The other week, while traveling on my book tour, I fell for somebody. It was one of those instant, mutual connections—the kind you don’t have to question, or ask your best friend: what do YOU think about him?
I love anything in life that doesn’t need to be questioned, because I am naturally someone who questions everything. (The other week I was in an online chat with someone in tech support for GoDaddy, and after three hours going back and forth with the guy about a problem with my website, I finally messaged him: Sir, are there some things in life that just can’t be figured out by anybody and no one will ever know the answer or be able to get to the bottom of it even if they spend all day and night trying for years and years? To which he very nicely replied: We will figure this out, Riley.
We didn’t figure it out.
So, I’m still in my head some nights, you know. Thinking about that. Wondering…)
But that weekend, neither of us had to wonder about what was happening. It just was true. We liked each other. A lot.
And then, as quickly as it started, it ended.
I hate heartache. So much so that this year I pretty much shut down emotionally. It’s a vulnerable thing to have your work read and reviewed and with my novel being published, I felt I had to be guarded so I wouldn’t feel any bad review too deeply.
But that weekend, I remembered what it was like to open up again. Everything in my life snapped back into focus: Why I do this work. What really matters in life. And how pleasant it is when you meet a complete stranger and connect in a way that makes everything—for a brief moment in time—make sense and feel possible.
It’s hard to be open and vulnerable. I struggle with this creatively and in my relationships and I think our generation as a whole isn’t the best at it. I know so many men and women who are on all the dating sites and going out with several people a week to keep themselves from feeling too deeply for the one person they actually do like but who might be taking a while to message them back.
With all the options out there, we don’t technically ever have to be too vulnerable. We can “play the field” while still playing it safe by spending time with people we may not necessarily feel a strong connection with but at least we know won’t break our heart.
I really encourage doing the opposite. I will be disappointed for a while, but it reminds me that what I’m missing meant a great deal. And what’s the point of going after something if its absence doesn’t shake us? Elizabeth Gilbert puts it best: “This is a good thing having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”
If you do decide to make yourself vulnerable and wind up getting your heart broken, here are several tips that might help you pull yourself back up so you can get back out there again (including one from my book, Waiting at Hayden’s, that involves wearing all black.
Hold a mock-funeral: Back when I lived in Charleston and was writing the first draft of Waiting at Hayden’s, my roommate went through a terrible break up. One night while I was writing I heard her down the hall in her bedroom call out: “I just want to put him in a box and never open it up again.” I threw out an idea: “Why don’t we?” Years before a friend had made me dress up in all black and hold a mock-funeral to get over an ex, which had seemed like a ridiculous idea at the time, but actually ended up being cathartic. So I had my roommate grab a box and we hopped in the car, drove to the beach, and dug a hole in the ground where we buried all the mementos from the relationship. Though she wasn’t miraculously cured, we did have a good laugh, and for a few minutes at least, she felt better. A similar scene happens in Waiting at Hayden’s, which you can find here.
Find ways to believe in love again: Whenever I go through a break-up I always have to remind myself that I will love again. Watching romantic comedies, for me, helps. A few of my favorites are: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Something Borrowed, and The Holiday.
Channel your heartbreak into a creative outlet. There’s a reason Taylor Swift writes songs after each of her breakups. Our emotions are raw and we’re most in touch with how we feel when we’re brokenhearted so try to get your thoughts out in a healthy way by creating.
Read a book: I wrote the first draft of Waiting at Hayden’s when I was brokenhearted and hope that the story will resonate with anyone who’s had a broken heart. Find it here.
Get Dressed Up: Moping around in your pajamas eating ice cream might be your natural inclination, but I find taking a nice, warm shower and getting dressed to be an instant pick me up. I’m currently loving this Forever 21 top, David Lerner skirt, and Tory Burch purse from my book.