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After the Break-Up, Things That Helped Me Wake Up

No matter what anyone says or tells you, the thing about breaking up with someone is that you have to feast upon your actual heartbreak long before you can ever turn your back on it. People want to feel good about things as quickly as possible, especially in this era of ultra-swift information, but that crap doesn’t fly with matters of the heart.

Sometimes I think that’s turning out to be a huge problem for us collectively, as humans and all. There is no fast track to healing heart break; there’s no Viagra for those ultimate blues, man. You wake up one day and realize that a love affair is over and the first thing you want to do is tap a single key on your laptop or pop some magic pill or whatever, you want to fast-forward everything about your existence weeks or months or even a year or so, just so you can get on with being cool with living again, you know?

But it just doesn’t work that way.

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Unlike so much of life these days, there’s no one-stop website where you can sort out your shattered-ness all at once. You have to be shattered. What happen to me in the wake of my separation from my wife/my best friend/the mother of my three young kids wasn’t anything really special or magical or anything like that. I moved into my mom’s house for a spell and laid on the guest room twin bed staring at the ceiling tiles, totally confused and lost, just like I was supposed to do. But I didn’t let that shit wash over me for long. It felt way too dangerous, too risky to me.

I needed to face facts as quickly as possible and in order to do that, I very quickly set myself up with a few things that I thought my help me get through the worst goddamn days I have ever known. Now, in case you think this is about to turn into some kind of up-my-own-butt New Age-y Facebook feed crap like "How to Kill Heartbreak with Hot Yoga and Meditation at Your Work Desk!," think again, my friend. I have no right or business telling you a damn thing about what or how you should handle your own personal blues should they happen to befall you. (I hope they don’t, by the way). Yet, I can share with you a few things that helped me, or at least that I think helped me to hold myself back from toppling over the roaring falls down onto the rocks if you know what I mean.

Anyways, here’s a small list, a couple things that made me happy when happiness was flicking me the finger everywhere I went. I know these things helped me through some rough times. Maybe they can help you too someday.

Exercise: I don’t really care if you exercise all the time or not. The fact of the matter is, when you end up on the other side of a love affair and everything is busted in your hands, there are new and foreign waves of energy blowing through your system from the moment you say goodbye. And a lot of that energy is the bad kind, the sort that whips up out of your guts like one of those big city gusts you turn a corner and get plowed by. So you need to have a way to syphon a bunch of that stuff out of you, ASAP. I’m not saying that your old workout routine won’t be of service to you here, but at the same time: yes, I am.

Switch things up. Switch everything up.

What I ended up doing is this. I stopped running my 5 miles on a treadmill at the gym. And I quit my little prissy loop through the machines down there, too. In fact, I just stopped going to the gym altogether. No reason why, really. I just felt like it reminded me of a time when I was "him," when I was "then." And I needed to be "me" and I need to be that "now." I started looking around online at hardcore exercise routines and started out as slow as I could, pushing and punishing myself in my own bedroom/my mom’s guest room. I used some yard sale dumbbells and I used the carpet on the floor—I didn’t have a mat yet (I do now, they are quite nice)—and every single day, I broke my ass for at least an hour. I put on this station that plays jazz (listen to whatever you want, it doesn’t matter) and I lost myself in my own world of exercising. No mirrored walls, no hard bodies on the elliptical to distract me or make me feel like a fat bag of ass.

Within two months I’d lost 20 pounds, and with four months I’d lost 50. I felt strong again and good about myself. I felt a little attractive even, instead of feeling like I’d felt the past few years, which was this odd lame acceptance of the fact that I was married and that it was okay for married guys to become huge and out-of-shape because it was an American tradition.

I quit eating bad food and started eating a lot of salad Nicoise. Eat what you want, but remember if you eat like you used to eat then you will be dragging a big part of your past around with you like an anchor. Switch things up. Switch everything up.

Books: If you’re a big reader, that’s actually pretty cool. I like that. If you’re not, I don’t understand why, but it’s not too late for you, especially if you are hurting. That may sound condescending of me, but who cares? This is my article, yo. I love books but in the wake of breaking up with my wife, I found myself struggling with wanting to read. I just felt drained and sad and I wanted that magic bullet of a book. I ended up starting a bunch of pretty good novels just to put them down after a few chapters because my head wasn’t into it. And then, one day, I picked up a book that was unlike anything I had ever really tried to read before. It was called The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings by Thich Naht Hahn. Now that book changed my life forever, but that’s a whole other article or whatever.

My point to you is this: once again, as with the exercise thing, I drastically switched things up from my usual pattern of operation and that made all the difference to me. Instead of trying to chase a few more novels down, I picked up something totally foreign to my expected taste. Basically, I broke out of my little personal shell and THAT was a huge step forward for me. So if you’re a fiction person, maybe hunt down some non-fiction or something. Read a goddamn cookbook! It may change everything. And if you’re not a reader, what better time to turn on a dime? Read a book. Any book. Go to the bookstore and walk up to the counter and just tell the person that you want to read the last best thing that they read. Then go home and read a few pages during the time you’d usually being doing something that I can almost guarantee you isn’t as helpful towards heartbreak relief as that book will be to you, somehow.

Friends: I suck at friends. I am the worst friend in the world. I really am. Or at least I was. I don’t know why, but I was. I think I was in a hole for a long time, and that my domesticated coma was just a continuation of a long, strange journey I had been on ever since I was a teenage pothead. I am pretty bright and creative and empathetic and slightly interesting, I think, and yet I have struggled to maintain the desire to maintain friendships for most of my adult life.

I know that’s weird.

I’m weird.

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But, I’ll tell you this much: I let go of a lot of my reservations after I split with my wife. I had too. For the first time ever, I needed friends so badly and I didn’t really have any waiting in the wings. Or so I thought. You’d be surprised how many incredible humans have an interest in you and your well-being, man. I had one friend who I like a lot who helped me in ways I can’t even describe, taking my panicked calls at 7 in the morning, offering me advice and support when he could have easily let me land out on his voicemail strip.

And beyond him, a lot of people reached out to me in cyberspace. And I mean a freaking lot. People I know and many I don’t. I had communications with a whole slew of folks who just wanted me to know that they had had their own hearts broken too once upon a time, and that I was going to be okay. I consider them all friends now even if I may never meet most of them. They are my Human Army, knights of spectacular ranges in age and sex and backgrounds all united by the inspiring fact that they took a minute or three to give a damn about a stranger when they found out what was up in his life.

And from here on out, I want to be like them. There’s power in it, people. There’s strength and honor in simply saying to another living person:

“Hey, let me tell you about my pain, buddy. And how I had to feast upon it once a while back. And how much it hurt. And how much I know it hurts you now.”

Seriously, I’m not kidding.

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