By Madison Garrett
I’m sitting on the front porch of my apartment as the storm rolls in slowly from the west. From my vantage point with a mug of green tea in hand, I can see two sides of the storm: the before and the during. The before is my apartment complex: dry, not yet changed by the approaching rain, but crackling and tingling under the weight of what it knows is coming. The during, just off in the distance, is dark, menacing, irrepressible, and all-encompassing. The storm is coming and coming quickly; I can hear the thunder cracking and I see the lightning jump from cloud to cloud.
What I cannot see, however, is the after.
A darling friend has just left my apartment to go meet up with her boyfriend, most likely for the last time. An hour ago, we were eating store-bought spaghetti and farmer’s market bread in my living room, chatting about our lives, when she asked me, out of the blue, what it was like to go through a break up.
For the first time in the ten months since I had been broken up with, I broke down sobbing in front of another human being. Unable to contain myself, I burst into tears, burdened by the rawness and the honesty of the question, the heartbreak my friend was about to encounter, and remembering mine all over again.
Last October, I stood exactly where she now stands. I remember it with savage clarity: the helplessness, the powerlessness, the inability to change his mind, and the desperation with which I fought to keep him in my life.
The feelings of not-enoughness, of weakness, of wretched, unwavering, unavoidable confusion.
I spoke to her quietly, with a voice cracking under the weight of so much emotion.
My sweet friend watched tears stream shamelessly down my face.
“It’s anguish,” I said, “but I can tell you with absolute certainty and with every fiber of my being that it is the most worthwhile anguish imaginable.”
There is a rawness that comes in feeling so much, I explained to her. I was unused to heartbreak, inexperienced in the art of grieving, and overall confounded by the reality I was now facing. I was heart sick and heart sore, skipping out on a week’s worth of obligations, choosing to watch Friends in bed or go on long, tear-filled walks with myself. I filled up journal after journal of questions of self-worth and asking that oh so inconvenient question: why.
It is okay to hide for a little while. It’s okay to be all mixed up and it’s okay to not be okay. It’s necessary to mourn and grieve and be still in the midst of your sadness. I needed to nurse my tender heart and let it feel every mixed up emotion that it felt, even when I didn’t want to. Letting go of the sweet boy I loved felt like standing on the plank of a pirate ship. I knew I couldn’t stay on the boat. No one was pushing me off and no one was going to force me to jump, but I knew that I couldn’t stay there. I had to decide for myself if I wanted to stay on board a boat that wasn’t going anywhere or if I wanted to jump off and believe in the unknown waters.
And now here I am, nearly a year later, sitting on my porch, watching a storm, and slowly letting go of fear for my friend. In its place, I’m growing more and more excited.
This season ripped me apart and ravished my heart and turned everything I knew upside down. It was like an earthquake that shook up my life, unseating everything without a firm foundation, showing me what was permanent in my life as well as highlighting the fragments that needed rebuilding. It was like a wrecking ball that knocked down any apparition of perfection, forcing me to be vulnerable and weak and sad and messy- everything I always did my best to avoid. It was a season of walking through the wilderness, of not being able to see where I was going, of constantly deciding if I wanted to be where it was safe or where I would grow.
I had to start talking about my pain. Which, for the record, is NOT easy for me. But I had to start speaking out loud those lies that I believed so that someone could speak the truth over me instead. I had to set my pride aside and bravely pull back the curtain and show dear friends the messiness of my heart, choosing to honor them with my vulnerability and choosing to let them be the kind of friend that I needed. My heart had been broken, and now was the time to undergo heart surgery: to sift through my emotions and my insecurities, to courageously let my heart be opened up and softened, and to bravely begin to use it again.
Yes, this season is anguish. But it is the most beautiful and pure and righteous form of anguish possible.
Just like the storm will inevitably end, the anguish my friend feels will end too. But we cannot put ourselves on a timeline. You are never “too much” and you are never “not enough” and you are never behind schedule. Those lies are easy to believe, but you must fight them. Replace them with this truth: you are becoming gold. This pain is not meaningless, I promise. From inside the storm, you cannot see what comes next. But take it from someone who has been soaked by the heavy rain and now walks freely: spring is on the other side. A season of newness, of rebirth, of beginnings waits for you. The soil is dark and wet and ready for growth and a new you is ready to burst forth into existence. You are being scrubbed clean of brokenness and you will emerge victorious, renewed, refreshed, and revitalized, ready to dream, ready to love, and ready to begin again. So muster every ounce of courage you have and jump off that pirate ship into your new normal. It is the boldest thing you could possibly do.