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Unhinged - Oddities

How to Recover from a Broken Heart
in 101 Simple Steps
October 1, 2000

Break-up pain, in painstaking detail

by Scott Kirkwood

Sit and stare blankly. At the television, the radio, the mirror, the ground, the ceiling, people on the street, and pretty much everything in your field of vision.

Do not let more than fifteen minutes pass without checking your office voicemail, your home answering machine, your professional e-mail address, your personal e-mail address, or your mailbox. Be glad you do not own a beeper. Consider buying a beeper to give your former lover one more way to get in touch with you. Occasionally check the phone line, leave voice-mail messages and send e-mails to yourself, just to Email to a Friendmake sure all electronics are functioning properly, because you would hate to miss the one contact she attempts in the flood of regret that is soon to hit her - if only for a few moments. Envy those people who lived in the nineteenth century and could not possibly have worried about these things, yet also wonder what they did while waiting for the pain to subside.

Chart your progress through the five stages of grief. Enjoy denial and come to appreciate it as the 'eye of the storm,' because it's a nice place to be before and after the real destruction occurs.

Change your style. Grow, dye, or shave your hair. Spend a lot of money on new clothes you will never wear after recovering from this pain.

Hope that she gets fat. Take it back as soon as you realize you still love her and do not wish ill of her. But accept that maybe it would be nice if she could no longer fit into those jeans that made her look so good.

Spend a lot of time in bed thinking about her. Spend, in fact, more time in bed thinking about her than you actually spent in bed with her. Glorify your now-lost sex life. Listen to every love song on the radio and every CD you own and project your relationship into the meaning of every lyric, even those that clearly make no reference to any relationship whatsoever, even those songs that focus on war and social injustice. Quickly convince yourself that these songs do apply, for, in a way, your relationship does involve people on opposite sides fighting one another, and casualties, of course. Also, there has clearly been a social injustice here.

Occasionally, just as you think you are going to be OK, realize you are, in fact, not going to survive. Punch things like walls and desks and other inanimate objects at these moments, then immediately go back to whatever it was you were doing.

Wish that you had a dog rather than a cat because dogs will seek out your affection and allow you to attribute their innate sensitivity to an unspoken understanding of your plight - whereas cats will usually stare back at you as if to say, 'Will you be feeding us soon?' Recognize, however, that your cats do not miss your former lover at all, and idolize them for that fact. Wish you could be a cat or any other creature or inanimate object that does not date.

Consider drinking and illicit drugs. Discover that the local liquor stores are all closed, and remember you don't know anyone with access to illicit drugs. Instead, drink a few too many teaspoons from a bottle of Nyquil that's months past its expiration date. Consider suicide. Then remember that swallowing too many pills isn't a sure-fire method, and that only the truly violent forms of suicide guarantee your end. Discard these methods as well, because they require far too much preparation, and would also inconvenience anyone who might find your bloody corpse... unless you could arrange for her to find your bloody corpse. Abandon this option too, because there is still a very small chance she'll call you tomorrow and tell you that she's changed her mind, and this would really put a damper on any opportunity to reunite. Instead, live a little more dangerously. Ride your bicycle without a helmet. Stop wearing your seatbelt. Accept the fact that with your luck, these daring acts will probably land you in the hospital, paralyzed from the neck down. Consider the odds of her showing up at the hospital to see if you are all right. Hesitate for a moment, but eventually reject this as an impractical approach to reconciliation.

Think about all the reasons that you were never too sure of this relationship anyway. Dismiss all of these reasons immediately as foolish notions of someone afraid of commitment. Realize you have amazingly overcome your fear of commitment and replaced it with a horrible phobia of staying home Friday nights and watching television programming featuring the Olson twins. Think for a moment, 'Well now, those Olson twins are a little more talented than I had originally given them credit. And they are actually getting to be kind of cute.' Recognize that these thoughts may constitute one of the overlooked stages of grieving.

Revel in the fact that you may finally have a chance to date a woman with a really nice bust/bank account/automobile. Then remember these are completely superficial characteristics that have never mattered to you. Decide to become more superficial, since superficial people never seem to feel a whole heck of a lot of pain.

Consider the potential of a relationship with nearly every woman who comes into your life, even the one who sits next to you on the subway for five minutes. Wish you were bisexual because the odds of finding another partner would be doubled. Be bitter toward bisexuals. Be bitter toward anyone in a current relationship, even though weeks ago you considered them all hopeless saps with no understanding of true love. Be alarmed that very stupid and very ugly people are in relationships, and you are not.

Think about all the items in your home that remind you of her. Start to attribute meaning to those objects that have none, such as the mixer you once used to make her mashed potatoes. Consider throwing out all the items, then realize you can't afford to replace them all. Think about all the money you spent on dinners, therapy, lingerie and movies, and note that the sum amounts to about $4,282 a year. Think about how you would have spent this money. Recognize that you would have wasted most of it on movie rentals, video games, and subscriptions to pointless men's magazines.

Catch yourself saying and thinking things she would have said in baby-talk, and curse yourself for doing it. Picture her kissing someone else, hugging someone else, living with someone else, and fill yourself with rage. Swear to break the heart of the next woman who falls in love with you, partially to let yourself feel the power of hurting someone, partially to see what your former lover must have felt like when dumping you, but mostly just because it seems like a good idea to punish someone of the opposite sex, as if they were all on the same team.

Partake in activities your former lover would find morally reprehensible. If she is a vegetarian, eat more cheeseburgers and add more leather products to your wardrobe. If she is an environmentalist, stop printing on both sides of each page and never, ever recycle; in fact, throw away blank pieces of paper. Also, leave the lights on and the faucet running even when you are not at home.

Walk or drive by her house with absolutely no concept of why you are doing so. Find out if she is home or not. Look inside a window from a distance, and realize you can determine absolutely nothing about anything by doing this. Wonder if she drives by your home to do the exact same thing. Look out the window, just in case her car is going by at the very instant you look out, because she might be coming by to see you, and she might not stop unless you're looking out the window at that moment. Wherever you are, look for cars similar to hers and be surprised every time she isn't in the driver's seat. If one day, you do see her in the driver's seat, be surprised she isn't looking for you. Consider calling her a few hours afterwards. Acknowledge the fact that this is really not reason enough to have a conversation, since it's hard to give a convincing reading of the line, 'You know I saw you driving through the drug store parking lot yesterday and I really think someone is trying to tell us something.'

Go through your home and look for possessions she may have left behind. Gather these and decide that you must visit her immediately and return these items. Hope she will be home. Hope she will not be home so you can leave a long letter that, when combined with the finality of receiving these possessions, will convince her she's made a mistake. As you knock on the door, look through her window and notice she has already created a tidy little pile of your possessions. A few weeks later, scrounge through your home again looking for even more possessions that she needs - those you might have overlooked, like books you think she may have loaned you, even those stamped 'PROPERTY OF CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY.' Find barrettes and rubber bands that she used for her hair, and decide she must really be spending inordinate amounts of time searching for these items, so you must return them as well.

Become a completely useless individual between nine to five weekdays. Wish that you were not a writer, but instead a janitor or a file clerk, or any worker fortunate enough to perform repetitive mindless tasks that require no self-examination. Realize that a broken heart is actually good material, and that writers do not seek enjoyment in life nearly as much as they seek good material. Find joy and humor and depth in suffering, and believe that Fran Lebowitz and David Sedaris would be proud of you, and might some day want to be your friends. Write an article about your experiences, knowing there are many others out there who have gone through this pain and would enjoy such an article. Remember, however, that at any given time the readership of any national magazine is not primarily concerned with the end of a relationship, for most have since moved on - you are, in all likelihood, the only person feeling this horrible right now, and no one else really cares. Even so, send the article to editors, hoping one of them has recently been dumped. (Think about how nice this would be since you dislike most editors, as they seem to send you nothing but form rejection letters. Be happy that your former lover sent you a personalized rejection letter if, in fact, she did.) Find an editor who will publish your article. Hope your former lover will somehow find your article and be so moved that she calls you and takes it all back.

Sit by the phone holding your breath until you simply can't stand it anymore. Then get up, go outside, and take a walk. Return home. For the first time ever, don't even bother looking at the answering machine. Take a deep breath. Think about the next woman you'll fall in love with, and try to find some hope simply imagining what she might be doing at this very minute.

And try not to screw things up the next time.

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