In case you didn’t notice, it’s almost commercial holiday season again. Oh boy.I went into CVS yesterday and saw the shelves laden with heart shaped merchandise (taaaaacccckkkkkyyyy) and enough pink and red crap to decorate the walls of a Victoria’s Secret superstore. To this rosy scene I had a threefold (and rather visceral, I may add) reaction: 1- “Damn, Christmas wasn’t even a month ago and my wallet still hasn’t recovered;” 2- “Do people still eat that shit? Really?” And 3- Sigh. “Thanks universe, for the friendly daily reminder. I know. I am still alone. I am still thinking about it and I still haven’t truly let that go. I hear you. I just um, am ignoring you.”

It’s time to quit being an ostrich and lay it out on the table. I talk a whole lot about being honest and transparent, about how to be happy and let things go. I’m getting a lot better at it, I really am. 95% of my life is fucking awesome- bad.ass.dotcom. Five percent, however- notsogreat.

I don’t spend much time or energy thinking about that tiny percentage of sucky-ness because if I do it starts to bring down my A grade down the alphabet a little, like near the letter F, if the scale is based on percentages. That five percent holds some pretty weighty issues, no doubt. Some of those aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, unfortunately. One in particular, actually, will be around for say. . . 12 years and 2 months longer, at the very least. . . but, others, like the one formerly (vaguely) referenced- I can do something about, more or less. I can let it go. I can. Really. Gulp.

I read a great post that was reposted by another writer, Stephanie St.Clair, on the subject of heartbreak. What I loved about it was both the recognition and validation of feelings and also a realistic suggestion for how to work with it. Todd, the author, suggested taking your pain, your memories, your image of the love lost, and creating something with it. This, he suggests, will allow you to let it go, to release it, to move forward.

As I have been carrying this heavy heart a bit too long for my liking at this point, I think it’s time to take a crack at it. So, thinking back to item #17 from my list I’m calling myself out on the mat. Here goes nothin’:

Heartbreak is overrated

WRONG. Getting your heart “broken” actually physically causes bodily pain.

I am pro, btw, at finding either the right guy, OR creating the right time, but so far not both. I have also chosen both the wrong man and the wrong time. Best decision(s) ever. This has made for some distinctly impactful experiences of being the heartbrekER, and, recently, the heartbrokEN.

I managed to make it through a divorce from my high school sweetheart with tears dry well before the ink on our judgement was. Later I ended a two year relationship that, with me being confident and composed in my decision to end a relationship that had run about one year and 11 months too long already, resulted in considerably limited tissue consumption.

And then, oh, and then, it came. I fell, hard, really hard, and for the “right” guy. THE guy. Our relationship was a cinematic summer romance. We met in May and I was toast by July. TOAST. Suddenly the lyrics to every stupid love song I’d ever heard seemed like they were written just for me. My head was down, my heels were up, my universe was forever altered. And I wouldn’t change a thing, it was fantastic.

It was hands down, the best summer of my lifetime. I had more new experiences, more fun, more “oh, this is how it’s supposed to work/feel/be” moments in five months than I did in the entire summation of my previous relationships or dating career. It was borderline ridiculous good. This was “IT.” I knew it. And I also knew something else – the timing was off- I was playing with fire and I was going to get burned. So, being me, I put on my oven mitts and played anyway.

This is never a good plan. So far my gut instincts have been spot on, every time. I don’t always listen, but they’ve always been right, at least as related to avoiding injury. When I knowingly risked that much, when the stakes got that high, the cost to all that benefit resulted in pain that intense, a wound that gaping, an effect that great.

When our lovely courtship ended, much to my surprise I was, for the very first time, actually heartbroken, the kind from which I don’t think I will ever quite recover, not really. Things like that don’t just happen (to me anyway) and a person doesn’t just pick up and move on in the aftermath. Like, I found my “Mr.Big,” and I don’t see myself ever getting over this guy. Oh.Shit.

As an entirely novel experience, beginning about ten minutes post break-up, I started crying. A lot, and for at least 24 hours, straight. I cried the kind of tears I didn’t know I had in me. The fall down on the floor because your legs don’t work, cry all day in public, even at a soccer game, at a restaurant, through yoga, in the car, and then still more at the grocery store, then cry so hard and so much you throw-up kind of sobbing. I have cried at least a little bit every day for the last three months, actually, which is way out of my tough girl norm, like, way, way, waaaaaaay out.

You should know- I.don’t.like.crying. At all. Especially from my kids; it drives me nuts. It’s rather ineffective, obnoxious to listen to and makes the people around you uncomfortable. And let’s not even get into the ugly cry face discussion. There is no pretty crying, simple fact of life.

I have, like every other person out there, dealt with some pretty serious shit. A failed marriage barely hits the register on that list. I’ve taken some big blows, weathered some massive storms and held it down in the ring more times than at the age of 33, I’d like to acknowledge. No biggie. This is life. It’s designed to kick your ass.

I only point that out as related to the severity in my recent response. It really is unusual behavior for me both to belabor the point and to react so powerfully. I always felt that I was weak if I cried. That it meant I couldn’t deal; an indicator that I wasn’t strong enough. This is particularly frustrating, and ironic, since my two default responses to intense emotion typically have been to either a) cry, or b) throw up (and sometimes c) both). This bothered me. A LOT.

Until now. Until this. Until I finally gave myself permission to fully feel. Until I really really loved and then really really hurt. Until I decided that telling myself to “suck it up” wasn’t actually the best plan of attack and that maybe to get through my breaking point, I had to let myself fall a little. Time for She-Who-Does-Like-To-Shed-Saltwater to well, let it rain.

Through these recent downpours, I have started sincerely tuning into and noticing my emotions. I have been becoming aware of them and watching how my body is responding. Noticing where I tighten up, how my heart feels like it’s being squeezed with a pair of vice grips, how my breath gets short, how I sweat a little. It’s weird, unfamiliar, strange territory.

And, I gotta say, it is kind of awesome. I have actually thought to myself, while sobbing on the floor, “this is amazing. I am learning so much from this. This is so good for me.”

Who the hell thinks like this? Seriously? Well, me, for one, apparently. Turns out I have learned how to cry like an optimist instead of like a member of the Stoic School of Philosophy. I am learning to appreciate the emotion instead of avoiding it. To embrace the lesson instead of resisting it. I’m learning to lean in to the discomfort.

I’m okay with where I’m at. I don’t think I should “get over it.” The impact it had on my life was too profound to simply blow off and walk away as though nothing happened. Something DID happen. Something amazing; love really is powerful stuff. I learned, I grew and I was strengthened through and by it; all of it. From beginning to end, it was an incredibly raw and humbling experience from which I emerged a new, softer, more vulnerable, more empathetic person.

Whatever happened occurred because it was time. The good and the bad, the lovely and the agonizing, the expected and the total blindsight, those lessons changed me, for the better. They prepared me for what’s next, whatever that is. I am a better version of myself becuase I have learned. What I can share and offer to others has expanded; my lens has widened, my understanding increased, my heart, made bigger.

I don’t need to be fixed, because I’m not broken. I’m simply, altered. Gratefully, reverentially, and with veneration, I am transformed.

Heartbreak then, is hardly overrated, that shit is legit.

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