[This article originally appeared on The Alternative Daily here.]
If you’re reading this article, chances are I’ve caught you in a sweatpants and froyo-devouring phase listening for your ex’s car outside. Trust me, I was just there. Over the last few months, while going through a breakup from my girlfriend of four years, I honestly wondered if it was possible to keel over from a broken heart. But here I am writing this, obviously still alive, and now I’m here to tell you: put down the froyo spoon.
Here’s how to channel a painful life experience into something kind of beautiful. Hang in there kiddo, you’ll feel better soon.
Mistake #1: Keeping your same-old appearance
Is there a hair color or wardrobe switcheroo you’ve always wanted to try? Are you wondering how much better you’d feel with a six-pack? Now’s the time to stop making excuses and just do it! Even something as superficial as altering your physical appearance can help you to accept that you’re moving into a new phase of life. You’ll remember it every time you look in the mirror. Plus, when you finally do get back to dating (or inevitably run into your ex), you’ll feel confident in the skin you’re in.
In my case, this meant dying my hair cobalt blue, getting my nose pierced, updating my wardrobe and hitting the gym at ungodly hours. My thought is, if you can release your attachments to your appearance, perhaps you can gently nudge your mind towards releasing other attachments as well. After all, the only thing that’s guaranteed in life is change, baby.
Mistake #2: Stalking your ex on Instagram
Please learn from my personal experience on this one. Because, listen, no matter what they are up to, it’s going to wreck your day when you see photos of their glamorous life without you. Maybe they’re suddenly rocking the shaved pixie cut you were dying to see when you were still together. So, yeah, that’ll hurt. Or maybe they’re looking a bit sullen, but guess what? That’ll bum you out too, because, hey, you still want them to be happy.
It’s all very confusing, so just do yourself a favor and unfollow, unfriend and uninstall social media for awhile. Along with that, let your buddies know not to give you the latest gossip about what your ex is up to.
And — this is important — don’t try to make your ex jealous with all the cool things you’re doing these days, whether it’s a sweet vacation or a crazy night out with your friends. One day you’ll wake up, probably hungover, and realize that it’s immature and that you’re acting like a jerk — and who wants to send out that kind of vibe to the universe, right? It’s time to take a little social media cleanse. Your highest self will thank you for it later.
Mistake #3: Listening to happy music and pretending everything is peachy keen
There’s only so much pop music you can take when you feel like your world is falling apart. So, during this awful what-am-I-doing-with-my-life period of time, jazz and soul music have been my saving grace. Jamie Cullum, Sam Smith and Adele are my best pals right now, and the reason is simple: they’ve been there. They know exactly what it feels like to never want to leave your bed again… but they did it anyway. Music has a way of reminding us that we’re not alone, and that beautiful things (like a #1 hit) can come out of even the most heinous of heartbreaks.
And, every once in awhile, when a romantic song comes on, I’m starting to feel hopeful that love is on the way again (albeit some time in the way, way distant future). I like to imagine that one day I’ll look back at this period of sweet sorrow with gratitude and self-respect for going through it, wholeheartedly.
Mistake #4: Forcing a friendship with your ex
One of the most painful parts about a breakup with someone you thought you would marry is that you lose your best friend (and in my case, being a lesbian, half the wardrobe). For that reason, it’s tempting to stay in an unconventional friendship convincing yourself that you’re okay with seeing them all the time… when you’re actually not.
My ex and I tried to stay friends for awhile, but the more time I spent around her, the more I longed to be with her again. Every time I saw her walk through my door, it became harder and harder to play it cool. I also knew it would crush me if I saw her with someone else. Clearly, I wasn’t ready to be friends, because real friendship is supporting their happiness — even if that doesn’t include you.
So, please, be honest and ask yourself: are you staying friends because you secretly hope to get back together, or are you genuinely interested in a friendship with healthy boundaries and zero expectations of romance? The answer may surprise you. And if the truth is the former, love yourself enough to walk away, at least until you’ve healed.
Mistake #5: Forgetting how to be, well, you
When my relationship ended, I felt like I was missing my right arm. Suddenly everyday tasks felt impossible. I couldn’t sleep, then I slept too much. I had no appetite, then all I wanted was sugar and carbs. And through it all, I kept wondering who the heck I was before her and how I used to spend my time. I felt completely lost (and in a lot of ways, I still do).
So here’s what I’m recommending: dig deep into your past. Sort through old photos, artwork, papers and childhood memories. Get out of town and visit places you used to frequent or live. Ask your friends and family what you were like way back when. Then, start making a list of everything you were interested in before the relationship. Put it up somewhere in your room so that you can look at it every single day. It’s a nice reminder that once upon a time you were a whole person and, hey, look! You still are.
It turns out, I had dozens of interests that fell on the back burner over the years for one reason or another: international backpacking, poetry, playing piano, salsa dancing, biking, the list went on and on. So as you discover the buried parts of your own past, keep adding to your list and watch it get bigger every day. It doesn’t matter how large or small your interests are; you are building yourself back up again, piece by piece.
So, there you have it. I know things totally suck right now, but I promise you, every single day it will suck a little less. Time will inevitably pass. Feelings — no matter how good, bad, crazy or ugly — are only temporary. So, take this time to focus on yourself and eventually you’ll see that, as my ex used to say, “Maybe not everything happens for a reason, but everything happens for a lesson.”
Now, time to book that ticket to Costa Rica…
— Hilary Lebow