It doesn’t take a genius to ascertain that I keep a smart-ass establishment (drugs and horoscopes much?). But we all know that underneath the big, bad edge, smart-asses are really the most tender nibblins of all. So here’s a little love for everyone who has the courage to live, but most especially a couple of my bruised peeps – you know who you are. For everyone else, don’t worry – we’ll get back to the sardonic escapades in two shakes of Molly McButter.
Broken heart? Rejection? Failure? It hurts (and hurts, and hurts).
Here’s how to properly lick your wounds:
1. Take heart: you will not die.
Even though it really, really feels like it. Even though you can feel your heart physically swelling in your chest and pain pulsing through your entire body and your ribs are sticking to your sides like macaroni on a microwave – you will not die from this. It might mess up your mental and physical health a little in the short term (you’re allowed to eat some carbs, for Pete’s sake). But you will not die. It still hurts, though.
2. At least it’s a good hurt.
Vera Pavlova wrote:
“If there is something to desire,
there will be something to regret.
If there is something to regret,
there will be something to recall.
If there is something to recall,
there was nothing to regret.
If there was nothing to regret,
there was nothing to desire.”
3. Give yourself as much time as you need.
A lot of the angst of moving on comes from self-judgments about when and how and why you should move on and what you did wrong. Don’t compare yourself to others. You’re not nuts; you’re not strange; you’re not obsessed; you’re not a fool. Your big crime is innocence. The only sin you can possibly commit is doubting yourself. You’re just human and you felt something. At the time, whenever that was, it felt right. Accept that your feelings are your feelings and let them be (to paraphrase Marcus Aurelius). Feelings are hard to feel and even harder to understand. They’ll pass when the time is right and not a moment sooner.
4. Things simply are what they are.
And now they are different. They cannot be any other way. Life is a series of moments and all you really have to do in this life is accept them. No one expects anything more; and believe me, no one upstairs does, either. Sometimes those moments turn into chapters, but ultimately even the chapters conclude.
5. Treat yourself right.
Try to get out as much as you can (but don’t force yourself to jump into something new or go out partying every night). Talk to your friends, even if all you can squeak out is “it’s another rough one today”. Don’t worry about annoying them – even if you do, they are the ones who really know you and they will still love you. You can’t fool them anyway – even if you don’t say anything, they know.
A daily bout of exercise – walking, running, lifting weights, dancing, the elliptical, yoga – will help your brain both regulate and release your feel-good hormones. A bonded relationship causes your brain to release oxytocin, a powerful “commitment” peptide. When it goes away you can become depressed. So let those other helpful hormones fill in the void. Exercise!
7. Eat a lot of fat.
Beneficial fatty acids in things like olive oil, nuts, avocados and salmon will baby your brain and help keep your mood stable. Eat some at every meal from here on out.
8. Spoil yourself (but not too much).
Buy your favorite beer, enjoy an entire pint of ice cream. But don’t go overboard – you’ll just end up feeling worse. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for when you’re about to cross the line. I think you’ll know your limit if you listen to your instincts. In fact, I believe our instincts will never, ever let us down, if only we would pay them heed. (And remember, if you cross your line, that’s okay. Mistakes are not bad, they are learning, and that is what life is all about, right?)
9. This too shall pass.
I know – I know – it doesn’t feel that way right now, but the pain will pass. Reality bites and life will give your heart a ruthless pruning, but you’ll grow back even fuller. You might miss a season or two – no worries, so did the damaged peach tree I watched my grandmother coax for 10 patient years. The fruit it finally bore was the best slice of sweet imaginable. That memory has always comforted me; find one that comforts you.
10. Now is not the time to begin training for a marathon, overhauling your investments, or perfecting your GTD system.
Initial small accomplishments can give you a bump, but if you’re using them to avoid feeling the hurt, that hurt will just come back with a wallop (I don’t know about you but I’m an expert at this one). Do make positive changes and invest yourself in projects that are both distracting and productive, because these things will help you move on with greater confidence. I’m glad I read my RSS feeds today, because one of my favorite bloggers posted this positive guide to dealing with setbacks. But just remember that as you take positive actions, don’t try to repress those feelings. Feelings always come out eventually.
Although, when they do…that’s good, too. Have a good, long lick and remember: everybody plans picnics in the park. Everybody carries a private hurt (or hundred). Good for you for feeling something and taking a risk. That’s called living and all we can do is our best in each moment. There is no right or wrong; there is no should. There is only real.
You might feel sad and hurt, but guess what?