7 Lessons from a Broken Heart
Even though this story contains life lessons from a broken heart (a painful break up), its lessons are applicable to many other life situations. I highly recommend reading this, even if you are not going through a broken heart.
Nine months ago, as I carted my meager belongings into my parents house–a move that was supposed to be temporary–my world came crashing down. It was an apocalypse I was anything but prepared for.
After envisioning a walk down the aisle, my relationship of six years came to a screeching, and quite unexpected, halt. My heart was broken. I lost several freelance jobs I had come to count on, and my already shaky income became non-existent. Worst of all, I endured a blow to my self esteem that left me curled up on the couch unable to do anything more than sleep and sob.
I had known for a few months that things didn’t feel right, it was a quiet rumbling of unease that started off small and seemed to be buzzing in my ear up until the moment the Universe decided it was time for my wake up call. At the time, I would have been far more comfortable with just buckling down and holding on to what I already had.
Clearly, there was a plan I hadn’t yet been privy to.
The recovery process was long—and at times, so irritatingly slow. Friendships that I had fallen back on suddenly dissipated into nothingness, and I received job rejections that shook my fragile sense of self more and more each time. When I thought that I was slowly pulling myself out of the abyss, I fell a little deeper.
But right around the time I began to accept that there was perfection in the imperfection, that I was already surrounded by things I was deeply grateful for, and that all the things I lost weren’t “mine” to begin with, I sensed a lightening of my soul and the situations going on around me.
Now, months later, I embrace a strength in myself that I never had before. Hindsight may be 20/20, but since emerging from the muck, I am now able to see these “impossible situations” as great opportunities.
Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:
1. The end of one relationship makes room for the start of another
While undergoing these drastic life changes, I learned the art of purging—letting go of the people and things that were no longer serving me in a positive way.
Being at my worst allowed me to see the people I had in my life that were only interested in me at my best. Releasing them from my experience allowed new friendships and relationships to emerge.
2. Starting from the bottom opens up a world of possibilities
In some strange way it was liberating to let go of so much at once and get down to the bare bones of who I was and who I wanted to be.
Starting from rock bottom opened up a world of possibilities that might not have been available to me had I kept some things and gotten rid of others. I was suddenly free to re-create myself and my life in a way that my mind had previously not been able to imagine.
3. Everyone is working through their junk
Yet, once I started talking about it—sharing my lowest point with people I was close and not so close to—I realized that everyone could relate on some level. People started sharing their own personal heartbreak with me and I began to understand the human condition on a deeper level.
We all have junk. It’s just far easier to air it out then try to hide it.
4. Life will always return to some sort of equilibrium
It was easy for me, in the midst of my crisis, to believe that I would never feel complete or whole again, that the wounds I now had would always be exposed. I know now that life has a way of healing us that we don’t always expect.
The healing process wasn’t linear—there were days when everything seemed ok, good even, then others when the pain made me want to check out for the day. But eventually, things evened out and there were far more hopeful days than disaster days.
I have since created a new normal, one that allows me to leave the past where it belongs—in the past.
5. Releasing expectation leaves less room for disappointment
Part of the reason why I was so shell shocked and devastated by the way things fell apart was because I was deeply entrenched in what I hoped and expected would happen. I had a picture of my future etched in my mind and I wasn’t open to any other outcome.
Along the way I realized that my inability to let go of this picture kept me closed off to other possibilities—even those that would have made me happier than the ones I was hoping for.
I’ve since learned how to let go and allow life to just happen, which has ushered in a deep sense of joy that I haven’t experienced before. And, of course, awe, surprise, and gratitude are far more fulfilling emotions than disappointment has ever been.
6. Having nothing to lose is liberating
While I was holding on tight-fisted to a relationship I didn’t know how to be without, I closed myself off to new experiences with different people. It wasn’t about dating, it was about being free to show up as just myself—without thinking about calling my significant other or leaving early to be with him.
Having nothing to lose made me fearless with the people I met—more open, more willing to connect in different ways. I could show up with an identity that revolved around me and only me. And that was fantastically liberating.
7. Listen lightly to the opinions of others
When I was in the middle of my darkest hour, I found dozens of people who wanted to offer an opinion or advice. And while I recognized this as an act of love and desire to help, taking everyone’s expert advice and boisterous opinions to heart muddled my own judgment.
Part of the reason why all of this happened in the first place was because I had stopped listening to my own intuition and following what my feelings were telling me. In order to reconnect, I had to learn to trust myself again—and listen only lightly to those around me.
Yet, the one piece of advice that will forever serve as my compass came from my mom: “Does that decision make you feel lighter or heavier? If it makes you feel lighter, you know you’ve chosen what’s best for you.”
A year ago I would have said that my deepest fears were exactly what has occurred in the past nine months: being broken up with, losing my work, and letting go of friendships I couldn’t imagine myself without. It has all happened—and I’m still here, living, breathing, and enjoying life in profound ways.
Oddly enough, having each of my fears realized was a relief—one I didn’t know I needed. It has allowed me to live in each moment exactly as it is, without the gnawing fear that some disaster is waiting for me around the corner. After all, I’ve already experienced it.