part i: introduction to a broken heart.

by Michael King

user's manual

Listen, and listen well: The end goal, the finish line to this process, is for you to feel ‘normal’ again. The challenge –– think of it, if you will, as a series of hurdles –– is that life with him has become your normal. You will need to take steps to establish new routines, new supports, new things to look ahead to.

We know –– seems pretty far off. But we wanted to start you off with an idea of where we are headed. No, there’s not a way to rush through the process. No, we can’t speed the time. Yes, sir, we know that you’re usually the one coaching others through this, and ––

Sir. If you’d just listen, that’s ––

Sir. Please take a seat. Yes, it’s okay if you cry. No, don’t look in the mirror while you’re doing it. It is a universally strange experience to see one’s puffy, crying face. As I was saying, you brought us to an important point: The people you love are going to rescue you. Yes, that means you’ll have to be sad with them. Yes, they want to. No, they don’t think it’s a burden. Yes, really.

Recently, you came in possession of a broken heart. We know this is no call for congratulations, and we know you’re tired of hearing people say they’re sorry. So allow us to state the facts: The heart you possess is broken. You summoned your courage, held it out, and the one you gave it to left. Now it’s broken, it’s crying out, and –– well –– it’s yours.

The purpose of this manual, as you might imagine, is to help you find your way back. Though the walk ahead has many names, and these journeys are a bit nuanced, we have done our best to prepare to assist you in your walk.

Now, as far as establishing a new normal, let’s use some things you already know from past difficulties: First, running helps you process the pain. Yes, you can listen to the Last Five Years soundtrack. You will cry sometimes, as you run, but that makes it hard to breathe, so you will inevitably learn to breathe through the pain instead. This is therapeutic, and you will need to find time to do so.

The people who love you will reach out in the ways they know best. Many will tell you really wonderful things about yourself, and you are likely to argue with them inside your head. Try to resist this. Accept all the love you are given, and do your best to go along with the ones who are working to get you out of wallowing.

Sleep will take a while to resume. Night is when you are most prone to make sense of your day, and even the brightest of days gives way to the contemplative shadows of night. Stay on friends’ couches as long as you like, provided they are willing. You do your best sleeping surrounded by people who believe in you, and that is necessary during this time.

Every broken heart is different, despite what the clichés of contemporary music would have you believe. The path to the end goal – a reminder, this a sense of normalcy – is different for everyone.

Your friends will see through your bravado when the pangs of heartbreak break the surface. Your eyes will go to a different place during a group conversation, or they will catch you taking a long pause and surveying the world. You can choose whether or not to explain to them that what you’re doing is watching the world move forward, or – more abstractly – watching time beckon you onward.

And here’s where you’re going to struggle, if what we’ve seen so far is any indication: You’ve got to take time. You are going to have to feel it, all of it. You will need to feel the embarrassment of giving over so much love only to find you aren’t loved. You will need to feel the sadness of remembering him. You will need to feel the anger, the apathy, the jealousy, the false hope for what was. It is important to remember the falseness of the hope, we’ll warn you. Convincing though it may be, it is statistically not a positive indicator.

One clerical note, and we know this doesn’t speak all that much to you, but Alison from liability says we have to cover it: Alcohol may seem like a shortcut through, but it generally becomes a stumbling block. You are likely to see this in the first night you feel bold enough to ‘go out’ again, but it’s just going to drop you right into the worst of it. It is okay, we should mention, to be messy once in a while.

But don’t forget the writing. Words are the tools with which you restore your world. Find your pain, write it into meaning, and set it free. Share it with others and allow them to affirm for you that, as it turns out, you’re experiencing something deeply human. Pain is a wellspring of honest writing, and honesty will pave your path.

And the crying. Well, that’s part of it, we’re afraid. No, you’re not going to be able to predict it. We know you prefer some control or forewarning, but roll with it. Lie back, when you feel it, and let the heartbreak ripple through you. You may feel like you’re going to break, but – when it subsides – you’ll sit up stronger.

The purpose of this manual, reader, is to help you find your way back to yourself.

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