While creating a new playlist for my upcoming New Year’s trip, I stumbled across one of Sara Bareilles’s newer songs “She Used To Be Mine” and immediately everything in my world screeched to a halt. Which to be honest, is fairly typical when I get lost in the musical wonderment that is Sara Bareilles. The song was written as part of the musical theater adaptation of the film “Waitress”, which is about a woman moving forward from a painful past and learning how to live her best life. When I listened to the lyrics of “She Used To Be Mine” I felt as usual like Sara had spent a weekend reading through all my old journals and then written a song. And I was reminded of how her music revitalized me when I constantly played it during an excruciating break-up a few years ago on New Year’s Eve. Back then I listened to “Gravity” a record fifty two times in a row, lying prone in my bed on New Year’s Day, unable to deal with trying to function as an adult.
Truth be told, I’ve had two awful break-ups just before New Year’s. And the reason it hits so hard isn’t what you would think. It’s never been about the high expectations of it being one of the designated couples holidays. For me it was about the pain of waking up on January 1 and bleakly seeing a full year stretched out in front of me knowing each day would be without someone whom I really loved.
The first break-up I was much younger and naive, not realizing at the time that beginning a new year without him was actually the most positive and healthy resolution I could possibly make. Over the course of the new year I would learn that and understand it was all for the best. But the second one broke my heart in a way that was so painful, every year there’s still a tiny whisper of that ache as the day approaches.
It was a break-up that occurred because we were in two vastly different places in our lives that could not be reconciled, not for lack of love. We couldn’t definitively agree on whether our future included having kids, which led to discussions of potential future resentment for acquiescing to one side of the argument or the other. And so the lack of middle ground on such a life altering issue culminated in the demise of our relationship. At the end of an amazing year together.
To me, the sentiment behind New Year’s has always been hope. No matter what’s behind you, the promise of twelve brand new untouched months laid out before you should combat any hurt you might be feeling. But kickstarting a new year when your heart has been reduced to a pile of ash and it’s a struggle to breathe, it seems near impossible to see past all of that and embrace the hope. It’s easier to dwell on what happened, rehash it in your mind, wonder how it all could have been different. Whether it was worth it. Oh yes and there’s lots of crying. At least there was for me.
Yes, a new year symbolizes hope, clean slates, new beginnings. But the previous year and every year before it contributes to where we all are now and who we are as people. It’s ok to be struggling and only able to look at starting the new year as a work in progress emotionally and not excitedly and immediately say on January 1st, “hey let’s do this!”
As I now listen to “She Used To Be Mine” (on repeat of course), the lyrics remind me of the emotional state I was in all those years ago and how I dreaded the impending midnight ball drop. The cliche kiss we’re all supposed to have with the one we love. The supposed fresh start that in my mind’s eye looked empty and uninviting. All I could see was days and days without being able to talk to my person when I was happy, sad, angry and all the things in between. It didn’t feel hopeful. It felt tragic and the intensity with which I had loved this person had morphed into a bottomless abyss of despair. Made worse surrounded by all the happy chatter of friends who were looking forward to a new year, who weren’t in the throes of a break-up. Knowing that each day of the new year would hold only the memory of the year prior with the person I no longer had. How could that be improvement? How was that supposed to make me feel like a whole new year of possibilities and opportunity beckoned?
The answer? It doesn’t have to. You can’t magically feel a certain way because some vague socio-cultural norm dictates it with an annual TV special. This is why if you’re going through a break-up this time of year, my advice is to go easy on yourself, this time of year exacerbates feelings on all levels. If your heart hurts and you can’t drum up any enthusiasm for embarking on a new year, know that above all else, the new year holds your healing. Your slow ascent back into feeling a little bit more like yourself each day.
And Happy New Year from someone who understands how hard it can be to let go and move forward without the person you never intended to lose.
[Image via Universal Pictures]