On Wednesdays We Wear Pink

Dear Mommy,

How do you get through heartbreak?

Oh, my love. Heartbreak is different for everyone. In my experience, it has phases. The first phase is pure hell. Everything feels wrong. Reality seems different. Your heart feels gigantic because it’s so sad and your head feels gigantic because you’ve been crying so hard and so often. Nothing anyone says to you matters. Nothing makes you feel better. I hate to tell you this, but the only thing that gets you through phase one is time. Bummer, I know.

Phase two is better than phase one, but it still really sucks. It took months for me to get to phase two. Maybe it’ll just be weeks for you. Maybe it’ll be years. Either way, you’ll get there. Phase two is when the pain is no longer at the surface of everything. It’s still there, it’s just subsided a little. Reality starts to come back. Everything no longer reminds you of your ex-loved one. You’re not really moving on, but you’re not terrified of moving on anymore. This is when you have to remind yourself of the breadth and depth of the world, and of your own life. The worst part about heartbreak is how it tricks you into feeling like you and the world are small when you and the world are actually gigantic. You can’t feel or see anything but your own pain, nobody exists but you and your ex-loved one. The key, once you hit phase two, is to undergo an extensive process of reminding yourself who you are and what is fascinating about the world. That’s what helped me most. Learning new things, reading new kinds of books, watching weirdly specific documentaries. Engaging with politics. Becoming better friends with my friends. Starting a blog (I’ve heard this works really well.) Seeking out lots of new music to listen to to ring in this new phase of your life. Expanding your worldview however you can. You are trying to show yourself how much more there is in the world than romantic love, or lack thereof. Another good thing to do in phase two is to re-engage with things that are already a part of you at your very core. For me, this meant re-watching Legally Blonde. I’m kidding…sort of. I re-read some of my favorite books from high school, re-watched lots of favorite movies (that didn’t remind me of my relationship). I read sooooo many memoirs. I started making collages again. I wrote a very long list of the key values in my life and why they are important to me. I fortified my relationship with myself by reminding myself who I already was through the things I already liked, and built on that by showing myself how much more I can still learn, explore, and do. It was the only way.

Phase three is moving on. You’ll know you’re in phase three when you no longer identify with the word “heartbroken.” It’s the best of the phases, though it’s not without pain. The pain comes more from remembering the heartbreak, though, instead of actually feeling it. It still hurts, but remarkably less. Phase three is a Scorpio’s dream – all about shedding skin, all about being reborn. We know all kinds of new things, some we never wanted to know and some we never knew we needed to know. Mostly, we have learned that we are strong as hell. I can’t wait for you to join the phase three club. On Wednesdays we wear pink.

Love, Mommy

Being In Love Doesn’t Make You More Of A Person

Dear Mommy,

I honestly really feel like no one will ever love me. I feel like every person who’s said they did was either lying or really only liked the idea of me. When I see people around me in love and know it’ll never happen for me, I get super sad and anxious and overwhelmed. How do I deal with it?

Hello, my love. First of all, I’m going to assume that when you say you feel like no one will ever love you, you are talking about romantic love. Because, as I am sure you know, there are most certainly people in your life that love you. But we’re talking romance here, being ~in love~, etc. I hear you and I am here for you, and I know the feeling! I spent every second of my teen years begging the universe for someone to love me. I was obsessed. I thought about having a boyfriend aaaall the time. As a teen, I was prone to insecurity and existential angst and I was absolutely positive that a boyfriend would quell all my anxieties about myself and the world. My self-esteem would rise, I would self-actualize on the spot, and the world would be full of beauty and joy ONLY. And, Lord, I had a crush on EVER-Y-BOD-Y. I did finally get a boyfriend in eighth grade, my brother’s best friend who I had had a crush on foreeeeever. It was only a couple of weeks before he started to avoid me, and finally called to tell me we should break up. I cried in the shower, but I was undaunted. I asked people out! Friends, acquaintances, whoever. No one was particularly interested. I watched my best friends get boyfriends and girlfriends, break up, and get new boyfriends and girlfriends. My senior year, I screwed up my courage to ask someone to the homecoming dance. He looked surprised but said yes. Later that day, he approached me in the hallway to tell me that he had chosen to go with someone else. I was so sure I was going to be single forever, that I would never experience requited love. It seems funny now. Laughable. Not only because I did eventually find love and it’s silly to think that I, as a teenager, could see into the future and predict that it would never happen, but because sometimes it feels like you’re supposed to look back on the emotional pain of being a teenager and see it as funny. “Ha ha ha, look how much I’ve LEARNED! Look how much I have EVOLVED!” says I as I re-read my diary from high school. But when I really think about it, I can vividly remember how I felt, and it was painful and crushing and not funny at all. It became all tied up in my feelings about my body and my feelings about being a girl and, before I knew it, my self worth became tangled up in my ability to get someone to be romantically interested in me. What’s funny about that? And then, when I was 18 and fresh out of high school, I fell in love with someone and they fell in love back. And I’m not going to lie to you, it was great. Incredible, really. You know this. You’ve seen the movies. If you didn’t know this you would not have written me this question. Being in love is THE SHIT. My relationship lasted for 7 and a half years, and then it imploded. And I am now almost 8 months on the other side. I have been there and back. Would you like to know what I’ve learned? HERE ‘TIS: I have learned that, while being in love and having someone love you back has numerous benefits, it doesn’t make you more of a person. It doesn’t make you funnier, it doesn’t make you smarter, it doesn’t make you more interesting. Being loved doesn’t make you any more…you.

According to a million songs and movies and friends who’ve finally ~gotten the guy/girl/person~, “Being in love makes the sun shine brighter!” What a seductive idea, and it’s probably true for a little while. Maybe, if you’re really lucky, forever. I know why you want it, and it’s okay to want it! It really is! It’s okay to feel sad that you don’t have it, it’s okay to feel like you’re missing out, it’s okay to feel however you are feeling about it at any given moment. Your feelings are valid, and when they come up, let yourself feel them because feelings don’t usually go away just because you’re pretending they’re not there. Feel the feelings, but you must absolutely REFUSE to let them shut out your light. You must, eventually, STAND UP and pour yourself into every single crack and detail of your life. Just absolutely pour yourself into it. Because all that sun shining brighter shit? Well, that’s how I felt after i saw Joanna Newsom live. That’s how I felt after I visited the met for the first time. That’s how I felt when I read The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch. That’s how I felt at my birthday party in 2014, surrounded by all my friends. That’s how I feel when I spend Christmas with my family. That’s how I feel when I watch either of Beyonce’s visual albums. That’s how I feel every time I swim in the Columbia River. What I am saying is, you can, to some degree, create the circumstances that allow for a complete and total, reciprocal, loving relationship with life. Find the things that give you permission to live the exact life you want to, and watch them/read them/listen to them/go see them. Take your time and fill up your life with people who make you feel good, alive, and loved. Spend your free time doing the shit that lights you on fire, whether it’s cooking or graffiti or playing music or working on your unauthorized biography of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (just please please please send it to me when you’re done). I’m not saying it’s easy. A strange thing about life is that sometimes it’s impossibly hard to do the things you love, because all the feelings get in the way. And it won’t take the pain away completely, but here’s a secret: being in love doesn’t even take the pain away completely. So it’s time, my friend, to put on your gear. Strap on your helmet, your boxing gloves, your Wonder Woman shield – whatever it takes to fight the voice creeping into your head and heart that’s telling you that, because no one has loved you in the past in the way you want to be loved, that they never will. The thing that says you are only valuable to this world when you are in love. The thing that’s telling you that you are more full, more you, when someone loves you. Strap on your gear and fight it, and fill up every inch of this world with the beauty and brilliance that is you and all the things you love and all the things you create. Make us grasp desperately into our purses for our sunglasses when you appear in the doorway because you are so fucking bright. I can’t wait to see you shine.

Love, Mommy

 


 

Dear Mommy,

How do you decide when a romantic, deeply-entangled, life-partner kinda relationship should (or should not) come to an end?

Hi, darling. I am so sorry that you are finding yourself in a position where you have to ask this question. I was in this position very recently, and it is a position of turmoil, likely of great pain, confusion, and contradiction. My relationship did come to an end, and I knew that it should end a long time before it actually did. But we had been together for over 7 years, we lived together, we moved to the city I now live in together – our lives felt as entangled as entangled could be. The thought of the unraveling of that life we built together was so deeply painful that it felt like I would die, so painful that I couldn’t even admit to myself that I wanted to break up. So I just kept trying to fix it, and the pain got worse and worse, and eventually my relationship became a drain on my entire life, the root of most of my unhappiness. But that day-to-day trudge through the mud still felt preferable to the earth-shattering destruction of a breakup, and I stayed even longer. I stayed far past the point of crying almost every day, far past the point of almost all thoughts about my relationship being accompanied by hurt and confusion. And then, finally, he ended it. It’s scary to me to think about how long I might have stayed if he hadn’t finally put our relationship out of its misery.

So, how do you know when you should end it? Looking back on everything I went through, I should have ended it the moment I knew I wanted to. If you want to end it, end it. The moment you feel like you are worth more than what the other can give, walk away. The moment you feel like you deserve more and they are not capable of giving you more, go. If you feel like you want to get out for no real reason even, just get out. If you’re not sure, maybe it’s not time to leave yet. But the moment your relationship becomes a slow trudge through the mud, choose the shattering instead of continuing the trudge. There are probably always going to be reasons to stay, possibly many. But the only reason that you should need to go is that you know you want to, you know you need to. In the end, by staying in my relationship, I just gave myself many more chances to feel pain. But when you are in a relationship that is that entangled, where your partner feels like a family member, an integral part of your life, and a breakup would feel like a death, how can you possibly find the strength to end it voluntarily? I don’t know, I couldn’t do it. Maybe for you it’ll be easy. Or maybe the pain will be unbearable. But you will survive. Your partner will survive. And if you do want to get out, I hope you find a bravery that I couldn’t. Good luck.

Love, Mommy