This was written months ago. I feel insane enough to share this now.
Breakfast | A Nigerian slang for a broken heart.
Recently, my friend called me to check up on me as she usually does. It couldn’t have come at a better time because I was going through the thick of a semi-break-up. Even though I vowed not to tell anyone about it (because it did not matter) the truth was that I was embarrassed that it did. As Virginia Woolf said, that whole day, my brain had been the most unaccountable of machinery. It had been buzzing, humming, soaring, roaring, diving, and then, buried in mud. For the first time, I saw myself, a person I thought I knew, become unrecognizable. I was crying over the phone, reeling because a man I was not sure I fancied had just buried me in mud. As Nigerians say, I had been served breakfast, and it was only January. Everybody must collect, and I had just collected my share. Of course, my benevolent friend sympathized with me. After I tearfully explained my predicament, she asked me in a steady voice: so what lesson have you learned from this?
I burst out laughing, that kind of laughter that was born out of shock. A day before my friend called, I had just gotten the generic break-up anthem: I like you but I don’t want to string you along or be in a relationship. I hope you can understand. The familiarity of the message took my breath away because I had expressed the same sentiments in the past. I used those exact words to absolve myself of any guilt or responsibility when I didn’t want to be tethered to that particular human. Maybe Google had a template for how to break up with a person without feeling guilty.
When I sent messages like that, I never understood how the person on the receiving end felt. I had rarely been on the receiving end of things. I was always the one who left first. Even when I found myself weeks later with the ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes,’ I once again spat the thought out, convinced that I made the right choice. But whether it was right or wrong, the one thing I never stopped to ask myself was why my ego was masquerading itself as me ‘guarding my heart with all diligence.’ And why my fears were camouflaging themselves as ‘self-awareness.’ I just moved on. But moving on is not the same as healing. It is not the medicine for a broken heart. Living in your truth is not the same as owning up to your bullshit or even taking responsibility for your actions.
A long time ago, I surrendered to love and it burned me. It set off a chain of events that years later was still evident in the way I loved or received love. So, I became cosseted, I only went on dates with people I knew who did not live in the same city as me. This was supposed to be the same case when I met this young man. If he hadn’t texted me a day after I had already washed my hands off his case, I never would have seen him again. Something pulled me towards him. Perhaps, I found myself wanting everything he had to offer because I was so close to never wanting anything from any man. I planned on leaving him first, I just didn’t know when. But the deeper we went, the longer the rope I needed to use to pull myself out of this became. Alas, the young lad didn’t need a rope. He used his words like a knife to cut mine, and I fell into a well filled with water. And because I didn’t know how to swim, for days, I drowned.
By the way, according to WikiHow, this is how to swim. — Let go of your fear. Don’t be afraid to drown. Don’t swim alone. Don’t start swimming in moving water. Stay within a depth you can handle. Get used to floating. Don’t panic. Tread water. Use your arms to come up from the bottom.
Shit. Metaphorically speaking, I was screwed. Because more than the memories and the physical presence of him being gone was the fact that my ego was bruised. So bruised that I felt rejected. I was not grounded or rooted in who I was. That was why the mere wind of heartbreak had swept me away and weakened my resolve. Oh, I wanted him to hurt, and whenever I thought of him happy with someone else, a wave of nausea washed over me. This whole catastrophe made me sick to my stomach and physically ready to fight somebody.
My friend’s words came back to me again – So what lesson have you learned from this?
One night, I knelt to pray to my God. On my knees with my face to the ground, I began, not sure what I was praying for. I was in pain, a pain I had not felt in a while and I wanted it to stop. It was not just emotional, it was physical. But the words wouldn’t come and I ended up just soaking my carpet. No, someone did not die, all this man did was walk away from what he thought was not right for him. So why did I take it so personally? I thought God was a magician, that he would see my tears and rescue me the moment I got off the floor. Two days later, the pain became more severe. In the spirit of transparency, I feel the need to say that before entering this situation, my spidey senses warned me that it was not right. I told myself that I was a writer, and I needed to feel whatever pain came with this so that I could have a story to tell. He was just a story to me. If anything, it was more real to him than it was to me. I cataloged every moment, text, kiss, cuddle, and saved it in my memory bank for later. I didn’t know that during all that, I had come to depend on him. My heart had come to rely on his, and my ego had been built up by how well he treated me. Sylvia Plath said, “If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.” But in truth, I had come with an expectation I never knew I had. I thought I could live with the consequences, so I made the decision – a big mistake. Now, I had to figure out why this hurt so much. Why I was so perturbed, so broken by the same words I’d used against other men in the past. Here I was going through the stages of grief according to Google – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Whether he knew it or not, he had unraveled me. He had removed the covering I used to protect myself. He had given me a new reality. When people asked me in the past if I was ready for a relationship, I’d always say ‘no.’ I wasn’t where I needed to be financially, mentally, physically, and emotionally to commit to anyone. The truth is that I had only one thing holding me back – my ego. I hated being vulnerable, so I’d built up such huge walls. This man so easily and readily came and broke my walls simply by walking away from me first. I was seriously drowning.
One lovely Saturday, I took a long walk on my levy, and once again I was meditating and praying, but for something different. Then I came across a message by Bishop T.D Jakes on Joseph’s Tears. I hit an epiphany then — the motherload of emotional awakening. What I learned from that message was that ego and love can not coexist. You have to give up one for the other. A person walking away from your life does not in any way devalue you. It’s how you react to it that either edifies or takes away from you who are. Yes, it’ll hurt like you put your hand on a hot stove, but only worse because you cannot pour cold water or rub an ointment over an emotional wound. But it’ll also heal if you handle it with care. I had to think about the worst thing I thought would come out of this. He’ll move on, I’ll also move on. He left first, I agreed it was what was best. He’ll find another woman, I’ll meet a better man. He’ll be happy, I’ll be happy too. He’s someone great, I am someone great too. Some girl would get all the attention he gave me. Some man would get all the attention I gave him. I’ll miss his kisses, he’ll miss mine too. Because the truth is, as Bishop T.D Jake said, whenever something is torn, both sides get damaged.
It does not matter if it was a fling or something more deeply rooted. You, sharing your mind, body, and soul with another is special, for both parties. Whatever you gave, they gave something in return. It doesn’t matter how small. It doesn’t matter who left first, both of you have to deal with the consequences of being apart. And should you ever be in the position of advantage where they come back and want a second chance, it is not the time for you to gloat. Remember what you went through and come from a place of compassion, whether you want them back or not. You are not innocent or emotionally immature. Now that you’ve been put through the fire, you’re in the right position to administer mercy.
When I wanted to contact those I left in the past, I could not. I felt I had no right to walk back into their lives when I was the one who gave up first. Even if time and growth had transformed me into a better person, it was not to be better for them, it was to be better for me. They may see me walking back into their lives as me disrupting their growth. Or they may welcome me back with open arms. But once again, it may not work out. Just because both of us look and feel good emotionally after time apart, does not mean we will be good together. So, understand the hesitancy in the hearts of those who walked away. It isn’t quite as easy as whether they miss you or not. When it comes to the matters of the heart, nothing is ever white or black. And if they never come back, embrace the moments you shared. Feel the pain thoroughly, it only hurts because you are human. It hurts because you cared. It’s okay to care more, it’s okay to not be ready to let go. It’s okay to not like the thought of them being with another just yet. But it is not okay to be egoistic because you will never fully, truly heal. You’ll carry that pain in your subconscious into the next relationship where you can’t give your all because you’ve been scarred. Fear shouldn’t be the reason you never truly try again.
The only way to know you’ve grown is to understand the nature of man so much that nothing surprises you anymore. Meaning, the one who leaves isn’t always the stronger one. And the one who is blindsided by being left isn’t always the weaker one. The very nature of love is to give and expect nothing in return. Even when they’ve hurt you, do not expect them to hurt in return. Don’t expect them to come back and fix what they broke either. Sit down with yourself and figure out why this hurts so much. You may be shocked to find out that the present problem isn’t the actual problem. It may be pain from the past manifesting itself as brokenness in the present.
My friend’s words came back to me again – So what lesson have you learned from this?
And this time, I was ready. I learned to stay when I am not ready to let go. To let go when I am no longer willing to stay. Not because I am scared or to serve my ego, but because I should not settle in a place where I should be passing in life. To accept when someone is ready to let go even if I don’t agree with it. To find out the “why” and take responsibility for the way I feel without apportioning blame. To not make anyone the villain in my story. A ‘Break up’ does not mean rejection. It means someone has chosen what’s best for them. Now, I can go find out what’s best for me. The best way to forget about a person is not to immediately get under another (believe me, I’ve tried) it is to spend more time with myself. Also, even when I don’t have expectations, I do. I need to communicate those expectations and manage them properly. Finally, Human Beings are not emotional experiments.
In the end, I went back to the message he sent and read it over and over until finally, they became words I didn’t have to attach strong emotions to. I was now coming from a place of understanding and letting go was not so scary anymore. The memories didn’t stop coming, and I didn’t stop hurting. But I was actively participating in my healing process and not letting time do the work for me. When he comes across my mind, I send a prayer his way. When a sweet memory comes, I bask in its glow for a little bit, then I send it off like a dove. When I pick up my phone and his text doesn’t come in, it does not dampen my energy. In time, these things won’t even matter. But for right now, it’s okay that it does. My ego does not get to win this time, healing does.
Joseph’s Tears- A message by Bishop T.D Jakes. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=46PbGNWtZPA
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Picture retrieved from Pinterest.