7 Indicators You’re Ready To Seek Healing And Move On
Everyone talks about that feeling when all your friends are getting married and having babies—it’s either charming or alarming, depending on your point of view. However, around this time in life, there is another major, albeit less-glamorous, life event happening for many people.
The “catastrophic breakup” might manifest as a mutual parting of partners, the deception of one partner uncovered by the other, or even untimely death. This can also be experienced as a loss of a job, a diagnosis, or even witnessing the spiral of a struggling friend or family member into some sort of addiction.
Regardless of the specifics, these events become the schisms separating youth from adulthood. Though they are often wide and barren and take a long time to cross, they ultimately signify the Point of No Return, those moments you realize you and you alone are responsible for your own happiness, health, safety, and survival.
Children who experience this sort of traumatic event are those who were “forced to grow up too quickly”. This can take the form of abandonment (including death) by one or both parents, abuse, periods of hunger, or involvement in an activity that lands them in a juvenile detention center or the like. Oftentimes these children will end up being self-sufficient — or at the very least highly resourceful — survival-wise, but extremely codependent in terms of happiness, and often negligent in terms of their own health and safety; the associated habits of the latter take years of therapy to remediate, if they are even addressed.
These schisms are a nearly-inevitable part of life and can tend to show up around 30, when relationships, careers, and family dynamics tend toward sudden, rapid changes. While social media glorifies the births, marriages, promotions, and publications, we tend to hear quite a bit less about the cheating spouses, layoffs, disinheritances, repeated rejection letters, and multiple miscarriages. Yet they are ever-present, these silently shared sorrows that are somehow universal to the interdependent human spirit. Though they may not be fossilized in the same way as childhood traumas, they still require significant time and effort to heal. And yes, there will be scars — pain of this nature, much like love, has a half-life. It can never be fully forgotten. However, there comes a time when one must finally roll the stone away from the cave and emerge back into the light of a life lived with 100% effort and intention.
Here are seven indicators that it is time to put away the past and move on with your life:
SEE ALSO: Fasting: Friend Or Foe?
1) You’ve established a routine and a network in a new social environment.
This might mean you have a new job, or that you’ve moved to a different location and have found a group of friends there. This can take a while, especially if you are not proactive (and oftentimes during the healing process we just want to be alone).
For me, this involved both a new job and a move across a body of water; however, it took about a year to finally establish the routines (Bikram on Wednesdays, long runs on Saturdays, and meandering Sunday trips to the farm market) and the network (my running club, my musical collaborators) that made me feel like a whole person again.
2) You’ve stopped dating/sleeping with the wrong people and are fine waiting it out for someone you know is truly worth your time.
Or, if your situation is job-related, you’ve stopped taking shit jobs or applying indiscriminately via marginally-effective avenues and are now using your time more effectively and intentionally. The point being that you’ve already kissed enough frogs. You now realize it makes no sense to keep reaching into the same scummy pond; instead, you’ll plan out a trip to that beautiful seashore, and let the waves carry the best frogs to you. (Or fish. There’s lots of fish in the sea. Too many metaphors, next point)
3) You’ve finished the bottles of alcohol you inherited in the breakup.
(This is more about detachment from stuff you took with you—but also, see #6)
When I was together with my ex, we liked to take trips to wine country and bring back bottles for our “cellar”. We also traveled to Europe together around Christmastime and brought back some hazelnut liquor from a Christmas market as well as a bottle of Austria’s endemic “Stroh” rum. As I sit here writing this, I admit that I am drinking a (decaf, peppermint green tea version of) Jägertee, and that seeing the low level of fluid in the Stroh bottle is in fact what inspired me to write this.
I also have a set of three watercolors that we bought on this trip, and they currently reside in a sad envelope in the powder room I never use. Over the past two years, I’ve taken them out on occasion for consideration. Yet, despite their dreamily-scenic quality, I have experienced nothing but resentment for so-and-so and guilt for locking away an artist’s labor of love—it almost feels like I am punishing that artist for being a witness. It has taken me this long to realize that I could just give these to my acquaintance who runs an exchange program with the university in the city where I got these poor neglected beauties. Duhhh.
4) You aren’t nervous in your old neighborhood—but also, you don’t have a perverse desire to show up in these places, either.
This one can definitely apply to your career, especially if you worked in a great neighborhood and for a long time. I once got semi-laid off from a job at which my office was in the iconic Garden District of New Orleans.
Although I was still sort of employed, I found myself stopping in the same damn coffee shop buying overpriced soy café au laits (I don’t even like café au lait OR soymilk, but I had cultivated this habit from my boss, whom I looked up to very much and whose habits I therefore desired to emulate). This only served to depress me and deplete my bank account that was already on tenterhooks, not to mention make me feel conspicuously out-of-place.
As for the breakup: my ex and I lived on a famous and picturesque street in a charming, historic part of San Francisco for a little over a year. Ironically, it was only toward the end of our relationship, when I found myself on long walks in utter aversion to going home after work, that I really bonded with this area and came to appreciate its charms.
Unfortunately, once I moved out, I had no desire to go anywhere near there. I was neither keen on seeing seeing him and his new girlfriend out and about nor particularly jazzed about passing places where we had, in fact, shared good times ourselves. The one exception to this is a certain Italian restaurant that transcends all mundane sorrows (and also because I got to know the owners). Some places are just, well…holy.
5) You’ve stopped creeping on him via social media.
More like social bromide, to quote the controversial Ms. Rand. Unless he’s blocked you, or he is one of those strange creatures who doesn’t have Instafacetweet, the temptation to check in on the sly is going to be there (try not to accidentally hit “like”). You know it’s only going to make you feel miserable, but when you come home late on a Friday night and you’re alone in your bed with your microwave mac & cheese and a can of apricot La Croix (don’t judge me), somehow this rabbit hole seems to call your name.
And of course, there they are, on a ski weekend together, in the cabin YOU used to rent with him, with the friends of his who had become your friends, too. It almost makes you wish you’d accepted that shot of Wild Turkey that the old dude at the end of the bar tried to buy you. Almost.
Which brings me to my next point…
6) You’ve recognized one or more unhealthy coping mechanisms that are on the verge of becoming habits.
Cue that Kid Rock/Sheryl Crow duet about something-something “I ain’t seen the sun shine in three damn days” etc., this is a long one. Whether it’s booze, drugs, random hookups, or consuming the lives of other people though the window of social media, there’s countless ways to go on a good ol’ Bender.
I was talking to a friend recently who I hadn’t seen for about six years. We rounded on the topic of relationships, as I had gaffed a few weeks before and invited him and “his fiancé” to a party. I recently moved to his city, so I was a little out of it regarding his personal life and did not realize that they had broken up quite a while ago. He mentioned “going on a bit of a bender” after their breakup, which seemed so out of character for someone as successful, driven, and generally chill and diffident as he is.
But talking about it made me realize that the “bender” is, in fact, quite common—some twisted rite of passage through the “schism”, a dark tunnel we feel the need to crawl into rather than doing the hard work of climbing the mountain in order to make it to the valley on the other side where the green grass grows.
Let it be known that I am not condoning alcoholism or any other substance abuse or habit. Rather, I am validating the fact that this is something many, if not most people will find themselves walking through at some point. The important part is knowing when it becomes too much. It should go without saying that if you are getting behind the wheel after several drinks, you have a problem (and are putting lives in danger) and need to pause immediately and do a reality check.
With that being said, sometimes you get a little whisper in your ear from the universe, saying you’ve gone too far, time to recalibrate. Maybe you have a friend visiting and you can’t keep up with her tourist checklist because you’ve been staying up until 5 AM binging on your preferred vice (booze, sex, your Sex, and the City DVD set you got from your sister when you turned 19, whatever). Maybe your card is declined at the grocery store because you impulsively bought your whole Amazon cart last night after getting fired up hearing Beyonce’s “Independent Woman” on the radio. Maybe you’re late to work for the umpteenth time, and despite having a flexible schedule, you’ve managed to incur very obvious disapproval from the powers that be. Or perhaps you took a rando home and neglected to use protection, and now you have to miss half a day of work to deal with whatever gnarly implications come along with this.
No matter which canary flies into your particular coal mine, you’re going to feel at once young, dumb, and confused, while at the same time, utterly “too old for this shit”. At best, you’ll be on a boat to Alcatraz with a pounding headache; at worst, you might be holding your breath hoping that this little a-ha moment doesn’t have lasting consequences. Regardless, you suddenly realize something’s gotta give, and that something is you, and that thing that needs to be given is a damn.
7) You’ve stopped beating a dead horse.
I get it, resentment can really linger, especially when someone’s action or dishonesty has lasting implications for you. But in most cases, and at this point, there’s nothing more you can do—and, barring any serious legal concerns, there is probably nothing more you can do that is even worth your time. It is likely that one of the things you are resenting is the loss of that precious time itself—time you seemingly wasted with this person/job/fruitless campaign, etc.
I could tell you one day you will see why this time was not wasted, but right now we’re talking about the present and near future, so instead I’m gonna tell you that you are also going to resent him/her/it for the additional time you had to pause your life and be a hot mess of healing while they continued along as though nothing happened.
And that hot, stanky resentment will keep returning, sure as the garbage truck that wakes you up at 6am every Tuesday. Example: I have a good friend named Tom who I met shortly after leaving my ex. I instantly recognized that Tom was a magical creature, a bona fide unicorn riding a black rainbow I just happened to visiting. We lived in different cities but found ourselves talking on the phone, plotting out visits, and generally testing the waters of a budding relationship. However, once that denial-ridden, newly-single honeymoon period wore off, all that resentment I had been compartmentalizing was right there waiting outside my window, stinking up a storm in the heat of the late summer morning.
And what did I start doing? Stinking up a storm to Tom on the phone, inundating him with my self-pity, listing my grievances in ways that would become tiresome to even the most patient of sisterfriends. Naturally he picked up on some serious red flags — after all, significant others are not therapists, and what’s worse is that we had not even gotten to the point of defining our relationship as such. The one upside to this is that he recognized my need for a friend even as he retreated romantically.
Ultimately, we had a few dealbreakers anyway, so our prematurely-aborted relationship was actually a blessing in disguise, seeing as I now count him as one of my best friends. Didn’t I say something about time not actually wasted? Yeah, that ☺
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