Welcome to the broken hearts club!
There should really be a club, or at least a welcoming committee, for something as monumental as this. You’d think within a world that gives us genius little smart phones and turn-by-turn navigation we’d have created some sort of community for the ones who just need to hear these words after their heart is gouged out, “Hey, you’re here. You’ve arrived. Don’t be ashamed. You’re in for quite the journey back to wholeness. It gets better. I promise. You’re not alone, toots. You’re not alone.”
I’d give just about anything to stand outside your door right now with some brightly colored poster that has your name plastered on the front of it with all the 4th grade glitter your little heart can handle, as if I was welcoming you home after a long trip. As if I were the first one to scoop you up when the wheels of your lovesick plane touched down on the runway and you found yourself crashing hard into reality.
It feels awful, right? If you’re feeling run over, ramshackled, desperate, lonely, confused– a cross between being hit by bus with all your ex-girlfriends on it and having all your organs spill out of you like a pinata that was cracked open by all your ex-boyfriends– then you are right where you need to be. Congratulations, you’re in the center of it. You think something broke inside of you but you’re still kicking like a champ. It’s going to be painful for a while but this is life handing you a spare moment to suck in and say, “Yea, this is ok.”
But once again, welcome.
You’ve become fully, fully human. You’ve learned the gritty secret about love that the movie screens, and romance novels, and conversations with best friends over coffee could never prepare you for: It hurt sometimes. It guts you out sometimes. It makes you lonely. It tramples you like a thousand zebras, lions, panthers, gazelles skipping over Mufasa and coming straight for you.
You’ll go through phases. A broken heart is an ever-evolving train wreck of emotions that often gets accompanied by not wanting to eat, shower, or brush one’s hair. At one point you won’t want to change your clothes or leave the house. At another point you’re going to want to take a chainsaw to couples holding hands out in the road. You’ll convince yourself you’ll never slow dance again, never date again, never cuddle again. You’ll wallow like a champion and ugly cry at random times in the middle of the grocery store when that song that always reminds you of the November you had together comes on. No one in aisle 6 is going to understand what forehead kisses meant to you, boo.
You’ll feel the most bitter a) when your friends are experiencing happiness b) when any Reese Witherspoon movie comes on c) when you see some ridiculously plotted-out marriage proposal in someone’s Facebook stream that was clearly planned by some subhuman Pinterest freak d) when you’re going home alone. OOF, that is the winner.
We all go home alone sometimes. It won’t kill you. It won’t destroy you. It won’t pummel you the ground. You’re going home alone at some point. It’ll be the hardest thing to do when it’d be so much easier to call. Or shoot over a harmless text. Or send an email. Or show up at their door. But you’re going home alone. Swallow. Breathe. We’re moving on.
You might not ever see the person again.
I just want you to know that could be the best reality. It’s just this: the last thing I want for you to believe is that closure is resting and waiting in a conversation with someone else. We fool ourselves into thinking that we can never fully let go, and move on, and push forward until we just get those final words out. And so we wait wistfully for the day when we meet again in coffee shops or by the roadside after seventeen years. Chances are, he isn’t gonna write you letters every day for 365 days. Chances are, he isn’t building the house with the wraparound porch for you and growing some barbaric beard that screams “Hey girl, I was too depressed by the thought of your face that I never picked up a razor.” The strongest thing you might ever learn to do is write your own love letters and build your own dang house.
Thought to ponder: If our chance to move on was always in the grips of someone else’s hands, what kind of story would that be? If you’ve got final words, just release them now. Final words are floating everywhere in the atmosphere, dear. Sometimes you just need to say them out loud to the night air when no one is around to hear you but the trees and whatever you believe is steering the stars above you. Sometimes that’s the best kind of closure you can get. It might not be fleshy, and it might not end with some regretful kiss and a Dawson’s Creek speech in the middle of field when rain is pelting down on you, but it will keep you always, always, always as the messenger and never the maker.
The worst mistake I ever made was believing that I was some kind of maker. When I got that first broken heart, I thought I got to be the divine fixer. That I could make him take me back. That I could make him love me more. That I could make us better. I can’t make much of anything though. It only made me more embarrassed with myself to try. Beyond making choices and making progress, I can’t make much of anything. But I could move on. I could let go.
There will be forks in the road.
You can probably already see them in the distance. Parties you might see one another at. Chances to tumble back into one another recklessly. If you aren’t really careful, it’s always going to feel like Shoots & Ladders. The ladders get harder and harder to climb when you lose so much breath from propelling back down those shoots though.
When I was sixteen years old, my best friends and I used to hold “Closure Ceremonies.” If you can imagine four girls sitting around in a circle smashing necklaces and teddy bears to bits with hammers until the voice boxes that said “I love you” fell out from their stuffed guts, then that was us. We were lovesick girls with anthems of bravery within us. We burned love notes. We screamed and cussed a bit. And then we held one another. We didn’t give answers. We didn’t act like a broken heart was the oldest thing in our books. We acknowledged that it felt like all the oxygen had fallen out of the sky and then we held one another under the stars.
The stars are reliable unlike any other thing in this crazy world. Leaves fall off the trees. Snow melts. Rain washes away all the things we wrote on the pavement. But the stars are relentless to shine. Relentless, relentless, they pull us right up there into the stories of their constellations. All their little dips & belt buckles & milkier ways.
Tonight, that’s where I want you. Not hurling yourself at your old lover’s car or standing by their window to cry to the sound of their snoring. Just find the stars. Even if you and I can’t forge through the emptiness together, get to a place where you can see the stars. I’ll get there too. Bring a blanket. Bring hot chocolate, or a coffee, or whatever makes you feel warm. Bring a sweatshirt that he didn’t give to you. And bring a friend if you can. Tell them you don’t want to be alone in all of this. They should either understand or you should find a better friend.
Just lay there. Real still. I am going to whisper something that’s going to make you wince a bit: There is someone out there who you gave secrets & stories & weaknesses & strengths to. They didn’t disappear when your heart cracked open. They’re still out there with parts of you jangling in their jean pockets like spare change.
But guess what?
You’re still here.
And you’re whole.
And not a single stitch of you is missing, even if you can’t possibly believe it’s true.
You lost every little thing you needed to lose when you first got that broken heart of yours. It came right off of you just like it was supposed to, in the way that sequins shake loose from the costumes of ballerinas and feathers fall off the wings of the birds that are finally flying southward bound for home. Don’t you ever give someone the permission to think they took away the vital parts of you. Don’t you ever give someone the permission to they took away part of your completion.
You are the start to your story and you are the finish.
You lost nothing down this road that couldn’t be renewed, restored, remade.
You’re whole. You’re whole. You’re whole. Consider this a lesson in getting stronger.
Baby, baby, welcome. You’re fully, fully human today.