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Eat a little cake and cry (if you need to).



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I like a good system.

I want a system for writing. A system for emails. A system for eating healthy. A system for how we clean the house. I spent years thinking that systems were the key to every broken, fractured thing. But, as it turns out, there is no system for when your world falls apart. For when the company lays you off. For when the virtual learning is endless and draining. For when he walks out of your life for good. For when the world feels like it’s on fire.

No, systems will keep you good and organized by they won’t keep hearts unbroken or life from throwing her curve balls in your direction.

My heart was broken for the first time when I was 18 years old. That was the first time I’d ever loved somebody and stood to lose parts of myself because of it. It was the first time I realized that you can give your whole self to a person and not get all the pieces back when things don’t work out. That person will always have parts of you rattling inside of them— secrets you told them, conversations you had, moments that defined you and little things that wrecked you and brought you to this place.

We were young but we’d built homes out of one another.

I knew exactly what I was losing the conversation as I sat on the bed of my college dorm room and talked to him over the phone. And then I called my mom, bawling into the cellphone, and she drove the three hours from our house to my college to pick me up.

We drove to a nearby Applebees and she ordered a thick slice of chocolate cake– her remedy for that first, real heartbreak.

I sat across from her, wringing my hands in my lap, as I reasoned out loud, “I can fix this. I can definitely fix this. I can make him want me back. Or I can do this thing on my own and make a system of sorts. A system to make me better and stronger and wiser because of this.”

“Or you could just be sad and not make a system,” she said quietly. “You could maybe just eat a little cake and cry, if you need to.”

She nudged the white dish towards me.

That night, she and I drove to my aunt’s house who lived by the college I went to. We slept downstairs in the vacant in-law apartment. I slept on the couch and my mom slept on the floor beneath me. We’ve never talked about it but I know she heard me whimper myself into sleep that night.

You could maybe just eat a little cake and cry, if you need to.

I still carry those words inside of me so many years later.

I remember it felt like she was giving me a permission slip I didn’t know how to give myself. Permission to grieve. Permission to not be okay and feel all of that not okay-ness. Permission to laugh and to cry in the same minute. Permission to give no explanations or give a deadline to my sadness. Permission to just be.

Believe me when I say that I wish there was a system to hand you for when it feels like your world is falling apart. A way to put the pieces back together or shove the hard stuff under the rug. But there really isn’t. This murky stuff takes time and I’ve learned the only way to get over the heartbreak is through. Through, through, through. You’ve got to hike up your pant legs and wade into the muddy waters. You have to feel it all. You have to apply grace to yourself nearly every hour. Some days will be for making strides and other days will be for standing still. But one day you’ll be standing on the other side of this and you’ll marvel at the way God used the mud to make a new thing out of a thing you thought was going to end you.

It might be time to just stop… just for a moment. Put down the notebook and the planner. Take off the running shoes. And, if you haven’t breathed and looked around lately, then do that. You already have permission… you don’t have to wait on a single being to hand you the slip.

Permission to feel all your big feelings.

Permission to be upset about the circumstances or even angry with God that he would allow you to be here on the map (he can handle your feelings, trust me).

Permission to cry the ugly tears and release all that is building up inside of you.

Permission to not build a system to get you out of this place. Permission to grieve the shambles, grieve what is and what used to be.

Permission to eat a little cake and cry, if you need to.


  1. Ashley says:

    This post resonated with me more deeply than anything I’ve read in a while. You put into beautiful words all the feelings I’ve been feeling that I haven’t known how to describe. My boyfriend just broke up with me a few weeks ago, and I’ve been coping exactly like you described — obsessing with systems and productivity instead of letting myself just feel. Thank you for reminding this productivity-obsessed, heartbroken girl that it’s okay to eat a little cake and cry.

  2. Randy says:

    This is perfect

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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