When a heart breaks

The first time I got my heart broken, it was fifth grade, Valentine’s Day.

I’ve had this terribly huge crush on a schoolmate for a while now. He knew I liked him, because I told him, and ever since then I’ve been acting all weird around him so we weren’t really “friends.” Valentine’s day was fast approaching, and I wanted to give him something. I saw this pair of heart-shaped pins in our school’s bookstore, and being a romantic sap, I bought them. I put his heart (haha) in a little box that I decorated myself and asked a friend to give it to him. I didn’t see him accept it, but my friend told me he did, and I was elated.

Hours later, as I was waiting for my service to fetch me from school, my crush’s classmate came knocking at the classroom door. She handed me the box with the pin, and told me that she heard that my crush was planning to give it to the girl he liked. She told him off, took the gift, and brought it back to me. I thanked her and waited for my ride home quietly. As soon as I got home, a friend came over to ask what happened, and I burst into tears.

It was the first time I ever cried over a boy.

* * *

The last time I got my heart broken, I was a mess.

As in, a total, absolute mess. I cried all day. I cried all week. There was a moment when I was curled up in bed and crying when a part of me wanted to laugh, because I realized that all those rom-com movie/romance novel cliches where the main character talks about how she can’t eat and can’t sleep, and all she wanted to do was curl into herself, cry and wish for the pain to disappear was actually real. I wanted to laugh because I didn’t think it would ever happen to me, but I was there and it damn it, it all hurt. I wanted to laugh, but the urge to cry was stronger, and the pain just kept on banging in my heart.

I didn’t stay in bed the whole week, but I could cry at the snap of a finger. At work? Oh, of course. I had a pack of tissues beside me for the week, and I could easily finish the entire thing in a day. My teammates were sympathetic, and tried to make me laugh several times. A text message comes, and my eyes start brimming with tears. Crying in the shower? Oh, I’ve done that, several times. Complete with background music, because sometimes you needed effects to accompany you as you wonder when your tears will ever, ever run out.

And it’s true, too, how you just lose the zest to fix yourself after the shock of the heartbreak has worn off. I didn’t want to wear contact lenses or put on make-up because I’m going to cry later anyway, and it’s just futile effort. My eyes were constantly swollen, and because my defense mechanism was so awesome, I got allergy attacks when I cry too much. So I drink knock-out allergy meds at night to get rid of the sneezes and to help me get to sleep.

Funny thing is, I wasn’t even crying about lost love – only the possibility of it. See, nothing was ever official, and it would have gone on longer if I hadn’t decided to speak up and finally ask The Question I was scared of asking. I didn’t really lose him at that time, because we were still friends (sort of). I was crying because the thing that fueled me – the possibility of something wonderful – became an impossibility, and I didn’t know how to deal.

But like I learned sometime ago, you don’t cry forever. You really don’t. When the tears finally subsided, and I stopped randomly crying at every moment, I had to face an even tougher question: what now?

* * *

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Alone is okay

I’ve always been surrounded by people. I’ve been trying to remember a time when I wasn’t, when I was utterly and completely alone, but I can’t. I guess there were some times back in freshman year in high school, when I had a bit of trouble fitting in with my group of friends in my section, but even then I had friends to eat with during lunch break, and friends to hang out with after school.

I remember back in college, the first time I took a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, and I was an ISTJ. I didn’t understand it back then, but I find it funny now that I was ever labeled an introvert (I’m an ESFJ now, FYI). Now when I tell people that I’m an introvert, no one believes me, because like I said, I’ve always been surrounded by people. I’m not exactly the friendliest person around because I haven’t really mastered the art of asking questions, but I could hold my own well with a group of new people. I like being with people. Not in the party-in-the-club or in the shopping-crowd way, but you know, spending time with people I love. It’s one of the easiest ways to keep my love tank full.

But.

A few weeks ago, I shut down. No, no, perhaps shut down isn’t the right term for it. I shut up. It started with something, an exhaustion of some sort that just hit me one day that got me gnashing my teeth, sort of, because I was so tired about that one thing that just. won’t. quit. So I shut up, and sat back, perhaps even staring stonily at the distance. But after that particular feeling has passed, I kept at it — the keeping quiet, not the stony staring into the distance. I felt like being quiet for a change, not be really “around”, fade into the background and sit and watch as opposed to always having something to say. Okay, this “fading” was really meant for my online life, where I had this sort of “omnipresence” that my friends teased me about. (I mean, really. I just happen to be online all the time when things happen or show up on my feed. How can I not react?) When I shut up, I stopped looking at the things on my feed. I mean, sure, I browse and react sometimes, but other than that, I just didn’t say anything.

It was nice, not saying anything. It was nice to be an observer for a while.

I bought a present for myself last Christmas, something that I finished reading within five minutes but I didn’t regret getting: How to be Alone by Tanya Davis. I spotted the book while looking for a gift for some friends, and I knew that I wanted it as soon as I recognized the poem inside. I know, I know, I could read it online and even watch the video over and over again, but the book had illustrations, and I wanted to own something that had it. Something I could keep going back to whenever I needed to read it, to soak in the words and to dig for nuggets of wisdom in each page of that short poem with each reread. My favorite parts:

If you are at first lonely, be patient.

If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren’t okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.

howtobealone

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To wish love on your pain

About a month ago, I attended my first The Better Story Project workshop entitled Love in 8 Chapters. It was about love, obviously, and I attended because: (1) I figure it’s about time I attended one; (2) Isa is a good friend of mine; and (3) it’s about love, and everyone knows I’m a romantic sap.1

I went to the workshop, ears, heart, and mind open, because I wanted to learn things about love. Things I don’t know, or remind myself of the things I knew but somehow forgot. It was a great night, and yes, I did learn a lot, and I’ve been meaning to blog about them but somehow I couldn’t find the words until now. There are several things that I want to write about, but for today, I will focus on these lines that the speaker shared, something she wrote in her journal some years back:

To set yourself free, you need to remember to love again. To sincerely wish love on the source of your pain, without want for anything in return.

That was all I got to copy when it was flashed on the screen, but it was enough. I kept on going back to this in the past days and weeks, especially during my prayer time. It’s a lovely, lovely thought, but it’s a hard one to really live out. To sincerely wish love on the source of my painAre you crazy? I’ve always thought that I could really, truly and sincerely say “I’m happy for you” when the time came that I need to say it, but the time did come and it killed me that I couldn’t say it. Because guess what? I’m not happy.

Okay, fine, I mean, I am happy, sort of, because other people are happy, but I am not happy for myself. And it’s so hard to say you’re happy for someone when inside it all feels like just a big lie. Who was I kidding, anyway?

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my ego talking right there. Down, ego. Down.

But what did I quote about joy again, at the start of the year?

Because joy and delight are not happy feelings: they are the choices to let love win. They are the choice to trust love triumphant.

I’ve been going back to what Carisse, the speaker in the workshop, said, and then back to that line about joy. It’s hard to wish love and joy on the source of your pain, because of the simple fact that they are the source of your pain. But think about it this way, too: somehow, the source of your pain isn’t solely just another person, but also, you.

In a way, I am also a source of my pain. Of course, I don’t mean to hurt myself, but there were many times that I did some things that caused me pain unintentionally. Or, you know, sometimes they are intentional, but in the figurative sense. More often than not, our actions and words and thoughts also become a source of our own pain. Like when we can’t let go of something. Or when we refuse to forgive. We don’t just refuse to let go or forgive others, but we also refuse to let go of our faults and forgive ourselves in the process.

So in a sense, wishing love and joy on the source of our pain is also wishing love and joy for ourselves. Right?

sighnomore

It’s hard, but I’m working on it. I’m working on choosing to take delight even when it’s painful, to wish love and joy on others and myself, even when it’s the last thing I ever want to do. Because joy is what happens when you let love win, even if it’s hard and painful.

I mean, just look at Jesus on the cross. That’s pain right there, the one we brought about because of our sins. But guess what? More than pain, that’s also love. The most triumphant love, ever.

And it’s the kind of love that has and will always set us free.

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  1. Not lately, though, but that’s another story. []