In the last few weeks I’ve relied heavily on my mum, my best mates, and supportive family members. But I’ve also received immense kindness from strangers, colleagues I don’t know that well, friends I hadn’t seen in years, and random articles from the Internet.
Breakup advice is pretty much the same everywhere: focus on yourself, take it one day at a time, don’t think of the past, don’t get obsessed, take up a new hobby. Most of it is common sense, really. But some of those powerful tips have really become helpful mantras.
“Breathe” said a friend who knows me well. In those first terrible days when I felt like the floor had disappeared under my feet and I just wanted to cry non-stop, that advice was salutary. Because it’s a fact that if you focus really hard on the feeling of your breath going in and out of your nostrils, your belly inflating and deflating, all sense of worry disappears. At least for a few minutes.
“Put your own mask first”, advised one Internet blogger, in reference of what you’re supposed to do on a plane the unlikely event of loss of cabin pressure. If ever there’s a time to focus on yourself and be a little selfish, until you feel like a “normal” human being again, it is now.
“Don’t shrink”, said another wise friend, and I found this a powerful reminder. Because it’s true that in any situation, we always have a choice between shrinking with fear, regret and self-loathing; or expanding and relaxing to fill our lives with love – even (and especially) in the places that hurt. So if shrinking leads to self-pity, fear and more hurt, I’m happy to do anything to actively avoid that.
A word of hope came from the interim guy at work, who I’d barely spoken to since he joined, even though he sat next to me. He was the first person I saw on the morning after the breakup, and I opened my heart to him like you only can to stranger. It turns out a few years back he’d been through a horrendous breakup himself. “Focus on yourself”, he said. And also: “Other doors will open”.
Last week I went for coffee in a place that sold pretty gifts and home furnishings. I spotted some light-hearted little fabric signs.
“Be Brave”, said the first one. “Be Bold”, said the second. “Be Kind”, said the third.
I couldn’t have decided on just one to buy, although if they made it into bunting with all three, I would certainly have bought one.