Some feelings on heartbreak (a year on).

A year ago I wrote a post about my experience of heartbreak. It’s been a helluva journey since then and I felt like revisiting the topic because I am very much one of those people who will continue to pick at a scab until it heals completely.


Rilke might have said it best. If two people managed not to get stuck in hatred during their honest struggles with each other, that is, in the edges of their passion that became ragged and sharp when it cooled and set, if they could stay fluid, active, flexible, and changeable in all of their interactions and relations, and, in a word, if a mutually human and friendly consideration remained available to them, then their decision to separate cannot easily conjure disaster and terror.

It was as disastrous as it could’ve been. But even unmitigated disasters recede eventually.

You can’t cure a person of their idea of you. 

We are too unyielding in our definitions of ex-girlfriend and ex-boyfriend. It conjures images of violence that we think we have to live up too. Extinguish. Extinct. Exclude. Excommunicate. Exile. Expunge. None of it sounds good, or caring. 

Erasure and silence become default. We equate forgetting with healing. We forget we knew how to tell this person everything. They forget they knew how to listen to you. Somewhere along the line everything about you that used to make them laugh makes them inexplicably angry. 

It’s just me. I tried to say. Same as I ever was. But of course, that was exactly the problem.

But of course, I wasn’t. I was bitter and hateful and tart. I was rhubarb and lemon and pomelo. You’re never quite the same after a break-up. I wondered which version was the real me. 

Hate is a strong word. But then again, I’ve only ever had strong feelings for him.

I don’t feel stuck. I feel vindicated. If he doesn’t want to change my mind, I’ve made peace with that. Then again, you can’t cure a person of their idea of you. His villainy has helped my sanity.

It’s easier to say bad things to a person after a break-up. If you keep saying I love you, things start to get weird. You invite pity.

I think it’s ok to live with both inside of you.

Silence, then, became the only way to communicate. It’s a strange feeling when you realise you might never speak to a person again. Especially when other people still speak to them all the time.

I got rid of everything that he touched thinking I could start over. But of course, I was what he touched most of all. And I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of me.

Sarah Manguso writes the first time you love someone who doesn’t love you back it seems wrong, not morally but logically, a river flowing up a mountain. How can such a feeling be wrong? You’ll return to that very river, as many times as it takes.

I’ve been too scared to return to the river. My body remembers drowning in it too well. 

There will never be a good time to hear that they are seeing somebody else. I suspect there is a better time than midnight on a Sunday though. 

I told a friend the other day that I am excited for what or who I encounter next. It was the truth. I’m excited to wade in and know that I might fall. Or better yet, sense when the current is going against me and decide that I should return to the river another time. 

I’ve come to realise all the boundaries I forgot to set,  the demands I was too shy to make. Too caught up with seeming charming and carefree. I never realised I was flattening myself into a mat and then blamed him for walking over it.

I have realised, many times over, that I tried to have my cake and eat it too. I wanted to publicise my pain. I wanted apologies and remorse and acknowledgment of  HOW MUCH I HATED IT ALL. HOW MUCH IT FUCKING HURT. I capitalised my anger. I yelled it into a vacuum. And then I tried to play it cool, because I wanted him to see that I was ok. That life without him was really quite rosy actually. I wanted to say, look at me go.

The going happened without trying. This year has held lots of triumphs within it. And yet I can’t help but wonder if he knows how far I’ve come.

Something I’ve only just learnt: you’ll encounter lots of people that try to take credit for your victories. You’ll even parcel some of it over willingly. Hold some back for yourself. You are due. 

Nothing can prepare you for watching other people fall in love. It will detonate every kindness inside of you. But it is possible to be happy for someone else and sad for yourself. It’s like ice-cream soup. Cold but comforting.

What does love become when it fades? Slush. Scar tissue. Songs you still can’t bear to listen to. A story wheeled out at bedtime. 

I searched for meaning in all of it. In the American wilderness, in poetry, in cinema, in the yawning, elephantine loneliness. Every day I wondered if this would be the day I was fixed. If tomorrow I would wake up lighter. I never did. But I did keep waking up and that became enough.

Some days I laugh harder than I might ever have done. I choke on happiness. I feel gorged on and bathed in and wrapped up in it. And I know this is better than before. Before there were inklings and whispers and tiny sesames of doubt. I wanted to stop time. I’ve realised I am happy living through it again.

Cress and scarlet gilia grow back faster and stronger after being eaten. I think the same can be said of love. After it gobbles you up once, you’ll know how to better endure it.

Sadness isn’t a disease. We shouldn’t want to be immune from it. 

It no longer feels like a case of needing to be over it. Just ok that it happened. And I am.

Sarah Manguso also writes that perfect happiness is the privilege of deciding when things end. But then you have to find a new happiness.

I was denied that privilege and that decision. I was taught that love is something you cultivate and persevere through. But there is something to be said about being freed from another person’s unhappiness. I am learning to see the search as a gift. 

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