Last week I got dumped. It hurt. No shit. That's what happens when we fall in love. Like our beloved Fried Green Tomatoes protagonist said, "A heart may be broken, but it still keeps beating just the same." Love is a constant pendulum swinging back and forth. Sometimes that pendulum continues its steady motion and remains balanced consistently. That is called a healthy, happy relationship. More often than not; however, that pendulum starts to become uneven and swing more and more strongly to one side, until finally the entire support system cracks and collapses. This is when, inevitably, someone's heart ends up broken.
This time, it was my turn to experience the pain of heartbreak, and so, as the shock wore off, I slowly began the healing process. Who am I kidding, this was literally a week ago. I've just started the healing process!
This was not my first experience with heartbreak. To be honest, I've been hurt many many times before, and each time it feels like a little chunk of my heart gets ripped away. With a little time, it's sewed back together again, but of course, it's never fully restored. Those people that have hurt me have taken those pieces of my heart with them and presumably discarded them by now.
However; this time I decided to do something different. This time, I decided not to just "let my heart heal", but instead to take action and make changes to improve the condition of my heart.
Think about it. If you break a leg, you get a cast. With time, the bone fuses together again. But as any good doctor knows, that leg also needs physical therapy to fully recover to its full potential. The muscle has become weak and feeble under the cast, and if you try to run a marathon the day the cast comes off . . . well . . . God Speed. It takes months of work and dedication and commitment to really get that leg in top performance condition again and sometimes that process can really suck. The heart is no different. Will it take time to heal? Absolutely. But is time all we should be spending on our broke hearts? Absolutely not.
Taking an active approach to your recovery after a breakup is the only successful way to truly heal and grow. Remember, the goal here is not just to sew the little pieces of your heart back together again, but instead to rejuvenate your heart to its former glory, and perhaps put it in an even better state that it was before.
The first thing you need to do is give yourself time to be sad. Everyone knows this but not everyone actually does it. Why? Because, nobody likes laying in bed playing Nora Jones on repeat, watching The Notebook 1,000 times saying "Where is my Noah?", but sometimes we just need to let that stuff happen. However, this period of time has an expiration date. What that time period is depends on the circumstances of the breakup, but in my personal opinion, it should never go longer than a quarter of the duration of the relationship. In other words, if you were together for a year, give yourself 3 months to just be sad and process. This is the "cast" stage of the broken heart. This is when your heart gets to just rest.
Then the fun stage begins. No, not the rebound stage. Rebounds are band-aids on bullet wounds and will only put you right back in bed crying for lost love letters when it ends. This is when true self-care starts. This is when you start dedicating time to doing what you love and more importantly to truly loving yourself. Make dates with yourself. Set aside time to be alone just for the sake of being alone. Don't make distractions - make plans. Make goals and then make a list of how you are going to achieve those goals. Set aside things that are just for you. Take a trip with friends or even better just by yourself!
Maya Angelou once said, "There’s a place in you that you must keep inviolate. You must keep it pristine, clean so that nobody has the right to curse you or treat you badly. Nobody. No mother, father, no wife, no husband, nobody."
Likewise, you must do the same. You must keep a piece of your heart that is reserved for you and only you. Only when you keep that part of yourself sacred and separate for only yourself, will you truly understand what Eleanor Roosevelt meant when she said, "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent." This is the physical therapy part of the broken heart.
Be prepared for difficulties. Growing pains are a natural part of life. When we work out, our muscles get sore. When we hit a growth spurt, our bones ache. Embrace the feelings you experience along the way. Treat yourself with kindness and love and most of all, never lose sight of who you have been, who you are, and who you will one day become.
Keep up the hard work, lonely hearts club. We got this.