I don’t know if it has ever happened to you. It has happened to me. But if it has ever happened to you, then, you know how it feels. You know it hurts. You know about the pain and the agony. You know it made you cry. It made you feel miserable. In one moment you lose your breath or breathe with difficulty; and in another moment you are overcome by incredulity. You lose your train of thought for minutes on end. In your worst moment, you cry and cry and cry and then sadness and hollowness becomes you. At every waking moment, you are accompanied by a sense of emptiness — as if the world is coming to an end.
Other than the pain of bereavement, I wonder if there is a greater pain than the pain of being dumped by a lover. When someone dies, you pray the Lord to take the soul; but when you are dumped, you feel as though your soul is being taken. You feel as though you are losing control and falling into a pit of fire. It burns. It hurts. But gradually, you bring yourself back up. Step by step, inch by inch you make the arduous climb to sanity zone. Day by day, moment by moment you take baby steps. And if you really try, you feel yourself regaining your soul. You breathe right. You smile again. And you may actually love again.
I don’t know what it is, but men and women seem to handle heartbreak differently. Men, it seems to me, tend to internalize their loss. They rarely brood. They “take it like a man” and are not likely to admit their pain and sadness to their friends. More often than not, they would tell their friends that they initiated the breakup and also that “there are many fishes in the ocean.” They move on even as they stumble doing so. In the end some may suffer the beginning phase of depression. There is something about some men that stops them from admitting defeat. It is stupid; but hey, it is a man’s thing. The men’s way!
As for the women, well…well…well…let’s just say they handle heartache differently. Generally speaking, there seems to be four types of situations: (1) the “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” type; (2) the wailing and crying type; (3) the perennials; and (4) the “type A.” The common thread here is that most women will never forget; and they tend to take it out on the next guy or series of guys who come along. Unfortunately, some women hold on to their anger and suspicion for so long that they miss out on the next “nice guy.”
My “first loss” came when I was a boarding school student at Government Secondary School Ilorin, Kwara State. Those were the days one wrote love letters, in longhand with fountain pen, declaring ones eternal love and affection. It happened again when I returned to Lagos after years of sojourn in Jos, Plateau State. But the most crushing of all was when I lived in the State of Minnesota. Somehow, one never gets used to the pain and the loss. One may have different perspective, have thicker skin, and handle things differently as one grow and mature; still, one never get used to the agony.
A loss is a loss is a loss. The loss is greater, the wound deeper, and the acid more potent if you had spent quality time loving and cultivating the relationship and did not suspect the approaching tempest. Ha, you pray the Lord to take you! Or you secretly pray for the Lord to take her.
Love, in a way, is both sweet and sour. You couldn’t have lived a rich and full life if you have never loved or been loved. Now, I do not mean the love of a father or of a mother, sister and brother. I do not mean the love one has for one’s country or for one’s people. And not the love of God or gods. Those are different. You love the aforementioned in different ways. And so that’s not what I am talking about. The love for one’s lover, ha, that’s what I am talking about! It is a different kind of feeling, a different kind of affection and a different kind of adoration and veneration.
It is both sweet and sour. And like the rose flower, you must handle it gingerly since you cannot and must not take it for granted. You work at it. You feed it. You fan it. You do whatever it takes to keep it alive. Like the bonfire, you continually fan or feed it to keep it alive. Nevertheless, like every bonfire, if you mishandle it, you are toast! But “When love is lost, do not bow your head in sadness; instead keep your head up high and gaze into heaven for that is where your broken heart has been sent to heal” (Author Unknown).
Sweet. Sweet, isn’t it? Love is sweet. Loving is great. It makes you happy and giddy and blissful and forever smiling. It nourishes your soul. It makes you glide and waltz instead of walking. It enables you escape or better handle all the bumps and vagaries that comes with living. In other words, love makes living much better. However, if you don’t handle it right, it may turn into hatred and bitterness; and can also incite or educe high crimes and misdemeanors — that’s to say that its metamorphosis can be fatal!
History has no record of the number of men and women who has lost their minds as a result of unrequited love. History has no record of the number men and women who took their lives because of a lost love. Indeed, history has no record of the number of broken hearts who ended up in the sanitarium or psychwards. Only that it happens every time and everywhere. It is happening now to a neighbor. It is happening now to a neighbor who spent the better part of the last six years loving a lover and nurturing a relationship she thought was ordained by the heavens. We thought so, too. But to watch her disintegrate and to watch her lose her mind is simply painful.
We the friends and neighbors did not see it coming. We didn’t. All we saw was a loving couple who are non-smokers, teetotalers, God fearing, kind and honest to self and to others. They were what Smokey Robinson would call “the life of the party” because they were full of love and energy and kindness and good vibes. Their smile and good nature infected everybody and everything around them. There are a whole lot of people — married and single — in our neighborhood, here in Washington DC, who aspired to be like them. If any relationship would stand the test of time, theirs was it. And if any marriage was going to last for eternity, theirs was going to be it. You couldn’t get any better. Or so we thought. But we were wrong. How sad. How sad. How sad for them and for us.
After this excruciating pain and burning agony, how do you go about your life? How do you put things in order? How do you rebuild? Can you trust again? Should you trust again? Can you love again and would you allow yourself to be loved again? At the very least, such experiences make us weary and distrustful of future propositions. But the fact is that one must not give up and give in. One must love again and again and allow others to love us again and again. Otherwise, “If we deny love that is given to us, if we refuse to give love because we fear pain or loss, then our lives will be empty, our loss greater” (Author Unknown).