Me and Blooberoni. Our forever is expected to last approx. 12-14 years. As captured by Meg Parsons (megparsons.com)
At some level we are all hopeless romantics. As kids you call each other BFFs. Then you fantasize about the house you’re going to buy with your boyfriend. You sign a marriage contract. But, more often than not, life happens; your BFF starts hanging out with those cooler girls, you break up with your boyfriend, you get a divorce. And then, in a classic coming of age moment (which can happen at any age!), life goes on. So it goes.
Sometimes a break up is a slow burn, like when you realize you’re drifting apart from your high school best friend, and you couldn’t imagine laughing at any party without them, but here you are having a great time at a dorm party, surrounded by new faces you didn’t know you’d meet.
Sometimes you’re blindsided, like when you’re sitting at home day dreaming of the things you’d love to do with the person you’re dating, silently imagining the future, when suddenly you get a call, they say it’s over, and they’re gone just like that.
It’s the BIG break ups that hit you the hardest, the ones that change you. It’s the moment you realize the future isn’t guaranteed. No relationship in your life can be taken for granted. For me, it’s absolutely terrifying. For me it’s like imagining what it’d be like to live without the other half of my brain. Completely uncharted territory.
I am particularly anxious about losing important people in my life, but especially my friends. Your family’s gotta stick around out of familial obligation, and like, official perks that someone wrote into the law, but friends are the family you choose. Society doesn’t have like, contracts for best friendship-hood. It’s not like I’ve ever had a best friend who suddenly turned their back. The anxiety stems from the fact that once upon a time it was ME who decided to leave. The one person who I felt could understand me like no other, whose memory holds my same memories, who I felt needed me as much as I needed them. And if I could do that to someone I loved so much at one point, leave and never tell them why… then it could happen to me too.
I genuinely feel like I understand what divorce is like. When you have shared so much of your life together you lose track of whether or not you like a thing, or if you like it because they liked it, you lose you identity as an individual. You have to reestablish your identity from the basics like, do I like the color yellow? Because you always instinctively avoided the colour because they hated yellow. Like, after spending most of your life with this person it’s always a sad ending. Because the beginning was so good. How did you get here? Where did the good go bad? The moment you decided that staying would drain you of the life you still have left to live.
Life lesson number one: you cannot negotiate with narcissists.
Life lesson number two: leave bad relationships ASAP.
Life lesson number three: establish a strong sense of self as early as possible. N.B. May require you to have a big breakthrough/break down. As they say, “fail big, fail early.”
I always feel like whatever I want to say, Taylor Swift said it better.
“You are an expert at sorry,
And keeping the lines blurry
Never impressed by me acing your tests
All the girls that you’ve run dry
Have tired, lifeless eyes
‘Cause you burned them out
But I took your matches before fire could catch me,
So don’t look now, I’m shining like fireworks over your sad, empty town” – Dear John, Speak Now, 2014
TAKE AWAY THE MATCHES BEFORE YOU GET BURNED.
I had a really good reason I left. I even know the exact moment I said, “I’m done.” But yet, for some reason I still feel like the same could happen to me. My anxiety brain has taken advantage of this many times, at times totally paralyzing me with panic.
Yet, we still lose people we love. It happens all the time. For example: Your best friend starts dating someone. Without realizing it, they start spending all their time with them, instead of you. Or the new person they’re dating doesn’t want them to hang out with you.
I was watching Downton Abbey when I finally found my antidote to this particular anxiety: Time is finite. Love isn’t. Just because someone starts spending their time with someone new, doesn’t mean their love for you is any less. (Mrs. Patmore explains this to Daisy at one point, and even though I never cared for Daisy, this one remark came at me like a grand revelation.) But like, you should still probably voice your concerns and tell the other person exactly what they need to do to make you feel loved. I really think that everyone should know their love languages. (It will change your approach to relationships, I swear).
If you’re like me and terrified of losing an important person in your life, the person who’s loss tomorrow would feel like the end of the world, remember that there’s still today. You can still make memories with them today. And look around at all the people who love you. You aren’t alone. Even without that one very special person, the world will keep spinning. If your best friend won’t be around tomorrow, remember, we’ve all lost friends to time. But the beginning of a new relationship doesn’t begin at the end of another one. They usually cross timelines. Most change comes slow, and endings only make sense in hindsight.
I have also found so much comfort in the wisdom of Taylor Swift. Her song Clean is all about moving on, but it was her series of “Clean Speeches” that she gave before she sang the song every night on her 1989 World Tour that really got me. And the night I saw her in Toronto, I swear she said exactly what I needed to hear at the time and I have since gleaned endless wisdom from it.
“here’s the thing about when you’re heartbroken. i think about it a lot. i think that for people who are heart broken it’s almost like time slows down to a much more gradual pace. and you’re walking around and you feel like heart break is written across your forehead like everyone else can see it. and i think they worst part about heart break is that if you think about what it takes to let some body into your life, what it takes to fall in love, or even just trust someone enough to make a new friend. it takes vulnerability, it takes letting down your walls and letting someone in and it takes trusting someone. and i think the worst part about when your heart is broken, or when you get betrayed or when somebody leaves you is that the first thing you do is that you start regretting letting them in, trusting them, and being vulnerable. and you sit there and you think i’m so stupid, why did i do that, why did i trust that person, why didn’t i play mind games with them. you’re supposed to mess with people’s heads, that’s what everyone says, but i just let them in. why did i do that. and i just want you to know that can regret a lot of things in life, and regrets are valid, but trusting someone, letting someone in, and being vulnerable are not valid regrets. you should never feel stupid for doing any of those things.
so then you have to move on, right? and you have to replace all these habits of the places where you let that person into your life and you have to fill in the holes where you made space for them. and it’s hard in the beginning i’m sure, but then what might end up happening is maybe you start replacing all the time you spent with that person with your friends who actually care about you and still want to be there.
and maybe the decisions you start to make are no longer based on what someone that you’re in love with might want you to do. maybe they’re based only on what you want to do. and little by little we start filling in the gaps and more and more each day time passes and you start to forget that you felt like heartbreak was written across your forehead and you felt like you were painted with it.
and then one day whether it’s a year later, or a month later, three years later or seven days later.
you look in the mirror and you don’t see heartbreak written anywhere on you anymore and in that moment, in that moment you’re clean.” – 1989 Tour, Toronto, Night 1
And my favourite part of the song is:
“Ten months sober, I must admit
Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it
Ten months older I won’t give in
Now that I’m clean I’m never gonna risk it ” – Clean, 1989, 2014
We will all come out the other end okay. Now after writing this I hope my anxiety brain will cool it on this topic.