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I haven’t had a very hard life. I’m a middle-class millennial with still-married parents, a dental plan and a bunch of great friends.
And I really don’t know if it’s true what people say, that when you are facing death your life flashes before your eyes.
What I do know is that when the thus-far love of my life broke my heart at 4 a.m. two weeks before the holidays, my entire relationship definitely did.
Up until that moment, I’d always assumed that heartbreak was, well, heartbreaking. But what I discovered – what many discover when the one they love doesn’t want to love them back any more – was that a broken heart is actually pretty damn funny.
I should know – I’ve done some very thorough research.
Since it’s Valentine’s Day, and I’d hazard a guess that at least a few of you are currently curled up in the fetal position cursing the newly single life that has been inflicted upon you, I am here to share my findings.
I’ve learned that eating an entire rotisserie chicken while weeping over the kitchen counter is undignified, but it’s an excellent form of therapy.
Music is another. There are some genuinely terrible James Blunt songs out there. You will soon become convinced that these songs are works of profound musical genius. (They’re not. Stop bothering your friends.)
You will embarrass yourself while drunk – probably more than once. Just know that now.
Try not to take yourself too seriously right now. This is not the time to be “cool.” Nobody has to know that the Tim Hortons commercial made you cry, or that your indie record collection is gathering dust while you listen to the same terrible pop song on repeat for three hours at a stretch. Say it with me: Taylor Swift doesn’t judge. Taylor Swift understands.
It’s okay to talk it out with your friends. It’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to snot up a lot when you do.
Your true friends, like mine, will heroically endure this behaviour for a few solid weeks before they start to get really, really annoyed. I mean, not as annoyed as they were with the whole James Blunt evangelism thing, but annoyed.
Hey, you know those cozy new pajama pants your co-worker got you for Secret Santa this year? You’re going to wear them for 18 days straight. You will spill butter on them on day 3, but you’re not washing them any time soon. And that’s okay, too: You do you, Butterpants.
You won’t be able to sleep on his side of the bed for nearly two months because, despite all evidence to the contrary, you just won’t be able to shake the feeling that half of it still belongs to him.
Around the five-week mark, it will occur to you that this bed is a perfect metaphor for your heart. It won’t occur to you just how bad a metaphor it is, so I’m telling you now.
The worst thing you can do is expect to escape the heartbreak with your dignity intact. It’s just not going to happen.
Try to think of the embarrassing person that you are right now as some distorted, butter-wearing sadness monster that hides in the back of your closet.
This isn’t really you. Cut Butterpants some slack, will ya?
In the end, I think that the many embarrassing ways in which I mourned my own lost relationship served as a testament to the love I had.
At the intersection of personal tragedy and self-inflicted embarrassment, here was a big, unpleasant, comical send-off to everything that made loving him worthwhile.
I overdrank, overslept, sobbed into my pillow, skipped meals, lay awake at night and blamed myself. I binge-watched Netflix and faked sick from work.
And I laughed a lot while it all happened. Part of what makes love amazing is the total absurdity of it all.
Broken hearts will leave you angry and confused, lonely and nostalgic – and, in my case, overwhelmingly grateful for everything I had, for all its fleeting perfection, for every shred of courage it took to let it all go.
The pain didn’t ruin it – it made it real.
Valentine’s Day sucks when your heart is broken. But heartbreak is a lot like love, in that it can’t last forever. Everything in the world, the good and the bad, has an ending. You just have to wait.
And while you do, you get to wear butterpants, listen to really bad music and make dubious dietary choices with impunity.
You’re pathetic, but it’s because you loved. It’s the best ill-advised thing that anyone has ever done. The fact is, love is always a gift even when it hurts. Even when it hurts, you’re lucky. And part of being lucky means that you don’t get a pass for hating the happy people on Valentine’s Day. I know – they’re the worst.
But if you’re anything like me, you know deep down that everything is still okay. You still have great parents and great friends and all your teeth (thanks, dental plan).
Besides, bitterness doesn’t look good on anyone. I mean, neither does butter, but come on. Baby steps.
Amy Friel lives in Toronto.
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