On being ready

I was 19 years old when I went through my first real heartbreak. The boy I dated was lovely. He was funny, smart, adorable, etc. But a difficult and taxing situation caused some complications for us and we decided to break up because of that situation, and I was devastated.

I went home for a few weeks right after we broke up. Unfortunately my mom hadn’t had time to spread the word that the relationship had ended, so I was bombarded with questions about my boyfriend from many well-intentioned friends. When I told them we had broken up, they would look uncomfortable and then say something like, “Just give it time,” or, my personal favorite, “Time will heal your wound.” Internally I cringed and wanted to tell them to keep their trite phrases to themselves. But I didn’t.

They meant well. And I knew empirically that time would help the pain of my young wounded heart. But I just couldn’t imagine it. How could weeks or months possibly make me feel better? I can’t number the times I cried into my best friend’s lap over the next months feeling worse than I could have imagined.

That experience changed me. Broken hearts will do that. It took months to move on, and I was only really able to do so when I was ready — not because I felt like it was “time” (whatever that means) or because someone else came along, but because I was really ready to move on and to allow myself to be changed.

I couldn’t give myself a deadline for getting over it. I expected to get over it quickly though, and I pushed myself too much through the process. That helped nothing. I could only change and move forward when I was ready to.

For the past several years I have struggled with unexplained health problems. I went to several doctors over the years to try and figure out what was going on with my body. But any test came back negative, leaving me more and more frustrated.

Things came to a head last year. I tried one last specialist, and this one was finally able to help me figure out what was causing all of my problems: I am intolerant of wheat, eggs and milk. While this news was completely overwhelming at first, I was determined to stick to this restricting diet so I could start feeling better.

The summer was fairly successful, although I spent a good amount of time hungry as I tried to figure out how to avoid eating those foods. I started to feel better, and my body came into better balance.

Then I went back to school and it all fell apart. Spending all of my time on campus complicated my eating habits. But more than anything else, I just didn’t have the time to find food that wouldn’t make me sick.

I felt constantly guilty last semester about not sticking to my diet. Anytime I ate a donut, I was riddled with remorse. I tried to get back on the wagon, but it was simply beyond my capacity to handle with the other stresses I had in my life.

While I know that my life would be healthier and that I would feel infinitely better if I kept to my diet, at this point I’m not ready to handle it. I know I will have the capacity at some point, but that point is not right now.

I don’t ever make New Year’s resolutions. I have no problem with them, and I’m sure they can be helpful, but I just don’t see the point. Why would I choose some arbitrary time of the year to change my life? I know I will never keep that resolution unless I want to change and am ready to make that change.

For a long time, I felt guilty about being so goal-setting averse. But if I want something to be different in my life, I will change. For people who like setting goals and resolutions, the same principle holds true: you will not keep your goals if you don’t actually want to and if you aren’t ready to. You will take the strides you need and even get help, if necessary, if you are ready to change. (I should clarify that I am not referring to changes as serious as addiction, self-harming or mental health issues, which often require an impetus for change.)

So often we force things. I know I do. I can’t bear to be still and not move forward. But sometimes being still is the best thing we can do. Some things take time to work out. Sometimes you just need to wallow in your pain. Sometimes you need the experiences that time brings to broaden your perspective. Sometimes you need to get your priorities straight. These things take time to work through. Allow yourself the time you need to be ready to change.

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