There are a million tips out there in the big bad world of online about how to get over a break up. Get a new haircut! A new wardrobe! Play Beyonce at full pelt and dance around your living room! Plan an exciting holiday! Join a yoga class! A walking group! Take up running! Get drunk with your oldest friends! Write endless lists of all the things that weren’t good about the relationship and how glad you are that you no longer have to put up with them!
In the interests of full and frank disclosure, I have done every single one of those things over the course of the past nine weeks. And more besides.
But regardless of all the many small, practical ways in which we are told we can act in order to get over someone, I still think that the real test is how you deal with it in your mind. You could get a hundred new haircuts but your soul won’t mend if your mind isn’t willing to play ball. The real healing in matters of the heart comes from the thought processes we have, and the way we ourselves choose to make sense of and react to what has happened to us. I thought being single was going to make me feel sad, lonely, depressed, miserable. And while I am honest enough to admit that there have been – usually fleeting – moments of that over the past couple of months, overall, my experience has been the opposite. In fact, I am coming to firmly believe, as I wrote tentatively in those shaky first few days, that the universe is unfolding exactly as it should. I am also now coming to know that those people who tell you that everything is going to be OK, that you will start to feel better and that the world isn’t ending are right. One hundred per cent bang on the money, in fact.
In truth, and besides my myriad haircuts and running and Beyonce-themed dance sessions, there are actually only three things that I needed to work out and remember in order to start healing my soul. Just three! None of this 1001 ways to feel better/mend your heart/get over him nonsense! Succinct! Digestible! Easy-to-remember!
Mantra #1. No one knows
As much as it may feel like you or I – the newly single – are walking around with the words “CHECK ME OUT WITH MY BIG, JUICY BROKEN HEART” tattooed to our foreheads, the truth is that we aren’t. Your relationship status isn’t something that you wear. It isn’t even – call me crazy – something that you are. It’s an arbitrary tag that people attribute to one another in order to create a sense of order in a world that’s actually full of chaos.
I recently read somewhere that when it comes to relationships, one plus one actually equals three – you, your partner and the relationship itself. When you choose to bring a relationship to an end, the pair of you walk away as distinct beings, and the only thing that gets put to bed is the relationship itself. You do not lose an arm, or a leg, or an entire half of your being. The person who passes you in the street, the one who doesn’t know you, still sees another whole person walking towards them. And that’s because YOU ARE STILL WHOLE. You are not one half of anything else, nor are you now an insignificant other by virtue of having ceased to be a significant one. You are you. One whole. Wonderfully, completely significant just as you are, just as you always will be. And that’s nice.
Mantra #2. No one cares
Another comforting thought, that may not actually appear all that comforting at first, is that outside of your immediate fold, no one cares at all that you’re no longer in a relationship. Nor that you ever were in a relationship. Nor that you might hope to one day again be in a relationship.
Of course, I don’t mean your friends and family by that, and of course you care yourself, but the wider world? The twisted inner workings of one human heart are beyond inconsequential. The world is a huge place, full of people and places and dramas and wars and corruption and greed and branches of Starbucks. Quite frankly, it has more important things to worry about. Stroppy teenagers across the land are constantly reminded by frazzled parents that the world does not revolve around them. I happen to think there’s a lesson in there for every single one of us.
Mantra #3. Almost everyone has been where you are right now. And they survived. And they are happy again. And so will you be.
Most of the people I have talked to about my break up have, without prompt or inquiry on my part, come forth and shared their own stories of personal woe and heartache, just like that. And while I realise that that might sound like I’ve been indulging in a pity party or two over the past couple of months, these “I’ve been there” moments have honestly been one of my greatest sources of comfort, and strongest beacons of light.
Heartbreak is normal. It’s beautifully, boringly normal, in fact. I like to think of it as a travel destination. Most people have already visited, some are yet to go, some others will be stepping off of the train there this very weekend. Some stay longer than others, some visit perhaps only once in a lifetime. It’s incredibly rare for a human being who lives and loves as fully as life permits never to go there at all.
I think there is something beautiful about this common destination, and the fact that it sometimes takes a little prodding before people will disclose the fact that they’ve been there too, that they’ve also stood in line at the tourist information centre, or perhaps that they even took up residence for a long while. There’s comfort to be found in that, I’m convinced of it. I recently read a hilariously blunt commentary on the subject that went something along the lines of: “Get used to heartbreak. It will happen again. And again. The only time it won’t happen is if you find a relationship that results in a long and happy marriage and you’re the first one to die.”. So the message is, don’t worry if you have to stay a while at the heartbreak hotel. As with many things in life, you never know who you might meet there.
Image above from here.