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Jan 19, 2012

There's a big difference between heartache and heartbreak. Let me explain with this helpful chart:

I've been considering the differences for the past couple of days, and I've come to an agreement with myself that I've had my heart broken four times:

1) I was 19 and had been seeing a totally losery loser who I thought I could fix, and he let me believe that for a long time. After a year he had mercy on me and dumped me, and I tried frantically to get him back, which just made me look looney. I found out later that not only was he cheating on me, he was a coke addict. Turns out you should probably have professional training in how to fix a druggie, so that was a lost cause. I was young, naive and hopeful, so I'm just happy he let me go when he did. I still get weak in the knees when I smell his cologne in a magazine or elevator.

2) After dating a couple more losers, I finally got it right with No. 2. We dated from spring till the end of summer when it was time for him to graduate. He told me over the phone (UNACCEPTABLE!!!) that he felt like he had to end things between us because he wanted to move to Florida and pursue his career, and he really needed to do that alone. I was supportive because I knew I also wanted to chase my dreams after college, and it made me feel even closer to him that we were so much alike. Eight months later I was tagging along with a friend to a party, and there I noticed a photograph, dated the previous month, with the hostess and No. 2. I asked her how she knew him, and she told me she'd met him right before he graduated, they'd gone out a few times and he'd invited her to visit him for her spring break. I heard later from a mutual friend that he felt really bad that I'd found out about her. Aww.

3) By the time I met No. 3 I was looking forward to the next phase of my life. I was graduating in a few months and was staying away from guys altogether so as not to mess up my plans to move across the country. So obviously I fell madly in love. He was a writer, had his own apartment in a high rise, listened to the same weird music I did, enjoyed fine dining and treated me nicer than anyone ever had (although he didn't have much competition). But, with No. 2 in mind, I stuck to my guns and cut things off at the end of the summer. It was devastating for both of us. He'd leave me voicemails saying he felt like he was drowning, and I'd cry myself to sleep often, reading his love letters to me over and over, searching for an answer. Except I knew the answer, because I was the one who answered it. It was over. We had to move on. He had to let me go. Eventually he did, and he went straight into the arms of a good friend of mine. They got married and she looked amazing on her wedding day, and then I knew he did not belong to me. I know it was crazy to think he did since I broke up with him and all, but the words you say don't always match the way you feel. Who can understand the heart?

After No. 3, I decided I would never feel that way again. Never again would I allow myself to be heartbroken. Yes, time heals the heart, but the scars kept getting worse each time. Being single -- or at least keeping walls up when you're dating -- is much, much safer. 

When I turned 30 last year, I was aware that I was somewhat alone. The weddings/showers/babies wave was (and is) still going strong amongst my friends and relatives, and I continued to attend each event without so much as being able to say, "Why yes, I am seeing someone, but he couldn't make it." But throughout the year I became quite comfortable with my status: 30, Single and Loving Life! 

And then I was blindsided.

4) I was going to California for the holidays, and I emailed an old friend who I've known for over a decade to let him know I'd be in town. In the course of our friendship we'd had feelings for each other at different times, but it never lined up. I'd resigned myself to just being friends with him, and from what I can tell so had he. He offered to pick me up from the airport, and as soon as I saw him, sparks flew. We saw each other every day I was there, and when it was time for me to depart, I knew I was in trouble. Only a week and I'd accidentally given him my heart. After a tearful good-bye, I turned and walked into the airport, willing myself not to look back. But I did, and he was still sitting there in the car. We had no plan for how to go forward except that he would call me and, as he said, "It'll work out." It did not work out. It all rapidly unraveled, and as each day passed I became more and more panicked that it was absolutely not working out, and I was losing control over the relationship, and he was pulling away, and the worse it got the more panicked I became until it all blew up. We realized we had a "communication problem." Great! I'm a professional communicator, I can handle this one, I thought. Two days later he told me it wasn't worth fighting for, and he wasn't ready to give up his life.

The first day I cried a lot. (Crying = Wailing, Drooling, Gasping for Breath, Staring at Nothing and Not Blinking Because There Was No Need Due to the Steady Stream of Tears)

The second day I analyzed it with friends a lot. (The consensus is that he is not mature enough to handle a grown-up relationship, and soon enough he will regret it, but I will have moved on.) (The problem with this theory is on the third day he emailed me to tell me he felt terrible and hoped I was doing okay. See Chart to determine which category he falls under.)

The third day I had to go back to work. I was a little tired, but I thought I was doing okay. Around lunchtime I went to the bathroom, and when I glanced in the mirror I noticed I'd forgotten to put on makeup and had on the previous day's mascara. So I'd forgotten to shower, too. I somehow made it through the day without getting fired, and when I got home I realized I'd forgotten my keys. I took out my phone to call someone who has a spare, but I'd failed to charge my phone and it was dead. I followed someone into my building and knocked on my neighbor's door to see if I could jump over her balcony to mine. However, I was stricken with fear when I tried, so she did it for me. I left her apartment to meet her at my door, effectively locking her out. She was able to get her spare key from her neighbor, so it all worked out, but I realized that I was definitely not okay. This was not heartache, it was heartbreak, and after seven years of avoiding it, I'm not sure how to deal with it.


  1. Wow. That was powerful. I hope it gets easier and I hope your friends are filling your time with ways to temper the heartbreak.

  2. Oh, geez, California men - the worst right?! They're always unexpected and devastating and wrapped up in the confusion of a glorious climate and vacation and fantasy and intensity. It sucks so hard to not be around them more often and more naturally!

  3. It sucks & nine times out of ten, there's nothing anyone can say or do to make it better. Unfortuantely you just have to go through it & come out stronger on the other side. One of my biggest heartbreaks turned into my fiance, so you never know what life has in store for you.

  4. Wow! Sorry to hear it ended in disaster. I've been keeping you in my prayers... Men! Can't live with them, can't live without them... Somedays I tell myself I'm fine being single for the rest of my life, than I realize it's totally untrue. I've been there girl! So I know how you're feeling. I pray the right one comes along when you least expect him, and when you need him most. Because I pray the same prayer for me every night! "Lord, bring me the right one. My one. The one You have made for me. Lord, Your will, Your way, and Your timing!" love you girl!

  5. @OhMyHeart You are SO RIGHT about California men! He told me that we didn't work well in "real life" only in "vacation life." Why can't I be more laid back? ARGH.

  6. @Everyone Else...Thanks for the kind comments. :) I know it will get better, because I (and all of you!) have been through this before.

  7. I've been a reader of your blog for a while now and I finally felt compelled to leave you a comment. Heartbreak is never easy, for if it was it wouldn't be called heartbreak. As cliche as this sounds, sometimes we need to know heartbreak to know how to recognize true love when we see it. I would suggest that you pop in that song by Jay Z (or your favorite Britney tune), brush the dirt off your shoulders, go out with your friends and keep trucking along. For if you let a California jerk keep you down, you'll miss an opportunity that may drop right in your lap. My sisters have always told me that love tends to hit when you're not looking for it. But you'll miss it if you're heart is sealed tight.

    Lesson learned: no California boys for you. I've had the displeasure of working with a few in the past.

  8. Heart breakes are not always fun, but it's a process of getting stronger. Heel and get your like back on track!