Self-care, sabbath, and sexual assault.


Content warning: sexual assault, obviously. This is also probably tediously long so, I’m sorry.

Today at work, I gleefully announced to my co-worker that I was so excited to go home tonight and do absolutely nothing. At the ripe, young, hard-partying age of 23, I pride myself at always leaving at least one weekend evening all to myself. It’s my time of sabbath in a life and a week that is otherwise packed full of obligations and social time (I was just saying to my cats, as I got home at 10pm last night, “Think about how much more time I’d have if I didn’t volunteer!”).

The last few weeks have been hard, emotionally & mentally, and I feel like I’ve been perpetually exhausted. I’ve been very late to work, unable to get out of bed, just laying there lost in thought and feeling. I’ve been going to bed early, tired of being in thought and feeling. It all started when that stupid, horrific, disgusting 2005 Donald Trump tape was leaked, in which he admits to (and brags about) sexually assaulting women. I never even listened to the tape – I don’t intentionally put myself in situations where I may trigger – but suddenly, everyone was talking about it. The social media posts were bad, and not always avoidable. But everyone was just talking about it, anywhere you went. Friends, family, co-workers, bartenders, people at church, people at parties, people I don’t even know. And regardless of what they were saying, people were talking and so many words were being thrown around. It was (and is) unavoidable.

I hear a lot about how overly-sensitive our culture is. I read articles about how college classrooms can no longer teach because everything has to have a “trigger warning” slapped on it. I have a mixed bag of feelings on this and can see both points of view. But I also know what it’s like to walk into a situation unknowing.

Today as I walked home from work, I was thinking about a time during my senior year of college. I was watching a documentary in my feminist media studies class. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that my professor didn’t tell the class that it could trigger past experiences with rape or sexual assault (she previously had warned us about a different documentary we watched; I skipped it). I remember absolutely nothing about the documentary, I only remember everything that came after. I don’t know how I made it most of the way home. I stood on the train barely holding myself together, collecting pieces of myself, my humanity, my worth, my experiences, my wholeness, just trying to keep them all pushed snugly together. I called my boyfriend as soon as I got to the station platform, begging with him to come pick me up, I couldn’t make it home any further.

I remember crying on the platform. I remember at least two kind men approaching me, concerned, asking if I was okay. I remember completely breaking down as soon as I got into my boyfriend’s car. He had seen me like this so many times before, he was not alarmed anymore. He stayed calm, as he always did, and present. By the time we pulled up to my house, I was screaming with pain and terror, unable to breathe. I remember looking out the window of the car and seeing my neighbour, who was out doing yard work, standing and watching me as I screamed and sobbed. We made eye contact between tears. I have no idea what I looked like to the outside looking in, but my boyfriend (good, sweet, gentle, forgiving J, whose eyes could calm raging seas) sat with me as I lost it, and then, eventually, collected myself again, as I always do.

These attacks usually leave me out of it for days to weeks. They are so emotionally draining that I have to go to bed immediately afterwards. Sometimes I cannot get out of bed the next day, or the next two days. Sometimes I need a full week of rest before I am fully present again.

I don’t remember how long it took for me to recover from this one, but I do remember that I dropped my professor a note asking that, in the future, she put a trigger warning on that documentary too.

I rarely have these attacks anymore. They used to be a very regular part of my life, until I changed my surroundings and equipped myself with tools to lessen the surprise, the attack. I had two this summer and felt like I was very nearly going to lose it again. I stayed in bed fearful that I was reverting back to my old self. I wasn’t. But it was enough to remind me the severity of living this life, in this world.

So, these past few weeks have been hard. I’ve been hearing stuff about sexual assault being punted around everywhere. And regardless of people’s opinions on it, whether they’re progressive and understanding, or misogynistic and troubling, it is hard. As I watched the third presidential debate on Wednesday night, I found myself gasping for air. As Chris Wallace brought up the allegations against Trump for sexual assault, I watched as a powerful, disgusting, privileged white man rattled off all the tropes about how sexual assault does not exist. “They’re lying.” “I do not even know them.” “I would never do that.” “They just want money and fame.” “Their accusations are illegal.”

I don’t know how to describe the feeling I got. I was texting with someone as it happened and in the middle of our conversation (about the debate), I interjected with, “OMG. HAIR PULLING. CRYING. DESTROYING APARTMENT.” This wasn’t actually how I was feeling. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to say that I wanted to destroy my apartment. But actually, I felt sad and empty. I felt like a piece of my identity, my soul, my self, my struggles and trials, my strength, my defiance, I felt it being pulled out from my stomach. I felt empty and small and lost and so very alone.

This wasn’t a full panic attack, like I’ve had so many times before. It was a small attack on the psyche, like I’ve been suffering from so much in the past weeks, ever since that tape got released. It’s so hard to be immune from this as it is, when we live in a culture where 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be the victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes. Immunity is seemingly impossible. But usually the blows are small, and come as little pinpricks that heal quickly enough, and you don’t hemorrhage or fall apart.

Last Saturday, as my friend as I sat on a patio for one of the last chances of the season, he asked me how I’ve been doing, with all the press about sexual assault. Am I doing okay? This is one of my sweetest friends; I’ve adored him ever since I first met him at a (non-Halloween) party in college, where I was dressed like a frog. My heart already feels so full when I am with him, but, as he checked in on my well-being, I could feel my heart warming and swelling even more. “It’s been hard,” I said, grasping for words. No one had asked me that, even though I was acutely aware of how troubling things had been lately. The pinpricks were accumulating, constantly stabbing over and over, quicker than they could heal. I wasn’t hemorrhaging or falling apart, but there was a constant pain, exhaustion, weariness. I was shuttering myself in more so than usual.

It’s been hard, but I’ve been taking measures of self-care along the way. Bubble baths, journaling, bingeing Gilmore Girls, making soup, quiet yoga sessions. And tonight, I have a time of sabbath and healing. It’s Friday night and I am young and should be free to the world. Instead I am happily at home unwinding, healing, taking care, and intentionally rewinding myself.

Check in with your people who may be having a hard time these past few weeks. We need words of caring.

Comfort and domesticity.


I’m the only one in the office who doesn’t have a “significant other.” All of my co-workers are married except for one, who has a live-in boyfriend and only ever uses the pronoun “we”. I definitely feel a lot of shame and sadness surrounding this. I am often aware that I’m the only one who doesn’t leave work to go home to someone, who doesn’t have someone to share meals with, who doesn’t have someone to binge TV shows with, or go on weekend adventures with, or plan holidays with. I am 100% aware of how alone I am compared to my many co-workers.

I’ve never actually lived with a “significant other” before, or at least not for a long period of time, and never completely alone with them. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m a loser or behind in life for not doing so, and in so many ways I love living alone, but I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on a large dose of comfort and domesticity that I crave.

This past weekend, a guy I knew came up to Minnesota for a job and asked to stay with me. It reminded me of a time the year before when a guy I had gone on a couple of dates with from Madison visited for Valentine’s Day weekend. We spent that weekend together making dinner and watching movies and going to bed together and waking up together. One night I had to work, and I got to come home to him when I was done. There was a lot of comfort in knowing he was just in the other room if I needed him, and comfort in knowing that his companionship was there if I so needed it. I was thinking about that when this other guy came to visit last weekend. We didn’t have a lot of time together, but there was a comfort in doing simple things like watch a movie together, go to bed together, wake up together, shower together, walk to get brunch together. Even just hearing him putz around in the other room brought comfort to me.

I’m not some sad, dependent, hopeless little girl or anything. I just take great comfort in relationship. I’m not particularly clingy, I just like knowing that someone is there if I need them, and also knowing that I am there if they need me.

I think I have a lot of flaws. I don’t always believe that I am very good at this whole “relationship” thing; I think I’ve had a lot of very awful partners, so it’s hard to tell, and I have low confidence in myself in relationship. But like I said, I do know some of my flaws and along with that I know some of my strengths. I know that I am immensely caring. I don’t say that in a pretentious way. I just know that it is in my nature to be caring. I also know that I am fairly flexible and low-maintenance. I’m good and able at fitting myself around others. I’m low-maintenance to the extent that I mostly just want someone to be my companion and to show care for me. I’m also intensely loyal and monogamous. I’ve always craved exclusive romantic partners, and I’ve never cheated or even thought about it. I am very dedicated to who I am with. Despite whatever flaws and insecurities I may hold, I think that these strengths make me a great partner for someone with similar traits and needs.

After the boy left last weekend, even though he’d only been there for a very short while, I stood in my apartment and listened to the silence. I wanted to be able to call out his name and hear the floor creaking in the other room as he called back. An embrace would have been nice, but even just knowing that that person is there if I need them was all I wanted in that moment.

Whenever my co-workers are having a stressful day, or have some bad thing going on in their life like the death of someone or a medical issue, I always think to myself, “How nice it is that they get to go home and share that with someone.” They are never alone in their problems or worries or stresses. There is always someone to call back to them from the other room whenever they need that assurance.

I’m at a point in my life where I’m no longer trying to cast some sort of characterization of me being hard-headed, independent, not-needing of a man feminist. I want to be able to get home at the end of a long work day and have someone respond when I call their name. I want to fall asleep next to some one and awake to find them there. I want the companionship of sharing adventures with someone, and having someone to tell my adventures to.

//written very late at night, slightly delirious, and with many grammatical issues, I am sure.

For the stories we cannot tell


I’ve wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would sit at my family’s typewriter and write stories, illustrating them and binding them myself. Occasionally I sent them in to writing contests, but never won. I was published for the first time when I was 17, and haven’t tried to be published again since.

I don’t know what caused the itch to write so much & so young, but my first few years of life were spent relatively voiceless due to a lisp that caused me to be unintelligible when I spoke (I still have problems with S and Z). I began speech therapy when I was 3, but in the timeline of my life, I remember writing first, being audibly understood second. Due to my lisp and the bullying that accompanied it, I didn’t speak very much until I was 16 and got a job working with the public, finally coaxing me out of my shell. Despite what people would say, I never considered myself shy – I was simply apprehensive, as the world taught me to be so. As an adult, I am often reserved – perhaps who I am naturally, or perhaps from growing up fearful and feeling like an outsider in the world of speaking. From before I could speak in a way that was understood, writing has always been the way I communicate myself – who I am, the experiences I have, the things I want to put out in the world.

(As a total & complete aside: Last year, Humans of New York featured this little boy in a Batman hoodie who has a speech delay. I wept after I read what his mom had to say about him, and I think back to that face often. My experience was so similar, and I am so fearful for this little boy that the world will treat him the same way as it did me.)

To this end, and as I’ve written before, I believe very strongly in the healing power of storytelling, as well as its ability to unify and lift up love and inclusion. It was my dose of humanity and understanding in a world that, as a child, so often told me that I was wrong to speak. And storytelling continues to be my outlet to honouring my true self.

I tell stories on my blog – non-fictional narratives about my life. I write fictional stories for myself – usually in old notebooks. I keep a series of handwritten journals that are kept only to myself – my deepest stories…the stories that cannot be told.

I imagine that we all have stories that we cannot tell – or rather, that have not been told, because we have never known how to tell them. I have stories that I would like to tell fictionally (and publish), but don’t know how to. I have stories that I know I cannot tell non-fictionally, because of backlash. These stories often inhabit my journals but even then, that’s not telling a story. When no one hears it, is it really a story?

I always imagined myself finding that person who can share all my stories. Yes – I have had best friends who I have held on to for years, who know me better than sometimes I think I know myself. But even so, these friends don’t know all of my stories. They may know bits and pieces of my stories. Perhaps they knew my stories when they were still fresh and confused.


My ex and I were faithful storytellers. At night, when I was falling asleep & just wanted to keep hearing his voice, I’d ask him to tell me a story. Sometimes I had a topic for him, sometimes I’d just listen to whatever story came to mind. He was creative in his storytelling, and sometimes his stories were troubling or touching and other times they were amusing and silly. He would flip it on me and I would tell him stories, a similar mix of things that few know and the anecdotes that have been told time and time again. One time when I was deliriously tired, I told him an inspired story about people living in Antarctica that began with me dreamily saying, “I wonder how they’re all doing down there”.

For most of the time we dated, I suffered from crippling anxiety due to the environment I was in. We only dated for about half a year before he began using drugs again. As a result, he didn’t know most of the stories that I cannot tell.

Back in April I began dating a guy who felt right once again. I had confidence that this was someone who I could share stories with, even the ones that I have not told. But, he’s no longer mine, and my stories still are known only to me.

I hope that one day I’ll find that person who I can share these stories with – and that they can share theirs with me. Am I alone in the perception that this is what we look for in partners? That person who we can share every page of our book with – who knows what reads in the various & many chapters of our lives.

I feel a little silly saying this. The feminist in me says, “No you don’t need a man (or partner) to tell your stories!” but the true me is saying, “Yes – you want that security, you want that person, you don’t have that right now and it is not in any way bad to have that person. That doesn’t make you less of a strong, independent person.”

Our stories make us who we are, even the ones that seem impossible to tell. We seek security where we need to – often in the hands of another person – because sometimes our burdens seem too much to hold alone. There is nothing wrong in seeking a partner who can share in those with us.

In the meantime, I continue to hold on to the stories that I cannot tell. I grasp them and struggle with them every day, trying to find a way to tell them. As I said, I believe that we all have these stories that we cannot tell. What do you do with yours?

Saying yes (or no) and meaning it

Throughout college, I lost a lot of friends – or the trust and dedication of a lot of friends – because I had a problem with saying “yes” to things – hanging out, going to a party or an event – and then bailing at the last minute. Over time, people quit asking you to do things if you always cancel. Trust me.

I did this mostly because of mental health issues. Sometimes anxiety was too much that I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. So instead I’d cancel. Or even just not show up. Sometimes I’d see their calls or texts, and just not bother answering. Sometimes the next day I’d send them a lame, “Oh sorry I fell asleep” text that never covered the apologies that were actually needed.

Now that I’m much more clear-minded and the day-to-day anxiety is no more, I’ve been apologizing to friends for doing this to them in the past. And I’ve been asking for friends to invite me out again. And I’ve been showing up when I say that I will. I also make a lot of plans with friends. Movie nights, taco nights, trips to whatever place I feel like going that day, etc. I like to invite friends to do things with me. And it sucks when people cancel.

I think so often my friends cancel because they over-schedule themselves. Or something else pops up that seems more tantalizing. Sometimes friends will cancel and I’ll see their snapchats later of what they actually ended up doing. And it’s weird that this is the culture that we live in. We’re way too busy, and we say yes to things that we don’t actually want to do.

I’m learning to say yes and mean it. I show up to the things that I say that I will. And I try to bring my full self, be present, and be joyful.

But I’ve also been learning to say no to things that I actually don’t want to do, or don’t have time for. If I don’t want to do something, I just say no. It’s better than going out with someone and feeling distracted or unhappy the whole time. It’s better than canceling last minute. Just say no. My ego isn’t so big that I feel like I need to be at every party, every event, every thing. I’m learning to be selective with my time, not over-schedule myself, and not show up to something that my heart or mind just isn’t in. (This is true of anything, not just social engagements. As an avid volunteer, I’m learning to say no to commitments I cannot make, whether it be for mental reasons or scheduling reasons.)

But while I’m saying yes to the things that I absolutely want to do, but I’m also learning to say yes to things that are new experiences that scare me. The other week, I went camping with some new friends – a couple that I’ve been getting to know over the past several months, and then one of their friends who I didn’t know. I’m not a camping expert (far from it) and spending a few nights in the woods, in a tent with people I don’t know super well, is definitely not something that I jump at. But, I thought about it for a while, and I said yes.

I’m saying yes to things that are new experiences. And that’s so important. With the weight of anxiety lifted, I’m taking more chances, meeting new people, and pushing myself out of my immediate comfort zone. Camping was fun. It was a low-risk yes, but it was something that I never would have done a couple of years ago. And I’m so glad that I said yes.

It’s the weekend and I’m spending my Friday and Saturday nights at home, alone. I had a few different people ask me to do something, but I just said no. My past week was busy, and next week is packed with social engagements. I need sabbath time to be by myself. I’m spending my evenings cleaning, watching Gilmore Girls, sewing, hugging my cats, writing, and maybe getting a little painting in. I said no to friends rather than show up not fully present. I’m taking time to be by myself (as an introvert, I need that) so that I can be present and joyful at all the things I said yes to next week.

How does saying yes or no play a role in your life?

feeling small.

Last night, as I stood at my apartment door surrounded by more firemen and EMTs than I could count, I couldn’t help but feel very small.

About 40 minutes before that, I had turned off my oven after baking cookies and finishing up the dishes. Around the time I had settled on the idea of having a bubble bath and reading a book, my smoke detector started beeping. After 10 minutes of hitting the button with the tip of my broom handle (and mumbling about how there wasn’t even any smoke), I climbed up on a stool to take a closer look/dismantle it. At which point I realised that it wasn’t my smoke detector going off – it was the carbon monoxide component of the detector. A red light flashed. “Move to open air.” I ran around opening every window in my apartment and called my apartment maintenance line. “Call 911,” Jeffrey told me firmly before hanging up. While on the phone with 911, my neighbor came over and yanked the whole detector off the wall (things you learn as an adult: taking the battery out doesn’t actually do anything if it’s wired into the wall).

After my neighbor disappeared back into her own apartment, smiling sympathetically back at me, I went down to the entrance of my apartment as I heard sirens coming around the block. Standing at the front door in baggy, red joggers and a size XXL flannel, I noted an ambulance and thought, “Oh – someone else must be having a medical emergency!” Oh, how naive – it was for me! The EMT came up to me as I stood in the doorway, said hi, and put my finger in a contraption to test my levels, as one of the firefighters consulted me on which apartment unit is mine. I handed over the detector and my keys, saying I wasn’t sure that I had locked the door or not (it’s a habit, to which he was unhappy about). A few of them ran off upstairs, and I stood in my apartment vestibule with a wall of very tall men all looking at me. I was the star of the show.

I get awkward in these types of situations. I don’t like being the center of attention and I have an intense need to lighten the mood whenever someone else seems uncomfortable. So, I started making some jokes about how my evening was going and how this all was probably nothing and blah blah blah. The looks from the wall of men differed from kind to indifferent to un-amused. At one point I mentioned that the detector is some 12 feet up the wall and that me being only 5’2″, it was very hard to reach and I had to drag out a stool and blah blah blah. I probably cracked some sort of self-deprecating joke. All at once, the wall of men looked me up and down, and I could see their faces registering with just how small I truly am, as if they saw it for the first time. And suddenly, they all looked very, very tall to me. And I stood there, feeling so small.

They didn’t get any CO2 readings in my apartment. As one of the firefighters announced wryly, “Every window in the place was open” and so everything seemed to have dissipated. As quickly as they had all formed around me, all 15 – 20 of the men trampled back off into the ambulance and the fire truck. I waved a brief goodbye and thank you. I felt like I had to be the smallest person in the world at that moment. The door seemed to be growing in size and I seemed to be shrinking ever-smaller.

I’ve been having a lot of these moments lately – feeling small. A few weeks ago, I posted a photo on Instagram about the feeling. “I’ve been feeling pretty small and overwhelmed lately,” I wrote alongside it. “But not necessarily in a bad way. It’s been a good reminder that life is bigger than me…or even you. I’m moving forward on some scary things in life, and trying to move away from some of the boring things. I’ve also been missing friends who I’ve had to disconnect with for various reasons…addiction, negativity, lying, being too busy. I’m trying not to let myself feel sad, but it does make me feel small from how daunting and grandiose life can be. I’m always reminded that it’s these feelings that keep us moving forward into better things, creating better things, and realising that we have it in our power everyday to be soft, kind, and lovely, and to open our eyes to the possibilities of ‘the other.'”


I’ve had poignant times in my life where I’ve felt unimaginably small. There’s more to the feeling that just being physically small, though. I feel so vulnerable, but not in an empowering way. It feels like everything in the world can trample over me. I feel powerless and scared. It’s different from anxiety or having a panic attack. It’s very surreal, an out-of-body experience, and I also feel very calm.

I’ve learned to take these feelings as warning signs that I need to change something, as I mentioned in my Instagram caption. I don’t have to let myself feel small if I don’t want to. I just need to tackle the underlying issues.

My first couple of years of college were spent feeling so small. Campus was huge and scary and I was having trouble making friends because I felt powerless, small, silly, vulnerable, and dumb. Every student looked so tall and daunting, and I just felt like the tiniest, weakest girl on campus. I had other things going on in my life that were causing me so much hurt and anxiety and feelings of being small and powerless, and campus was a reflection of that. I shrunk into nothing.

And then, I learned to step back. I managed to remove myself from the immediate causes of my hurt and anxiety. And I took control of my smallness and made changes that I needed to make. During my last few years in college, I frequently used the phrase “kicking ass left & right”; it was essentially me combating the smallness.

As I said, I’ve been feeling small again. And I’ve been working to identify the sources of these small feelings, and tackle them, like I did in college.

I think it’s common for survivors of abuse to feel as if their body does not belong to them. It’s not an overwhelming feeling on a day-to-day basis, but sometimes certain interactions can be overwhelming. I feel powerless, small, uncertain, and scared. Physical intimacy is one of those interactions that can make me feel small. I recently decided to take a step back and take control over the role that intimacy currently plays in my life. Setting up these boundaries lends me power and control, and makes me feel strong. Since I set up these boundaries, I definitely have been feeling like I’m kicking ass left & right in this area of my life, and I no longer feel small.

Some things I’m still working on taking control of…. I have a couple of friendships that have been making me feel very small. I’m still working to set up proper boundaries and figure out how and if I want those to relationships to still be in my life. It’s a reflective process, and listening to how I respond to being near these people.

I’m in the process of trying to buy a condo and have discovered that I make just a little bit too much to reasonably afford one. I know that if I re-order my life and get some business ideas off the ground, I’ll be able to buy something. But, I’ve been struggling with feeling very small about the whole process, and the fact that I’m not enough alone. When crunching numbers with my mortgage guy, I made the joke, “This is why people get married instead of collecting cats – there’s a second income.” Marriage and relationship is what I want most in my life at the moment, and instead of being empowering like I thought it would be, buying a condo is only making me feel very small.

Every day I’m working to tackle these feelings of being small so that I can once again be kicking ass right & left. Do you ever feel small, too? What do you do to lift yourself up?

Living slowly


I think I live a slow-paced life.

I was thinking about this the other morning as I gingerly turned on the radio and looked out the window, surveying the day as it settled over my neighborhood, before putting the kettle on and cracking open a book.

I take a lot of time to breathe things in. I allow myself to get caught up in a moment. Sometimes I will deviate from a task for a long time just so that I can sit and think and process.

I’m learning to be in the moment wherever I am. I try not to think about the next thing that I have to be doing, or the things that I could or should be doing instead. I try not to schedule things too closely together – to give time for things to spill over and take form in whatever way they might naturally do so. If I end up being late for something, I am late. I no longer sit with friends, constantly checking the time, and trying to rush through conversation.

I often refuse plans on Saturday nights just so that I can paint naked in my living room and be with my thoughts. I spend evenings after work cutting vegetables and listening to podcast after podcast as I carefully simmer a fresh pot of soup. It is okay if I fit nothing else into that evening – that evening is all about lovingly making soup.

I do everything until I am satisfied. I no longer believe in rushing through tasks just to get them over. I want to find joy in nearly everything that I do. Sometimes finding joy in tedious tasks means slowing down so that you can breathe, think, and see the small pieces that make you smile and feel satisfied.


Sometimes I feel like I must be missing out. There is so much in life to experience and to see! When I spend a Saturday night at home painting, I could’ve been at a show or out with friends. I could be cramming so much more into my days, into my minutes! But, I’ve done that before. I’ve been that girl who would only be home long enough to shower and sleep (okay, not even sleep a lot of the time). I’ve been that girl who would go from friend to friend to friend in a day. And it wasn’t for me. It brought me joy in the moment, but overwhelmed me in the end.

I need time to process. I need time to stop and be able to look at the things around me. I need time to be able to appreciate colours and sounds and laughter and the way that my friends exude kindness and sweetness and honesty. I need time to be on the mat doing yoga, listening to my body for as long as it needs me.

I know people who are happy living fast-paced lives. I know people who need little down-time to themselves. I know people who never sit still. I am not one of those people. And that is okay. I find joy in taking things at a slower pace. I find joy in quiet moments. I find joy in small details. I find joy in long pauses between conversation with friends, and in watching my kitties sleep. I find joy in the way my water-colours blend and how my sewing machine moves across fabric. I find joy in my commute to and from work, and in making dinner in the evenings. I find joy in listening to the way that the wind blows or the floor creaks. And I find joy in the more obvious things in life too – in reunion with families, in big celebrations with friends, in seeing live music or going on a hike through nature or traveling to an exciting new city. But, these aren’t the everyday experiences of life.

For the first time in my life, there isn’t much – day to day – that I cannot find joy in. There is little in my life that I intentionally put there that doesn’t bring me joy. In so many ways (but not every way), we control the pace of our lives and we control the joy in our lives.

And so, I enjoy a slow-paced life. Because that is what will bring me joy today.

how to heal a broken heart


I have gotten dumped plenty of times before. I know how it goes. I know the sudden emptiness, and the days of recovery. I know the adjustment period while you realise that that boy is no longer in your life, even if he may still run through the thoughts that flicker across your mind, or through the air you breathe, or through your daily routines.

Most of the times that I’ve been dumped, it has been by people who I did not truly love. There was the boy from Valentine’s Day for whom I cried in the restaurant about, and felt sad and confused about the next day, but my heart moved on quickly and my mind relaxed as it realised that he was not a true love – never was and never would be.

There was the boyfriend who left me for another girl after 9 months. I knew what he had been doing behind my back. Others were telling me, too. And I would shrug and not mind, because we weren’t truly in love and I lived so freely without him. Eventually we let each other go and there were no hard feelings, no heartache, no questions left unanswered.

There have been sudden break-ups, long & slow break-ups, ugly ones that blew up in a mess, and ones that were full of love and gratitude and feelings of ease. There have also been the ones where the person vanishes and you learn to love yourself even more despite their silence.

And then there have been the ones that have broken my heart.

My last boyfriend, J, is definitely what I would call “my first love.” It was there from the very moment we met – a chemical energy than ran through our veins and connected my conscious with his. And I still love him very much, even though my heart has since healed from him, no longer aching.

It is hard to know when J & I broke up. There was the time from the moment he began using drugs again when he was no longer there. Sometimes I count that as the moment. My heart was broken but I was too distracted by hoping for him to be well again to truly focus on just how broken I was. There was the time he disappeared to rehab without telling me. Two weeks without contact. People would ask if we were still together and my mouth would swell with air and not a single word would come out. And then there was the time when he actually left. Disappeared. That was that. And my heart was truly broken as I was left empty and with so many questions.

How to heal a broken heart?

I spent weeks dreaming about J at night, waking up covered in sweat and tears and not knowing truth from fantasy. All of the time I wanted to be able to tell him all the reasons that I loved him. All the reasons that he was perfect and admirable and fair and sweet and good. And as this was going on, I was also working on improving myself. I was working to gain back the 15 pounds I had lost. I was working to do better at my internship, where I had walked out crying on several occasions in the prior months. I was working to find a job, as I had graduated college just a month before. I was working to repair relationships with the friends who had ostracized me for dating an addict. I was blogging furiously, writing and sharing stories and pictures and trying to find delight once again.

Typically people say that the key to healing a broken heart is distraction. Distract yourself into not thinking about them. Distract yourself into a routine in which their presence is not deeply felt. But I don’t find that this works.

Even some 8 months after we had broken up, I still missed J. My heart was still broken. Even though I thought of him less and my life seemed full, there was always an emptiness inside me.

I just had a conversation with a friend of mine who had his heart terribly broken many years ago. He had left the country after it. He had picked up a whole new routine. He made art and new friends and created a whole new life. And he is thriving. But he is still heartbroken and has still not been able to move on.

Distraction is poor advice in the face of a break-up.


And I am here again. Some four years after meeting J. More than 2 years after breaking up with him. Many many months after speaking with him again. Several months after dating him again, allowing us both to seek closure and realise that being in love with someone does not mean that they are what’s best for you. All this time later, I fell in love again. For a few fleeting months. And now the process starts again – how to heal a broken heart.

I am desperately distracting myself. Painting. Sewing. Reading. Writing. New friends. Traveling. Thinking about new careers, new routines.

But most of the time my heart is bursting for my mouth to be able to talk with him. To tell him how much I love him. To tell him all the reasons why I love him – his eyes and skin; the way he laughs and rubs his hands together with joy; the excitement in his voice when he’s talking about things he loves; when he goes on really long rants about things that don’t actually matter; how perfectly I fit into his arms when he’d hug me, or when I’d fall asleep in them while watching a movie; how I felt safe and secure and like a functioning piece of this beautiful world when I was with him; how I found new excitement for the infinite opportunities and experiences and joys that life has. And I’m at the stage where I still wish that there were mornings when I’d wake up early and watch him sleep. And days when I’d be really busy at work and look down at my phone to see his name on my screen, just asking how I am with a kissing emoji.

And despite all the distractions, I wish that I could be sharing them with him. To be telling him about the things I want to do, professionally. To be telling him about the books I’m reading or the stories I’m writing. And to tell him about some of the bad things too. About the friends I’m having trouble with, the challenges at work I’m facing, the things in my daily life that still frighten me. And I wish that I could still be hearing about all of these things from him, too.

Distraction is not how you heal a broken heart. I don’t know what is. I don’t know what magical thing healed it for me last time – but I know it wasn’t distraction, and I know it wasn’t time. I think it was sharing space and life together once again. It was talking through our hopes for one another. It was seeing how the shadowy corners of addiction still live on in sobriety. It was visualizing all I want for my life and seeing how this person didn’t fit in to even most of it. It was seeing that, despite being four years later, he had not changed – and it was for the worse. And I told him all the things I loved about him. I told him all the reasons that to me, he was perfect, and why we worked and all the potential that he holds. And over time, I could wake without wanting him to be there. I could go through a whole day without thinking about him, or wanting to talk to him, even though I had every opportunity to. And I realised that my heart was healed.

So now I wake each morning wondering how to heal a broken heart. I muse over it on coffee breaks, or when I cannot focus on work. I make it my intention in my yoga practice. And I fall asleep every night hoping that my heart will be healed. How to heal a broken heart?