The Universal Experience

by mckennabailey

Like I mentioned in my schedule blog, I want Wednesday to be about books and my reactions to them. I read a lot – and I work in publishing so I’m always drowning in words. And while there are some books that I read simply because I have a few hours to kill, more often than not I want to read to learn something, be it facts or a new perspective.

I’m in the process of organizing all my favorite passages onto note cards and all my favorite ones are in a mess right now. So instead of trying to make sense of that pile, I’m going to answer a question from SoulPancake. I’m feeling a little emotional tonight so I think this will be more interesting anyway.

I opened the book at random and the question that came up was: What is one eye opening experience every person should have? (on page 63 if you’re wondering).

My answer is going to sound cliché at the onset, but please bear with me while I explain myself.

I think everyone should go through Heartbreak at least once in their life. Because Heartbreak fucking sucks.

And I’m not talking specifically about romantic heartbreak – I’m talking about any kind of life event where you actually believe that the overwhelming sadness and pain you feel is insurmountable. It’s a truly desperate place to be and I was in the thick of it about 3 years ago.

When you’re in the middle of this kind of Heartbreak it is all consuming. In hindsight, a distinct characteristic of that time period that I never anticipated is the complete lack of concern for anyone else. When friends or family would try to talk to me, I wouldn’t care – I sincerely had no interest in their life because mine was crumbling. And how could you possibly talk to me about your tire going flat when my life as I know it is over? I’ve always been more of a listener than a talker, so this complete apathy towards other people, who I otherwise cared for deeply, has always stood out to me. It’s like I was at my emotional max while heartbroken that I had no feelings left for other people.

But here’s the really amazing part. When you’re out of Heartbreak – when you can finally rebuild yourself – you have a completely new outlook on the world. At least I did. When I could begin caring about other people again, I realized I was capable of honest and deep empathy. I can still remember what it was like to walk down the street and see people laughing and think “How can you just go about your day as if nothing is happening?” like it was yesterday. And it’s not as if now I stop myself from laughing in public places for fear of other heartbroken people, but I do make sure I’m a little kinder and a lot more patient. I’ve never been a mean spirited person, but my patience has definitely grown now that I’m on this side of Heartbreak.

There is something heroic about someone, in the mist of Heartbreak, still taking care of their responsibilities. And since those people rarely advertise who they are, it’s a safer bet just to be kind and patient with everyone you interact with. That way, you never make someone’s day worse.

I’ve also seen a profound change in my gratitude since going through such a massive Heartbreak. Every day that I don’t feel like that, I feel grateful. It sounds so obvious and pedestrian but it’s true. I feel blessed to have had the life I had before The Heartbreak, but I also feel grateful that I got a life after it as well. Sure, given the chance I might have picked not to lose everything in the way that I did. But, on the other side, I got a lot of what I needed, and that is worth celebrating and feeling thankful for.

The disclaimer to all of this is not every healed heartbreak looks like this. I’m blessed to have had everything work out in a way. And I’m glad I had responsibilities to take care of that prevented me from falling into a self-serving pity party (for an extended period of time. There were a few days or weeks that I did indulge). But if everyone knew that every other person had or is or will experience heartbreak, it’d be a lot harder to feel special or like the only one who has ever felt like this. We’d have a lot more heroes and a lot less victims. Hopefully.

To that point, another benefit of everyone experiencing heartbreak is people would be more mindful of each other. After I felt Heartbreak, I vowed never to be the reason someone else feels that terribly. That’s not to say that I won’t ever disappoint someone, or even make them chronically sad. But there is a right way to be on the giving end of heartbreak and there is a wrong way. The wrong way involves embarrassment, deceit, and a general lack of compassion. And I vowed to never involve those things in my dealings with other people if I could avoid it. And I think that’s a good life lesson everyone could use. More compassion, humility and honesty with each other would increase everyone’s well being exponentially.

I suppose if there were another way that people could arrive at these things we wouldn’t really need them to experience Heartbreak. It’s sort of a messy way to learn them, but I think they’re important lessons that could help us all. To know that kindness and patience are essential. That everyone else is doing their best just to make it through the day and could use a little of our understanding. That being honest and never intentionally embarrassing each other would do much for our intimacy and the closeness of our bonds. These are all invaluable lessons I learned from Heartbreak. And I’d love for every person in the world to internalize them in some way too.

Thank you for coming back. I’ll be here again on Friday.