Isn’t it funny what you remember from a picture, and what other’s see when they look at it? Recently, I posted this picture of myself from 1989 on Facebook, after many of my friends posted their head shots of yore. As my friends were telling me how beautiful the picture is, using words like angelic and ethereal, all I could think of is how incredibly heartbroken I was at the time. I can still see it in my eyes and restrained, down turned smile. I can remember the feelings of aching despair, ever-present pain and loneliness, and the fear that I would never love again after a failed marriage.
This picture represents something more to me than a head shot. It was part of my reinvention. It was something I did for myself, to help me feel alive and beautiful again, to lift myself out of the depths of divorce hell; a phoenix rising from the ashes. At the time, I was manager of the Hair Force, the most fabulous salon in all of Wichita during the 80s. We did fashion shows and photo shoots all the time, just for fun, so I asked my friends for help. Tod Ernst, co-owner of Planet Hair today, did my hair and makeup, to seem swept by the wind. Linda, Tod’s wife and business partner, helped me put together my outfit with a white sheet, photo clamps and yards and yards of pink tulle. I love those two dearly, and still regard them as my closest friends. My friend, Mike Fizer, who has gone on to be an award-winning aviation photographer, did a fantastic job capturing the mood I wanted, of looking hopefully toward the future. The drama of it all makes me chuckle a little today.
When I look back, I seem so young then. It wasn’t my first heartbreak, but it was definitely the first really big one. I felt like my legs had be knocked out from underneath me, completely taken by surprise, my life turned upside down. The buckets of tears I cried. I’m sure I wore a lot of people out, talking endlessly about my sorrow, trying to understand the unfairness of it all. I am eternally grateful for my mother, who is always there for me - patient, kind and reassuring, giving great advice and comfort. She’s not timid about kicking me in the butt when I need it, and is a truth-teller. I know how lucky that makes me.
If I could go back and give that young woman advice, I know what I would tell her. I hope if you’re heart broken, no matter what the circumstances, these tips will help you.
Be easy with yourself.
Change takes time. Lick your wounds. Take good care of yourself. Slow down and be careful, as we are more prone to accidents during times of heartbreak. It takes energy and a lot of our attention to experience these emotions.
It’s okay to feel sad.
When things change and come to an end, we need to mourn. That includes sorting out the feelings that come with this. Writing about what I’m feeling helps me. For some people, it may be other creative activities, like making artwork or music, that helps them experience their emotions. For others, physical activity, like dancing or running, gives them the headspace to think. Find what works best for you, and make friends with the pain.
Avoid the drama.
When we’re hurt, we lash out, hoping it will make us feel better. It doesn’t. Even when you feel self-righteously justified, remember that things will look differently when you’re not in the passion of the moment. It makes you look bad, not them, no matter how right you are. If you’re about to go full blown drama queen – just step away. That’s how a real Queen earns her crown, by holding her head high in the air.
Recognize the difference between loneliness and longing.
Longing is loneliness’s evil twin. When we get lonely, we start longing for what we don’t have. Sometimes romanticizing what we lost, into something it never was, or thinking it will never come again. That craving, ravenous desire to end the loneliness causes people to make unfortunate choices and take risks that don’t serve them. Spending this energy connecting to yourself, to work on the loving relationship you have with you, is what truly cures longing. Listening to love songs, and pretending they were from me, to me, was oddly helpful for me. When was the last time you told yourself, “I love you?”
Reach out to friends.
I don’t think I could have made it through my life, without the love of my friends. They’ve seen me through so many highs and lows. I’ve learned who I can count on when I need help. I’ve also learned who I can’t count on, which always comes as a disappointment. I’ve learned that certain friends, are best at specific things, and to go to the specialist for what ails me. I know who my truth-tellers are, and I value and listen to them. Depression is such a liar, I don’t need people to tell me what they think I want to hear. I want the truth. I also know who to go to if I need a different perspective, which is different than the truth. It’s another kind of truth. I know who to go to when I just need comfort, someone to really listen, or a shoulder to cry on. And then there are the friends that are just fun blow off steam with, and have some fun. You don’t have to be lonely.
Make new friends.
One of the easiest ways to reinvent yourself is to make new friends. Get out there and meet new people. Wichita is a very friendly place, and it isn’t hard to start up conversations with strangers. Take a risk. I made a friend a long time ago, that I sat next to during jury duty. We’re still friends today. I watch for the feeling, like magnets coming together, to help me choose who I want to get to know better. I used to think that was rare, but I’m not so sure now.
You will survive.
Gloria Gaynor is right – you will survive. You’re a survivor, not a victim, and can make it through whatever life throws at you. You will live to love another day. A mantra that helps me at times of big change is, “Stay positive. Focus on the present. Keep moving forward.” This grounds me and helps me pay attention to the important stuff. Letting go of what we can’t control, and trusting ourselves to whatever happens in the future, is more powerful than we realize. It’s not easy to do, but I promise it gets easier with practice.
Living well is the best revenge.
Since you are the only person you can control, why not go out there and make the best life for yourself that you possibly can. Instead of worrying about what someone else is doing, put that energy into reinventing yourself. What have you always wanted to do? Who do you want to be? When you’re at a crossroads in life, you can go anywhere! Which path will you chose? What greatness will you achieve? When the shock wears off a bit, it’s possible to even get excited about what the next chapter in your life will hold.
What I learned from that heart break, has helped me bounce back from other tough times. It’s helped me be stronger and wiser, and I really wouldn’t change much if I had the chance for do-overs. I’ve always thought the reason I’ve gone through hard times, is so I can help others with this. I’ve used my experiences to write the Embracing Change class offered at the Finishing School for Modern Women. If you are planning, or going through change, consider taking this class. It will be offered again on Sunday, July 15th.