Quite recently, I got dumped! No gimmick, no jokes, no plot twist. I got dumped and heck, it was one of the most painful experiences I have ever had. But what is pain if not a nagging reminder for us to focus and pay attention? Pain cannot be ignored, that’s for sure. But I fear that I may have misled you into thinking this was all a negative experience. Far from it, I have learned a great deal from it, and I’d like to share that gift with you. I have changed my mind about pain from heartbreaks, and today, I want to change yours.
For years I’ve played it safe, not giving so much of my heart away. This changed until two years ago when I struck a friendship with someone who became one of the finest people I’ve had the grace of knowing. We shared similar ideals and were different from some other perspectives, which was fine. Their family became mine; our spouses became each other’s friends. We were so close that we didn’t require appointments to see one another, not like most of you Americans do.
All of that changed just before Christmas. Phone calls were no longer returned, messages were no longer answered. I got used to their voicemail messages; something I hadn’t had to hear so much of before. Knocks on doors were no longer answered. I should mention here that it’s possible to be dumped and not even know it. Not one to give up, I finally was able to have a face-to-face conversation with my friend. I’d asked them what was going on and why the sudden cold front, but I was told that it was all in my head (not in those exact words but that was the whole gist) and that nothing was the matter. In Nicaragua, there’s a saying that goes along the line that you know you are true friends with someone when you have your items in their house and theirs in yours. So when they started coming to retrieve all of their items and returning all of mine, it confirmed all of my fears. I knew it was over. What was my offense? None! I got nothing but silence and generic responses. Attempts to broker peace and have a dialogue like adults were met with resistance and glib responses. So, I counted my chips and left the table. I decided it was time to face reality — that I’d been dumped and worse still, I may never know what my offenses were.
It took a protracted amount of weeks to grieve and accept the permanence of that loss. My stages of grief were non-linear; I got stuck in anger for the longest time — you know that righteous indignation you feel over breakups. Like how dare they? Don’t they know how big of a deal I am? Then I realized, it wasn’t doing me any good, so I keeled over into the depression stage. I doubted my ability to be a good friend. Gladly, that didn’t last too long as I had the comfort of other friendships to remind me that I was loved and that there were people who felt blessed to have me in their lives. Throughout all these stages of grief, pain was a constant companion. I could hear my heart break into smithereens. Every shared joke, songs, and paraphernalia that we had in common became hard to bear. It took investing in other relationships to feel whole again. This time, I became more intentional in my relationships with other people. I learned two key things:
Love the ones you are with; be with those you love. Let your love be mindful, present, and intentional, so much so that if it were to return to you, it comes back with the same wholesomeness it left with.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. At first, you would feel like you are drowning amidst the wreckage around you. The billowing of the waves around you, though cyclical, is a reminder of the mighty ship that used to be, but is no more. Then your instinct kicks in, and you realize that you need to survive. You may kick and struggle, but then you let go, you stay afloat. You stay alive. Because that’s what you have done before, this time around should be no different.
However, there’s no end to the grief. It’s a throbbing pain that can be triggered as easily as it can be muted. The trigger could be a phrase, a song, a picture, smell — it can be just about anything. In between the waves and the triggers, there’s life to be lived, leaving little or no time for regrets. If you are like me, you learn to sing again and wear your vulnerability outwardly like a superhero’s cape. You begin to see the goodness in others. You realize that life is ephemeral and only for the living. Knowing that even if you are one short stop away from another shipwreck, you will survive this as you survived the others.
So, here’s me hoping that you take the leap to love people with reckless abandonment. That you won’t hold back as a result of the fear that you would fall or fail. That when the waters rise, you won’t build a wall around your heart. I hope that you fall in love and that it hurts so bad. I hope that you don’t suffer but that you learn through the pain. And that when all’s said and done, you will find out that having your heart broken is one of the greatest gifts you will ever get. It’s a chance to have your heart whole again. Also, remember that “there are two kinds of pain. The pain that hurts you, and the pain that changes you.” I hope you always choose the latter.