Chin Up, Babe: The Radical Self Love Guide To Surviving A Major Break-Up
When I announced on my blog that I was getting a divorce, the outpouring of support was massive. It was incredible — thank you all so much for sending me your love. But I also received SO many emails from women who were in the same situation: either they had just left their partner, or were on the verge of doing so. These women sent their support, but also asked for advice. What could they do to get through it?
As a newly-minted bachelorette, who went from sharing a house with her husband and dog to living completely alone, it has been a pretty intense transition. There have been perks (sleeping like a starfish!) but there have been plenty of times when I’ve felt adrift, lost, and lonely. So here’s what I’ve learned over the past few months.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME, BUT NOT TOO MUCH
My first tip is this: a break-up is major. It doesn’t matter how long you were together, how tumultuous the relationship was, or whose “fault” it was that it ended — you will need time to grieve the fact that it is over. No one can tell you how long this will take, although the common formula is that it takes half the time of the relationship to be fully over it. I tend to think it can be much faster, especially if you’re doing a lot of work on yourself. Why not expedite the process? Who wants to prolong the misery?
I suggest you allow yourself time to mope, and then choose a date in the future to just be DONE with it.
I mean this in the most literal sense. Pick a date — say, October 23rd — and circle it. Put an alert in your Google Calendar which says GET OVER IT. Up until that point, feel free to obsess, lament, weep, and act like a ghoul. But then, on October 23rd, you have to move on. Do something symbolic to mark the occasion, and get on with your life!
FEEL YOUR FEELINGS
If you’re feeling lonely, that’s okay! Try to just be with your loneliness, rather than pushing it away, denying it, or immediately sending 50 texts to your nearest and dearest. If you’re mad, that’s alright too! Feel it! Yell and scream and go for an angry run.
No matter what you’re feeling, it is all okay. You are not insane. Give yourself the gift of allowing yourself to actually feel it, instead of pretending otherwise. When you sit with your feelings, you might have some major realisations and breakthroughs about your own patterns that you would never realise if you kept playing keep away with your emotions.
Feeling your feelings can be extremely uncomfortable at first. Just breathe through it. Journal about what’s going on. It might feel like shit right now, but it can be extremely fertile ground for personal growth and discovery.
MAKE AN EFFORT EVERY MORNING
As a self-employed woman, I quickly discovered that unless I made an effort to leave the house, I could literally be alone all day long. (Definitely not good for your mental health.)
When my husband and I lived together, I would drink coffee at home in the morning and then stay in all day, working. To contrast, on the first day of living by myself, I woke up early, took a shower, put on make-up and a cute outfit, and went out to get coffee, and that’s a habit I’ve kept up. In fact, I have barely used my Nespresso machine in months.
“Take a shower and leave the house” might seem like really obvious stuff, but it has made such a big difference and has brought more joy into my life. Going out for a coffee gave me a reason to make myself presentable, which made me feel much better about myself. It also meant that if I wanted to go on some random excursion, I was already dressed and there were no reasons not to, which in turn meant I left the house way more. All good stuff.
MAKE CONVERSATION WITH STRANGERS
When I started going out for my morning coffee, I would set the intention that I wanted to have a conversation — no matter how silly or small — with someone at the coffee-shop. This helped me feel like I was engaging with the world, and it also helped me make new friends and acquaintances.
I have been really inspired by my friend Veronica Varlow who is basically incapable of having a simple transaction with someone. (“I’ll have a soy latte, thanks.” “That’ll be $4.” “Thanks.” “Thanks.”) No, not this one. She is so endlessly curious, enthusiastic and outgoing that she makes friends at the drop of a hat. Her charm could move mountains. This bitch flirts with everyone. It’s so inspiring to me, and channelling her when I’m interacting with strangers really helps bring me out of my shell.
LEARN TO ENJOY BEING ALONE
This can be challenging, I admit. Even today, I don’t always know what to do with myself. This can be particularly difficult if you were living with someone and you’re now a confirmed bachelorette. Living with someone is a constant dance of balancing two lives, and without another person to consider and hang out with, you’ll find yourself with a lot of free time.
Look on the bright side: now you can literally do whatever you like. If you want to blast Beyonce at 4am, you can! If you want to go out and walk around all day, you don’t have to let anyone know. If you want to go see that movie that no one else wants to see, you can just do it. Live it up!
BE PROACTIVE WITH YOUR FRIENDS
This has been the summer of incredible friendships. My existing friendships have deepened in a major way, and I’ve met so many new and amazing people who light up my heart. I’ve made an effort to reach out more than I normally would, and as a result, I feel loved, supported, and I know I’m not alone. Plus, I’ve had hilarious late nights and been on too many adventures to list.
If you’re going through a break-up, don’t forget that your friends adore you and want you to be happy! Let them help you. Give them the opportunity to be there for you. It’s okay to be vulnerable and tell them when you’re having a hard time. Wouldn’t you want to know if your friend was having a rough day? Don’t be afraid to be real with your friends. They love you.
ESCAPE THE INTERNET
This is my desktop wallpaper right now, and I’m taking it to heart by spending as little time online as possible. Instead, I’ve been going on long walks, seeing my friends, reading books, working out, and going on adventures. Sitting at home on the internet too much is bad for you no matter what’s going on in your life, but if you’re feeling lonely or out of sorts, the temptation to compare yourself to others via social media is especially compelling.
Sometimes, the best solution is to extract yourself from the equation completely. It leaves you with more room to live your life! Stop looking at what other people are doing, and do you, instead!
FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR CITY
Being single can be rough, but why not take a page out of Carrie Bradshaw’s book and let the city be your date? Earlier this year, I found myself wondering if I’d stay in NYC much longer, but a couple of weeks spent wandering the streets, exploring the art, and meeting new people had me feelin’ it, just like I did when I first moved here in 2008.
Get out there! Go take a class or visit a new neighbourhood. Spend some time just walking around with your headphones on, and challenge yourself to see all the best things about where you live. You could even turn it into a gratitude walk! Taking a moment to recognise the blessings of your environment will help you feel better about everything else.
GET OUT OF THE CITY
By that same token, it can be hard to exist as a newly single person in a city that you previously experienced in a relationship. For me, it really helped to escape the city and see other things! I spent the weekend in Woodstock with new and old friends, headed to Nebraska for two speaking engagements, and spent another weekend meditating at Kripalu in Massachusetts!
Not everyone can travel as much as this, but I recommend getting out of your normal environment as much as possible. Go on a road-trip, take a train to a different town, or stay with a friend for a long weekend. It will help you to change your perspective.
WATCH STAND-UP COMEDY
There are few things that will make you feel better than laughing until you cry. I’m obsessed with stand-up, so I’ve been watching my old favourites. I recommend Louis CK (Live At The Comedy Store (skip to 3 minutes in), Live At The Beacon Theater, Chewed Up), Kevin Hart (Seriously Funny, Laugh At My Pain, I’m A Grown Little Man), Eddie Murphy (Raw, Delirious), Bill Burr (I’m Sorry You Feel That Way, Let It Go, You People Are All The Same), Ricky Gervais (Politics, Animals, Fame), and Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee… For starters.
WORK SOME SERIOUS MAGIC
If magic is your jam, I cannot speak highly enough about the value of ritual in helping you move through the inevitable grieving process. I’ve done so many rituals over the last few months, and even little things like getting a lot of bodywork has helped me to move my emotions through my body. Do whatever you have to do, but make sure you do it. This is the time to drop down seriously into any practices that work for you.
GET THEE TO A THERAPIST
Any kind will do. Maybe a priest or a rabbi, maybe a clinical psychologist, maybe a hypnotherapist, maybe a reiki practitioner. It doesn’t matter as long as you feel good in their company. You also don’t need to go a million times: sometimes just a couple of sessions are all you need.
My recommendation? Go and see someone who is action-oriented. Go to a therapist who gives you homework or things to practice. For me, simply talking it through hasn’t produced much in the way of results. I need techniques, tactics, action steps. I’m such a nerd, I love to go back to a therapist and tell them I did my homework and share my discoveries!
PRACTICE RADICAL SELF LOVE EVERY SINGLE DAY
Man, has this whole situation ever been a lesson in walking my talk! Ending a marriage is no joke, but radical self love has gotten me through it. I have been compassionate with myself, I’ve learned to just sit in the discomfort without shying away from it, I’ve acted with integrity, and I’ve looked after myself with love and tenderness. When I start to berate myself in my mind, I switch the tape. When I feel lonely, I accept it, and then I do something about it. And I’ve doubled down on my effort to help others as much as I can, which has brought me so much happiness and a sense of peace, too.
Keep your head up and make radical self love a priority. Give yourself time to do whatever it is you want to do: take baths, light candles, pray, do aggressive work-out classes, watch old episodes of Seinfeld, etc. You’re sure to be experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions, so honour that. Be good to yourself, take care of your spirit, and relax.
The other day, I was woken up by a car on the street blasting I Will Survive. It made me laugh, and I remembered that the universe has an incredible sense of humour.
You might be on the brink of a divorce, or maybe you’re 3 months into a break-up. No matter where you’re at on the love spectrum, I know that you — and I — will survive. Don’t allow the end of a relationship to close up your heart completely. You might be in pain, crying every day, but that’s okay. It just means you’re alive. I promise you that this time next year you’ll look back and be astounded by how far you’ve come, and by how much your life has changed. You can do this! Just take it one day at a time.
I love you so much!
Photos by Alex Prager and Grey Malin.