from my journal

why i went on a no-man-diet

Jillian Arsenault — December 2nd, 2022

Jillian Arsenault Women's Mentor Embodiment Coach Somatic Therapist

Nine months ago I left my relationship. If you’ve been through a big breakup before, you know exactly how painful that process is. Regardless of whether we intentionally choose to leave the container, breakups force us to learn how to be in the world differently—without the person we once loved.

The process of healing from a relational rupture is individual, but what’s always true is that no matter how it unfolds it is, by its very nature, a powerful opportunity. If you’re intentional it’s a portal to come home to your own love in a way that isn’t possible under any other circumstance—it will change you if you let it.

And it could be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

Untangling your heart from someone else’s is confusing to the psyche and painful to the spirit. It comes with a cocktail of questions, misunderstandings, lessons, hurt and loss.

There’s a period almost immediately after that feels eerily liminal; you’re no longer with them but your psyche hasn’t yet oriented to navigating the world without them. Your spirit feels raw, exposed, and vulnerable and there’s a gap that’s no longer filled by the space they used to occupy.

But no matter how ill this void might make you feel if you can stay in the emptiness of that space without filling it too quickly, something new might have the chance to happen.

I’ve read about ancient cultures who call that dark and unknown space the source—the zero point of creative energy; a non-physical place where all is possible, and truth has a chance to gestate and eventually emerge.

If we can resist the temptation to fill that void with the next flavour, the next body, the next adventure, and just sit with it… we’re left with the possibility of dismantling the flimsy scaffolding and building something new.

When we choose this place, we’re letting old versions of ourselves die. The old ways, relationships, and patterns are given the conditions they need to be composted. And this death, in accordance with nature, gives way to a rebirth every time.

When I left my relationship, I didn’t have a plan to commit myself to a yearlong container that excluded dating and men. I was hurting and felt broken and had no idea what my next step was. No one suggested this was what I should do, no one was waiting on the other side to grab my hand, and no one warned me how dark it might feel. But something in my body was telling me this was fertile ground—the kind of change I’d been quietly praying for.

So, I wrapped myself in a blanket, I resisted the urge to distract myself, and I sat down on a meditation cushion in my bedroom. Repeatedly. I refused to walk worn out roads I'd been down many times. I turned toward the intensity of the grief, loneliness, anger, or betrayal. I sat down and felt the parts of me that wanted to cope, grip, extract, or run to the next thing.

I feeeeeeeeelt. No matter how dark and painful it got.

And through that, a fierceness grew inside me. It circled me in a sacred container that would act as my healing space and my cocoon; a boundary that protected my maturation.

I set the parameters of my container and committed to no men and no dating for a full year. I got clearer. I started learning about my needs, became intentional about my values, and grew more sharp with my boundaries.

And it was hard.

It was nights curled up and shaking on the floor. It was lonely days and long drives. It was dancing through tears, talking to stars, breathing through fear. It was quiet skinny dips and solo camping trips. It was sitting at my altar praying to feel better. I fell apart on friends couches and healed in therapy sessions. Some moments I cried on the lap of my mother and others I laughed till I cried with women who feel like sisters.

It was sacred.

Somewhere along the way something started to shift. And it wasn’t that I started to “get over it” (I'm not sure breakups are meant to be "gotten over"), but instead felt like I was strong enough to hold it. I’d let myself burn until there was nothing left, and one day began to feel the flicker of the phoenix that was dormant inside me.

The grief that broke me down began to break me open. I softened and strengthened. I touched love I’d never felt before. Old residues and tired patterns of unworthiness and self-abandonment started falling away like old skin.

And I still need time. It hasn’t been a full year and I’m still in the phase of decomposition but I can sense the opening where the rebirth will inevitably unfold.

The process has felt like the wild undertow of a wave inside my heart, the kind with so much force there’s nothing to do but surrender.

I stretched the edges of my skin taut and hung the canvas to be seasoned, fully exposed.

I let my heart break into hundreds of pieces until I couldn’t possibly have restructured them the same way again.

But that's the magic of the dark; you fumble and feel your way around until eventually you choose a new way that your parts fit back together.

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