Sunday, June 3, 2012

What I know about love and the surefire way to heal a wounded heart

This post was commissioned by the lovely Therese Schwenkler of the seriously-you-should-be-reading-this blog The Unlost who asked if I might be willing to write something about love and heartbreak for a blog post celebrating her one year "single-versary." She was hoping I would provide some wisdom and hope for women who are currently dealing with heartbreak and/or loneliness.

I welcomed such a noble (if not daunting) challenge and here is what I came up with...

Bob and I just celebrated nine years of marriage. And we've been together for twelve. I haven't had to go out on any first dates in a very long time. Mark Zuckerberg was 16 when Bob and I started dating, so thankfully Facebook wasn't a part of my single womanhood. I'm a thirty-six year old woman with a husband, a toddler and a Pug Dog... so how the hell can I relate to someone who is single and heartbroken?

Well, it's true. I can't completely relate to where you are right now. In this world. But I have been there. And what I can tell you is this... as much as it hurts, as much as it seems like you'll never be happy again, as much as you can't go a day without crying or at least trying not to cry, as much as you want to just shut yourself away from the world for a little while...

You alone are responsible for your own happiness.

I'll say it again. (This time with feeling.)

You alone are responsible for your own happiness.
This piece of advice was given to me by my stepmom Silvia following a particularly bad breakup when I was 24. I was having such a terrible time getting past being dumped. I couldn't go a day without wallowing in my misery. I felt cheated and lost and hopelessly sad. It was all very dramatic. One day on my way home from work, I was on the phone crying to my stepmom (who had been a wonderful listener during my weeks of wallowing) when she said this to me.
Our conversation went a little something like this (I reserve the right to paraphrase... a lot):

ME: It hurts so much. It's so unfair. (blubber blubber, sniff sniff) I don't know how I'll ever be happy again...

SILVIA: The thing is, you alone are responsible for your own happiness.

ME: But, you don't understaaaaaaaaand--

SILVIA: You alone are responsible for your own happiness. Not a guy. Not a relationship. Not your mom. Not your dad. Not your job. Not your circumstances. You.



ME: But--


ME: Okay.

And it hit me. Not right away. But soon after that conversation I realized she was right. If I was responsible for my own happiness, then I could just be happy. Now. I didn't have to wait for anything to happen. I didn't have to wait for the pain to go away. I didn't have to wait for his new relationship to crash and burn in order to show him how amazing I was compared to her and how wrong he was for dumping me. No. In fact, I could just be happy. More than that. It was my JOB to be happy. No one else's job. MY job.

But how do you just be happy? You begin by getting that outside circumstances have absolutely nothing to do with your happiness. Then you start doing things that happy people do. At least that's what I did. I engaged in my life. As a single woman. I empowered myself. I determined to kick ass as a smart and single twenty-four year old. I signed up for a 500-mile bike ride for charity with my mom (it was my very smart and kick butt mom's idea.) And then I began training for that ride. Raising money and riding my bike all over Chicago for a cause far bigger than myself. This ride was the AIDS ride and raised money for people living with AIDS. Doing that made all the difference.

I was up to something and loving life. I realized that had I still been in that relationship, I probably never would have done this ride. It was such a fulfilling experience. And it completely had me get how powerful those words "You alone are responsible for your own happiness" really are.

The best part of the story comes now.

I met my husband training for that ride.

Our first date was the ride itself. 500 miles over six days from Minneapolis to Chicago. We fell in love in bike shorts and helmets, pedaling up steep hills, in wind and rain, through knee pain and sore butts.

I was never one to believe in love at first sight, but by the end of that ride I knew I would spend the rest of my life with him. That ride has been a metaphor for our life together. Ups and downs, pain and tears.

Love never gets easy. The most rewarding relationships are hard fought. What I've learned from our 12-year-relationship (that has been far from perfect, by the way) is that love isn't saying yes once and hoping it lasts. It's saying yes over and over and over again and especially when everything seems impossible. Saying yes in the good times and especially the bad. That's love. That's our love. We just keep doing it.

Throughout our marriage, Silvia's advice has come to mind many times over. "You alone are responsible for your own happiness." Not anyone else. Not ever. Not only when you're single, but also when you're in a committed relationship. And especially when you're married. Trust me. I've tried to make Bob responsible for my happiness. It does not work. So, please don't even try it. You can outsource a lot of things these days, but not your happiness. Why would you want to?

So, I guess that's my advice for anyone who is brokenhearted and/or lonely.

Make being happy your new occupation. 

Go out and surprise yourself with how awesome and amazing you are. Do a bike ride for charity. Sign up for a 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk. Raise money for an important cause close to your heart. Learn to play the saxophone. Take a tap dancing class. Volunteer at your local shelter. Deliver meals on wheels. Write that novel you've always dreamed of writing. Be someone who inspires happiness in others.

Be. Happy. Now. Yes. Right now. You deserve it.

Thanks, Therese for inviting me to write this post. It had me realize that I write way more about foreclosure and debt than I do about love. I've been neglecting the LOVE part of this blog. No more.

Now that you've read this, it would be so great if you would comment below with your advice to the lonely and temporarily brokenhearted.

And DEFINITELY go read the inspiration for this post- Therese's one-year single-versary blog post about love:

Rewriting the Great Love Stories of Our Time - The Unlost

Check out the other wise women contributing posts to The Unlost's post on love:

The Road to Transformation - Further Bound

Guest Post, The Unlost: Stories of Our Time - [According to Aletheia]

Later today there will be another related post up on Expat at Home.

P.S. If you liked this post, please share it. You know what to do. Danke!
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