part iii: stubborn-ass steps.

user's manual

It is highly probable that, by this time, you have discovered that possession of a broken heart has a unique impact on your way of life: All aspects of living have become conscious choices.

Consider your meals; have you ever given this much thought to eating? This applies, of course, to elements beyond the dinner table: waking up each day, choosing an outfit, showing up at work, laughing at your co-workers’ jokes. At the present time, these are all likely concerted efforts on your part.

In the earliest days of possessing a broken heart, your way forward is through a series of conscious decisions, which we like to term stubborn-ass steps. During this phase, the days seem a bit longer, as do the weeks and months, but rest assured: You can and will tread through this terrain.

When you learned to run, you learned to understand it as an exercise of discipline, of drowning out the voice telling you to slow to a walk. When the urge to stop reached you before the finish line, you found the combination of taking a deep breath and counting one hundred strides to be enough to get you through. As it turns out, guiding a broken heart through the obstacles isn’t that different.

When, for example, you hear a song that pulls your mind to a memory of the two of you dancing together, wild and free, you will do well to take a deep breath, feel yourself exhale, and let the song play through.

When you come upon a calendar date you once earmarked as significant, you will benefit from building plans outside of the walls of your apartment. Some dates, especially in the first lap around the sun, simply requiring a committed breathing through.

You get the picture.

The steps you take to normalcy will make themselves apparent to you. Calling yourself ‘single’ on your social media. Referring to your relationship in the past tense. Collecting his things, already taken down and stored away, and letting them go. Putting your pain into words, sharing them, healing. Deciding on the role he gets to hold in your life; letting him know where to reside in the meantime.

You won’t do these all at once, and that’s good, because it’s not advisable. The key to successfully harnessing the broken heart is allowing time the space to do its work. Like water, it erodes slowly the uneven edges, moving rhythmically as it washes, purifies, carries away what you can no longer hold.

A broken heart has a tendency to cause the mind to shift into overdrive. One afternoon, perhaps over coffee, you may begin to wonder what he’s doing and how he’s feeling. How’s it possible that he hasn’t called, you might ask, that he doesn’t care. It’s unfair that he’s not hurting too, and he’s probably found something better, or someone better, and they’re building new memories and he’s using your old jokes, and you just want him to care, and you shouldn’t, but you do, not enough to love you forever but enough to make you believe he ever loved you at all, and he doesn’t, and he didn’t, and he won’t, and you know it, and ––

A deep inhale and exhale, and taking a minute to notice the way your fingertips fit perfectly over your kneecaps, will help carry the noise away. These days are for stitching yourself up and getting to safety, not untangling the sutures from your skin.

Stubborn-ass steps, you will find, will mark many of the days ahead. The decision to laugh, to make new memories, to embrace the sun as you’re running and to whisk your hands over grass blades afterwards. They occur when you encounter new kinds of pain, inner wounds you didn’t know you’d been hiding from, when you allow yourself to feel it and then decide to move through.

Recovering from a fall, carrying a broken heart, is one of the only times that everything takes so much try. Deciding to try, again and again, is stubbornness in practice.

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