From the moment you told him the two of you were over, staring straight into his indifferent gaze, you have been burning. Your face is too warm, you feel like your skin is going to melt off. You can barely breathe, each inhale and exhale a choking attempt at self-preservation. You walk out his door and to your car, fighting the urge to look back over your shoulder. You imagine him chasing after you, pulling you into his arms. “We can make this work. I love you. We can make this work,” and kissing away your tears. You know he won’t do it but you still worry that a brief look back would jinx everything. When you get to your car you allow yourself a glance at his window. Is he watching you with tear-stained cheeks? He isn’t. You wish you hadn’t looked.
You will wake up tomorrow morning and not immediately remember what happened. When you finally do, you will feel hopelessly untethered. Where is the ground? How can you possibly manage to stay sure-footed on earth when the magnet that kept you there has disappeared into the abyss? I am here to tell you, dear heart, that gravity has not left. The air around you might feel a little different and your heart might be trying to rid itself of the bullet it so bravely took, but you are still breathing, still walking, still able to shout and scream and sob and sprint.
Why did he turn cold and cruel? That warmth you were happily drowning in when you woke up next to him on a sun-drenched Saturday morning feels like nothing but a terribly evil lie now. The way he looked at you just a week ago has turned to stone, his ears hearing your words but his eyes showing no sign of absorbing them. You scold yourself. You had to go on ahead and fall in love, fall deep and fall hard, only to have it ripped away violently. Never again, you promise your heart and it responds with a weak bum-bum bum-bum. You pray for your heart to scab over, to scar and grow tough and unyielding to any future fluttering of feeling.
But, please, do not harden your heart entirely. Take the time to heal, return smoldering gazes with a gentle grin and take care not to encourage potential suitors. That is just fine. You have open wounds on that gorgeous heart of yours and it is wise to let them patch themselves up. But don’t be scared forever. Love is still out there. It is hiding somewhere in the lush, pulsing world and it just needs you to be patient. The man who let you go was never the one for you and the next one might not be either. But sooner or later someone will come along who fits. Someone who is attentive and kind and witty and wise. Someone who never wants to make you sad, someone who would never hold you back from the life you’ve always imagined yourself living. It will shock you, how well he treats you, and your ready return of selflessness will shock you even more. You will look on your past and remember the pain you endured and think on how beautiful it is that life goes on and on and on, even when you were wishing it wouldn’t.
In the meantime, you will have to armor yourself in your strength. When you left his house tonight, you couldn’t seem to find an ounce of it. Your heart felt like it was going to deflate so it sucked in a spoonful of your ever-present toughness just to keep beating, then hid the rest somewhere in the near future. You will find it again in a week or so. You will be looking in the mirror, curling your eyelashes and humming along with the radio when you will realize you are doing just fine. You have survived. When you thought you were going to pass out from his overwhelming memory, you remained upright. Your heart no longer feels like it’s about to burst – your strength has detonated a bomb.
It will still be a while before this change (and really, darling, a breakup becomes nothing more than change when put into the context of your entire life) starts to feel normal but in the meantime, embrace the sudden flood of emotion. Use it to charge your early morning runs. Turn up the Rihanna and let your feet beat against the concrete, their rhythm in time with the music, quick and powerful. Use the emotion to connect with the people you love. Be a sponge for their musings, listen intently and feel their thoughts as though they’re your own. Use it to fuel your creativity, use it to make yourself the most ferocious possible version of you. It feels hopeless right now, like the end of something beautiful, but the honest cliché of it all is that this really is only the beginning.