Be careful. Sometimes pain can trick you into believing it’s romantic. It’s not.
Sometimes it’s almost sickly enjoyable to lie awake in bed at night and miss them. To want them. To wish nothing more than to be lying next to them, or murmuring quietly on the phone with them until four in the morning.
Because that’s so much better than feeling nothing.
It doesn’t feel good, but it feels better than waking up and going to work and coming home and eating pizza and watching tv and going to bed just to start it all over the next day, the whole time feeling like a zombie who is experiencing life while half-asleep.
Sometimes we’re addicted to drama. Not because we’re dramatic or immature or vapid. Rather, we want so badly to feel alive, even in a bad way, that we’ll cling desperately to something, anything, that makes us feel a strong emotion.
So you continue thinking about them, late at night, long after it’s over. Sometimes it’s an unintended nightly ritual. Sometimes it happens once in a blue moon. Sometimes, it creeps up on you unexpectedly, because you had a bad day or one of your best friends just got engaged or you actually had good news but had no one to share it with when you came home. And so you’re hit with a crippling onslaught of loneliness.
And even though you know that it could always be worse, that you are blessed in so many ways, that there are so many people out there who are suffering more than you are, you feel that suffocating sadness. Because pain is relative, and right now, a desperate desire to love and be loved is the pain that’s taking up the most amount of space in your body.
You imagine how you could have fixed the relationship. How different your life would be if you were still together. How much better those office holiday parties and family visits would be if you had someone to bring along with you. How much easier it would be to answer the question “Are you seeing anyone?” with a simple “Yes” instead of a required explanation as to why you’re alone or what’s wrong with you.
You drown yourself in the possibilities of what could have been, because you’ve convinced yourself and you’ve let the world convince you that a relationship is the only thing against which you can measure your life, your self-worth, your happiness.
But from the most unlikely of sources – Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation – comes this pearl: “Don’t confuse drama with happiness.”
A passionate, all-consuming, will-they-won’t-they, Carrie-and-Big or Ross-and-Rachel or Derek-and-Meredith relationship is not real life. There is no dramatic monologue at the end of each of your days, with soft music playing in the background as you explain to imaginary people why it has to be like this.
This is your life. A real life that doesn’t consist of episodes with beautifully scripted lines that professional writers have poured over for weeks.
It’s understandable that you still think about this person. It’s understandable that you want to romanticize what happened and that you want to continue to let this pain dig into you and shape you, because then, at least you have a story. At least you have a reason why all this happened. At least you have a basis around which you can build your identity, your character, your protagonist.
But every time you think about them, late at night while you’re lying in bed, remember this: dwelling on the past will not create a new life for you. It will only pull you further back into something that only exists now as a memory in your head.
They relationship is over. They are over. This storyline is over. But your life is not over. If you look at it the right way, this could be the very beginning. The start of you waking up and actually experiencing life, not behind pain lenses that allow you to label and categorizing everything, but with clear eyes.
It won’t be easy. It won’t be overnight. There will be setbacks. This is real, this is truth, so there will be no three-minute montage of you jogging in the sunshine and meeting attractive people at happy hours and excelling at work and then suddenly realizing you’re happy again.
It’s a journey that exists in the moment. And one by one, the moments will pile up over time. And eventually, you will be healed again. Not permanently, not completely. But healed enough to open your eyes and enjoy the world around you and to feel like you exist outside of them and outside of the relationship that once kept you awake at two in the morning, wondering if you’d ever be okay again.