How do you go about describing something that is indescribable? Metaphors? Describing its results? Everyone has their own interpretation, but most of them evoke similar feelings. This is not meant to read as an authority on the subject nor is it instruction on how to overcome its effects. This is only an attempt to put into words something that is so universally felt yet so difficult to define. Heartbreak is unavoidable, which seems to make it all the more tragic and unfair. People can try their hardest to evade its reach but avoiding it is no way to live. A life lived without giving your heart, is worse than one in which you have it broken a million times. Giving your heart to someone is like handing someone your only parachute, hurling yourself headfirst out of an airplane, and hoping they give it back (let the metaphors begin). So, what happens when you get your parachute back and it’s torn to shreds? You hit the ground.
How come this is the only feeling that can make the strongest of men or most independent of women feel like they’re unraveling from the inside out? It’s almost impressive that something so non-physical can affect you. It can make it hard to breath, give you a knot in your chest, make you physically sick. Heartbreak is one of the few feelings that has the incredible ability to reduce anyone, regardless of age, to a kid. A kid who is vulnerable and hurt. A kid who knows what they want but can’t have it. A kid who knows they’re scared but not what to do about it. When your heart is broken, it feels like a part of you was stolen permanently. You of course survive and continue to live, you just get used to living without that part. It’s like a room in a house. When you end a journey with someone special, you leave the room and everything that was in it. Now, that room will always be there, with all the feelings you felt inside it, but the lights are now off and the door now locked.
When you’ve invested so much time and emotion with somebody, it feels precious. You’ve been through so much, you never thought it could end in heartbreak. Maybe that’s on you for assuming your relationship was exempt from failing. Maybe everyone should assume their relationship is exempt from failing until it does. You know each other better than anyone else you know. You may even be best friends. How do you part ways with someone you’ve shared your greatest fears, biggest dreams, and deepest insecurities with? You’ve already had fights, you’ve laughed until you cried and cried until you laughed, you’ve made memories that will stay with you until the day you die. It’s not easy to detach from that unscathed. This person has become more than just a significant other. They’ve become a fixture, a load-bearing pillar of your life that holds you together. Without that pillar, it feels like everything else just doesn’t matter. You were inseparable one moment and separated the next. It could’ve been a specific combination of words or even just a look. A look that speaks louder than words ever could. It’s the same face, the same person, but everything feels… different. You’re still you, but someone has turned off the light inside.
Or is it more tragic to have a brief but hopeful flame snuffed out before it can even ignite? We’ve all heard of the “honeymoon” phase. The momentum is there. It’s new and exciting, you’re learning what makes them laugh, what you have in common, but there is still an exciting mystery as to where it will go next. You begin to think about this person a few times a week, then every day. You start to imagine what your next date will be like. Before you know it, you’re being drawn to this person like a magnet. And then, it stops. The reason doesn’t matter, the rug is ripped out from under you and you’re left either wondering why or what you could’ve done to stop it. Then you begin to torture yourself, analyzing every detail of the newborn relationship. What if you acted differently during that one date? Should you have responded differently to that question? Was I just not enough? The worst part is, you may never get any of those answers. The most painful thing about this heartbreak is what could’ve been. It is there one moment and gone the next.
Like tiny depressing snowflakes, no two heartbreaks are the same. It could be a committed and long-term relationship that crumbles from its foundations or a something promising that dies prematurely. After experiencing both, I still can’t say which is worse. You may be each other’s first meaningful connection, naïve to the fact that you’re both just as susceptible to failing as everyone else. You throw caution to the wind. Maybe that’s how every relationship should start. Maybe that’s what also makes the first heartbreak so devastating. Devastating but necessary.
And then you bury it. Instead of something you experienced, you begin to view it with a strange objectivity, like watching a sad movie. You may not feel sad anymore but you still feel sad because you can’t change what happened, no matter how many times you replay it in your head. As time goes on, you force the heartbreak to the back of your mind. Willing the memories to fade because pretending like you’re over it is easier than admitting you miss them. You start to hate that you miss them. But no matter how much you want to get over them, there’s something that’s not letting you. I don’t know if it’s an emotion, some kind of instinctual attraction, or just chemicals in your brain. It doesn’t matter what it is because you feel what you feel regardless. But as time goes on, you push those feelings further and further away until they’re just a fuzzy dream and eventually it simply feels like another lifetime.
And then you meet someone new. Someone you enjoy spending time with and maybe someone whose gone through something similar to what you’ve gone through. It’s fun to have someone to talk to again, but it’s not like the first time you met someone you really liked. Instead of diving in head first with no regard for your emotional well-being, you hesitate. You pause because you remember the last time you started to feel this way you got hurt bad. You remember the heartbreak and the rift it created. It is at this moment you face a critical decision, perhaps one of the more difficult ones, emotionally, you’ve ever had to make.
Yes, it’s easier and much, much safer to not give your heart up. It’s a guaranteed way not to get hurt. But it’s also a guaranteed way to live a life stuck in potential. When you do finally let yourself feel the way you once did about someone again, it is the truest form of faith on the planet, religious or otherwise. It’s invisible yet you can see it in their eyes. It’s intangible yet you can feel it like a tidal wave. There is no combination of words in any language that are capable of describing exactly what it is. It’s meaning is simultaneously different for anyone you ask, yet universally recognized by everyone you ask. It’s an unspoken connection. It’s an energy that can defrost the most jaded soul to that of a giddy child. It’s the willingness to be hurt in the worst way possible at your core, but saying “it’s worth it.”
The fact of the matter is, love and pain are intrinsically connected. You cannot have one without the other. It isn’t until you’ve felt both deeply that you can appreciate them both properly. The pendulum of life has to swing. I don’t know why, it just has to. Knowledge of the stakes gives necessary weight to any emotion we feel. We can only experience this emotion in its purest form when we dive in head first despite the risk we know is there.
Now knowing all of this, you cautiously pursue this new person. At first at a distance, then closer. You reach a point when suddenly this new person means something to you. As much as you were afraid before, it’s there. The universally invisible, intangible, and indescribable feeling. The underlying optimism that I personally believe is what we’re put on this planet to seek out. The most powerful and enduring force of nature we are capable of experiencing.
The light inside.