There’s a mixed CD floating around that I made in the early 2000s. It’s a compilation of powerful, female country artists singing from their broken hearts. There are eighteen tracks. Songs about revenge and sadness and desperation. Lyrics about healing, and recovery and the first time you see your ex. Moments of “I’ll be o.k.” and “I’m moving on” and then, with complete honesty, “I’ll never, get over, you.”
I made it two years after my first, real heart break. I put it together for my college best friend who was on the rebound, from the same guy, for the third time, in four years.
He’s on the short list of people I refuse to forgive, even after ten million hours on my yoga mat.
Two years after that, my best friend since I was thirteen ended a relationship with her live-in boyfriend of five, almost six, years. Theirs was a slow, painful death. It was the kind of disaster that shows up first, way-off in the distance. You see it coming, but refuse to believe it. The dark cloud of the inevitable creeps over the horizon of the rest of your life, constantly threatening to descend on the foreground. Lingering, hovering, dangerously close to ruining everything you know to be true and real and safe.
When it finally arrives it’s like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs.
And you’re the last surviving pterodactyl, climbing out of the wreckage.
Amy needed the prehistoric Red Cross, not Martina Mcbride.
But I gave her the CD anyway.
And several years later, she passed it on to someone else.
There’s nothing like a broken heart.
I was twenty-one the first time I felt the big hurt. The pulsing nausea right in the pit of my stomach. The sleeplessness and the loss of appetite. Sneaking around the back patio of Luvalle commons, down the backside of campus, along my secret escape route, because just laying eyes on him, made me sick.
Crying on the phone in the back of my walk-in closet, whispering to my mom so my roommates wouldn’t hear.
The days where it doesn’t hurt as much as it did yesterday and then suddenly, it hurts twice as much as it did any day before.
The getting back together and the breaking up again.
The reliving, and re-telling and the promising myself, I’ll do better next time.
Heartbreak is the feeling that marks the intensity of every other feeling I’ve ever had.
It’s the biggest and the baddest and in the thick of it, I know it will last forever.
But then, it doesn’t.
I missed my college boyfriend every day for a year and a half. Then, one morning, I woke up feeling whole again. I didn’t want to see him and I stopped dreaming of our future together. I took his pictures off my laptop and let go of our old stories, especially the ones haunting my every attempt to move on.
I couldn’t predict it and I couldn’t explain it. There was no formula, or step by step.
It hurt until it didn’t hurt anymore.
Feelings, for me, are a challenging beast. I want to rope them down and control them. I want to push them aside when they’re interfering with my life. I want to move through them quickly, and when they linger, I feel frustrated, and helpless, and impatient.
The raw, painful ones are the toughest. I don’t want to make space for the feelings that fill my whole body. I don’t want to “be in it” or “sit with it” or take bigger, deeper breathes. I want to displace them and be distracted. I don’t want to cry and and I don’t want to “talk to someone” about it.
I just want to feel “better” on my own terms.
I discover, over and over, that feelings are a wild animal, and can’t be tamed. They come on strong, or maybe slowly, but always without a formal announcement. They target my heart and the base of my belly, and migrate up my spine, and neck, then, down, deep in my hips.
Sometimes I feel sluggish and out of sorts. Or inexplicably angry at people who’ve done nothing wrong. Other times I feel energized by the fear that if I stop moving, I’ll fall, immediately, into a bottomless pit of despair.
I struggle to get power over them.
But never come out on top.
In the summer of 2012 I call Amy to track down “that CD” I gave her. My friend just got dumped by the woman he planned to marry, and I’m desperate to throw him a life line.
He’s a broken-winger dinosaur and I am, once again, an inadequate emergency responder.
“I want to fix it, but I don’t know what to do for him.”
She reminds me there’s nothing I can do, for any of it. “It’ll hurt until it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
That’s the thing about feelings- The sad ones and the happy ones; the pure bliss and the darkest hours; the tingle of new love and the dull, low, burn of anxiety and dread. The ones you want to last forever and the ones you hope you never experience again-
You feel them, all of them. Until you don’t.