2015 began with a bang.
My five-year relationship ended, I moved out of our house and said goodbye to our dog. Heartbreak, heartache and acceptance would follow, all in a swirling blur. I don't remember half of it, but maybe that's for the best. I was fuelled by a unique sort of neurotic energy that only a newly single person possesses - the sort of energy that means living in a different place every month seems normal. The sort of energy that means you're back in work the next day telling everyone you're 'fine!', until ten minutes later you're crying in the toilet. Exhausting.
But let's not dwell. Everyone knows that breaking up is hard and for a while it is best not to do anything. You are a grenade and you will, at random, explode and do inadvisable things. It's your rite of passage to do this, so don't worry about that part.
But also break-ups, if you think hard on it, are great. Sort of. I promise. Here's why:
1) Maybe I'm crazy? Probably.
The post break-up world is the Twilight Zone. You have absolutely no idea what is going on, what is going to happen, or how a single person feeds themselves (I don't want to labour the point, but supermarkets do not sell meat cuts for one person. What if I don't want two chicken breasts? Two salmon fillets?) Things feel bizarre and weird. My advice? Embrace the crazy. People are more willing than ever to accept your newly found self-indulgent, reckless and out-of-character behaviour: in fact, they expect it. People will hear the crazy things you are saying and plans you're hatching, and will nod understandably, before whispering to the person next to them: 'she's going through a break-up'. Heartache, my friends, is a carte blanche to colour outside the lines for a while.
As that great wordsmith, Gnarls Barkley, once said: 'I remember when, I remember when I lost my mind, there was something so pleasant about that place'. Yes, Gnarls! Get a tattoo; go out a lot; watch TV for a week straight; eat a diet based on Chinese food; cry in the middle of meetings; get a hair cut; start a new diet; date; spend too much money and just be alone for a while. Your life will probably have little aim, goals or sense of direction, but that's all fine in the Twilight Zone. Anything goes. A couple of months later you'll return back to normal life, so make the most of it.
2) Me, me, me
Now, if there is one thing a newly-single person is told a lot, it's normally along the lines of: 'this is a unique time to learn who you really are'. Or 'you need to learn to love yourself, before you can love anyone else'. Initially, this idea is a bad one. Why would you want to embark on a lonely relationship with yourself, when you've just enjoyed five years of partnership? The last person you want to hang out with is the puffy, weepy person that you've become. They're no fun at all.
I ignored this advice for quite a while until, a few months passed and I realised it was happening naturally. Living alone, with a life to structure around yourself, means that inevitably life does become about you. How to fill your time; what to eat for dinner; what to watch on TV; what colour to paint your walls; what broadband package to opt for; who you hang out with; whether you hang out with people at all; and what time to go to bed, all suddenly become questions you're faced with on a daily basis. Slowly, life becomes less about asking your partner 'what do you want to do?' and more 'what do I want to do?' I found this part quite difficult. Laura liked going on holiday, animals and burgers. Past that, I wasn't too sure about anything else. This is still work in progress, but I'm getting there and without morphing into a quote from 'Pinterest', it's quite an exciting thing to do.
3) Friends, old and new
In the midst of any break-up are your friends. They emerge through the fog, give you a warm drink and look after you. They wouldn't let you come out of this anything other than triumphant. The predictable thing about relationships is that you get so preoccupied with the other person, that you forget that your friends are amazing partners too. Yes, one relationship has broken down, but it's also highlighted the other incredible relationships you have in your life.
The completely unexpected thing about my break-up was just how many new friends I would meet post-boyfriend. Being alone means your normal routine that you once shared is gone. You're propelled out into life to create a new one: start new activities, see new places and seek out people going through similar things. In fact, who needs men when you're so busy friendship dating?
4) The awkward truth
This part takes a while to come to. But after a few months of licking your wounds, you come to the realisation that actually, the break-up wasn't such a bad thing after all. In fact, had you known it would lead to so much great stuff, maybe you would have done it sooner. Much sooner.
Too often, people stay together because it's better than being on your own. You badly want to be able to have someone to watch TV with and to make you a cup of tea. You're probably great friends and genuinely love each other. But there's also a feeling that maybe this isn't quite 'right'. My advice is to not ignore that feeling -you're perhaps hammering a square peg into a round hole. It's sad, but it's OK to acknowledge.
A year on and despite many highs and lows, I can honestly say that my break-up was one of the most important and ultimately positive events in my adult life. There's no disputing it, break-ups are difficult. However, if you can look past the tears and immediate pain, you'll find that it could just be the making of you.