Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to give yourself a pep-talk in the car before a big date. If you didn’t raise your hand, take a moment to acknowledge that you’re a dirty rotten liar and put that hand in the air. Few things are scarier than deciding to start dating again after heartache and that’s a truth universally recognized.
We’ve all experienced that humbling rush of panic right before exiting the vehicle. My hair looks great, my outfit is on point and my smile is radiant. But what if he thinks I look better in my Instagram selfies than in person? Maybe, like me, you’ve had your fair share of disappointing dates and exhausting attempts at proving that you’re here and ready to share your love and to be loved in return, or maybe, like me, you’ve been hiding in your house for months too afraid to try again because what was left in the wake of an earth-shaking heartbreak was a person who couldn’t remember how to walk on her own, let alone love again.
Those four letters can make even the calmest and most confident of us all cower in the corner. To be in love is to be emotionally exposed; to willingly admit that there are cracks in our armor but to trust another person to not take advantage of them.
Here is what I know about love: it’s uncontrollable and unavoidable. I cannot control when I fall in love, or when I fall out of it. I can, however, control how I continue to wake up every day believing that I’m deserving of love and capable of sharing love. One of the worst things I’ve ever done to myself was to let a failed attempt at love knock me down and keep me down; I should have been fighting to get back up and instead I began to believe that this failure would set a precedent for the rest of my life. I spent months trying to forget the way he smelled, sleeping with strangers to replace the feeling of his hands on my body and drinking too much on the weekends just so I could have an excuse to text him and let him know how badly he had ruined me. I spent more months getting good at isolation and holding everyone else at arm’s length because that felt safe.
Spoiler alert: I was never ruined. I’m not ruined or broken and neither are you.
Sometimes, we are not enough for someone else and it takes time to accept these inadequacies as parts of ourselves to be explored. It took a long time to believe that I was good enough, that he had not left me because I wasn’t enough but because I wasn’t what he wanted, and maybe he still doesn’t know what he wants. Just because one person walks away doesn’t mean everyone else will. Choosing not to love is exhausting, and mourning the future we once imagined for ourselves will consume you.
Learn to love again. Learn to make dinners for one person even if you made enough to feed two for years. Learn to look people in the eyes again and believe that they mean what they say. There will come a day when you realize that the effort you’re putting into protecting your heart is more exhausting than the effort of letting someone in.
Drive fast down back roads, don’t stay cooped up inside just because it’s raining, say yes to someone you might’ve said no to four months ago. Take the last subway home, or walk because it’s warm outside and you’ve got two perfectly functioning legs. Stop at a bakery and buy a loaf of bread just for yourself and be okay with knowing you won’t finish it. Read that book that’s been sitting on your bed for weeks. Listen to the wind at night while you’re awake in a bed that once felt too big without someone else in it and hear it saying: love again. Lastly, wake up before your alarm because there’s a part of you that’s finally ready to seize the day. The moment you feel that you’re finally ready. Heartbreak has not ruined you, that loss you felt has not transformed into a gaping black hole that consumed you. Somewhere the sun is shining and life is waiting.
You’re finally starting to get it right.