100 Happy Days
The Aftermath of Love Gone Wrong
Let me tell you about how a toxic love, or rather, its demise, recently pushed me off an edge into a spiral of crushing pain and disorientation- detox; about how I felt that I was living a reoccurring dream where I felt my body sinking into an endless pit, but at the bottom, there was no Wonderland, there was just… nothing.
He had occupied me- like an army- for two years. He came in and took over all aspects of my life and then dropped them, leaving them to be blown, scattered by the lightest wind. These feelings of loss and worthlessness then led me into the arms of restless creativity, the kind that grasps every idle moment and cocoons it into something bigger, better. I wrote more during this time than I had in months.
My friends were well aware of my healing process; they knew that my energy during the day was almost miraculous because I wasn't sleeping. They knew they could celebrate when I ate because, not only had I lost my appetite, I was also woken daily by the nausea of my loneliness. I woke up every morning during the sprint to the bathroom to fall to my knees; afterwards, I’d sob wondering when it would just stop.
Though writing had nursed me through heartbreak before, it wasn't patching my wounds quick enough this time around. I inquired about my close ones’ heartbreak strategies, and most had strict formulas for pushing through: blocking the ex, rebounding, drinking, meditating, and varying amounts of time. I simply couldn’t make it end on my own, was the general consensus. Hell, maybe they were right, but I’m slightly convinced now that, had I not decided to do something myself, I would still be wallowing in the hope of continuing a loveless relationship.
The [not so easy] Fix
I created my own formula, giving happiness a time of day to exist in my body, on my schedule, as a bullet point on my to-do list. It began when, during my fifteen-minute walk to work on a random morning, I encountered a flower the size of my fingernail. Fuchsia and delicate, it was a spectator to the comings and goings of the sidewalk. Mindlessly, I picked it off the shrub it inhabited and carried it carefully in my palm until I reached my office desk, attentive to not rip its fragile pieces.
I sat down and took the time to carefully observe it, its five independent petals, whose thin fragility reminded me of my own. Holding it in my hand, I smiled for the first time in days and something clicked for me. The nauseating waves of grief, the feeling of impending danger, like holding glass on your tongue, dulled for a moment and I realized this was my meditation, my drinking, my rebound.
I snapped a photo of the flower resting trustingly on my hand and posted it to Instagram, using a hashtag I had seen years prior: #100HappyDays, then added #Day1.
It was an oath: here, I make my two hundred some followers- but mostly myself- a promise to devote my account to happiness for today and ninety-nine days going forward; here we go.
I visited the webpage created by the original 100 Happy Days creator and got a feel for the kind of path it promised. I figured that if I took these ephemeral moments of happiness that, until now, had done little for me and placed them on a pedestal, played them on repeat in my head, I could likely create my own recovery.
All of this to replace the endless nightmares in which my mind would place him in front of different scenarios and puppeteer him into saying the words: "I can't anymore," breaking our tie over and over again, night after night. Perhaps, I thought, if I can fixate on these moments that hang on the milliseconds between my anxious thoughts of abandonment, I can find the taste in food again, the pleasure in sleep.
It's still difficult to explain to people how rough this heartbreak was. I've never seen anything like it. It affected my body in ways that nothing else has before. I only wanted to sleep, couldn't eat, woke up nauseous every morning, missed my period for two months. I was essentially pregnant with pain (just figuratively, though, guys, I checked.)
It seemed, when I posted the first photo, that it would never end, ONE HUNDRED DAYS..., that like so many of the people who begin the challenge, I'd give up along the way, but I didn't.
Don't get me wrong with this story, the 100 Happy Days Challenge is misleading in its name. Though every one of those moments I posted was a happy one, not all lasted enough to make the whole day a happy one, especially in the beginning. Sometimes, I'd post a photo and an hour later I'd be holding my face in my hands, thinking, why isn't it over already?
However, that's what it's about. You're not always happy because you're not supposed to be. Having ups and downs is normal and they're actually really healthy for your soul! Nevertheless, I soon realized that searching for happiness made me happier in general and that, despite the tedious, heart crushing moments, it was what I needed.
I also realized more things happened to me when I searched for joy I'd bump into friends on the street during a walk, I'd have people visit from out of town, I'd end up at pop-up live salsa band parties in random houses. The world would actually conspire to make me happier and it wasn't like I was complacent.
Things we lost in the Fire
It wasn't all gain, however. I lost some friends with this challenge when I realized I wasn't willing to give so much in my relationships (which had essentially caused my break-up) and when I stopped giving too much of myself away, a lot of people stopped caring.
Good riddance, if you ask me.
I shed a lot of things that I believed to be essential to my identity. For example, I always believed that crying in front of people was not for me. No, no, no. Too much public vulnerability. Hell, I'd hardly cry at all (except during the last six months of my relationship, when I cried nearly every day), or maybe in the privacy of my own home. After starting this challenge, I embraced that we, as humans, cry sometimes. Sometimes we cry a lot.
I began crying in public as if it was laughter, or physical pain, or curiosity or any other non-taboo expression. I cried while placing groceries in my cart and paying for them. I cried while eating lunch alone. I cried when out for beers with friends, and it wasn't a thing.
I'd cry while having fun, while dancing, while cooking, and it felt so. damn. good. The simultaneity of feeling both fragile and careless.
I let go of my fear of being alone. Not just "single," but really alone. I started going out alone, I'd eat alone, which before was one of my biggest discomforts. I'd shop alone, read at a café alone, go out for a drink alone.
This, I'll admit is one of the feats I am truly most proud of, I learned to love being alone.
Weight. As I was going through all this, like I mentioned before, my appetite took a vacation, and since I was working out almost every day in desperate search of endorphins, I lost a fair amount of weight. I burned through weight that was no longer needed on my body: relationship weight, comfortable weight, static weight and gave way to discomfort, uncertainty, and movement.
My social calendar was booming. I had to schedule days and nights to myself, because as I cherished my friends more, they wanted to be around me as well, to support me, to enjoy my company.
All this, I'll reluctantly confess, made me more confident, which led to a line of interesting first dates and encounters, some that worked out beautifully, and others that ended in irrisible disaster. I lost my fear of flings, dating, and fleeting romance.
When I was nearing the end I'd already had a fair amount of people asking me about my 100HappyDays hashtag, what it was, why I was doing it, telling me I was glowing, that I looked great. My parents, after seeing me not get out of bed for a week months earlier, desperately wanted me to make it 200, 300, hell, a year!
But, I understand now that they're one hundred days for a reason. In those 100 days you begin new habits and let go of old ones, you create a new routine and, essentially, a new identity, but it's exhausting. Posting every day because you have to is devastatingly tiresome, even if it's essentially resulting in your happiness.
After my last day, and the short description that came with the post, three of my friends started the 100 Happy Days challenge: Lexxy, George, and Courtenay. I encourage you to take a look at each, it really shows how each person makes the challenge their own.
What's left after "Happily Ever After"?
I have one hundred photos that I want on a wall in my house.
I have even more photos that were sent to me during this time to make my day, show me something fun, tell me a story or just say hello that make me ecstatic.
I have a Moleskine full of thoughts, pain, doodles, reflections, quotes, ideas, coffee stains and lots of lists (goals, shopping, etc.)
I have the absolute certainty that family is the one thing that's always there.
I have an insane amount of new friends both here and all over the world.
I don't always have a booming social calendar, and that's okay.
I have memories of road trips and beers in town squares, sunburns, flaky skin, hikes and dips in cold rivers, as well as photo proof that heartbreak is very much like sunburn, it lives on your skin and fades away with time and care.
I have some healthy weight back, I eat on a regular basis and I've slacked on working out because I could easily OD on endorphins. (kidding, I'll try to get back on it).
I'm full of ideas, projects and exciting beautiful things to look forward to, but I'm a lot less organized and structured than I was during those 100 days.
I still laugh so, so much, and cry only sometimes, when I need it.
And, to my surprise, someone came around after my heart was almost fully healed and ... well, he's pretty cool.
To all of you who were there, asked, loved, shared, and read this...
With love [and happiness],