There’s that moment early in the morning, in the space between dreaming and waking where I feel the familiar permeating ache.
It begins in my chest, winds down through my blood vessels and nestles into the cracks and crevices of my heart. I have felt it regularly since my partner of three years and I split up. It was a mutual decision, we agreed, but inside my heart was breaking over the end of another relationship and the prospect of having to start over again.
Though I was unhappy and had told him that we needed to start moving in the same direction or end it, having a relationship end takes me back to a being little girl rushing out into the driveway chasing the car that would take my father away on yet another business trip. I’d drop into a defeated clump on the pavement as the car disappeared out of sight, and whimper, Don’t Go!
This is how I feel now as an adult, at 36 years old. I want to call him and beg him, please come home. Come home.
But I don’t.
This morning instead of holding my breath, squeezing my eyes and chest and letting the heartache melt into another hour of sleep after which I wake only with a vague sensation of it in my belly, I wake to it. I sit with the familiar discomfort and rising thoughts of being alone.
As I sit and ponder on this, I begin to muse that perhaps the real task at hand is not to figure a way to be with this man or that, or find a million ways to explain why I am alone, but rather perhaps to learn, to truly, and for certain this time, learn to sit with myself.
I am learning how to both sit with discomfort and love myself following these seven principles:
1) I tell the real story. The end of a relationship isn’t a failure and wasn’t a waste of time. Relationship endings are difficult. It does not mean I am more or less lovable, just that the time on this particular relationship is done.
I also learned to look at the good and the bad of it. One day I lament and wail: why didn’t I leave sooner! The next I’m moaning: he was perfect! In reality, it’s possible I needed a relationship to succeed more than I cared about the trueness of it. Today I can allow myself now to tell the whole story, the good and the bad of it, and I can love myself enough, and him, to let go and move on.
2) I listen to my own voice. I often stay too long in unhappy situations: jobs, relationships, conversations. I know now it’s okay to trust my gut. This includes listening to what I really want out of my life and out of relationships, and allowing for it to happen.
3) I learn to make my own decisions. In relationships I constantly need validation, approval. I often look to my partner for guidance on making decisions. I don’t have the luxury now of a partner consultation so I figure it out. I do what’s right for me. I sit in the discomfort of not knowing what to do then I choose. Sometimes I still second guess but I accept it and make the next decision.
4) I only allow people and activities I want in my life. I enjoy the luxury of choosing how to spend my time: I hike or climb for as long as I’d like, cook elaborate meals and I take trips! I also choose only to spend time with the people that I feel with whom I feel happy, laugh, have long conversations and build meaningful relationships.
5) I accept my ups and downs and listen to what I need.
6) I take care of my body. I take long baths, and long runs. I learn what it feels like to sit with emptiness and allow myself to feast on nourishing food. I appreciate it as it is.
7) I believe things are going to work out. As the Buddhist writer Pema Chodron says, “Things Fall Apart, things come back together again.” I know that no experience is permanent and I learn to accept a little grace and go with the flow, trusting, knowing, that eventually things will come together again.
It’s been some time now since my most recent relationship has ended and I occasional feel that same heartache in the darkness right before sunrise, but I’m now able to watch it melt away as I cradle myself in a deliberate embrace of fierce and unwavering compassion.
And I sit with whatever comes and know this truth:
I am lovable and being me is beautiful.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own