A piece I wrote several years ago (as a younger girl!) is now seeing the light of day. What a fearless and overly dramatic girl I was!
“Sorry, we can’t do this anymore.”
I was staring blankly at my phone, dumbfounded.
I could not, would not, and did not understand it.
“Hey, you’ve a nice colour on your nails.”
Someone lazily sauntered up to me. I glanced down at my fresh manicure – it was my safe, go-to colour in a pinch. “This dull shade? No way.” Not wanting to be rude, I silently brushed the compliment away and shrugged. Undeterred, the same person took the chance to playfully touch my hands as he admired my new coat of OPI paint. I looked up and was met with a pair of gentle blue-green eyes.
We are all created in His image, but God clearly had favourites.
Suddenly I lost the ability to speak. Or breathe.
He teased, “Cat got your tongue?”
I pride myself on being witty, with a First Class Honours in Witty Repartee (and social anxiety..). But at that moment, Miss Spelling Bee and Walking Thesaurus had no words. All she could think was, “Where has this Adonis been all my life?”
It was Barcelona, Spain. We were young, reckless, and not yet unencumbered by the vagaries of life, tethering towards adulthood and away from home.
Our first date was unremarkable in its activities. But it remains, to this day, one of my most memorable dates.
We met at the train station and leisurely strolled to Port Olimpic by the beach. Much like my date, the weather was cool, calm, and inviting. We sat casually on the precarious edge of the steps overlooking the waters and spent hours talking, giggling (mostly just me), and sharing about our childhoods, our families, our deepest dreams and desires, and our plans for the future. I was so immersed in the conversation, in his eyes, that I barely felt the time pass.
“See that plane in the sky? That’s an avión, in Español.”
He pointed at the Vueling plane soaring in the evening sky, which was a scenic paddle pop of blues, purples, pinks, and oranges. He grinned at me, cupped my chin, and leaned in for a brief, chaste kiss on my lips.
I prayed for the sun to never set.
It was Barcelona, Spain. We were, quite possibly, deeply, in love and entirely besotted with each other.
The next 18 months or so were a beautiful and blissful blur of firsts, as we traveled across Europe and Asia, and into each other.
How do you heal from a broken heart?
The near-universal heart wrenching experience of the dusk of a relationship, the brutally abrupt loss of a loved (or furry) one, the subtle or not-so-subtle rejection from a crush or the death of a situationship that could-have/should-have/would-have-been…
While heartbreak is an emotion, those who have suffered from such affliction will attest to the physical, tangible pain of heartbreak.
It is as if someone slit your chest open and slowly, psychotically, and methodically diced your beating heart into tiny pieces before violently stomping on those pieces. You feel a constant, dull ache in your chest. You tear randomly at the strangest of things and everything that reminds you of your loss – watching an elderly couple hold hands at the mall, a blue Stabilo highlighter that says “Made in Germany” and a Scoot ad for cheap flights to nowhere.
You feel beside yourself, you feel as if you have lost a vital organ or limb. Anxiety, and occasionally, panic attacks, jolt you awake as you struggle to breathe. You force down last night’s meal, which is threatening to hurl out of your gut. You dream about your loss and laugh at the inability to avoid sadness even in your unconsciousness.
At the heart of it, dealing with heartbreak is about grieving with loss.
The (self-prescribed) antidotes for heartbreak vary, with varying levels of success.
For some, the answer might be an impulsive Eat, Pray, Love round-the-world trip to the most ulu of places with no Wifi connection and holes for bathrooms. For others, the answer might be booze, bars, and a rotating roster of busty babes.
Some turn to religion. Others, to their glittering phone screens and every available dedicated and non-dedicated dating app. Some thrust themselves neck-deep into work and clock 300 hours of billables each month (might as well aim for that bonus right?). Some hire expensive therapists and subscribe to dubious self-help How To Cope With Heartbreak and Lose 10 Pounds While At It books and e-books.
Most, however briefly, turn inwards and become reclusive. Like a wounded animal with my tail between my legs, my left cheek was glued to my kitchen floor for several weeks as I licked my wounds. I had no intention of ever leaving the safe confines of my apartment.
My parents had other plans.
“Get up. This is embarrassing. You’ve gone through so much worse.”
I don’t have ready answers for dealing with heartbreak beyond the trite, eye-rolling cliché of “time heals all wounds”.
What I learned, however, is that I was not yet ready for Love. I had not yet learned that I needed to confront all my scary, unspeakable demons and wholeheartedly, love and accept myself before I could even consider venturing into sharing my life with someone else, that no single person is wholly responsible for my happiness, that I cannot pin liability on a man (fickle, disappointing as we ALL are) for my dose of endorphins, that I needed to be comfortable, confident, and content AS-IS, and that I was privileged to be surrounded by an abundance of Love. My mom, my grandparents, my friends, and even my annoying brother.
Eventually, I got better.
I allowed myself to sit in all of my emotions.
The deadening ache reduced to an infrequent pang and I relentlessly occupied myself with work and activities for the sake of it until I reignited a genuine interest in my life.
And got my cackling laughter back.
Oh, and my brother and I got a dog – a beautifully adorable cross between a spitz and a samoyed. Maybe that is it – get a furry pet.
If you are going through heartbreak, I hope this brings you comfort, however brief, that what you are experiencing is a shared experience and that you WILL heal.
I am living proof.
And there may, sadly, be more far more devastating losses that will likely eclipse the depth of the despair that is the heartbreak of your first-ish love.
“OK, take care.” I punched in reply.