Do you remember the first time you had the air forcefully knocked out of your chest? Maybe it was from falling off of the monkey bars at recess, or possibly it was the head-on collision you had on the soccer field. However it happened, it was horrifying. Your body lay frozen in fear, as you attempted to gulp pieces of air and fleeting energy back into your chest. Your stomach cramped up like a stone, and you thought for a moment that you might have actually forgotten how to breathe. You realized you couldn’t scream and you were left for a few seconds feeling helpless and confused.
Then, all at once, air flooded your chest again. You had to pick yourself back up after what felt like a life-ending injury, only to realize in a few minutes that it was all over. You ended up braver and more understanding. You ended up laughing with your friends on the sidelines about your spill. You were still there. You were still OK.
Heartbreak is gasping for air and not understanding why it has escaped you to begin with. Heartbreak is that feeling you had when you weren’t sure if you remembered how to breathe, and how to keep yourself alive. Heartbreak is being frozen in fear that you will not be able to save yourself. The piece of this that no one seems to talk about, is the pain and confusion of those moments after you realize you’re OK.
When you first lose the person you are in love with, you like to plant a little hope in the back of your mind, like a seed just waiting to be nourished. You may even tell yourself it’s just for now, and you aren’t really going to lose them. You also aren’t yet convinced in the slightest that your lives could really be better off without each other. How could they be? You were in love. He or she was your best friend and partner. You built so many parts of your lives together. How then could those lives be better off separate? The reality is that the truth has to break you before it can heal you.
It’s not that you stop missing them all together. It’s not that you don’t ever long for the sound of their laugh. It’s not that you forget how silly and perfect they would look singing and dancing in the car. It’s not that the memories of running into their arms after time apart don’t still make you feel a familiar warmth in your soul. It’s not that you forget what it felt like to love them, it’s just that you remember what it feels like to love yourself, and to love the beauty of being alive.
Your world starts to change around you, and opportunities begin to arise in places you never considered before. The stress and sadness fades. You aren’t walking on eggshells anymore. You aren’t worried you may do something wrong, or worse, that there is something wrong with you. You don’t feel the pressure to try to save a relationship that wasn’t meant to be saved. You are overwhelmed with chances to learn and explore. You start rejoicing in your independence. You start remembering how much you adore the people in your life, and you find that time spent with them is incredible. You even start opening your heart to new people who find you charming and beautiful, and want to fight for your time. You start accidentally becoming happier than you have in a long time, and it’s terrifyingly strange.
At first, you may try to resist. You try to hold on to the person life is inadvertently helping you let go of. You may try anything to grasp at pieces of them, because even you can’t believe what is happening. There comes a time though that the happiness builds confidence, and the confidence builds bravery. Then you start to let go.
You are no longer blind to reality. You see everything around you. You see the reasons your relationship had to end, and the unavoidable negative impact it was having on your life. You see how you held each other back in ways you refused to see before. You see a version of yourself that you are proud of, and everyone around you sees it too. You even see the person you loved being happy as well, and working towards his or her own goals and aspirations. You want what is best for that person, and for the first time since you fell in love with them, you know it isn’t you.
As I wrote that last sentence, my eyes welled up with tears, and a smile painted my face. Real love never disappears, it just changes for the better. Sometimes it takes falling out of romantic love with someone else to truly be able to fall in love with your life. We are made to love and lose. We are made to break and build. We are made to be human. We are made to live. Life is hard, and it will have to knock the wind out of you. It can even be terrifying when you get back up. However, the journey is worth every rise and fall. It is worth it to have the air knocked out of you, if you can also have moments that take your breath away.