Navigating a breakup and the real shit about self-love.
By Joey Macari
I would never call myself “lucky.” I’ve never won the lottery. Never called bingo! at an end-of-summer fair. Never had a chance encounter with a celebrity at a diner. Never not felt like I had to really work hard to get the things I want.
But when describing my love life to strangers…we met in college…six years!...yeah!…yeah…I was referred to as, “one of the lucky ones.” For never having to soul-search in my early 20s. For meeting “my person” early on. For never having to go about life alone ever again…so I thought.
In the caption of an old Instagram post displaying my now-ex and I kissing in the backdrop of a giant Foxwoods casino playing card, I played into this convenient narrative:
“Unlike a game of poker, I didn’t need to take a chance on you…I’ve always known that my greatest move has always been you.”
The irony of these horrendous puns isn’t lost on me. Luck, as it would have it, would run out in my long-term relationship.
Aces and eights in the form of heartbreak.
Breakups are never easy. Literally, it feels like someone died but you didn’t have to wear black.
Nothing, absolutely-fucking-nothing, prepares you for it. The best way I could describe it is listening to a breakup song in the car. Let’s call spade a spade and say it’s a T-Swift song, because, you know…she’s like breakupcore. And you’re listening to lyrics that finally resonate. It’s no longer the musings of a scorned celebrity who got their scarf stolen, it’s become allegorical to your own suffering.
Listening to music becomes a new form of torture. Photos become painful reminders. You watch as you erase six years away from your Instagram. Your archive becomes a mausoleum of memories too painful to visit. Dreams become disaster zones. Picking up what’s left of the world you knew and moving forward with a radioactive heart. Avoiding sleep because you’re afraid to confront them in any scenario your mind conjures.
You find yourself creating new definitions for the emotional lexicon. As if someone were to give you an neology certificate for coining the word I like to call…
SCRYING verb (def): crying so hard you end up screaming.
Ok, I just looked and apparently it is a word to describe fortune-telling using a crystal ball.
But still, definitions change, as does…
Less Sad Shit
…your fucking relationships. The privilege of years doesn’t absolve from the lack of growth within them. Hence, why some relationships last and others don’t.
But just because you didn’t grow old together doesn’t mean you haven’t grown.
If I think about my own relationship, in the six years we were together, I had:
Lived in 4 different cities
Worked 5.5 different jobs (½ for the one solitary day I worked as a barista and cried into a scone)
Passed 1 kidney stone (TMI?)
Spent 2 years & 4 months sober (now more sober-curious)
Experienced 1 GLOBAL PANDEMIC!?
Auditioned for 306 different projects
Traveled 4,000 miles cross-country
Seen 2 presidents take office
Acquired 4 new nieces and nephews
Missed 1 grandparent’s funeral
Lived a life.
A life I had previously built around someone, I’m now reclaiming ownership of.
Will you mourn a life that could have been with that person? Yes. Will you miss that person? Probably. Does the story of your life end because you never got to the final chapter with this person? Absolutely not.
No More Sad Shit
Understanding what your wounds are is the first step to healing from a breakup which will eventually lead to…no more sad shit.
Broken hearts need to heal. In your own time and pace, and in whatever method you deem most appropriate. You wouldn’t put a Spongebob bandaid over a gashing, bleeding wound, nor would you put a cast over a papercut.
Look, I’m not going to stand at the pulpit and preach at you pretending I even know what “healed” even looks like. The grieving process has deceived me one-too-many times. Just when I think I’m out of it, I’m immediately faced with a new mental roadblock.
It’s like riding “It’s A Small World.” Just when you think you’re out of the incessant hum-drum, you round the corner and BOOM. Another loop. Another unexpected blow. Another foreign landscape to pour the heart contents of your nostalgia into.
But the silver lining of all of this, is that there always is one. At the end of merry-go-misery-round is you. YOU, waiting to be enough, for YOU.
Opening yourself up to self-love is the most senseless, effective form of healing I’ve found. Making yourself enough. Prioritizing yourself—your needs, your goals, your self-care—can be quite liberating. Whereas before you might have expended your energy on your partner’s happiness, placing that love on yourself is not selfish, but entirely the opposite.
Here are a few ways to practice self-love after a breakup (based off some of the things I found helpful):
Create a new, sustainable wardrobe. Not to be confused with fast-fashion or overspending—gradually buy pieces of clothing that fit your personality, that you feel confident wearing, that feels like a main-character moment. Clear out all the pieces that don’t feel like you, donate them, and declutter your life.
Journal. Write down the things you like about yourself, how you want others to see you, how to achieve your goals, even jot down the parts of you you don’t necessarily like, but can find the good in. Make nice with your thoughts, spend time with your mind, and explore what you can achieve with self-reflection.
Allow yourself to feel. Feel it. Feel it all. Feel bad-bitch-energy one day, then binge watch Normal People while crying into a tub of Häagen-Dasz the next (not speaking from experience or anything…). It’s all good.
Get off social media. Don’t turn to a faceless, narcissistic audience for validation. Don’t rant about them, don’t perform your sad gorl/boi routine on social media to draw pity, don’t get lost in your On This Day page, and especially don’t be deceived by all the “perfect” engagements and life milestones you see other people post about.
Eat the damn bread. Make sure you’re giving your body what it needs and not feel guilty about it. Don’t run on an empty tank. Revenge bodies fuel the notion we have to ascribe to unrealistic expectations of beauty…none of that. You’re beautiful the way you are.
Surround yourself with the people you want to be with. Really not that deep. Breakups put a lot into perspective (i.e. who's been there for you, who hasn’t been, what people fill your cup, who don’t, etc.). Don’t feel like you have to show up in grandiose ways for half-ass people, make time for people who you can be your best self with, and
It might feel bad now, but it won’t always be.
You got this, besties.
Joey Macari is a writer and actor based out of greater New York City. She once fainted in front of Buzz Lightyear on a childhood trip to Disney World. Joey is a Libra Sun, Aries Moon, and Pisces Rising. joeymacari.com