If at first you don’t succeed, there’s a reason

After a break up it seems like the world is crumbling around you but hang tight, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

I remember my mother saying that it was not just about trying and that you can’t just try. I didn’t quite understand her back then, but now I do, and as much as it irks me to admit it, she was right. You can’t just try. Because believe me, I tried everything.

A friend suggested meditation. So I tried. “Clear your mind of all heartache,” a waif-like creature whispered. “Enter the pure white light, allow it to surround you. Breathe it in. Become one with it.” Unfortunately, at what was the expectant moment of spiritual ascent, an itchy nose and rather grounding sneeze thwarted any attempt to leave my aching heart behind in my allergic-to-incense body.

Next came yoga. Not just mental release, but physical too. Well, certainly I could do with a little of that. Again I tried. What my esteemed advisor failed to communicate on this occasion was that certain positions demand that my chin be firmly tucked into my chest.

For most people, it seems, this is a perfectly comfortable place to tuck a chin. Most people however, have not been blessed with my unique physiology. And, as much as I may be the envy of many who are perhaps less well endowed, chin tucked to chest for me results in suffocation and no doubt, should my chin remain tucked there, certain death. I felt bad, sure, but not that bad.

“Date,” suggested yet another concerned friend. Date? Wasn’t this the very thing that had resulted in the death-defying positions in which I had recently found myself? “Aah,” my worldly friend said, “there is nothing like a new man to help you forget an old one. You’ve got to try.”

So try I did, and did and did and did. At first, I approached each new date with a well-feigned enthusiasm. I mean, who knows, right? But sitting through endless conversations about South Africa’s GDP, the petrol price, the vagrancies of inflation, the intricacies of project management (never quite understood the actual project, but it was big: two hours of conversation big) and other such stuff, left me cold.  More than cold. Deeply, deeply chilled.

I tried to look beyond the uni-brow. I tried to brush over the centre parting, the toupee and the mullet. I tried to get to grips with the dirty fingernails, to see through the mismatched shirt and tie to the good and wonderful person beneath. I tried. I really did.

In fact, I tried so hard I became exceptionally good at dating. I could sit for at least two hours – I timed myself – without betraying the slightest hint of boredom.  The trick, I learnt, is to cock your head to the side and nod appreciatively every minute-and-a-half or so.

Sound effects help. A ‘hmmm, really’ or ‘oh my’ seem to go a long way in lubricating what is otherwise hair-tearingly slow conversation. To keep myself occupied while my dates warbled on, I began to count how many nods, ‘hmmm, reallys’ and ‘oh mys’ I could fit into a two-hour session (100, 65 and 45, respectively, if you’re curious). And then it all fell flat.

It was a sham. A silly, stupid attempt to kid myself that I was okay. I was not okay. And despite what everyone tells you, the thing is, not being okay is okay. Why try to stop feeling what you’re feeling? Where in the ten commandments of relationships does it say, “Thou shalt not mourn the loss of a lover”? I do not believe I have ever come across this commandment. And if it does exist, it was written by an insensitive cad. Possibly the very cad whom I mourned. But never mind. That’s not really the point.

The point is that my mother was right. You can’t just try, because trying implies a goal and that goal is generally realised through some sort of success. And success can only be achieved when you have the right attitude, the right beliefs. It can only be achieved when you are emotionally and mentally and spiritually ready for it. And, sometimes after a breakup, that takes time. So I gave myself that time.  Allowed myself a mourning period. Felt sorry for myself. You should do the same. It’s ok. You’re cut. You’re bleeding. No one can see your wounds perhaps, but you can feel them. And they hurt, possibly more than any physical injury can.

Sometimes the thing you need to do is self-destruct, your way. Just a little. Smoke too many cigarettes if you have to. Invest in Jack Daniels; one thing’s for sure, he won’t let you down. If it’s ice-cream or peanut butter or pizza that makes you feel good, do it. Indulge. Even, although it is certainly not my thing, go to gym – work out too hard and too often. As long as what you do takes away the pain. I am not saying my advice is healthy or good for you in the long run. But let’s be honest, after a breakup, who sees a long run?

One thing I can promise, however you choose to lick your wounds, one morning you’ll wake up and the sun will appear to be shining just that little bit more brightly, the air will seem fresher and the birdsong chirpier. And somehow, against all odds, you will be completely and unexpectedly better. You will be ready to try new things like meditation and yoga and, yes, even to start dating again.

So, as well-meaning as your friends may be, you don’t have to listen to them right now. You know what you need and you know what will make you feel better or feel nothing or feel whatever it is you need to feel. The only person you have to listen to is you.  And, perhaps, your mother.

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