You’ll get over your ex the first time you forget their Mom’s birthday. It may hit you while you’re doing groceries, or four days prior to the date or even weeks after it passes but you’ll suddenly identify the nagging feeling inside the back of your mind that there was something you’d forgotten about the date June seventeenth. It will shock you that your mind has jumped ahead in the process of moving on – dropping subtle memories it no longer has a use for and surreptitiously discarding any knowledge that stands between you and moving forward.
So you let the important dates pass – first a family member’s birthday and then their birthday, then yours and on some days the distance seems impossibly small to bridge – the phone seems so easy to pick up, but you fight the urge down and keep going. Some part of you knows better – that you have to wait this out. You have to take it in waves. You know that someday you’ll forget their birthday and they’ll forget yours too and until that day you keep yourself busy. You keep moving. And you keep letting the small details slide.
You’ll get over your ex the first time you receive exciting news and it doesn’t occur to you to call them. When you cut your hair dramatically and do not think to send them a picture. When you finally land that dream job and you do not invite them to the celebratory happy hour. You will realize that at some point – perhaps during a long lapse of attention – your life has become only your own again. Your triumphs and failures belong to you in a way that is enticing and invigorating and just the smallest bit sad, all at once. But it doesn’t make you want to run back to the past. You have grown comfortable in your autonomy and it’s somewhere you kind of want to stay.
You’ll get over your ex when you meet someone new. Not when you hook up or shack up or even fall in love with another human being, but the first time you find yourself sitting across a crowded café table from someone whose smile melts you and whose arms you’d fit perfectly into and yet some part of you is holding back. You’ll realize in that moment that life has ceased to be a frantic dash to find someone who can replace your ex, or to fill the aching hole they left inside of you. You’re putting your heart back together and you want to do it properly before you jump feet-first into something new. You know that someday you will love someone else – that the capacity for affection and belonging is not lost on you and that you’re not going to end up alone. You’re not broken or hopeless or loveless just because your heart is aching – you are simply healing yourself. And when you’re done, there will be a whole new world waiting for you.
You will not get over your ex all at once. You’ll get over them through a series of tiny, tender moments that bring you quietly back to yourself. And in some ways they’ll never really leave you. The people who change us in those big, irrevocable ways never do. To get over them we’d have to alter ourselves into people so unrecognizable that we’d lose who we are in the process. And so instead we learn to integrate the influence they had – the books you now read because of topics that they turned you on to. The music you now download because of the lyrics they loved. The ways you now look at the world that would never had occurred to you if they had not opened your eyes up to seeing and doing things differently. We don’t ever lose people we love in their entirety and perhaps we never should – we ourselves become bigger, more encompassing people because of it.
You’ll get over your ex the day you realize that you damn well may never get over them. That pieces of them are going to live on inside you forever and that discarding them would mean discarding parts of yourself. But the day that you get to move on is the day you simply decide to do so in spite of it – in spite of the tired, restless ache that begs you not to take a chance. In spite of the fearful, self-conscious mind that tells you nobody will ever love you better. In spite of every careless part of you that wants to keep holding on but knows that it needs to let go. The day when you finally move on is the day you decide move forward – with all of your fear, all your pain and all your subtle hesitations. It’s the day you finally get over yourself.