I had my heart broken once, and I’ll never, ever forget it. I’d certainly had failed relationships before and breakups that caused grief and sorrow. This was different. The pain ravaged my life. I filled dozens of journals. I lost ten pounds in two weeks. I made desperate, sobbing phone calls to friends in the middle of the night.
I drove blocks out of my way to avoid passing a department store whose name matched the last name of his new girlfriend. Every night, I dreamt the same thing over and over again: he left me, he left me, he left me. Finally, I moved to a new town as if I was shipping out with the French Foreign Legion. What was the meaning of this excruciating, endless pain?
I ran through explanations the way a cellist runs scales—over and over, each time with a slightly different feel, each time starting and ending in exactly the same place. “I can’t believe this is really happening. He’ll come back. No, he won’t. Well, I hope someday he feels the pain I’m feeling. I hope he learns all the many terrible things about his personality. I gave and gave. I’ll never feel desire again. He’s scared of love. I’m too old ever to find love again. I can’t stand thinking of him with her. I can’t stand it. The pain is unbearable, I can’t believe this is really happening…” It’s possible to spend years with these thoughts. I did. They raced faster and faster, woke me up from drug induced sleep, haunted me every minute of every day. This isn’t an exaggeration. And you know what? None of those thoughts were true—or useful. None of them offered more than the most shallow sort of relief, and only momentarily at that. They actually distracted me from the possibility of relief and from my inner wisdom. I had no idea how to stem the tide of self-torture. Then, as sometimes happens when you’re really desperate, I caught a break.
On this particular morning, I was taking out the trash (hmmmm…) while thinking about the previous night’s version of the he’s-with-her dream. I began crying while dragging trash bags to the curb. I really thought I might just sit with the trash and hope to get thrown away too. Then, no joke, I actually heard a voice inside my head. It said, “Nothing is happening right now.” I stopped. I looked around. It was true. Nothing at all was going on. This tsunami of agitation could not be located. I couldn’t see, hear, taste, smell, or touch it. It was not happening. It was only a thought. And, I realized, my thoughts were killing me, not my broken heart.