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Help MR: How do you deal with a best-friend breakup? It’s been one week since my best friend and I “ended it.” The decision was mutual and I think it’s a mature one given that things will never go back to the way they were, but this sucks so much. It’s worse than a breakup-breakup. I feel lost.
It’s a rare and enlightened human who takes actual comfort in being told “time heals all wounds,” that “you’ll get over it eventually” and “you’ll meet someone new.” One of the few things my 29 years on this planet have taught me is that all of those things have proven to be true, and yet they don’t make reality any better when you’re slogging through the end of something that was wonderful. They don’t soothe aching hearts.
This hurts so badly because the person you used to call anytime literally anything happened to you — promotions, confrontations, big loves, awful awkward moments, bowel movements — is no longer your person to call. The protector and harborer of your deepest secrets, she who was tasked with clearing your reputation-damning search history should you die in a freak accident, the one who has seen you do (and has done with you) weird, weird things is now, instead, just another human on this planet. You have armfuls of emotional belongings and no place to put them. You have so many punchlines stored that no one else could possible get. You two used to say how you hated everyone except for one another, and now what?
It sounds like you have already mourned. If you haven’t mourned, let yourself do so for one more night with arms flopped and the lights out and ugly cries galore. Then, in the morning, shower to an upbeat playlist (full of artists you’ve never heard before so as to avoid what was once “your song”). Scrub. Rinse. Lotion. Buff yourself shiny like a bow-wrapped birthday bicycle and greet yourself as a naked, solo entity in the mirror. Then ask: How long has it been since you’ve not been a half of something? How long has it been since you’ve given yourself the opportunity to finish your own sentences? How long has it been since you’ve made decisions without the consultation of your former counterpart? Eat alone. Shop alone. Remember how it feels to turn left without a tug to the right. Do these things in small steps all day, all week, all month, and relish in them. You are rebuilding, and you are growing, and you are setting yourself up to be the next stage of you.
This part is scary because it’s lonely, especially when one of those thoughts pops into your head that you’re sure no one else could ever possibly “get,” or when you pass by a stupid sign that makes you laugh and you’ve no one to send a photo of it to. Take some comfort in knowing that you get it; that you laughed. Best friendship lets us take pressure off our knees and share the weight of the world. It lets us know we can love and that we are loved in a way we don’t always believe is possible. Best friends are immensely important nutritious supplements that ameliorate our lives, but sometimes I think we forget that we are whole foods on our own.
What you don’t need to do right now is to seek out “a new best friend.” No casting calls for a person who meets X requirements your ex-best friend either had and you loved or lacked and wanted. Try, if you can, to exist for awhile in the world in which you already live. Do things with your other very good friends — either one-on-one or in a group, with clear communication that this time is about you and them and not your ex-best. (Read: no shit talking, no side-taking, no Parent Trap-style reunions.) Spend time with your family. No joke, see if you can walk a neighbor’s dog. And start one thing that’s for you and you alone, whether it be a podcast, a drawing class or a new show.
None of this will fix the break nor manifest a new soulmate. Your favorite bagel place will still remind you of the times you two sat outside and split halves while laughing about the absolute dumbest shit. Keep that memory. Kiss it like it’s the half of a best-friend necklace hanging from your neck. Slowly, I promise, you will find that you’re excellent without a co-star. I guarantee that in due time, you will find a new keeper of your heart and freaky internet history.