If the Heartbreak Hotel were a real place, the cubbyhole for keys behind the registration desk would be empty, and a sign would be posted: No Vacancies. Suffice it to say that lately I’ve been hearing some painful of tales of woe.
To my friends who have been either on the receiving or the giving end of a vigorous spring cleaning (and truth to tell, it is most often the case that we find ourselves using both ends of the broom at once): Please give yourselves permission to mourn.
It goes without saying that heartbreak makes you sad. What must be said, though, is that that is not only good, but necessary. It is a shock to the system to be deprived of the comfort and company of a person you once loved, and in whose life you were entangled and entwined. If it is over, there is probably good reason. You just might not remember exactly what that reason is. It is one of the heart’s many perverse instincts to dwell on the good, and forget the bad, when it is bereft--perhaps it is the way the heart reminds you that you were not entirely crazy in having once chosen that person to love.
We don’t give ourselves, or one another, enough time to go through the withdrawal and sadness of losing love. We seem also to have forgotten about being sad altogether, resorting instead (perhaps defensively?) to the more clinical language of depression. After a while, if sadness becomes a way of life, you have probably tripped into that territory. That doesn’t happen too often. But the plunge into listless torpor and sudden, surprising tears can be terrifying enough.
Sadness is a vital part of living. Sadness holds the traces of love. Let yourself dwell in it. Grief--good grief--is a way of honoring what was good, and real, and wonderful. It is a way of respecting your heart’s need to heal. Soak in the tub. Enjoy the quiet, clean sanctity of your rooms. Wrap yourself in warm blankets. Gaze at the stars. Have a glass of wine. Take long walks. Or stare at the walls, lost in thought. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.
Mourning is a way of creating the time to ponder what went wrong, what you didn’t get, what you want, and why. I recently came across something the French scientist Louis Pasteur said in 1854: “in the field of observation, chance favours only the prepared mind.” This struck me as true in human relations as it is in laboratory explorations; it is behind what we mean when we say someone is again ready to fall in love, ready to meet a new person. Mourning creates the time and mental space to think things over.
At this point in my life, I want to be around those who enhance life. Some people find me to be self-contained, and self-sufficient, and sometimes those descriptions are hurled at me (and like-minded others) as an accusation. I ask you, though: is “out of control” a compliment? Is it wrong to be able to stand on your own two feet, in charge of your life, wanting a partner, rather than a millstone, hugging your neck? Self-contained has a lovely ring, I’ve decided; it has manners, and thoughtfulness, and restraint, and discernment. It also has hinges, a lid, a spout, or a handle--all manner of ways to connect or attach or spill open--should the right person have the right touch. Someone will.
Mourning is a way of checking out of the brimming wonder of life. Once you find yourself alive to it again, you can open yourself up to the possibility--and the miracle--of falling in love. But if you don’t take the time to mourn, you might just find yourself back at the front desk of the heartbreak hotel a bit sooner than you should.