When Mr. Fire and I parted ways, I was sincerely shocked.
He became ancy and distant in the matter of a weekend, and within a week or so, all was finished. He ended everything outside of the library on our campus and it’s been the only time I’ve been thankful for bug-eyed sunglasses. I never wanted him to see my tears. I believe I would have been fine, I would have overcome the split easier and with a bit more class if he wouldn’t have started dating someone the very next day. Facebook displayed pictures as a nice slap in the face to his “I just don’t want a relationship” excuse and I spent the weekend down by the North Carolina shore, drinking and talking to God on the beach.
The worst of it at the time, though wasn’t the weekend that followed. It was the next few weeks that just happened to be during exams and my final weeks before I moved to New York for a summer internship. If I was going to be on my A-game for Cosmopolitan, I had better get over this dude and get over him fast – I couldn’t let my career be in jeopardy over a rugby player, now could I?
And so I did what every girl does when she’s mulling over a man: I defriended him on Facebook (only to add him back a year later when we could entertain a friendship), I rekindled a workout regimen to get my mind off of things (and to look super-duper sexy), I used what was left of my meal plan to buy far too much candy and ice cream (so much for those miles logged at the gym) and I avoided him (and her) at all costs. I threw myself into the school newspaper and I prepared for my summer away like a crazy woman, setting up networking lunches, making lists of all I wanted to see and do while I was there, and sending my friends incredibly long emails that now, I just write on these pages.
All of these tactics worked in my favor and throughout the day, I appeared fine. I didn’t miss deadlines and I didn’t tear-up in class. I didn’t curse his name or their relationship (they are still going strong and from what I can tell from frozen faces on Facebook, they are happy) and I did all that I could to build up the confidence that’s always smashed when someone decides to pass you up.
But then night would come.
I’m not sure what it is about darkness that makes you retreat back into the darkness within yourself, but going to sleep was hell. After a few restless nights, I invested in Tylonel PM and my mom sent me calcium tablets which apparently make you relax. My body quickly rejected both of these methods and I was left again, tossing and turning, trying to calm my mind so my spirit would ease. This was one of the first times in my adult life that I experienced what it was like to go without sleep, yet be haunted by dreams that wouldn’t come true. But it wasn’t really my racing mind or my sore body that kept me awake, it wasn’t even missing Mr. Fire really. What kept me from falling asleep was my own heart. Now, I know that it was beating so hard I could hear it out of anxiety (normal reaction to a breakup) but at the time, I thought:
This must be what it sounds and feels like when your heart literally breaks.
No matter if I laid on my stomach or my side, my back or curled up as tightly as my 5’4″ frame would allow, my heart would pound out of my chest so vibrantly that I couldn’t catch a good breath. Finally, after a week or so of un-sleep, I decided to hold my own heart. It was almost like a motherly reaction, an instinctive move to place my palms on top of my chest, as if I’m soothing something fragile: Hush now, it’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. Calm down.
It didn’t surrender easily. It put up a strong opposition, continuing to race and threaten to bring tears to my eyes, though at that point, I was too tired to really cry anymore. But eventually, with some real effort on my end, I put my heart so sleep.
And once it gave in, once it relaxed and allowed me to sincerely get the rest I needed, I started feeling much better. I started sleeping regularly again, placing my palms on my chest nightly to insure it didn’t feel alone or abandoned. Like I needed to be reminded that I would love again, my heart needed to know that it could rest now, that it didn’t need to worry anymore, that the past person it loved was gone, but there would be more. It needed to know it was alright to let go, it was okay to sleep.
I got through those initial first weeks by holding my heart, and that’s how I get through anything that really upsets me now. Anytime I’m feeling anxiety or I’m really upset, I just hold my heart. I say soothing words until my body releases, my mind stops churning and my heart gives up its fearful rhythm. That was the first time I realized how much power I have over my own body. That no matter how much trouble it felt or how much pain I was going through, I could cope.
And I could do it alone with my own two hands.