I think the one thing that stays with you after you get your heart broken for the first time is this: what can I do to make sure this never, ever, in any universe, happens to me again? Unfortunately, the answer doesn’t amount to much, because by truly loving, we open ourselves up to potentially grieving. The one will always follow the other, in some shape or form.
The alternative to not getting your heart broken is not to love at all, but who really wants that life?
I’m 32. The jokes I used to make about “growing up” and “getting older” are slowly become less joke, more reality. I am young enough to start over, be it in love or work or almost anything else, but I am also not so young that I don’t want more. It’s that last point that has made heartbreak not easier or harder — but different — at this stage of my life.
I am familiar with pain. I feel it every single day of my life. But I still wasn’t fully prepared for getting my heart broken 14 years after it happened the first time. This time, I knew what to expect. I knew the pain would be both emotional and disturbingly physical. I knew I would be mentally vacant for a while and should prepare to run into the first available cubicle or empty corner of the office parking lot if that’s what I needed.
What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the loneliness. This time, there weren’t three family members in nearby rooms from whom I had to conceal my emotions.
This time, I was completely and utterly alone. I didn’t even have anyone I needed to hide my emotions from, and so they flowed freely and overwhelmingly, in all of their agony and purity.
Call it dramatic, call it overblown, call it something you’re absolutely familiar with… but I know now that I have seen and experienced dark moments over the last few weeks of the kind that will stay with me forever. I’m hardly afraid of crying, but I am afraid of it when I don’t know how to stop it. I am afraid of the degree of exhaustion that heartbreak creates where every single task feels like a massive undertaking. For more than a week, I can’t clearly recall how I made it to work, or ate, or drove myself anywhere.
I’m not 17 anymore, but the heart never really loses its youthful and all-in approach to love. On the one hand, that’s comforting. Because as devastatingly disappointing as life can be at times, we can still find a way to latch onto something that feels good.
So as much as many parts of this story have stayed the same — and distressingly so — some parts haven’t:
I know I can be hurt again.
I know I can be broken again.
And I know I will once again be strong enough to accept that, and to love freely.
I will recover, as gut-wrenching as the process is and must be.
And so will we all.