The pain, the anguish, the soul-crushing dread.
Those moments of deep sorrow and helplessness.
Where it feels nothing will ever be the same.
Where it feels you’ve lost your chance and you will forever be doomed to an incomplete existence without light or happiness. Everything will be ever so slightly dulled. Changed forever.
It’s more than sadness. It’s deeper. It’s the real feeling that a piece of you is gone. Dead. You will never find it or feel it again. Something so beautiful, so real, lost to you forever.
Over time, you have moments of reprieve where you forget your sorrow. Where you feel like, perhaps, all is not lost. That even though that piece is missing, you will find it, or something like it again.
Only for you to be ripped away from that fleeting moment of optimism by some seemingly innocuous happenstance that triggers a new cascade of deep impenetrable pain. As if your entire future has once again been shattered, as the memory of what was and what could have been, comes flooding back.
Heartbreak. Nothing hurts quite like it.
My first heartbreak was over a man—a typical heartbreak story. I went through the emotions. I searched my soul (and the internet) for answers. I found Buddhism, Elephant Journal, Pema Chodron, Susan Piver, Byron Katie, Brene Brown, and Ekhart Tole. I found a brief respite in their words and slowly managed to wrestle through the pain with their guidance.
Piece by piece, day by day, tidal wave after tidal wave, I put myself and my life back together. And as the cliché goes, I was better for it. I became a stronger, more loving version of myself. I fell in love again, and I am now building a more beautiful future than I ever imagined possible.
Years later, here I am. The feelings are familiar, but the circumstances are very different. In the middle of a global pandemic, I am fighting to hold onto the business my husband and I have built these past three years. And as the recession expands, so too does our fear, anger, and hopelessness.
Until now, the ups and downs I’ve been experiencing these past few months have been confusing, impossible to discern. At times, it feels like I am going crazy. One minute, I’m working hard on a project; the next, I’ve stopped that project and started on the next big idea, frantically trying to find a solution—something, anything that will save us.
We follow days of productivity with full days spent in a vast dark emotional emptiness consumed by doom and misery. We drink beer, and I yell about the injustice of it all. We go to bed and wake up refreshed and determined—hard at work again. Until the next full day we lose to the overwhelming pain, anger, and fear.
It has a name.
When I was in university, I studied health science. I learned there is power in naming things, in diagnosing things. Once you clearly define what something is, you can determine your path, frame your experience, and find help.
Often there is a deep sense of relief one experiences when they receive a diagnosis. Good or bad, having a label finally puts an end to the chaos and allows you to move forward. And by naming my heartbreak, I am finally on a path of moving through it.
Like so many small businesses right now, we are at real risk of losing all we have built in this global recession. Within just a few short months, our revenue has been cut to less than half of what it was. And as we continue to dip into our quickly diminishing savings, this thing that my husband and I believe in—and have worked so hard for—is inching closer and closer to the edge.
As a small business owner, you spend more time working on your business than you do anything else. And the times you are not working on it, you are thinking about it. Day by day, it becomes a part of you—an extension of you. It is more than just products. It is more than just a job. It is the real manifestation of your hopes and dreams. Of the world you want to create.
When you write your procedures, your values, and your mission, you are charting a new course. You are building a new world. And step-by-step, you begin creating a better tomorrow for you and your customers. In this one little area. With this one little piece.
And because of that, you find your tribe. You build a tiny community of people who believe in what you believe in, who believe in your business, and who believe in you.
To be at risk of losing that is to be at risk of losing a part of yourself.
And for this, I am scared. And I am heartbroken.
With my first heartbreak, much of the pain came from the uncertainty. From having to tear down and rebuild the future world I had created. I was so afraid that my ability to love was contained within this one person. And if I lost them, I would never find it again. I had to have faith that this thing I had only experienced once would indeed happen again.
The answer I found is that those moments of intense love and connectedness were not contained within an outside person. I learned that I was the person who loved that much. Who felt that much. It was contained within me alone. When I realized that my ability to love and connect was a power I possessed and not a commodity to be found and acquired, I was finally able to start letting go.
And now, as I sit in this new uncertainty, facing the real possibility of losing yet another thing that I love, I remind myself of those lessons. I remind myself that the power to create something good and meaningful is within me. I am the one that built it.
The magic is in the creating, not the creation. And if it comes time, and I must let go, I will always be the creator. And that is something I can never lose.
So when they arise, I allow myself to feel the pain, the anger, and the fear.
I take a lesson from Pema and focus on feeling the pain while letting go of the accompanying stories.
I allow myself to lose an hour or sometimes a day to the emotions. And then, I let it go and get back to work.
For all I can do is move ahead, take moments to grieve when needed, and find stillness in the uncomfortable uncertainty.
All the while, I allow my heart and mind to rest on knowing there is one thing I can always be certain of—and that is me.
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