At my meditation class this week, one of the regulars said that she was going through a time in her life where she knew she needed to engage in “radical self-care” and that she knew just how to do that. Hmmmm. I believe I am at a stage where I could use a bit of that myself, but am not quite sure I know how to administer it. I turned to a small book I was given years ago after my first divorce, “How to Survive the Loss of a Love”. This little gem is chockfull of practical advice on what to do when your heart is broken: how to walk through, not around, your feelings, how to ask others for support, when to seek professional help AND how to engage in self-care. It turns out I am already pretty good at this list: take long hot baths, eat the foods you were given for comfort as a child, book a massage, try to get 3-7 hugs per day, drink a lot of water. I like this book so much I Amazoned a copy to the man I just broke up with. He won’t read it, but at least he will know I am thinking of his healing as well as my own and that I bear him no ill will.
Because the truth is that breaking up was the greatest act of radical self-care I may have ever engaged in. As I explained to my sister over a belated birthday dinner last night, I have had a squeezing sensation in my chest for the past year. I knew it was emotional distress and not physical, but I wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong. It went away within seconds of the breakup along with the terrible feeling that I had to keep trying to win this man’s favor, that if I only maxed out my effort he would truly love me the way I need to be loved and we could make a life together. My best friend told me 6 months ago that this relationship was way too much work for way too little happiness and that I needed to cut bait and flee. She was right, but I wasn’t ready.
And the book says that a current loss can open the floodgates of past losses, which explains why I started crying at the fireplace store when I admitted I was afraid to relight the pilot on my gas logs for fear of screwing it up and blowing myself to smithereens! When the very kind man there asked if I had ever lit a pilot before I said that Tom had always done it but had passed away and then I lost it. The poor guy said he was sorry and then nobly soldiered on to show me enough that I could go right home and do it by myself, saving a $99 service call and a long wait behind people with ACTUAL heating and cooling issues. When Alyssa saw me writing him a thank you note she scoffed and said I was excessive in my note writing, but I think not. I think another part of radical self-care is being grateful for small things and saying thank you. Putting out a kinder, gentler, more appreciative vibe during a time when your insides feel so wobbly.
So my massage is Monday, I took a bike ride today, drank some water and am off to a Halloween extravaganza NOT because I feel like partying, but because I know I need to be with other people, a lot of other people, to remember that the world keeps going even when our hearts break. And I just carried soup and grilled cheese on a tray up to my sick teen so that some day when her heart breaks she can read the little book and remember her childhood comfort foods. We may all be on our own journeys, we may all be here to grow our souls, but it is so much easier when you get some help along the way.