What a novelty bikini T-shirt taught me about love
I'm back from a weekend in Fire Island and I have FEELINGS
I wrote something else to publish in today’s newsletter, a piece about all the things I’m doing right to be healthy and move on. But it felt more like wishful thinking than honesty, and the point of this project is to be honest, to face fear and shame, and reject them. So I came home from a long weekend on Fire Island with my best friends on Monday night, and wrote this.
Last week, I interviewed my dear friend Samantha about ending her engagement. On Thursday, 10 of her closest friends took planes, trains, and ferries to Fire Island—a gorgeous, queer utopia where being naked, or at least covered in glitter, is the norm and walking into pool parties where you don’t know a soul is welcomed—for what was originally planned as Sam’s bachelorette party. I had been looking forward to this weekend for six months, and yet, I came into it with a heavy heart. I was having a particularly hard week of grief, and I was frustrated with myself because of it. Soon, I held Sam in my arms for the first time in two months and sobbed. By the time that first night was over, most of us had cried together.
Three of us have had major breakups in 2019. Some of us experience crippling self-doubt and anxiety. Some of us have never recovered from deep childhood trauma. We’re all going through something. Studies have long shown that people recover from loss better when they have a strong support system, which I certainly do. And through this weekend where my friends repeatedly listened to me, shared their own struggles, made me laugh until my jaw hurt, and saw and accepted me for exactly who I am, I was able to let go of some of the pressure I feel to be “all better.” Grief is not linear. I’m not all better. I may not be for longer than I’d prefer, or like to admit. But I am deeply loved, I am not the only one dealing with pain, and we are in this life—with every piece of shit and sunshine it throws our way—together.
Sam bought us all sexy bikini T-shirts specifically catered to our personalities and presented it to us in a ceremony, during which she told each of us what we have taught her. She told me that I taught her love, because she’s never had a friendship where we say how much we love each other and why so openly and often. Now, she applies that lesson to all of her relationships. Every day, I will do my best to remember to apply it to myself.
#CruelSummerBookClub reading list
How to Fix a Broken Heart by Guy Winch
I flailed through the first week of my breakup, searching for something, anything to hold on to. One thing I found that actually helped was psychologist Guy Winch’s Ted Talk on how to fix a broken heart. I listened to it over and over, trying to soak in his lessons and remind myself that now was not the time to sink into despair. He speaks about some of his patients that had the hardest time recovering from breakups, shows why our usual survival mode tactics actually work against us when we’re suffering from heartbreak, and reminds us that heartbreak is a serious emotional injury and should be treated as such. At the end, he tells listeners, “Surviving heartbreak isn’t a journey, it’s a fight.” It’s up to us how long and daunting the process is, and he shares some tools to help you help yourself.
Soon I went out and got his book on the subject. It’s a slim read with beautiful illustrations, and sheds light on tangible things you can do to to curb post-breakup agony, including:
-It’s important to accept the reason you are given for the breakup, or even make up one of your own, and stick with it, rather than ruminate on the why endlessly.
-Every single time you replay happy memories of your lost love in your head, or look at pictures of them, you’re setting your recovery back.
-We are addicted to our former partners, just like a drug addict, and the intense withdrawal you are feeling is just that. With time, mindfulness, and not relapsing, it will pass.
The book also touches on how our society treats breakups (as well as the death of beloved pets) as something silly or shameful, rather than the monumental losses they actually are. They regularly cause people to cease functioning at work or slip into a deep depression, but that pain is often ignored by the world at large. Winch reminds us to have compassion for those suffering from heartache, as it will likely take longer for them to recover than you think it should, and to be compassionate to ourselves.
In a few weeks, I’ll share my interview with Guy Winch—I have a lot of questions for him. In the meantime, start reading! And remember to order from your local bookstore whenever possible.
I’m also reading
The Crane Wife by CJ Hauser in The Paris Review
Jia Tolentino makes sense out of this nonsense moment by Molly Langmuir in Elle
Wait by Galway Kinnell
Forget a heat wave, I’m in a grief wave by Katie Hawkins-Gaar, author of the newsletter My Sweet Dumb Brain
The ridiculous fantasy of a “no drama” relationship by Laura Hilgers in The New York Times
What I learned photographing death by Caroline Catlin in The New York Times
I’m listening to: Break-up on This American Life and Don’t listen if you’re my ex-boyfriend on Why Oh Why
Support I got that you might need to hear
A Minerva moment
This cheered me up
Single Ladies Devastation
Goal: To want to be a single lady as badly as this kid.
Anthem of the week
I’ll share my interview with Marisa Bardach Ramel, author of The Goodbye Diaries. (I wrote about how I related to this incredible mother-daughter memoir here, if you want to catch up.) We spoke about what it’s like to write a book with your dying mother, revisiting a huge loss 15 years later, and the shiny side of grief.
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