At the end of the summer my life was turned upside down. I was forced into a new beginning.
The love of my life broke my very trusting and comfortable heart. After five years, 1,826 days filled with love, laughter and a lifetime together, we painfully went our separate ways.
The separation hit me hard, like an unexpected blow to the stomach. Not only did I never, in a million years, think I would be single again (in my late 20s and in love with a man I cannot have), I never wanted to start over.
My new fate is the most uncomfortable experience of my life.
I want to crawl out of my skin most days. The pain never dulls, really. It only becomes manageable as time goes on, and as the steps of starting over begin to unfold. Starting over is life’s kick in the ass. It is practically always ugly, unexpected and devastating. It doesn’t make sense, the timing is awful and we (those broken by the process) are almost never ready.
So many things happen on our journey that aren’t part of the “plan.”
We get cheated on by our soul mate or fired from our dream job. We run out of money or energy. We get sick or divorced. All of us, at some point, get broken from the inside out. Our hearts shatter by the complicated and unanticipated nature of life and we are forced, unwillingly, to begin again with nothing.
When life breaks us down, we live in denial for a while; we look with teary eyes to the past, to before. We get angry at the universe for dealing us such a hard hand. Our hearts fill with hate like a tall glass of water and we’re so tired each and every day of going to bed not feeling any different than the day before. Time, the healer of all things, isn’t healing us. Nothing is healing us.
We reach a breaking point within our anger that pushes us toward starting over. We make a decision to reinvent ourselves. We get a little wild and reckless, drink too much and stay out too late. In the next moment we get stable and responsible, spending time with our families or our God. We remain constantly inconsistent. We ask for help or we continue to refuse it but whatever we do, we try in varying fashion to embrace the new life we were dealt.
Step One: We start with the outer walls.
We reach out to old friends, we text everyone, we say “yes” to so many things that before we know it, our every second is filled with an appointment or friend. We find this empty and tiring but we know staying home drenched in sadness isn’t going to heal us.
We cut our hair so the reflection in the mirror hides the past. We buy new clothes in an attempt to hide behind style or compliments. We buy gorgeous furniture so that when we are home we are not reminded by things of a time when our hearts were whole. We hope that changing the outside will somehow change the inside.
Step Two: Socializing.
We workout, we learn to cook, we join groups and take music lessons. We just say yes, over and over, hoping that by building friendships and hobbies, we might find something that feels right. Anymore, we long to just feel something right.
Sometimes we jump back a step or two. We get burned out so we retract. We cancel plans and ditch friends; we become angry and irritable with everyone we love. We cry at the most unfortunate times and our emotions are one big, long roller coaster. One minute we scream, then we sleep, and we’re always thinking. We pray to God just to stop thinking.
We know that whatever happened to us was sad and unfortunate but we also know that it is time to move on. We know that we have to let go but the past, the certainty that we would never have to start over again, reaches out and grabs us like a dark hand in the night. We struggle with ourselves. We want so desperately to start over at this point but we want so desperately to not let go of what once was.
Step Three: We start rebuilding the inside.
We sit quietly. We listen to our thoughts; we respect our sadness and our shock. We try to silence our fears with the voice of our blessings. We become gracious. We know that sadness comes and it goes but we recognize there are so many things to be happy about that we push through—we fight to be happy.
One day, we accept that this is what starting over looks like. It looks like laughter and sadness. It looks like cries of pain and cries of joy. It looks vibrant one day and grey the next. It looks a lot like a hurricane and a sunrise. It looks like us, you and me, waking up another day.
Author: Rachel Francis
Apprentice Editor: Karolina Krawczyk-Sharma / Editor: Travis May
Image: Author’s own