We’ve all felt the sting of heartbreak at one time or another. And even though our experiences are not all alike—varying in extremity from unrequited crushes to soul-mates lost—between our collective, vast array of disappointments, our damp, tear stained pillow cases and brooding, lonely days, we’ve probably all had the same thought at some point: I’m not doing this again. Because no matter how you go through it, or what way you look at it, heartbreak is a taxing exercise.
There are many different ways of dealing, from the stoic, silent suffering of the proud, to the hysterical, lurid self-destruction of the openly distraught; having your heart broken is always a process. No matter how you deal, heartbreak can drain you entirely, both emotionally and physically, and sap your energy on a daily basis, especially where you have a drawn out healing period. But the worst part of having your heart broken sometimes doesn’t manifest until you feel strong again and steel your resolve—it’s the promise you make to yourself that you’ll never be heartbroken again.
It’s painful because you know it’s not you, it’s not right, and because your decision inhibits you from making contact the way you used to. But your aversion to heartbreak is overwhelming, and controls all your actions to the point of self-sabotage, which your wrought subconscious by now deems to be self-preservation. You don’t want to spend those months drinking alone in your room every night. You don’t want to end evenings out with friends sprawled across some dingy bathroom floor, your cheeks stained with mascara and your head resting against the porcelain. You don’t want to lie in bed until 3pm everyday with nothing but white noise in your head. You just don’t want to feel any of those feelings again—emptiness, sorrow, rejection—the ones that came from you letting yourself be vulnerable to someone else. You don’t ever want to relinquish that sort of power to someone again.
Every now and then you’ll meet someone new. Someone maybe your heart would have raced away with, before you experienced the crippling agony of having it broken. And yeah, maybe your heart’s been repaired since, maybe you’re as happy as you’ve ever been and entirely satisfied with yourself and your life—but that’s just the point, isn’t it? You’re no longer prepared to disrupt the harmony. You barely survived it—the first time your world was picked up and shaken like a shitty little snow globe—and you’re not willing to hedge a bet that you’ll survive it a second time.
So you’ll push the new ones away instinctively. Half of you will be relieved and the other half will pang with melancholy. You want to be braver—because when it comes down to the bones of it, all you really are is scared. You wish it was as simple as calling out to your mother and having her check under your bed and in the closet for the boogey man, but you’re on your own now, with no one to protect you from night terrors but yourself. You sometimes think the conflict inside you is tantamount to spilt milk and you feel petty and selfish, but you’ve become so accustomed to living on the back foot you don’t know how to leap forward anymore.
You’re not a bad person—you know you’re not—you have so much love to give, but you’ve never feared anything more than giving it. It seems like such a shame and waste, but at the same time entirely necessary. You desperately want to be inspired again, to hold someone’s hand in the street, to have them brush the hair from your eyes as you rest your face on their chest in bed on lazy Sundays. You want someone to tell you they love you in the dim half-light of morning, you want someone you can cook dinner for, you want someone whose wounds you can lick. You want someone who is at once your best friend but with whom you share the secret sweetness of sex, and a heightened physical and emotional intimacy. And yet: wanting is not the same as having, and you let them all pass by you and around you, like wind whipping against your ankles. Your heart is still and safe.