Dating After a Breakup

I'll never forget the date. It was March 20. He broke up with me on the phone while I stood in the driveway of my parent's house. As the words came out of his mouth, I felt like the entire world was rushing by and I was standing still. Like waves in the ocean were crashing into my body; the water whooshing past in the form of his horrible words and my brain screaming for him not to say them. Yet, inside me felt completely still. 

I went inside and, as calmly as I'd said goodbye to him on the phone, told my brother, Sam: he just broke up with me. And then I burst into tears while Sam hugged me and his best friend from college stood by. I have two sisters, I totally understand, his friend told me when I apologized, years later, that he had to go through that first day of tears with me.

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I always say you should get an exit interview when you break up. It feels like you're getting fired from the relationship; evicted from the life you knew. Don't you deserve the chance to ask questions? 

The obvious questions came first: After almost two years of being oh-so happy, what changed? Didn't he think I deserved an in-person breakup after, ya know, 663 days of being together? Not that I did the math or anything. 

Then the harder questions came: Did he not find me interesting anymore? Did he not think I was pretty? Did he not like kissing me? Am I boring? Am I annoying? Am I too nice? Not nice enough? Does he think I'm fat? Doesn't he think I'm hot? 

My mom always says the best thing, after a breakup, is when you move from sad to mad. It's when you stop feeling hurt, like there is something seriously wrong with you, and start to think maybe, just maybe, he wasn't perfect either. Get mad! She told me one day on a walk in May, when I was still crying about him and wondering what I'd done wrong. I want you to get just a little bit mad at him for a second. Even if it's fleeting, she encouraged. But I love him! I told her as I cried in front of a neighbor's daffodils. 

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You begin to move on.

You process through the sadness and the madness and then, eventually, you realize you're doing OK. Things are a little better. You are feeling like yourself again. You can eat and laugh and enjoy a night out with friends without constantly thinking of him, hoping and praying he'll text you to say sorry.

But then you see one of his friends. Or, perhaps, you run into his mom. Or see an old photo of you two from a year ago, when it was your grandma's 80th birthday and everybody in your family loved him - even your grandpa, who never loves anybody! You crumble. You cry on your bedroom floor, looking at the photo, talking to this little picture: why did you do this to me? You ask the photo. Why did you throw us away!?

You're annoyed after that because you thought you were over him and, as it turns out, he can still control your emotions. What you forget, in the moment, though, is that these moments are fewer and further between. They still hurt and that's OK. You're a human, not a robot. It's OK for things to hurt, as much as we don't want them to. 

But you're doing better. Little by little. Each day. 

People email me most often about relationships and breakups. The question I'm regularly asked is this: how do you get back on the horse? How do you start dating again? How do you trust that the next guy won't change his mind like the last guy did? 

I always pause for a long time when people ask this because it's such a tender, personal question. It is so hard to start dating again. My first date after this guy - let me tell you - it wasn't pretty. I agreed to go on a date but wanted to meet there because, you know, serial killers. I cried on the entire drive there. Can you even imagine how my makeup looked when I got to that little Mexican restaurant? 

The best thing you can do, I think, is to be as gentle as ever with yourself. Remember, you're not getting back on the horse right away. First, you're just petting it. Maybe after a little while you'll walk along side it. With a little more time, you might be able ready to take it for a ride, but it takes a lot of time. 

Nothing is more important, when it comes to healing, than listening to your needs. 

Keep reminding yourself that you are beautiful and loved. Be your own biggest cheerleader. Remind yourself daily that it gets easier. Remember each morning that you're better off today than you were yesterday, because you're further along in the healing process.  

I believe in you. I know you can get through this. 

In solidarity,
Whitney

Five Things I'm Loving

1. We recently got this rug from Target and I am loving it. It's brighter than the image shows online, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. It's very easy to vacuum and someone already asked me if it was Anthro. Wahoo (:

2. Grapefruit margaritas. Wham! My cousin, Allie, was in town a few weeks ago and introduced me to them. They are so refreshing! Here's how she makes them:

- 1/2 glass Pure La Croix
- 1/2 grapefruit (juiced in, but keep the chunks)  
- A splash of Grapefruit Juice
- Squeezed lime
- 1 shot tequila
- Jalapeños (I like 2-3 slices without the seeds)
- Cayenne pepper to taste

They're such a good spring drink!

3. Every Man Jack Body Wash in Eucalyptus. Is it weird to talk about my body wash? Hm. We got it at Target and it smells wonderful. It's dye free, cruelty free, GMO free, gluten free - and, although it wasn't free, it is cheaper than other body washes of its kind. We're loving it!

4. Be Green Dry Shampoo. This stuff! It immediately jumped to the top of my favorite dry shampoo list. It is very effective and makes my hair look so thick. It is the #1 dry shampoo on the EWG's list, too. Not to mention it somehow makes my top knots better. Sometimes I feel like top knots take a lot of finesse, but this stuff makes my hair just want to be thrown on top of my head.

Be Green sent me the dry shampoo to try and I will absolutely buy it again. Although it is a slightly higher price point, since it's a powder, it will last a lot longer than sprays. 

5. We have been making Parmesan Turkey Avocado Burgers lately and they are delicious. It is actually my most-ever pinned recipe. All of those pinners can't be wrong, guys! They are worth making. They are very simple but people will think you're fancy because of the avocado INSIDE the burger, yep! 

Have the best weekend! 

For When You Feel Like You're Behind in Life

Lately I've been working with college students to open local chapters for The Letter Project. As I've met with them over coffee and FaceTime, I've thought a lot about myself at 20. What would Whitney at 20 think of Whitney at 30? Would I be surprised at how different my life looked than I’d planned? Would I be proud of the way I was living? Would I wonder what had happened to old friends, flings and plans?

I picture a 20-year-old version of myself walking through our little rental, running her hands along the white shelves, picking up photos from our honeymoon. Who is this guy? She’d wonder as she took in Chris. And what happened to John*? My on-again, off-again boyfriend from high school and part of college that I had, somehow, convinced myself could be forever.

I can’t believe you wore a poofy dress! She’d say as she flipped through our wedding photos. I always knew Katie and Sara would be in your wedding, she’d say as she smiled at my high school friends. But who are these girls? She’d point to my Atlanta friends, who are so dear to me now, deeply familiar faces, but whose names I didn’t even know when I was 20.

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She’d walk back to the bedrooms and count just two. No nursery, huh? She’d say, unaware that we don’t even own the place. Where do all of the babies sleep? She’d ask as she held up the blueprint for the life I’d mapped out at 18. She’d note a little incomplete mark next to the plan I’d made for having three babies and owning a house in a little town by 30.

She’d probably start to worry then. She’d wonder how a girl from Indiana married a guy from Alabama and wound up in Georgia. She’d stress about traffic and crime and my ovaries. Her throat would tighten and she’d start to make a plan. There isn’t enough time left! She’d worry. She’d be mapping babies and budgets and home ownership before she’d even made it into the kitchen. 

But then, she’d watch Chris for a minute. She’d see the way he’s kind and gentle and unlike any other man I’d dated before him. She’d hear his southern drawl and warm laugh. She’d watch him tend to me, at 30, and her jaw would drop. Glad you got those bad boys out of your system, she’d say as she wondered how, just how, I’d snagged a guy like him. Because to be honest, I never really believed there was someone like Chris out there until he came into my life. 

She’d keep watching and taking it all in, a little more open minded now. She’d be proud of the way my faith had become important to me again. At 20, it was something I’d fallen away from. Not intentionally - it wasn’t a time of questioning, learning and exploring - which, honestly would have been better. It was a time of drinking and partying. I’d pushed down my faith with numbing agents - partying, perfectionism, food restriction and exercise. It wasn’t a time of growth but, instead, a time of ignoring what mattered most to me all along. I think she’d smile at the way my faith had strengthened in the latter half of my 20s. You’re not so different than you were at 18, are ya? She’d say as she turned on some old high school Jesus Jams. 

It’s an oversimplification, of course. She’d be unaware of the heartache I’d felt in my 20s - the singleness, the doubting, the waiting, the lack of control. She’d have no idea how much our family had grown - not just physically with babies and spouses (everywhere!), but also, emotionally. She wouldn’t see how hard we’d worked to be real and honest and vulnerable with each other, which are hard things to maintain when you’re spread out all over the country for a decade.

She wouldn’t understand how important friendships had become - how there is a narrowing that happens as you get older and the people still standing by your side at 30 mean something so much greater than a Saturday night at the bars in college. She’d be missing a decade of joy and growth and breaking free from fear and perfectionism.

She’d be missing so much of the good, the bad and the beautiful because she’d only see the little snapshots. 

As I thought about all of this, I realized that Whitney at 20 would initially be disappointed with how much I didn’t achieve, for lack of a better word, by 30. Perhaps she might even be a little judgmental. But she’d be wrong to be disappointed, because, what she wouldn’t have known then, is that when we stop white knuckling the dreams we once made, we make room for something greater.

When we stop trying to create the life we think we should have - the ones our friends, sisters or mamas have - and, instead, make room for the lives we really have - the ones that were designed, ornately and carefully, for us - is when we really find freedom. 

I’m trying to remember this today and every day. 

When I feel myself begin to worry about turning 31 in September, with no babes in sight… 
Or when I think through the fact that almost all of our friends own their homes and we rent…
When I feel like I’m in the thick of chaos with The Letter Project, unsure what to do next or what my longterm vision is…

In these moments, I remind myself that I am exactly where I need to be. This life is unfolding exactly as it should. There is something far greater than you could imagine planned for your life. The key is letting go just a little bit and making room for it to blossom. 

*Name changed to protect everybody's privacy (: