Going through a breakup is akin to getting murdered but living through it. When people describe heartache as a physical pain, they’re not exaggerating.
I battled myself over and over about whether to share this story about my breakup in such a public forum, because having yourself (metaphorically) ripped open and laid bare feels like it should accompany an exorcism of all accompanying feelings on paper.
Instead, I want to talk about the silver linings that come with heartbreak. Sure, it’s a little forced. And yes, some of these silver linings are used as a crutch for my sadness. Yet and still, there happens to be a lot of truth in them, too.
Hopefully, if you’ve gone through this or are going through this, you can latch onto them, too.
Exhibit A: Despite the loss of the relationship, I can take solace in knowing that I was part of the greatest human experience – love, freely exchanged, with another human being.
After years of window-shopping on Facebook, Instagram and the real world, I met someone I couldn’t quit. And I fell for her. Deeply. I experienced her richly enough for the loss of her to hurt this intensely.
If you had told me a year ago – hell, even three months ago – that I’d be that guy, I wouldn’t have believed it.
I had to navigate through years of emotional obstacle courses that I’d built around myself to get there. My last relationship had ended three years prior in a heap of my own anxiety.
I was on the cusp of commitment at that time, but I simply wasn’t ready. I tried to work through it, but it was a different battle entirely. I struggled at work. I lost 15 pounds. I quit my job. I was downing more Xanax than I was prescribed, or ever admitted to (until now).
It remains one of the lowest points of my life.
The years since had me convinced that I might very well become a perpetual bachelor, and that my newfound anxiety would be a fixture of my life for the foreseeable future.
I know better now. I know that my anxiety isn’t a fluke. Instead, it’s a physical response I feel when I enter an emotional danger zone. Anxiety has always told me to fear that space, to flee uncertainty.
I have now learned that my anxiety has always been brought to life when my greatest hopes were challenged by the fear of failure. When the risks felt so great, simply because I never fully believed I was ready for (worthy of?) the rewards.
That has been true professionally, and it has been especially true personally.
The past several weeks taught me to face those doubts head on. To embrace the things I’m scared of, even if it means looking my doubts in the eyes and knowing I might lose a few rounds to them in the process.
I haven’t beaten anxiety. But for the first time in my life, I know that I am a capable rival to it. And I’ll be damned if I ever let it rob me of my joy.
Exhibit B: To get to that point in this ‘human experience of love’ meant giving myself to this woman in an active sense. I’ve always believed love to be more than the whims of my emotions and anxiety-driven self-doubt, but the sad truth is I’d never proven it to any woman in my life.
Getting there wasn’t easy. It was by no means a finished process. But it was and is the closest I’ve ever been to giving my all to a woman. It was a march toward commitment, with an eye toward more tangible ways of exhibiting it in the future.
And I was taking steps each day to show that my love was less about me, and more about her. I was learning how difficult that can be, but I was learning how rewarding it can be, too.
If you can say with certainty that your love will endure for someone despite your moments of doubt and uncertainty, you are entering a space that few fully experience, or ever comprehend.
In the end, I wasn’t there yet. I know I was close.
Love isn’t a destination. Love is a pattern. The Hollywood-appeal of love is in its moments of romance, but its true value is in the grit of its grunt work. Of giving more of yourself to another person than you give to your own fears and doubts.
I’ve always known that, but I’ve never learned it. Until now.
Admittedly, I am left with pieces of the love that I wanted. In a metaphorical sense, I play with those pieces every day, knowing that half the puzzle is missing, and I can’t put it together no matter how hard I try.
Despite that, those pieces of love are assembled into something that has made me more whole than I’ve ever been. Sad, broken, confused? You bet.
But I’ve never been more sure of who I am, more sure of what I am capable of giving, and more sure of what love is. In addition, I know that love is the only thing you can ever invest in that could fail and still never lose its value. I gave someone the best love I’ve ever known how to give, and I know that wasn’t a waste, for either of us.
For now, I’ll count that as a victory.