Have you ever gotten over your first love?

Short answer: Yes, I’ve gotten over my first love.

Long answer: Fuck, it was hard.

But it gets better.

God damn it all to hell, it gets better.

I suppose I’ve been lucky enough to only have my heart broken once. But what a mighty break it was. It was my first love. It was my only love. And just like that it was gone.

Actually, no, who are we kidding? When I say “just like that” it gives you the wrong impression that I had love one day and no love the next. In hindsight, that might actually be preferable. No, this monument of love that I had built with the other for 13 long years was destined to be destroyed the same way it was built: brick by tender brick, a slow topple; less a cartoonish tumble, like a stack of Jenga pieces that had been piled one piece too high, more a slow flood building up against our monument and washing first the weakest pieces away, then the stronger, then the strongest, until nothing was left.

I remember the ache. The fucking ache. I understood in those times why the ancients talked about the bowels being the throne of your emotions, not the heart as we do in modern times. Because that’s where I felt it. All the time. Like the worst hunger pang you’ve ever had, multiplied a dozen times, with an appetite that no food; alcohol, sex, hobbies; could fill. You would carry that pain around in you like a coal in your belly, burning, always burning. And just when it seemed ready to die down, to dissipate, there your mind would be, ready to stoke the flickering smoky mess back into a roaring flame. The mind and its endless, ceaseless rumination, the thoughts that came sudden and unbidden, so sharp and poisonous; the Scumbag Brain meme brought to terrible life.

Where was she? Who was she with? What were they doing? And worst of all: were they having sex? And my mind, always delightfully imaginative, was willing to fill in the shadows of what I did not want to see, pull back the shade and draw, in wondrous detail, she and him in various throes of passion.

And then there was the rejection, the mountainously strong thought that she prefers the company of someone else. That she had so moved on, had traveled so far from you, that she never paused to think of you. Or maybe, if she did, the moment was fleeting and quickly dismissed, batted away like a bothersome fly. So unlike how you felt. Her memory and the thought of her was the boulder that you rolled up the mountainside again and again, the boulder that you carried on your back like a hump; to work, to be with your children, when with friends, the weight that you had to keep shifting from shoulder to shoulder because no matter how you carried it, it never became comfortable.

The strange thing is – and this is what makes humans so damn silly – there’s a part of me that didn’t want it to get better. The part of me that hums when I read a line like this one, from South Park: “I’m sad, but at the same time I’m really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It’s like, it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human.”

And so often, when I felt myself starting to climb out of the abyss, I would do things to insure that I would tumble back down into it. Look at old pictures. Read old letters. Take my wedding ring out of the drawer, out of the envelope, and put it on again, feel the comfort of its heft. Actions that were silly and self-destructive, that kept me from realizing the simple truth that it was over, and nothing could bring it back. In matters of the heart, you cannot change someone else’s mind. You cannot argue your way back into a relationship. There doesn’t exist a magical combination of words that will turn their heart back toward you. One day I realized that the sooner I realized that, the better off I would be. So I learned those ideas, I spoke them as my mantra, over and over again.

People say, “this too shall pass,” for one simple reason: it’s the only thing that one can say to someone in that situation that isn’t complete bullshit. Every other platitude will fall short. This is the only one that remains true. It will pass. As the time stretched out between now and the time that I was with this other person, things hurt less. The constant stabbing pain turned into an occasional prick. When once looking at a picture of the two of us caused emotional distress, now it merely serves up a faintly sad nostalgia. A wisp of what might have been, followed by gratefulness for the times we shared. Maybe, eventually, I can look at that picture and whisper a prayer between pursed lips that this other person find happiness…even if that happiness be in the arms of another.

TL;DR: I’m over it, but it was the highest mountain I’ve ever had to climb.


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