I hear the whispers of friends and family who look at me funny when they see me seemingly thriving after a recent heartbreak. I felt it when I lost my father. She’s not even crying, they said. Is she broken? I see the look when I tell a friend I’ve broken up with someone and they ask me how I feel. I’m fine, I say. They nod and think to themselves, she must not want to talk about it. It’s not that I don’t care, or that I am blocking my emotions. It’s that I’ve built a coping mechanism for myself to help me deal with the tragedy that is losing someone you deeply care about. Of course it isn’t foolproof, but it’s definitely helped me get through some devastating times. Amongst many things, I think the three most important aspects of moving on for me have been understanding impermanence, the practice of self-reflection, and the importance of self-love.
It’s hard to swallow but no secret; all things must end. Relationships, jobs, happiness, sadness, life itself will end one day. I learned about the acceptance of impermanence around the age of 19-20 when I first discovered the Buddhist teachings. The four noble truths about the origin of suffering and its liberation reaching me at an age where I was just beginning to form my world view and identity. I remember telling myself after every heartbreak that it will soon pass, that I would be okay in no time. It worked. It really worked. Before I knew it, Joe Shmoe who broke my heart was a thing of the past.
Deep reflection is another virtue. From the time I first encountered “adult-like” problems, I’d lay in my bed and contemplate life while staring up at the ceiling. They say the process of analyzing your thoughts and feelings can lead you to a greater understanding of yourself. I feel that. Sitting with my feelings for an hour, a day, however long it would take to feel better is my version of therapy. I know a lot of people who enjoying “talking it out” or “crying it out” but for me, it’s all about reflecting in solitude. It’s just a matter of walking myself through my own feelings, understanding them, and then letting them go.
And lastly, practicing self-love. I hesitate to say this is the most important, but it is the one I think most people struggle with. We struggle and don’t even realize we struggle. Every time we think we are the reason something fell apart, we fail at self-love. Every time we think we aren’t good enough, we fail at self-love. Every time we blame ourselves for something we had no control over, we fail at self-love.
There were many times I blamed myself for my father’s death. There were times I thought I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or funny enough for XYZ boyfriend. Each time I caught myself putting the blame on me for someone else’s fate or someone else’s choices, I had to pull myself out of that negative space. There are so many instances where we think to ourselves, if only I was like this or like that, so and so would still be here. Snap out of it. We have no control over anything or anyone but ourselves. We cannot change the course of anyone’s life but our own. It is a powerful act of self-love to realize you are not to blame. It isn’t punishment for some foul play in your past, it isn’t life testing you, it just is what it is. As the saying goes, “Happiness comes once you accept the way things are, and not how you think they should be.”
Again, loving yourself throw a heartbreak can be challenging even for the most confident and self assured person in the world. One thing that’s radically changed the way I view myself is the practice of embracing my authentic self and more importantly, giving my relationships 100%. Whether it’s a romantic relationship, a friendship, my sister and brothers, I make a solid and honest effort to give the best version of myself to that person. This has been particularly useful for me in romantic relationships because I know in my heart I gave it all I could and I showed my true self, so that if and when it doesn’t work out, I know there was nothing more I could have done, and no one else I could have been. Of course there’s the danger that someone might take that and think, “well I did everything I could and I still wasn’t good enough.” That mentality not only goes completely against self-love, but also the rules of romantic relationships. The goal in a relationship is not to be “good enough,” it is to be compatible. And compatibility takes two to tango. Again, you can only control your actions, feelings, and emotions, but if the other person does not reciprocate those actions, feelings, emotions, then you are not compatible.
In the end, it comes down to accepting your limitations as a human being. You cannot control your loved one’s actions, you cannot control life or death, you cannot control so many things that go into building relationships— platonic, familial, or otherwise. The only thing you can control is how you response to what life throws at you.