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Struggling to heal and move on


marshmallow107
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Hi,

 

I posted about me and my other half broke up a couple of months ago. I guess I’m back here really because I’m struggling to move forward. He was (and is) a genuinely lovely person and the break up was as amicable as it could be, albeit very difficult. Not my decision, not what I wanted, but a case of bad timing in his life. It left me heartbroken though.

 

I know I have to move on. I have been doing everything I can. I have a wonderfully busy career which I absolutely love and can be all consuming. It’s easy to let this take over though which I am becoming guilty of. I have wonderful friends. Literally the best. I play music. I go to the gym. I have started running more. I have even signed up to a race as I thought it would give me something to focus on!

 

But...In between the distractions, I cry almost every day. I miss him being a part of my life. Its tough. I still love him. I feel stuck in a place where I’m not ready to move on but I know I have to. Truth be told, I know deep down that I’m still holding out hope that he may realise what he’s lost/change his mind once he sorts the other stuff in his life. But I’m also fully aware that this may not happen too. But I don't know how to let go completely.

 

My friends have told me to try to redirect my focus rather than worry about ‘moving on’. Which is what I’m trying to do. But I still miss him!

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Actually you are doing great. Healing from breakups and heartaches is not a linear progression. More like ups and downs. So the bad news is breakups suck. But the good news is that this is normal and you will do do fine. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, then one day you will be trying to remember his name.

I have a wonderfully busy career which I absolutely love and can be all consuming. It’s easy to let this take over though which I am becoming guilty of. I have wonderful friends. Literally the best. I play music. I go to the gym. I have started running more. I have even signed up to a race as I thought it would give me something to focus on!

 

But...In between the distractions, I cry almost every day. I miss him being a part of my life.

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Hey there, internet friend. Sorry you're still hurting. I've got no bandaid, but maybe a few words.

 

Once, not all that long ago in the scheme of my life story, I was feeling a lot of what you're feeling. And, like you posting here, I was sharing these feelings with a friend through text message. Such a fertile moment in my life that I can recall exactly where I was when sending these texts: outside a magazine stand at the New Orleans airport, bound of some city or another during a stretch where I was flinging myself around the world to "treat" the emotional flailing going down in my head and heart.

 

Anyhow, exhausted, with myself and the feelings, I texted him something like: "I just feel like I'm stuck in an emotional purgatory!" To which he replied: "Emotional purgatories are GOOD!"

 

He has a kid, I had a plane to catch, so the conversation ended there. But I liked his sentiment, or at least found some comfort in it. Without quite knowing why, I liked that idea, thought he was onto something in taking something I was internally labeling as "bad" and labeling it "good." Helped me let go of the judgement, or the need to "get out" of that purgatory—or, well, see if I could outrun it by flying to Japan—and instead to just accept that sometimes these purgatories happen.

 

And they do end, like everything ends. This place you're in right now is not permanent. You're working and seeing friends rather than, I don't know, experimenting with heroin—so, hey, GREAT. Maybe this is all great? Maybe this is just where you are going to be, for a bit, until you're not? You miss him, you love him, you cry—that is okay. I bet you have also laughed, felt pleasure, and so on, right along side those feelings. They can all coexist for a minute. Letting them coexist for a minute, rather than trying to shove them away or judge them as poison, might be a way to grow a few millimeters, spiritually and emotionally.

 

Does any of that help? Probably not. But until they figure out how to give hugs and ice cream over pixels, it's all I've got.

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Those words...have literally brought a tear to my eye! 🥰

 

I have been through break ups before. I don’t know whether it makes it better or worse knowing what you’re about to go through and the journey of emotions that you’re about to embark upon! It almost seems to get harder the older that I get.

 

The difference this time is that, in the past I have been treated badly. There I could express anger. And I fuelled that anger into bettering myself and knowing I deserved better. There was a reason.

 

This time, there is no anger. Just hurt at losing somebody who was honest, kind and genuine. This is a new feeling to me and I keep ruminating, looking for a reason, making up stories in my head that he’s seeing somebody else. When really I know he’s doing exactly what he told me he wanted to. To find himself and have ‘time’ to discover who he is. To work out what he really wants.

 

I guess I have to find the good in what I’m feeling. And I guess know it’s ok to still love him? And miss him? How do you live with those feelings without just feeling like utter CRAP though?

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I guess I have to find the good in what I’m feeling. And I guess know it’s ok to still love him? And miss him? How do you live with those feelings without just feeling like utter CRAP though?

 

I'll answer this how I answer them to myself.

 

First, I remind myself that these feelings are just part of life. Second, I remind myself of what I at least believe to be true about this thing called romantic love: that it is only real, in the present tense, when it is continuously cultivated and nurtured by two people.

 

After that it changes shape, dims, and it is the imagination that fuels it, so at a certain point what you are deeming love is more a love of an idea, or a collection of memories, than a person. It is a love of what was and what, in your mind, could have been. For me that is simply not good enough—not a sharp enough hook to hang my heart on. So I honor all that by mourning it, and mourn it so there is room to inhabit the present tense again, and love in the present tense. Speaking only for myself, if my heart is going to be speared I want it speared by a monster of a harpoon, not a needle invented by my own lovelorn brain.

 

It is, as I also remind myself, a process.

 

And, yeah, it's a little different every time. Weird, huh? Life has a way of reducing us to angsty teenagers time and again, but we don't deal with it like angsty teenagers every time. In learning how to deal with it we do learn a bit more about ourselves—like, for instance, you have graduated from a phase of needing anger as your rocket fuel, which is lovely, but what is the new fuel? You are discovering it. That discovery is going to astonish you, and those you currently love (I'm thinking of your child) and have yet to love but will.

 

Discovery is a bit*h. Look at gold miners. Their backs hurt and they are covered in filth. But also? They strike gold.

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I hear you. Wish I had the torch for the cave. I don't, and don't think anyone does.

 

I'll tell you this: I've broken hearts, had my heart broken. My process for that was often the same: distraction, distraction, distraction. Some of those were "good" distractions. I'm a conventionally successful human by social standards, for instance, and my professional standing, and checking account balances, are certainly in part connected to pouring myself into things to dodge pain. I'm well-read and fit, and can thank pain, and running from it, for that, in part. Ditto far too many adventures to document.

 

I've also done the "bad" distraction stuff. I've sipped whiskey at 6 in the morning, woken up next to people who really pissed me off for not being the person I wanted to wake up next to. And so on. Most of us have versions of those stories: harmless in the scheme of things, assuming we get hold of the reigns sooner than later.

 

Anyhow, I swear that my last run through this spin cycle was the one where the distractions had lost their potency. I was over the "bad" stuff, and a lot of the "good" stuff had already become, well, who I was. Couldn't focus on getting in shape, because I was in shape. Couldn't find revelations in yoga, because I've been doing yoga daily for a decade. Couldn't "reconnect" with old friends, because I've got great friends who I'm good to and deeply connected to. Couldn't jump out a plane over the English Chanel or the Nevada desert because, yeah, I'd done those things to distract myself from past heartaches.

 

Still, habits are habits. I tried. I leaned hard on the distraction of travel, except it didn't work. That's probably why that "emotional purgatory" text resonated with me. I was in the midst of "running" except where in the past the buzz of distraction staved off the pain, I was doing a lot of crying in airports. So I just told myself: okay, BC, no more distractions. Time to run right into this rather than away from it. No, that didn't play out with me sitting stock still for 6 months and chanting in a cave. I moved, played, laughed, cried, sought refuge in the familiar. I ate some kale, sipped some whiskey, did downward dog. But I dropped the expectation that any of that was meant to "heal" me. I'd heal when I healed.

 

I'm so grateful for that period that (see above) I can already paint it in an almost romantic light. But, no, I was there. It SUCKED. No carving that out with pretty turns of phrase. It really, really, really sucked, as a lot really sucks for you right now. And then, at some point, it stopped sucking. Wish I had the potion for you, but sometimes those bumper stickers that read "Sh*t Happens" are preaching the gospel that must be listened to. Took me right to the doorstep of 40 to really get that, but so it goes.

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Couldn’t help but nod all the way through that one Bluecastle!! I know exactly what you mean... about the distractions becoming part of who you are.

 

I just feel exhausted. Because when I do stop running and distracting myself...I’m not yet at peace enough with the situation to relax.

 

When I’m around people - I feel happier. That’s a nice feeling. But as soon as I’m on my own again...it’s like I just break down.

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But you're not breaking down. You're mourning.

 

Were I to verge, just slightly, into the realm of psychology, I'd say that part of why this is hitting you so hard is that you are mourning more than him, what you had, what you hoped for, but also something he represented to you, if not also some things that predated him. I can't recall all the details here from earlier threads—like was I wrong about you having child?—but I do recall you being pretty invested pretty quickly: in him, in part, but also in the idea of you plus him being it.

 

That's understandable. We are always kind of telling a story about what a relationship "stands for" even as it's just starting to take off. Best case scenario, whatever story you two build together is so much bigger than that mental story that it kind of shatters it, replacing it with something even more profound. Worst case is when someone "wobbles" and suddenly the once sturdy story becomes thin, hard to read and see. It becomes a thing in your head rather than a thing you were writing together.

 

Breakups stir deep waters: the waters of past breakups, past losses. The longer we live the deeper those waters get, and so in mourning one thing we are sometimes mourning many. It's dizzying. It's okay. Speaking only for myself, there has been an odd thing where the breakups that made the most sense on paper—someone, say, pivoting from hot to cold pretty early—can be more brutal than those that come at the end of something long, rich, and eventually sour and unsustainable.

 

Because you are kind of mourning the loss of some kind of potential—the portal into the new chapter becomes a closed door flinging you back to a past chapter. Or something. Regardless, these are waves you kind of just have to ride, if you'll forgive this surfer a surfing metaphor. They feel big right now, because they are. In riding them you get stronger, so while the waves don't change shape you do. Then you get to ride even bigger ones, with more grace and less fear.

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I'm sorry for your pain, marshmallow107. Allow a lot of time to heal your wounds. Have alone time to sort your thoughts and eventually venture out and enjoy life again with your friends and family.

 

It's really hard to experience life's trials and tribulations. It's a roller coaster. As difficult as it is to see this now, your day in the sun will come. Hang in there.

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No, I don’t have a child. Just me! Mid 30s and just me! Yeah - we both became invested quite quickly. Because there was something that just felt ‘right’ about it. Although if anything, I would say that he was the one who threw himself into it at the start. I was unsure at first. He was like a lovesick puppy! Those feelings were genuine at the time and it most certainly wasn’t something I was used to.

 

Once I caught up it was incredible! My love for him grew and deepened the more I got to know him. It felt like I really grew to love ‘him’ rather than the idea of him, something I have very much been guilty of in the past. Because he treated me the way I deserved to be treated and all the things I saw as flaws at the start, I started to love those things about him too.

 

Those next few months were fantastic. I felt like I had found exactly what I had been searching for in a man and we were both so happy. The more I invested, the more he tried to reassure me it was safe to do so. And that was the point I fell in love.

 

Unfortunately it was just a case of what he wanted to be ready for, and thought he was ready for...well he wasn’t. Not yet. And I think that’s what I’m finding the hardest to accept. That he says he knows I could be the perfect person for him in the long term. But he’s just at a place in his life where he’s still healing and discovering who he is.

 

I get it. And when my logical brain is active, I totally understand his reasons and know he’s done the right thing if that’s how he feels. That’s what I’ve said to friends in the same position! But, when my emotional brain kicks in, I start thinking I wasn’t good enough, that I did something wrong, that he wants to be with somebody else. That he’s going to meet somebody else and that would completely write off the reason for the relationship ending. Because why else would a relationship that felt so ‘right’ have to end?

 

I guess there was still some hope when we ended that we might reconcile in time. Once he had dealt with stuff. But the more time I spend apart from him, the more scared I get that he’s slipping further away. Even though I know I have to let him, it’s hard because I’m not ready to!

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Alas, I recalled the "wobble" correctly but added in a mythic child. Forgive me.

 

You get it, you do. When things come undone, it's easy to look back at find the cracks. He was still divorcing, you were hesitant when he was hot, then briefly warm together, then alone on the hot seat while he cooled: a tidy narrative off too much too soon, of maybe a dash of unavailability on both sides, and so on. Is there some truth to that story? Maybe, maybe not. Is there a story playing out somewhere on the planet with similar variables but a different result? Probably. At the end of the day it doesn't matter. Pain is pain, loss is loss. Feel it and mourn it.

 

But do know this: you'll be the "perfect person" for someone who has stopped thinking in such a pressurized way about all this, who has processed the past enough that the "long term" isn't quite as important as what is perfect in the present, not at a few months. He'll think and talk about all that, of course, as will you, but those thoughts won't trigger hyperventilating. They won't be urgent, because he'll be present—with himself, with you—and the "long run" just evolves out of that, a thing created by your two in tandem at pace set by you both.

 

Guess I'm trying to say that whatever he is doing right this second—meditating at a silent retreat or whatever you don't want to imagine—really doesn't matter. None that is a verdict on you, or the quality of the connection you shared. It is, however, a reminder that he is not the perfect person for you, not right now, that what came to feel so right for you after some mini-wobbles stirred different feelings in him. Sour stuff to contemplate, I know. But with the right person what is actual will supersede the potential every step of the way, especially in the early steps; it will be "bigger," in the present, than what your mind can produce about the future.

 

Little comfort right now, but hopefully some.

 

Speaking for myself, I know what I just described was important to me—the way I wanted things to feel, to develop, to be sustained—and so part of my mourning was to prepare myself for that kind of connection: one built in the present rather than a referendum on the past or a portal into a predetermined future. I'd spent some time in life and love as guy on the fence, or who hopped onto the fence when certain feelings stirred; I'd also gotten involved with some fence hoppers, as like seeks like. It was time for another paradigm.

 

You're in a purgatory now, and will be there as long as you need to be, but somewhere in there make sure it's not leading you to the fence but to the other side. You'll meet the person you want to be with over there, and it's totally okay, right now, to want and hope that person is him. He'll get there, or not, on this time. Getting there on your own time will be a reward in and of itself—a new relationship, in ways, with yourself.

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Once again, your words bring tears to my eye.

 

I don’t even know how to start climbing the fence at the moment. The only way I feel better at the moment is distraction. My boss marched me out of the door at 6pm this evening and I went straight to the gym. Although on the surface I’m smiling all day at work, I cried all the way to the gym, and then again all the way home.

 

Everyone keeps telling me ‘you’re doing so well’ but they don’t see what happens once the mask is taken off. I talk to my friends - but I’m conscious I can’t keep talking about it or everyone will get sick of it. I guess that’s why I reached out here.

 

I guess I just don’t know how to get over that fence. I know I will, I’ve done it before. But this time just feels so much different and such a lot harder.

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You probably are doing so well. You certainly sound well here, if this is a glimpse behind the "mask." But perhaps that's because it's not a mask? Maybe you're just a strong woman who is also, right now, a strong woman who is hurting? Those two things are allowed to coexist for a bit, for as long as they need to. In time, looking back, you may see that they each fed off each other—or that the hurt hardened into strength.

 

I am someone blessed (cursed?) with a constitution that almost always reads as "doing so well," so I know what you're talking about. Similarly, I stumbled upon this site when I was pretty certain I'd reached the max-out point of talking to my friends about the same thing, the same loop of hurt. But, all in all, I look back on that and can see that I was doing pretty well: strong dude, hurting. Bills got paid, laughs were had, work was completed. Sleep was elusive for a bit, but I've always had a hot/cold relationship with slumber. We're working on it.

 

Truly not doing well tends mean you are engaging in long, circuitous, spirit-corroding exchanges with an ex, or becoming a scholar of their social media activity. Those are the avenues where we take the never linear path of mourning and turn it into a hamster wheel. A little of that is often par for the course, but too much can tip the scales. But something tells me you're not hitting those pipes too hard.

 

The fence isn't going anywhere, so no rush. Climb when ready, reads the sign next to it. Jump to the other side when ready, reads the sign at the top. Something to think about, at some point or another, is that both the climbing and jumping portion of that journey is really best done solo, rather than inspired by the potential of another.

 

It took me so, so very long to understand what I mean by that fancy turn of phrase, but I throw it your way because I skimmed through your earlier thread and a few things caught my eye—namely the sense that you both did a fair amount of chatting about past pain in the early stages of connection. Think of that like backpack (baggage, as the saying goes) that got snagged on the fence when you were climbing it or jumping off. That all feels very vulnerable to share with someone, or for someone to share with you, but it's often a symptom of a snagged backpack, if that makes sense.

 

But there really aren't too many rules to all this. We open up, however we do, and once we're open we're vulnerable. It's okay. It's part of it. Right now you're tending to yourself so you can be open again. It's not really about being open to a specific person—or being magically opened by a specific person—but a state of being that allows for genuine connection.

 

Inhale, exhale. You probably weren't the only person on the planet crying on the way to the gym today. You're in good company right now.

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I do try not to contact him. I have had moments of weakness though. I know he is there if I need to reach out, I know he will respond, but I know it’s not healthy to keep doing so. So I am doing everything within my power not to.

 

Similarly, even though he said he still wants me in his life, he knows we both need space too. I have had the occasional text for special occasions - my first day back at work etc. My birthday is coming up so I know I will most likely hear from him then.

 

I am definitely intending to climb that fence solo though. I am not ready to let anyone else into that journey just yet. It is just me, myself and I on this adventure. With some support and hand holding from my friends.

 

I just wish there was more I could do to stop the pain at the moment! I am sleeping well, probably too well. I have lost weight though. And last week I was so drained that I was completely run down and poorly. I still made it to work though, but it is having an effect on my body.

 

I am eating better again now but I still have evenings where I’m not hungry and can’t face food. My motivation for exercise makes me force myself to cook properly though.

 

Basically, I don’t want to be so stressed and run down that it’s making me feel ill!!

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Totally get it.

 

Think of it like this: You're in the midst of a massive rainstorm, or a gnarly traffic jam. Yeah, you can curse the rain and the sea of brake lights, but what's that get you? Aside from being annoyed, it gets you annoyed at being annoyed, exhausted by annoyance. And yet still it rains and the car lurches.

 

You're not starving yourself, and are aware that your relationship to food is a bit iffy at the moment. You're a bit more tried than normal. Fine. It'll change, as these things are always sightly in flux even at the best of times. In the meantime, it is what it is: rain, traffic, heartache.

 

I lost 30 lbs after one breakup, and I'm a thin dude on my thickest day. Sleep was such an antagonist that I could swallow an Ambien and sit there stock still, alert. So I nibbled on crackers for a week or two, drank a little too much, and wrote like a banshee through the night. Not the cutest look, certainly not sustainable, but I know myself: the inner gyroscope would right me. And, my god, that hamburger was so freakin' good, when I was ready for it.

 

Trust that yours will right you. It already is. You're not drifting too far. You've just suffered some emotional trauma, and are recovering. If I had a broken arm—a serious wound, but a manageable one—I wouldn't be mad at myself for not doing push-ups, you know? I'd know the arm would heal. Your spirit is healing. Just cut yourself some slack and respect that. Remind yourself of all that—"This is me healing"—when the spin cycle kicks in.

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Oh, and while I'm thinking about it:

 

You know how everyone says "You have to love yourself first in order to love another?" And you know how everyone always nods—yeah, totally, big time—without really knowing what the hell that means?

 

Well, this is what it means. Love yourself as you cry to the gym and as you destroy the elliptical. Love yourself as you're a little more tired than usual and as you're getting it done at the office. Love yourself as you struggle with food for a hot second, and shed some pounds.

 

No, that doesn't mean you have a hall pass to self-destruction. But that's not you anyway. So just challenge yourself to meet these feelings with acceptance, and gentle nudging—how, you know, you would handle another person who you loved and respected.

 

Woo-woo, I know, which really isn't me out in the world. But I don't know. Some thoughts like that have floated into my head during some down cycles, and I'm happy they stuck so I'm sharing them with you.

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Bluecastle, your words have been going through my mind during my ‘low’ moments over the last couple of days. Especially about accepting my feelings and being gentle with myself. They have really helped. I just keep telling myself that it’s ok to cry. It’s ok to be sad.

 

I really do miss him though. That’s ok too though right?

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Happy to help.

 

Here's the hard part: It is actually not okay to miss him. Because...

 

Um, no. It is of course okay to miss him. It's a feeling. Honor it by feeling it, while knowing all feeling are things that pass and change shape. And honor yourself by taking care of yourself, doing what you need to do to heal, even some of the things that feel forced, like eating here and there.

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I have started eating better. Not because I’m hungry. But because exercise is important to me. For many reasons, not only for the positive endorphins but it’s a big part of my social life and routine. If I can’t exercise I get frustrated! And I can’t exercise properly without fuel.

 

There’s also something therapeutic about cooking. Even if I don’t want to eat it, I find cooking relaxing.

 

On the plus side, just bought a new birthday dress and it’s given me a boost having lost a few pounds!

 

I think I’ve accepted that I think I will always care for and love him in some way. He turned out to be everything I didn’t realise I was looking for. Which is why I think it’s shaken my perspective on life up.

 

For example, before, I was 100% happy to throw myself into work. Seeing him became an exciting reason to leave work at work! One I’d not had before. I’m trying to create other reasons to leave, but he really helped me to get my work-life balance in check. I still loved work, but I didn’t realise how much it had consumed my life. My colleagues told me how happy I seemed- and ironically this had a positive effect on my work life even though I wasn’t working as many hours.

 

I think that’s why i often feel sad when I’m driving home. But you know what they say...you don’t really know what you’ve been missing until you discover it. I thought I was very happy being single. I was happy! Which is why he became such a lovely addition to my life

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He turned out to be everything I didn’t realise I was looking for. Which is why I think it’s shaken my perspective on life up.

 

Totally understand this sentiment.

 

In time, I hope, the sentiment shifts just a bit, since for everything you didn't realize you were looking for I suspect that one thing you were looking for was a man who had it in him to continue opening up to you past the 6 month mark. That is no small missing piece, is it? I'd say it's the most critical piece of the puzzle, with everything else (work-life balance, shared hobbies, steaminess quotient, etc.) being the icing.

 

So maybe there's another way to think of all this, as the heart heals? That he was a part of a moment in your life where you realized some changes you'd like to make to inhabit the business of inhabiting yourself a little cozier. Yes, he was a wonderful catalyst for all that but it doesn't need to end with your romantic time together ending. Making it the beginning of some shifts kind of honors that time, and yourself, you know?

 

Also, I do think that the pain of heartache—a devastating pain I know well—is also a reminder of something pretty beautiful: that we are more open to connection than we know, or knew. I get that finding genuine comfort in that abstract idea is next to impossible at the moment, but maybe earmark it for future reading, so what you're going through right now is about staying open, maybe even cultivating a level of openness that will be new to you.

 

I think of people—you, me, him, everyone—kind of like a big house. All the lights are never quite on at the same time, and some rooms stay dark longer than others. The wildest part about connecting is that someone finds a light switch you didn't know was there, illuminating a room that was there the whole time but never set foot in. So crushing when things don't work out with the person, as loss of all sorts is just about the hardest part of life, but those newly lit rooms don't vanish.

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