Dear Broken Friend:
I remember the day I found out. The exact moment, actually. As fuzzy as it all was — I still can recall it as clear as day. Walking to work, breaking down on the crosswalk. The gray brick building with tall white columns crumbling in front of me, the sky falling. When a heart breaks, there’s no way for it to not sound dramatic. Because it is. When you give someone a part of you and they hand it back mangled and unrecognizable, it’s hard for the world not to turn on its head.
I wanted to drown in the pain. I know we’re different and you like to move on by keeping yourself busy, but I wanted to sink in it. I wanted to devour it and savor it and have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I wanted to wrap myself up in it like a blanket; I wanted it to protect me and keep me warm. I wanted to feel and feel and feel because it’s all I knew for months and months — feelings. It was then I discovered the opposite of loving someone isn’t heartbreak — it’s feeling nothing. In him breaking my heart, I was still connected to him. It was his last gift to me. If I let it go, that meant that I was letting him go, too. Everything about him.
Do whatever you need to do to get through it. Some days I imagined us together again in two years just to make it until the end of the day without breaking down. Some days I forced myself to recall his lips on hers just to remember how much I hated him. Some days I reconjured the hopeful memory of his hand on my lower back under the soft neon glow of the rooftop bar, repeating the things he said to me over and over in my head. Some days I couldn’t listen to certain songs without crying for an hour. Some days those songs were all I wanted to hear — and I still cried. Some days I needed to see him, so I did, and then regretted it. Other days I wanted to kiss someone else to forget, so I did. I didn’t regret that. It doesn’t matter what you do — as long as you don’t do anything destructive and stay true to you. But do whatever the fuck you have to do. Heartbreak is a war.
But each day it becomes more bearable. The little things he said, you won’t be able to remember. They turn to dust; a speck in your universe. Then one day, while you’re busy minding your business and picking up the pieces, someone else will come along when you least expect it and make you feel loved. Truly, deeply loved. Don’t wait around for it. But look forward to it.
I say all of this because I’ve found that sometimes someone else’s story is exactly what we need. We don’t need serious advice or someone telling us they know exactly how we feel. We just need to escape. Not into something annoyingly happy, or even more depressing. We just want the opportunity to feel something outside of our own pain and still relate to it. To be alone, but not feel alone.
I know he was supposed to be the one. But none of that matters right now. Now. Now. Now. Be here with me now. Hold my hand. I got you, babe. You can make it through this.
As you know, there’s no step by step guide to healing and putting yourself back together. You will wonder how you could have been so dumb; you’re not. You will try to get him back; don’t. You are allowed to be angry. You are allowed to be furiously sad. You are allowed to be — at last — relieved. You will feel it all. And as one of my favorite books Tuesdays With Morrie says, don’t stop yourself from feeling any of it. Let the pain flow through you and out of you; let it run its course like a cold. Emotions are thin and fleeting. The bad ones will go. The good ones will come. And soon, you’ll feel like you all over again. And a new adventure will begin.
That day, I dried my eyes before stepping into work. I forgot they were still red and my face, puffy. My boss took one look at me and it was like she knew. “The reality of it now is not the reality of it forever — I promise.” She was right. It gets better. Great, even.
In this Open Letter series, I tackle various life topics by writing a letter to an anonymous and real friend who is going through it firsthand. My hope in writing to one is that it resonates with and helps all. This letter is for you, too. If you would like a letter, please email email@example.com. Thank you for reading, sweet friend!