Chaos, Chambers and Valves: 9 Ways To Ease An Aching Heart

I’ve spent a lot of time recently patching the trenches in my ticker.

It’s draining and it’s painful, but it’s honest work. As human beings, we are constantly in search of someone to relate to, someone to bandage our knees, to say “I see you.” When a connection like this develops, it is a natural high that makes life taste more forgiving. The tricky part is that there is no way to gauge how long the fire between your fingers will be yours; loss is the fee of love.

There is no way to steer clear of the fallout or the dull pang that taunts your tears, but I’ve been the neurotic, desperate girl at 2 AM, combing Yahoo Answers, and since I could never find the kind of advice I was looking for (i.e. something other than links to strange porn,) I figured I’d let the healing happen, and come back once I felt like the writing could happen, too. Here are 9 ways of coping that I hope will make your skin a less lonely place to live in.

1. Feel. Violently.

You’re going to cry, and when you do, you’ll get a headache. You’re probably going to do everything humanly possible NOT to cry, including that creepy, heavy breathing that only precedes bawling and barfing. You’ll feel a stray tear graze your cheekbone, and that is how you will know you’re done for. When the levee breaks, you might even sound a little like a parakeet caught in an oscillating fan. It’s around this time that you will begin looking for answers as if they were keys to the cage of your suffering, and it’s around this time that all incoming signals will be watered down and blurry. With a heavy heart, realize that there is absolutely no more to do than to stop running and sit inside of the ache. There is nothing to do but cry, expressing everything and nothing. Cry loudly and softly, into tissue and couch cushions. Make room for days that smell entirely of loss, and for brutally brief pinches of the heart. Sometimes the only way to get someone to leave is to invite them to stay. This someone’s name is misery, and she will be on her way once she realizes that you cannot afford to feed her.

2. Hulk Out.

Congratulations, you are now moving into the bitter, turbulent stage! You’re still going to feel miserable, of course, but now you have a place to direct that misery. You should know that your feelings are valid, no matter who attempts to tell you otherwise. Though there is no way to escape these feelings, you are responsible for the way that you choose to demonstrate them. There isn’t a right or wrong way to go about this, but keep in mind that whatever fuel you contribute to the fire will cling to you like cheap perfume. (This is a lesson that I have been served a time or ten.) Still, the frustration below the surface must be released. If you shove it down dark and deep, it will claw its way out. Write the person who gave you your heart bruise your official review, and set that shit on fire. Throw trash at their photo until you feel less like garbage. Wherever you decide to steer the rage, try your best not to land in a ditch of regret.

3. Leave The Stain.

You want to forget, but that’s futile. I mean, it’s just not possible. The memories will become less intrusive over time (largely in part because you adapt to anything you torture yourself with long enough,) but this is not about coming clean. This is about understanding that, just like with grass, when you are barefoot in love, there is splatter to be had. I don’t know much about art, but every beautiful painting I’ve seen is just a series of intricate stains, and I’m willing to bet that a great many of them were not part of the artist’s original vision.

4. Meet Yourself.

You are undeniably different now. Heartache changes people, although this is not the travesty it feels like it is at the moment. You can’t see it yet, but you have learned a great deal. This is one of those wildly inconvenient and ill-timed parts of life that disillusions you into recalling what was softly enough to melt back into its background. The emptiness inside of you reaches for the calloused hand of familiarity while your soul rejects the discovery and the pain, howling “Get rid of it!” You will, but you cannot bury your emptiness underneath other people. Whatever is buried has a way of being unearthed, and if not, you will never be able to forget that it is there. This is here to teach you something also, and you should be brave enough to listen to what it has to say. Emptiness cannot be buried or hidden, but it CAN be filled, and the way that you do this is by finding a companion within yourself; you do this by giving yourself the spotlight and standing in awe of the glory of your character.

5. Forget “What It All Means.”

I couldn’t tell you, but what I do know to be true is that you can set the load down. Maybe you were the asshole, but if not, I would guess that it didn’t have a whole lot to do with you. (I know, isn’t that line the worst?!) There probably IS an answer, but you should get right with the possibility that you may never know what that answer is. Learn to accept the open, fraying ends that life brings to you in abundance, try to be okay with unanswered questions, and to stop waiting for “sorry,” and “I love you.” You need to know that you deserve these things, even if they never grace your ears. When all of these elements line up, happiness will kiss the tip of your nose again, filling you with new questions entirely.

6. Don’t Be A Dick.

Look, if you’re reading this and feeling anything I’ve written, it probably also means that you are feeling like a bag of shit. You’re wondering why you, why this, and why now. Because you are getting nowhere, you talk shit to yourself until you are reduced to more of those pesky tears you’re trying not to spill. It’s not working, man, and you need to cut yourself some slack. I know that it would be simple-minded to assume that a phrase like “speak kindly to yourself” would drastically change the course of your sadness, but please do. Grab the unopened Post-It notes from the junk drawer or your favourite lipstick and cover your mirror in love letters. Read them when you brush your teeth, and when you inevitably stand at war with your own reflection. If you can think of no loving words, take some of mine: remind yourself that “everything is difficult before it is easy,” and that “good things are going to happen.” (Because they are.)

7. Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Think of all of the far-fetched, absurd, seemingly ludicrous things you have ever wanted to do, and pick one. Flip a coin if you must, but make up your mind and sign yourself up. Now is not the time for questions or fear, so to reassure you, YES, you do have time, and YES, you really can do this. When you unpack for an extended vacation in the village of affliction, it can make you feel about as interesting as a pair of socks. Give yourself something else to think about, write about, and talk about. At the very least, if it all blows, you’ll be able to bitch about that. (AND find the will to try something new.) Don’t go back to bed, the day brings dreams of a different kind.

8. Forgive

Believe it or not, this won’t bleed as much in the days, week and months to come, but there is no timeline for the restoration of a shredded soul. It’s okay if you can’t do this right away. Try not to rush grief. (It’s unaffected by your protest, anyway.) Let’s get real for a sec: forgiveness is not for the faint of heart. It takes chutzpah, my friend! It means that you have to own up to your contribution to the splatter, and then forgive yourself for it. Forgive yourself for not knowing, for not understanding, for not listening; for not being able to fix it. You can resist forgiveness, of course, but I assume that if you do, it’s because you’re still angry. This is fine, but as long as you are angry, it is also very possible that you are insanely, passionately hurt. Carry your ache, let it give you the grief that it must, but be sure to let it go when you are ready. I’ve said it before, but pain is heavy; too heavy to lug around for the rest of your days.

9. Leave It Uncorked

This is the most important one, and it’s probably going to reek like the smell of booze in the grips of a relentless hangover. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. You’re hurt and you’re angry and everything inside of you shouts at you to lock love out. People may even encourage you to do this, but I think it’s a mistake. The mistake lies in the fact that while you can resist your heart, you cannot ignore it. You can leave love crying at the gates, but you cannot unhear the sobs. I don’t know why it is considered brave to walk alone, as if companionship were meek. It takes courage to open yourself to an experience again and again. It takes guts to commit to leaving people better than you found them. You’re going to cut yourself on love. You’re going to burn yourself with your curling iron. You’re going to knee yourself in the face trying to tie your shoes. The great news is that you’ll survive.

I don’t know how long it’s going to hurt, I can’t say whether you’ll have the chance to show your scar to the one who left it. But the other day, there was a little girl spastically dancing to the radio at a gas station. She flung her hair and flailed with joy, and I noticed that there is a lot more to life than waiting in line. You’re raw and brave, and you’ll have all the time in the world to dismantle and to repair. What was once scar tissue will be a mosaic, and all that was taken will be yours to give once more, if you know what to look for; if you know that danger is often just opportunity standing in the shadows.