One year ago today, my life changed forever.
Exactly one year ago today, “The Single Woman” was born…in an incubator of heartbreak and heartache…a resilient, spirited, feisty female who rose from the ashes of the destruction of everything she’d known and got busy on the construction of a journey into the unknown. She took her first steps on shaky legs and emerged from the cave of an unhealthy relationship with more than a little uncertainty…but she found that the further she walked, the stronger her stride became and the louder her broken heart sang.
One year ago today, I stopped fighting the fight and started to heal…because I stopped being polite and started getting real.
October 13, 2009 was the day I walked away from my boyfriend of a year and a half.
I had just returned home from a cross-country road trip with my father to Arizona where I had been in one of my best friend’s weddings, celebrating love and laughter and new beginnings…and even catching the bouquet at the reception…typically a sign that I might be the next girl to wed.
A little past Little Rock, though…I knew that the only ring in my near future would be the sound of my own inner Liberty Bell ringing, as I declared my independence from a toxic relationship…one that had left me bruised, broken, beat down, and sick and tired of being sick and tired. I haven’t discussed this relationship much at all in previous columns…but it was that life-changing, destiny-defining relationship that was going to either heal me or kill me. You know the one. The one that you KNOW you don’t belong in…but fear and habit and complacency keep you trapped in it like quicksand? The one where you’re unable to stay but unwilling to go? Or, as Liz Gilbert puts it in Eat Pray Love: “The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.” I was trapped in a prison of my own making…having abandoned pretty much all of my friends because I couldn’t face the truth that I knew would be mirrored in their faces that I NEEDED TO GET OUT OF THIS RELATIONSHIP. I had lost myself completely in this person…in his lies and emotional unavailability and inability to love me like I deserved to be loved. I didn’t know how to walk away from someone, who, for all intents and purposes, was my best friend, my lifeline, my probable future husband. How do you exit a relationship when your nieces adore him and you share belongings with him and your lives have somehow merged into one entity without you even realizing it?
You take a deep breath, you say the words that you never imagined yourself saying, and you walk away. Battle-scarred and scared and unsure about the future as you may be…when you KNOW in your heart that this is not the person God and the Universe intended for you to be with…there is no other option but to walk away. You cannot allow yourself to settle for a party of two that you know is wrong just because the place settings and his name on the invitation next to yours look nice. Leaving the comfortable shell of a long-term relationship is one of the scariest things a person can do…but think about it…what would happen to the butterfly if she refused to exit her cocoon? She would never grow…never change…never acquire her wings. And trust me on this one: it is far, far better to live a life of uncertain happiness than of certain misery. If you outgrew a dress, no matter how fabulous it once fit…you wouldn’t keep wearing it, would you? Then why are we so willing to stay stuck in a relationship once it has become clear that the other person is not our perfect fit?
I want to encourage those of you currently going through a heartbreak, or a break-up, or a transition from two birds of a feather to flying solo: There IS happiness on the other side of goodbye. That’s what the sad movies and songs forget to tell you. After the pain comes the rain…and after the rain…comes the sun! And before you know it, everything’s coming up daisies again. One year ago today I was alone, and uncertain, and lonely, and sad. I remember wandering the rooms of my apartment feeling like the silence was almost palpable. There were even moments that I doubted I made the right decision. But before I knew it, something miraculous happened. I smiled again! And then I laughed again! And then I reconnected with my friends and made new ones and started chasing my dreams and doing ME and having fun and setting new goals and realizing something so incredible about myself that had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle of the sorrow, and the hurt, and the tears. I AM STRONG. I am worthy. And “I am looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love. And I don’t think that love is here.” (Sex & the City)
And then it hit me. I had to say goodbye to HIM, so I could say hello to ME.
So, my friends, and especially my friends who are currently nursing a broken heart…you must remember this, if nothing else: You will find your smile again. You will get your groove back. You will love again. And you will be able to take where you’ve been and use it as a roadmap for where you’re going…and for where you’ll never go again. I did. And though I know in my heart I will never revisit him, or that version of me, again…I also know I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Because he helped create me. Every tear, every piece of my broken heart, every second of pain…are all colors on the canvas of my life. That relationship didn’t DEFINE me. It helped REFINE me. The ashes of the girl I used to be turned me into the diamond of the woman I am today.
And that’s how, Once Upon a Time, a girl named Mandy turned her break-UP into a break-OVER…and a single woman became The Single Woman.
Won’t you join me?