I had a friend call last week and share with me her recent heartache. She is going through a breakup, has to find a new job, home and start over. "I want to be like you. You radiate confidence. You walk into a room and seem to have it all together. How do you do it?” she said.
I suppose it's easy to think that way, after all I am happily married, have two healthy children, a growing career and am grateful to be building a new home. But I quickly chuckled and reminded her that I rarely "have it together," despite how it may seem. I then went into detail about the brokenness of my past and the time that I too, had my heart broken.
I was in love. He was handsome, smart, and savvy. He traveled the world, and owned his own business and home. I would wait for him to get off work, eagerly anticipate his call, and found my choices and actions revolving around his. Over time, the newness was wearing off and I could feel him slowly disengaging. And the more he pulled away, the harder I clung. My stomach in knots at the thought of life without him. Who would I be? What would I do? Where would I go?
Then it happened. He said I needed to move out. He said I needed to find myself. A solid job. A passion. Happiness. He said he couldn’t be my everything. What!?
How was this happening?
I spent weeks, then months wondering what I could have done differently. Maybe if I was prettier, sexier, had a better job, more fun, had a college diploma, a pedigree last name? What if I laughed more at his jokes? Or wasn’t so rude or insecure at times? Then the anger and manipulation started; me texting, begging, pleading, all the negotiations. Cursing him and our memories. But he wouldn’t budge.
If only I had one more chance I thought, I would do better... I just knew it!
I had exhausted all avenues, lost sleep, was angry, stopped eating, made myself sick... and finally was left to swallow the bitter truth. He was right. I had to let go. I had to be alone.
I had to be with me.
So I got a job and an apartment (well, a room to rent), I started meeting new friends and going out to new places to avoid him. My motivation at first was to check off all the items on my “things to do to get him back” list, so we could be together and move on with the happily ever after that I had planned out in my head.
I faked it for a longgggg time. I worked really hard at becoming the woman I knew and believed he would fall back in love with. I worked out, made some money, started excelling personally and professionally. I had hobbies and goals I never knew about before! I even started dating again. I finally got to a point where I was over the breakup. I hurt like hell for what felt like forever, then one day the dark, damp, heavy, achy feeling inside began to lift.
I would be okay. I knew it.
And you know what happened next?
While I had been busy working so hard to get him to fall in love with me, I accidentally fell in love with myself.
I didn't need him or anyone else to fill that void inside. I no longer searched outwardly for the things I could only find within. Security. Confidence. Comfort. I also made a promise. I promised God that I would NEVER put a man (or job, friendship, situation, goal, child, etc) on a pedestal like that EVER again. I would from then on, turn to the only One I knew was created and designed to provide the everlasting love and acceptance I desperately yearned for.
I told my friend this story, and also reminded her that every woman I know has had their heart broken too. That no matter what it appears like on the outside, we have all been burned, disappointed, rerouted, and knocked down in some way. And while I don't know where her next chapter is headed, I reminded her that she isn't alone.
I ended up marrying that man... the only one to ever break my heart, and I am grateful. Without that pain, I wouldn’t be who I am today- the woman who went back to school pursuing goals and dreams. The woman who shows up for friends and has interests and thoughts outside her husband's. The woman who has walked through some fires, but was never alone. The woman who can step into a room with her head held high, on her own two feet. The woman who really loves who she is today, despite any relationship status, job, or title.
We also have two daughters now, and one day when the time is right I hope to share my heartbreak experience with them, so that they can possibly avoid the pain of abandoning themselves like I did. I want them to know that while life is magical, it doesn't end like a fairy tale does, with a prince on a white horse who will fix, fill or save them. They have to do that work on their own.
Life isn't linear. It is a web of mixed emotions. Of pain and healing, over and over. Of searching and struggling, only to realize the answers aren’t out there, or with someone or something else, but are within, and above.
Maybe you are in a season of hurting, like my friend. And if you are, take your time. Don't rush it. And one day, that damp, dark, heavy feeling will lift. And you will rise-- the same woman who was always there before walking through the flames, only now a better version of who she once was. Seasoned. Confident. Humble.
We all take detours of pain and love and abandoning our true self. We don't mean to, but it happens. Luckily in time, we always return to ourselves. And when we do, it's as if a small voice inside says, "welcome back, I have missed you."