Last week, a reader asked me one simple, impossible question: How do you get over heartbreak?
And so, my short answer? You don't. You never do.
... Here's the long answer:
Every heartbreak is different, of course. One of my closest friends got over a lost love by simply ignoring the hurt until it went away. Another wrote about it, talked about it, and ached over it until the pain finally dulled. The next time her heart broke, it felt easier. Muscle memory, I told her.
My heart broke for the first time in the fourth grade. It broke again in the sixth, then the seventh, then the ninth and the tenth. Again in my first year of college, my second year of college, my third.
But if I'm being totally honest, it never really got easier. It got worse.
Several times my heart broke because I ended up in The Best Friend role — a role I'm so familiar with that I should probably write some kind of self-help book about it. A few times, it was bad timing: loves that didn't match up during the same month, the same year, the same decade. Once, it was another girl. And then it was... well, I don't know what it was. Maybe that's what made it so hard.
Heartbreak can strike in the span of a second, or it can scratch at you slowly, over months or years — a gradual etching away at your insides until you feel completely carved out. I've felt it both ways, and I'm not sure which is worse. How could heartbreak ever be better or worse?
Honestly, the "getting over it" phase has never really been my strong suit. (Understatement of the century.) I'm not exactly a feel-and-let-go kind of girl, not in any aspect of my life. I hold onto people and places and memories as if they'll float away without my desperate, determined grip. Sometimes it's a great strength, and sometimes it's an awful, miserable flaw. Either way, it's helped me learn.
I've learned that you can't dodge the heartbreak. You can't try to outsmart it or duck behind it because you have to trudge through it — through the heavy, dirty muck of it until that one strange day when you're driving down a hill, the sun's setting, the beachy air tastes like salt, and you suddenly realize that you're in the clear. You realize that you've made it to the other side, but the heartbreak isn't in your wake. You didn't leave it behind. No, you're carrying it with you, you're wearing it, breathing it, feeling it in small doses at random moments, on random days. It's become part of you.
The point is, then, that you don't get over heartbreak — you embrace it.
(Photo: Mission Bay | My Flickr)