My advice is don’t avoid what’s in front of you, soften around it. Become that brave heart by standing near the person you have loved. Even if you are shaking, you are human, shake. This is a precious time. You are eager and hurting and wanting of love and you will see it clearly years from now. Eventually, your heartache will ease up and your nerves will settle down and you will slowly dare yourself to love again and when that happens you will be so thankful to have had what you had and know what you know.
The people I know who rush past these opportunities, who have never “gone there” after breaking up with an ex, who have always managed to immediately move on, are also the people who will see their ex years later and walk right past them. This might look like indifference, this might look like someone who has moved on, but it’s actually how a person reacts when they are controlled by the weight of another person’s presence.
They avoid them. They hide. They become small, timid versions of themselves. They aren’t proud of this either but they can’t brave it any other way. And so they live on like this, with a heart unresolved, wishing it were free.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: “If you walk away from things, you start a whole history of you-walk-aways.” It’s a chilling line that begs the question: What kind of history do you want to have?
You said you’d be okay seeing your ex every day if you could stop wondering how she moved on from you. My advice is don’t mistake an ex who’s avoiding you for an ex who has moved on from you. They may look the same but they are not the same. Their differentiating factor is the person who has moved on from you can approach you without calamity in their heart; they can care for you without fearing that they will fall back where they no longer belong. Tell me, who do you want to be?
I know who I want to be.
I want to be the one who can show up.
I want to be the one who cares.
As you sit and see your ex every day, remind yourself of your choices and the outcomes—the histories—that come with either avoiding your reality or confronting it. I can tell you firsthand that braving your heart will require raw emotion. You will feel wounded at times. You will feel left behind. You will feel enraged with yourself, with the incompleteness that’s become you. But don’t be a fool to your feelings.
When you see your ex, when you feel incomplete, don’t think for a second that it’s because you are lacking something, that you are undeserving of something. Remember, just as there are benefits to not doing what everyone does, there are even more benefits to not thinking like everyone thinks. Remember, the easier way is not the stronger way. And you are writing me because you want to become strong. Because you know you can be, too.
Whatever you feel in the wake of your breakup, you’re feeling it because life is stretching you. It hurts because you’re doing it right. You are growing through pain. That’s what that incompleteness is. It’s the room you’ve created for yourself for new life to rush in, new love, new questions, new answers, new messes; it’s the room you’ve created because you want more from yourself.