“You’re not going to truly get over him until you date someone new.”
I heard these words time and time again after my last breakup, a crushingly painful break-up that left me heartbroken and my self-confidence shattered. From friends and colleagues to well-meaning Uber drivers, these words were always stated matter-of-factly. Sometimes they were even preceded by a dramatic pause, which was particularly annoying as I would eagerly lean in ready to receive some super-secret knowledge. Because I was sincerely grateful for their sympathy and touched by their genuine desire to help, I would usually respond with “Gosh, you’re totally right! Thank you!!” but what I wanted to blurt out was “Um. Duh. Obviously. What do you think I’ve been trying to do these last few years? Don’t you think I’ve been trying to date? Do you think I like feeling like this?”
So as I often do when given unsolicited advice, I listened politely, carefully considered their points and then promptly ignored everything they said. Instead, I threw myself into exercise, took up golf lessons, joined Toastmasters to improve my public speaking skills, developed a strong network of friendships, volunteered, joined a board and travelled as much as possible. I went on dates here and there and tried my best to give these guys a chance but more out of a fear that Darren the Uber driver was right and that being alone would cement my fate of being heartbroken forever and I’d have no one to blame but myself.
Years passed and I was still single. And yet somehow I had managed to move on. Sure, I still had moments of sadness when I was triggered by certain thoughts or smells or memories. But I could honestly say that I felt so much better. I just couldn’t articulate why.
A few months ago, I stumbled across a quote that said moving on isn’t about meeting someone new, it’s about caring about something else more. Looking back now, I realize that is what I had done. I had cared about this guy so much. I had felt stuck because despite all of my dates, I hadn’t found someone whom I cared about more and that in turn had made me feel worse. But what I did care about was feeling healthy and strong and happy and confident and subconsciously I had sought out activities that would help me feel that way.
It was not an easy road and I stumbled a lot along the way. I cringe when I think of the times that I stalked his social media (please tell me we’ve all been there?) and searched obsessively for clues as to what he was up to, who was he dating and what did that say about me and what I lacked. It’s a dangerous rabbit hole to get trapped in. The only way that I climbed out was to consider what I cared about more. Did I want to see who he was with last Friday night? Absolutely. But what I wanted more was to feel happy and appreciated and beautiful and good enough. When I framed the question in that way, my desire to let go of any toxic behaviors outweighed the temptation to log onto Instagram and torture myself.
If you’re very lucky, you actually do find someone new. In my case, that someone new was my sweet niece, Ava. I love Ava unconditionally. It’s weird to love someone so much that you don’t even care how much they love you back (she’s only 2 years old so I forgive her for not being able to exclaim “I love you THE MOST, Aunt Liz!” even though I’m confident that I’m her fave). My desire to move on in a healthy way was motivated partly by my desire to be a role model for her and to show her that you’re not alone as long as you have love in your life.
Nakita Gill is one of my favorite poets and she wrote this powerful poem about love and moving on.
“The Truth About Your Heart”
Your heart will fix itself.
It’s your mind you need to worry about.
Your mind where you locked the memories,
your mind where you have kept pieces of the ones that hurt you,
that still cut through you like shards of glass.
Your mind will keep you up at night, make you cry,
destroy you over and over again.
You need to convince your mind that it has to let go…
because your heart already knows how to heal.
Your body — including your heart — has the tremendous ability to heal itself. As I wish someone had told me years ago, it’s not about finding someone new. It’s about finding someone or something that you care about more. Even if that someone is yourself and that something is your happiness and peace of mind.