it’s easier to understand this with that in mind: think of all of your ex-boyfriends or girlfriends. The temporary ones, the ones you were sure were your husbands. The ones you went to dinner with, the ones whose families you met, the ones you cried for. Think about that first break-up, and that end-all feeling; think of your teenage world crumbling.
I in particular am not fresh out of a relationship right now; my last break-up was four years ago and four years ago my heart broke and my world crumbled for the fifth time. Today I can laugh about that: I can joke about my exes, I have befriended more than one of them, I can laugh at myself and I have even had the thought “no wonder they broke up with me.” It’s easy to be four years later and looking back and laughing but how do you get to that point? Especially in the first few months after, how do you move on? People say things like “you’ll get over it” and “it gets easier with time” but what about those days and hours before “later” comes?
fucking sucks, and it’s never easy. Whether it’s a break-up, lost friends or a death, you get that feeling in the bottom of your stomach and the questions of “what now?”, “what could I have done differently?”, “how do I fix this?” You justify and you blame and you pray and you cry and that’s not something you can avoid. With loss comes hurt and denial and sadness and anger. You hate them for leaving, you hate yourself for not giving more/giving less/caring too much/not caring enough. You hate whatever higher power you believe in for life being unfair and you beg to said higher power to bring back whoever left you; I personally have done all of the above and more. I’ll get personal for a second about my last break-up because I can go there without feeling any of that again (and we’re friendly so hopefully he doesn’t mind LOL): I was cheated on by a boy that made it very clear to me that we weren’t going to be together forever but I for some reason refused to believe. We’d broken up once before because it just wasn’t meant to be and everything (including him) had told me that it wasn’t working but I had convinced myself that things would change (spoiler alert: they never change).
Here’s a quick snippet of this relationship: he was in college, I was in high school. He was older with all of the experiences that I was yet to have. I had literally nothing in common with any of the past girls he’d dated or his friends. If someone laid this out to me right now I would say “LOL GOOD LUCK WITH THAT.” I have come to learn that oblivion is the foundation of all relationships under the age of 20 (true for me at least). Nonetheless when we broke up I was d-e-v-a-s-t-a-t-e-d. I cried and I blamed and I justified until I couldn’t cry or blame or justify anymore. I’m telling you this not to be relatable but because this was the relationship in my life that I really learned to deal with loss. Like I said: loss is never easy, even when it’s an 18-year-old breakup that you see coming a mile away.
Here’s what I did in those hours and days that felt endless: I cried. Like, a lot. This is very important: cry until you physically cannot. Cry for the obvious reasons and then make up sad scenarios in your head and cry some more. Cry for them, cry for you, for the what-if’s and the how-come’s; this should be the only time you really cry so make it count. Sob and pay attention to how pathetic it sounds: this is not you. You are not what’s happened to you, you are how you handle what’s happened to you. Be sad and angry and pathetic but do not become sad and angry and pathetic. When you’ve cried all of the sadness out of your soul, take a few deep breaths, as many as it takes until your eyes are dry.
It’s important, after being sad, that you note the happy times. The times of bliss and oblivion and pure, uninterrupted happiness, and when you go back to those moments note why you felt that way. Not because of who you were with but because you were hiking, you were eating the best biscuits and gravy you’ve ever had, you were having an awe-inspiring conversation about the state of the world. It’s important to not remember the person in these times but the surroundings and your mindset; you created your own state of happiness in that moment by the choices made, they did not create your happiness. The way the sun hugged your body made you happy. The taste of those damn biscuits made your belly happy. The way your thoughts opened up and poured out and painted a picture made your head happy; they were merely just there with you to experience your bliss. Learn not to associate the two. This is key to making sure you can learn to be happy on your own.
And then you really think about what you’ve lost. For me it went like this: I lost a boy who I can’t say really loved me. I lost the worrying and wondering about what he was doing when I’m not there. I lost the obligations I felt to be someone I’m not to get along with the people we were around. So again, what did I really lose? I walked away with great memories and experiences that I’d put myself through over and over if it meant I’d come out the person I am today. I walked into a man years later that I’m pretty sure is the one. In the two years I had to myself before meeting said man, I learned some self-respect. I learned the difference between being lonely and being alone. I learned the importance of commitment, and I learned the patience entailing men and relationships. And while missing a person is inevitable when you wake up one day and they’re gone, it is crucial to cry and remember and evaluate and then let go.