I have been a serial monogamist for most of my adult life, jumping from one relationship to another. I was so afraid of being alone that I instantly rebounded upon breaking up — or worse — got back together.
Ultimately I spent way too much time with guys I should have ran far away from the second I met them.
I fell into this heart-wrenching pattern of break up, new relationship, break up, new relationship.
When a guy told me he wasn’t looking for anything serious, I would think to myself: challenge accepted. And would then proceed to fall in love with someone unwilling or unable to love me back. In the end my heart would be broken yet again.
I was so afraid of being alone, I thought it would stretch endlessly. I needed someone else in my life appreciating me in order to appreciate myself. I thought loneliness would overwhelm me, crush me, and I would unravel. I had made the dangerous calculation that anything would be better than having to face myself.
Because I never took the time to mourn and truly feel my pain after a breakup, I made the same mistakes over and over again.
Zen wisdom teaches that suffering results from avoidance of pain. The classic example given is that if you were to find yourself in quicksand struggling, flailing about, and trying to get out as fast as possible, it would only worsen your predicament. To prevent sinking in quicksand one must spread like an eagle and lean into the discomfort.
I got into shitty relationships over and over again.
I never took the time to mourn and feel the pain of love lost. I avoided that whole process through rebounding.
We learn to engage in certain behaviors and avoid other ones through their consequences, but I had never let myself feel the consequences of my serial dating.
I was stuck in an endless loop from hell.
But then I completely lost my shit.
I truly and deeply fell apart after my last breakup.
I cried for days. I ate tubs of ice cream. I listened to Jony Mitchel, Adele, Taylor Swift, Nina Simone, and Amy Winehouse on repeat. I obsessed to all my friends until they got annoyed at me.
I sent a cringe-worthy I miss you text. I cried to my therapist. I wrote hundreds of letters I will never send. I dreamt of revenge, getting back together, and moving on all within a matter of minutes. I did a lot of ugly crying. I was a wreck.
I was tired of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. I was tired of falling for unavailable men.
I was tired of the longing. I was tired of the heartbreak. I was tired of getting my hopes up. I was tired of being let down. I was tired of how recklessly I had been treating my delicate heart.
So I took a break. I missed some classes, I didn’t get out of bed. I cried on the subway. And I felt the pain.
I gave myself permission to mourn.
And then I was okay.
The only way out of this dark place was through it. I finally allowed myself to feel the feelings of hurt, abandonment, mourning, and loss I had avoided for so long.
I had thought that if I would feel these feelings it would be a bottomless pit of despair I would never escape from. But then one day I was okay.
The hurt didn’t disappear, rather it just didn’t hurt quite as much. By feeling the feelings they lost their intensity and hold on me.
This whole journey of losing my shit, namely feeling the consequences of my actions and the pain of a breakup, has enabled me to learn from my past experiences.
This process of learning from my past experiences has changed the way I date and approach relationships — instead of looking for anyone to alleviate me of my deep and existential loneliness I am looking for someone who fulfills my long term wants and needs.
Instead of pretending I am fine, I let myself break down and therefore I am able to move past the pain. I realized that by pretending I had my shit together I was actually causing myself to suffer more and fooling no one but myself.
I have accepted that I can never change the past. But I have learnt although I can’t change the past I can learn from it and do differently in the future.
The only way to get your shit together is to fall apart and lose your shit so that the lessons can be learned and the healing can begin.