Always love yourself

Is it narcissistic to confess that I have been enjoying more then just a pinch of the old – me and me bonding time recently? I had forgotten the pleasures of a room, a double bed, food and the Guardian – all of the sections. At my own leisure on a Sunday, I now read the entire magazine front to back – all of the features and columns. I don’t feel guilty that I am not doing anything more productive, just accept that this is me time. I revel in the feeling of the warm cover between my toes. Stretching and turning the page. Not going anywhere, and not trying to please anyone in the entire world but me.

I have to confess, I probably wouldn’t have noticed any of this recently, if I hadn’t have been dumped. Yes, there it is – the confession that I’m not so good at figuring out what the hell I am doing with my life sometimes. There is no doubt that in a relationship we often lose sight of who we are as individuals and it’s often only when experiencing Cuore Depresso, or a broken heart to you and me, that you really and truly start to appreciate yourself again. It also gives way for a lot of productivity (In fact, its rumoured Einstein was going through a break-up when he discovered his theory of relativity).
Free of the love-fuzz that can encompasses everything like sticky, annoying candy-floss; I have found myself becoming something of a human dynamo again (that is, productive, not highly explosive, though probably a bit of both some days).    


But should it take a break up for us to learn to appreciate ourselves in all our womanly, goddess-like glory? Why should someone breaking our heart end up making us feel better when we should feel worse? Why can’t we notice these things without the pain?

Perhaps it’s because pain is part of life and healing is a new beginning. I am now taking simple pleasures to a new level. It’s like a religion for the newly single.

Planning my year and what I am going to do, because all I have to think about now is me. As a result I am going on a two week holiday with a friend in May, I’m thinking about moving house soon and making big changes. I am focusing on my career. Doing small things like taking up jogging. Not to mention the laughs I have had on nights out. The soul-searching and deeply touching conversations with friends and family which I would have never had, had this not happened, have been great. The laughter and the crying have been cathartic. The grabbing life by its two balls and feeling the pain – like stubbing your toe and really enjoying every second of it, in a perverse fashion, because at least it reminds you you’re alive. But also how strong that you can survive anything – a reminder of how durable and effective a machine you are, just when you thought you were at your weakest. 

It might also be mentioning for anyone reading who is going through a break-up, it wasn’t always this good – but you do eventually get there so hang in and keep positive (even though for a week or so that information won’t help as your relationship was totally different and special, right? And no two people will ever feel that way about one another like you did?) Yeah, right.


It’s all very technical really. And in fact scientists have proved that people going through a break-up experience similar symptoms to a person going through cocaine and heroine withdrawal. The same part of the brain is affected. And when you look at it logically, love is a drug like any of the rest of them.
The terrifying stages of week one and two must not be forgotten in haste, however. The horror that is a broken heart isn’t easy to endure and is no mean feat for the human body to endure (especially when you don’t help your body by starting smoking again, ahem, not that I did.) There’s the racing heart, the sleepless nights, the worry, the stress – the binge drinking… In fact it is probably a lot less palatable then a broken leg or something physical. I do believe I uttered the words “Would rather have been diagnosed with terminal cancer,” which on reflection were something of an exaggeration.


But now I’m out of the initial horrendous rollercoaster first week where I resembled something akin to Britney mixed with a Tyrannosaurus Rex and made it to week two – tentative steps to feeling better, less like a Tyrannosaurus, more like a Pterodactyl.

Then, I started to wake up with a strange sense of excitement in the pit of my stomach again. But I couldn’t put my finger on what the feeling was attributed to as I had nothing to be excited about in particular. Then I realised it was remembering how cool and successful I can be on my own. Remembering my own belief systems and what I want from life. Not needing anyone. Not being anxious or scared about losing someone and not spending time analysing things or wondering or worrying about the future.


And then I got a call. It was like I had graduated, I was into week three and could move up to the next level – the ‘I still think about it but have a lot of happy points in my day where I can forget,’ stage. One of my closest friends rang me from Germany – her boyfriend of ten years had just dumped her. I listened to the crying and the wailing and the “but he was my best friend” and “but what will I do now” and the “how will I survive the next two weeks?” And it was like looking at myself again but in a time machine – or I suppose, listening to myself back on a Dictaphone, if you want to be less Back to the Future about it.

 I could listen for hours and really empathise and care and understand how she was feeling. She thanked me many times and we are in regular touch now as I help her get through the worst. Friends, I realised, at the most essential for getting through a break-up without breaking-up with yourself and losing the plot.

And as an aside, something else I had been musing – Germaine Greer argued in her book, The Female Eunuch, that women do not realise how much men hate them, and how much they are taught to hate themselves – but is this true?

And if it is, is it possible that men really do hate women are so many male/female relationships doomed to failure?

Today I read a feature that put it all into perspective. There was a woman in her 60s whose late-husband had recently broken her heart from the grave. After their 46 marriage (she had met him when she was just 17) and their four children, he died and then she found a stash of gay porn in his drawer. This rendered her entire marriage, and life, something she no longer recognised – a lie, almost. She had to rethink and alter so many memories of her life with this new information. And now she would never, ever get answers to this violent and heart-wrenchingly betrayal. She spoke about her grief at losing him, together with her grief of whether he had really ever loved her – and in what way, and how he had hid it – her sadness for him having to live a lie and her sense of betrayal that these men in a magazine could do the job which was meant to be reserved for her and only her.

Similarly, although they are different, a broken heart is a broken heart in any form and in some ways all grief must mirror these feelings. Urge for answers – like a compulsive need to search every tiny memory in your brain for clues about why this has really happened so you never need to be this unprepared again. And trying to find reason behind heartbreak and someone hurting you is as cloudy, as lengthy and as utterly tiring as searching for meaning in a poem. You might be right, and you think you’re right – but then you find another angle, someone says something else and you’ve changed your mind in a split second. You’ve gone from finality, to hope, to utter despair again. You go through ups and down and positives and negatives. Eventually, you accept the poem for what it is and you shut the book.

I have had moments where I feel intense anger but mostly I have just been sad. Other moments its like you’re only learning it for the first time and the shock is brutal. Mostly now, after the three weeks I just miss him, but acceptance has started to kick in its own painful way. It will now turn from what feels like vicious stab wounds to a dull ache that will gradually erase and heal itself over time. Until its a memory which makes me feel almost nothing and which I can view with a worldly-wise mix of affection, sadness, happiness and above all, detachment.

I can see now, I was as much the guilty party for letting myself fall into the trap of losing who I was and forgetting to love myself. That was my fault alone. Perhaps I am better single for this reason. I will definitely, if I live long enough of course, love again. And if I go through heartache again it will be just as bloody a battle with myself. But I’ll know the next time perhaps that I’ll be okay. Every relationship is different and thus, every heartbreak different. The worn out cliques don’t cut it – you have to do it in your own time, your own way. There is no ‘right way’ or no rules. Just don’t forget to always, always keep loving number one. Because at the end of the day, what would you be without you?