Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Jane McNamara

Need a lesson in surviving Christmas heartbreak and a tearful New Year in the romance department? JANE MCNAMARA writes her survival guide…

HAVING your heart broken at any time of year is terrible.
If it has never happened to you, one day it may well do so (and hopefully it will — as it is one of life’s greatest lessons.)
If it has happened, you may have forgotten how acutely painful the experience is, which is nature’s way of ensuring you don’t give up on love entirely.
And if you are currently in it’s midst, I salute you; it is gruesome. As close to a death as you can get, without having someone die.
This in itself is annoying because when someone dies you are, at least, allowed to feel immense grief. But when a relationship doesn’t work you are expected to cry, fall apart and get over it.
Heartbreak at Christmas is its own special kind of sadistic misery. Fairy lights, snow flakes, family and love, love all around. Being happily single at Yuletide can be an adventure. Being in a happy relationship — a chance to be obnoxious on social media. Heartbroken and depressed? Not so much fun.
But there is hope and one year on from my own heartbreak hell I am here to spread the cheer. The following is what I learned from having my heart ripped unceremoniously from my chest before “the most wonderful time of the year”. (Disclaimer; this is backed up by nothing other than my own thoughts).

FIND YOUR VICE AND ENJOY IT
When something terrible happens, our brains go into a state of shock. Fully understanding what has just happened would overwhelm and destroy us, and this protection from reality is the purpose of denial. External activities can send us further into a state of denial and the most fun of these activities are vices.
Do you enjoy mulled wine, selection boxes, scratch cards? Now is the time to over-indulge in that which ordinarily causes you guilt. For me this meant drinking in front of my parents. Usually, I would harbour a healthy amount of embarrassment if my father caught me swigging a glass of whiskey while watching the Eastenders special but my heart had just been broken. Translation; give yourself a break.

VICE (re) VERSA
I throughly enjoyed my three (ok, six) weeks of indulgence. I even managed to lose eight of the pounds I had gained while in the relationship that nearly destroyed me (a real achievement over the holidays) and I don’t care how political correct or body positive you are, if you try and take that silver lining from someone in the depths of heartbreak you have no soul.
Fitting into an old, treasured dress on New Year’s Eve after weeks of wondering if anyone would ever love me again was one of the highlights of the darkest periods of my adult life.
The important point about indulging after a break-up is to know when to stop. While a certain amount of bizarre and hilarious behaviour can be healing (crying big salty red-eyed tears in Boots over a travel sized version of his hair wax), too much is self-destructive and will leave lasting damage. Trust that you will come to a point when the little voice inside your head says, “enough is enough”.

WHO ARE ‘YOU’ ALONE?
For the purposes of building a union, the individual must compromise. This is healthy, and a normal part of a relationship. It is also one of the best things about a break-up; you get to enjoy the parts of yourself that you could not with them.
For me, and this has happened after every break up I have ever had, I remembered how funny I was. Maybe my friends were pity laughing at my jokes. Maybe I was just suddenly, and more often, surrounded by people who ‘got me’, (top-tip; remove one argument a day from your life and watch the quality of it improve).
In any case, this is a time to think about what you enjoy doing. And if you are one of those people who secretly fears not having any interest or passion, the best advice I can give is to do what makes you curious. Not everyone knows what they want to be when they grow up, not everyone has a favourite film but everyone has felt twinges of curiosity. Follow these twinges. They will only lead to interesting places.

NO CONTACT
You know it, but by god you need to hear it; NO CONTACT I have a friend, Sharon*, whose relationship with her girlfriend Susan* ended at the same time as mine.
Sharon’s situation was different in that she pulled the plug while I was dumped like a hot cross-bun.
One year on, Sharon and Susan are still texting, calling and stalking one another on Instagram, fully and completely unable to move on.
The only difference now is that there is also a web of lies and deceit between them as neither has been able to be honest with the other about what they have been up to in the meantime. If you are guilty of this behaviour, stop. No good ever comes from contacting your ex in the aftermath of a proper breakup. Stop emotionally cutting yourself. You would not inflict this pain on your friend, do not inflict it on yourself.
Do not wish them a Happy Christmas or New Year. Focus on having a Happy Christmas and New Year.
Even if you and your ex are supposed to reunite in a scene worthy of Love Actually, taking proper time apart will only make that reunion sweeter for you both as individuals, and as a couple.
And if they find someone to replace you, as tired of an expression as it is, it was not meant to be. At an absolute minimum you must at least want a partner who wants you. Even the most boring and uninteresting of us deserve that.
* Names changed

KISS AN EX-EX
Opinions are divided on this one but, for me, Christmas is a nostalgic time — and what better way to celebrate it than kissing someone you do not hate who, at one time, cared about you?
For some reason kissing an old flame over the Christmas period is acceptable, means nothing more than a nod to the past and can even warm the heart. Case the joint for some mistletoe and proceed.

TREAT YOURSELF
Money can’t buy happiness but the money you would have spent on them can buy you stuff. Buy yourself a great Christmas present. Let’s face it, even the most amazing of partners don’t know us as well as we know ourselves.
I lost count of how many times I hinted that I would love a gold ring with an emerald, and you know what? Last Christmas I bought myself a gold ring with an emerald. I then lost said gold ring with an emerald. I cried about this until I laughed and then I cried some more.

LOVE IS ALL AROUND
Look around at the people you love, and love them more. During the aftermath of my break up I kept coming across articles and studies that compared break ups to a death, and truly, that is how it felt. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I somehow needed a way for it not to feel like a death, and then, all of a sudden, the difference between the two dawned on me.
One day, no matter how terrible the heartache, you will laugh. You will laugh at yourself, you will laugh telling some other heartbroken creature your story, you will see the lighter side of life. But when someone dies, while you may smile and laugh at a memory, you will never laugh that they are gone.
So this Christmas, although your heart may be broken into a million pieces and you may feel as though you will never love again (you will), look around at the people you love, and love them more. I guarantee, more than anything else, by next Christmas, that will be the only love that matters.

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