Over the past few weeks, readers have sent some emails asking about love and heartbreak and moving on, about the hows and the whys and the connections between the two.
I've been thinking a lot about how to respond, remembering that desperate grip of hope that rises in the wake of a loss. Remembering the need for black-and-white clarity. Really, all of us just want someone to name that thing, that one thing we're feeling, because once we've named the unnameable, it somehow feels easier to erase — if only because we finally know what, exactly, we're trying to move past.
"How do you get over the feelings?" she asked. "How do you move on?"
There's no one answer, of course, and although she'd been talking about romantic love, I think we can all relate to that need to escape feelings. I try to let myself feel however I'd like. It's not always easy, and I can't always manage, but if I'm angry or upset or lonely or jealous or afraid, I try to step back and say, "So be it." So be it. It's okay to feel sad and it's okay to feel nostalgic and it's okay to sink into those murky, melancholy feelings every once in a while. That's life. That's living.
What matters — where your character lies — is in the action. The greatest marker of who you are is what you do with how you feel, what happens in those moments between sense and do.
When it comes to the most powerful, deep-rooted sorts of hurt and loss and heartbreak, I suppose I've never really set those feelings aside. They still scratch at my insides some days, when a look or a moment or some strange, parallel emotion catches me by surprise. I've always felt like all those sharp, jagged slivers of heartbreak still live somewhere inside me and on any given day, it's just a matter of where they lie. Most days, luckily, I don't notice them, but some days, they sit in my stomach, making me nauseous. Other days, it's a quick, piercing poke that swiftly passes. And on the worst days, I feel those thick, heavy feelings of heartbreak filling up my throat until they make a lump so big I can hardly breathe.
"I can't even get out of bed," she said. "I'm drowning."
I understood. Whenever I've experienced a real, life-shifting sort of pain, it's always the same: I wallow. I flounder. For that first day or two, I dive headfirst into a rom-com sort of mourning, basking in the most surreal, indulgent kind of sadness. Long, dramatic crying spells, hysterical phone calls, hours spent feeling everything at once, hours feeling nothing — feeling frighteningly numb. The point is, I let all those feelings wash over me, drowning for just a little while until I'm quite literally exhausted by them, until I can't stand to sit still for another moment and all I want to do is do something about it.
Eventually, that human impulse to fix will kick in. Eventually, you'll hit the surface.
In the meantime, feel. Whatever it is, just let it in. Feel, and then do — and do something that makes you feel proud. Let your actions reflect your best self, and don't worry about the rest.
(Photo: Our Bedroom Window | My Instagram)