Last summer, I went through a breakup that left me staring at my hands and wanting to loop the Wendy’s drive-thru over and over again until they restrained me from buying french fries. I sat on my couch with my nuggets in my lap and I called any person willing to listen to my ugly sobs.
I yelled. I screamed. I was bitter. Real bitter. In the deep of me, I was sick of heartbreak. I was sick of feeling like I was a loser when it came to love.
What people don’t tell you in the thick of heartbreak is that heartbreak is all about choices. It’s basically a Choose Your Own Adventure with more tears and Rachel Platten ballads. You make choices everyday until the pain is either gone or it becomes you. Either stalk him on Facebook or get a hobby. Either wallow in your bed watching Grey’s Anatomy or get up and go for a walk. Either declare perpetual singleness and become a bird lady (way more underrated than a cat lady) or get back in the dating game. Choices. We all get them.
I can confidently say that in 2015 I experienced the healthiest breakup of my life. I made some of the healthiest choices I’ve ever made in my life. Period. Game forever changed.
Was I perfect? No. Was I mad at God? Heck yes. Was I brooding for a while? Duh.
But here’s the biggest thing I learned through the high and low of getting over a person: you must do the things that will get your heart back into alignment. You’re not lost, you’re just camping out in a swamp for a few days. Pack up your bags. It’s time to go.
SCREW THE SHRINE
One of the reasons why letting go is hard? We feel the need to hold onto every last thing we ever had of that person. Sweatshirts. Coasters. Love notes. Etc. Etc. Burn it. Throw it away. Donate it. Just get it out of your sight, no matter how painful the release may be. You will never be over it if you are always holding on relentlessly to tangible memories.
His sweatshirt, sleeping in your bed every night, is not going to bring him back. That’s the sad truth I hate saying but I wouldn’t be a good friend if I didn’t say it.
EMBRACE MILE ONE
Meaning, it’s okay if you are at the beginning of this breakup hangover and you feel miserable and pitiful. Think about running. Everyone is always miserable at mile 1 of a jog when they haven’t run in a long time. Embrace it. Embrace it and don’t give up because of how icky it feels.
It’s okay if you cry y0urself to sleep at night. It’s okay if you don’t feel like getting out of bed. These are natural symptoms of a breakup. The beginning is always the hardest. The middle will take a lot of work. The finish line will be sweet though.
MAYBE CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS
Or find good friends who will change your passwords for you and then be merciless when you ask for them back. I took a month-long break off of social media last summer after a breakup. Truth told, it hurt too much to be online. It was too much temptation to want to look him up and see how he was doing. His progress, though I am thankful it was happening, was no longer my business. Something inside of me wanted to be mad or bitter if he did make progress and that wasn’t my heart or my agenda.
Social media rarely helps our wounds. If you don’t have the power to block him or her, block yourself. Get a few friends to build a wall around you. Pick up the hobby of reading instead of stalking.
SEND THANK-YOU NOTES
When is the last time you did that? I mean it. We send thank-you notes after a party, a shower, or after someone donates. Thank-you notes should be a regular occurrence. I find they are one of the biggest ways for me to get outside of my own thoughts and think about other people. That’s what is going to save you from heartbreak: remembering others.
Prayer doesn’t need to be eloquent. It doesn’t need to be fancy. No need to put white gloves on to get on your knees and pray. You don’t even have to get on your knees. God likes you casual and God doesn’t preference a posture. I love how Anne Lamott says it, “My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say to God, “I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You,” that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said. If you told me you had said to God, “It is all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand,” it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real-really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table.”
Your prayers are allowed to be imperfect, short, sporadic, violent, and jumbled. That’s the beauty of prayer. He hears all the mess.
Find people who will allow you to have your honesty hour. An honesty hour is a chance to say whatever you feel. It’s good for you. It’s cathartic. An honesty hour is not to be confused with a pity party. Because I love you, I am officially granting you permission to partake in one pity party. Just one. Pull out your party hat, dance to sad Ben Rector songs, and then prepare to move the heck on. You are allowed to be honest without being pitiful. Even better than venting on Facebook, get a journal! House your honesty hours there regularly.
CALL IT WHAT IT IS
I remember going through a breakup several years ago and I wanted to act so damn strong. I didn’t want to cry about it. I didn’t want to feel hurt. But I was hurt. I was hurt because I felt like maybe he was my last chance, maybe that was my last shot at love. Sometimes you don’t even want to keep the person, you just want to keep the feeling of being loved and chosen at the end of a day.
It’s okay to be hurt, broken, tired, cranky, etc. Call a feeling what it is. Accept it. Own it. Owning your feelings doesn’t mean you have to stay stuck in them.
OFFER YOUR SERVICES
Think about what you could do for other people during this time when it is more tempting to sing the “me, me, me” song all day. I offered my babysitting services to friends for free. I figured if a baby in a giraffe bikini couldn’t make me smile then I was pretty doomed. I tried to cook for people (emphasis on “tried”). I met people for coffee. I became more active in my church.
You’ve got stuff to give to the world. Your neighbors and friends are in need of you even if you don’t think so. Be a participant in your friend group, not just someone who attends things. You could be the person who sits behind a screen all day hoping someone will notice you or you could be the person who sees and knows people when they don’t think anyone in the world is paying attention to them. It’s all about perspective.
Feelings are dead wrong. I just have to say it. Feelings are basically like the weatherman- he predicts things but is wrong 70% of the time. If you are always guided by your feelings then you can get used to a rollercoaster of unreliable twists and loops. Your feelings fluctuate on a daily basis. Texts alter them. Conversations alter them. Food even alters them. Truth is something you dig for. Wisdom is something you learn slowly and with time.
Most of this advice you’re reading is going to wear off in the next 24 hours and your feelings will tell you to give up and go back to mile one. Don’t listen to the thing inside of you that accepts defeat like a marching order. Stop giving your feelings the keys to your car if you don’t want them to drive you deeper into the woods.
KICK OUT THE LIARS
Those liars in your brain need eviction notices. Stat. It’s really tempting to roll out sleeping bags for the lies and allow them to set up camp in your brain. Lies are convincing. Lies mimic your own voice. Lies will start forest fires if you give them space. Whatever you allow to live in your brain, feeding off your thoughts, will multiply.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
Meaning, don’t feed the lies. The lies are going to tell you, in this very moment, that you will never find love again. The lies will say something like, “That was it for you. Too bad, babe. You had your shot. And that person is going to fall in love and get married and it won’t be you.” You will get fat on those lies if you keep them in your cabinets. Those lies will never help or heal you. The only way to combat them? Get yourself a thicker skin and a stronger voice. You can’t buy those things in a store but you can train yourself to respond to lies and self-inflicted criticism.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT (Pt. 2)
Here’s what I don’t get… Read any article on heartbreak and it will always, always make some reference to pulling out the tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and crying your snots into the carton. Eating your feelings won’t lessen your feelings. If anything, eating your pain away will only make you feel sluggish and more sad. Food, and how we consume it, has a direct effect on our moods.
Sign up for a yoga class. Learn to cook kale. Try boxing so you can kick the crap out of things and unleash your anger. Endorphins are your friend during this time.
You’ll feel a million times better getting off the couch, putting down the wine bottle, and hitting the outdoors with a hike or stopping by the gym for a few lunges.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN SOMETHING… ANYTHING
After the Epic Breakup of 2015 (it wasn’t really epic but I don’t know what to call it), I met regularly with a goals coach. Being self-employed, she has consistently helped me to create goals and benchmarks to challenge myself with. She told me I needed a hobby that I could not turn into a full-time job. I told her I secretly love lifting weights and missed how I used to train people in college.
The result? One week later I created a work-out group for girls in my neighborhood looking to lift weights. We met every Monday, Wednesday, Friday to lift together. I planned the workouts in advance and we’d got down dog with yoga mats and Childish Gambino at 7am. I’m still training two of those girls!
Immersing yourself in something other than heartbreak will lessen the blow. People involved? Even better.
GIVE UP THE GHOST
Don’t call. Don’t text. Don’t find some excuse to reach out and say, “Hey, I forgot to tell you this but….”
I texted a guy once a few weeks after we broke up with small talk as a way to say “this is too hard.” He texted back and said, “We don’t need to talk like this anymore.” I translate his text as: Girl, you don’t need to be texting me. Pull yourself together and stop it. You don’t need a ghost story and I don’t need one either. Go on. Let go. I’m not your great love. Leave room in your heart. He’s coming soon.
That’s the best thing that ever emerged from a breakup for me. By sitting with my own emptiness, and not filling the holes with another guy, I learned where I placed my trust. It wasn’t in God. It was in guys. I found my worth in guys. I found my hope in guys. All my emotions hinged on whether someone found me good enough to keep forever. I claimed I wanted to be this kick-butt independent lady but I was missing the most important thing: independence begins by allowing yourself to be on your own and not become afraid of it.
GET BACK OUT THERE
Sometimes you go through heartbreak and you need time to grieve. That’s so understandable and I encourage it for those who need it. However, you don’t need to declare a year of singleness if you’re just afraid of rejection all over again. Get back out there. Get your dress on. Get your party shoes on. Be bold enough to try again.
I took a month off from the dating scene in September 2015. I said a lot of prayers. I worked my butt off in the gym. I created my first online class. I put myself out there. I met with people and discussed my feelings. I saw a therapist regularly. I ate the kale. I said “no” to my feelings and ate more kale. I took that month for myself and I will never regret it because I made it about empowerment instead of defeat.
I grew stronger. I chopped off my hair. I dug deeper into the bible and said more prayers. And then, one month later, I downloaded a dating app.
The date was October 1. My demeanor was different. I wasn’t downloading the app to hinge my entire self-worth to a man. I wanted to go to on a date because I felt cute and sassy. There was nothing deep about it.
On October 2, I noticed a cute guy named Lane was my match. I thought to myself, “Heck no if I am letting some other girl get this one… Off limits, chickies!” I put on my big girl pants. I sent the first message.