A Tale of Two Hearts: How Doctor Who Helped Me Get Over a Breakup

My last relationship ended two years ago.  I was totally heartbroken and in dire financial straits, two things which greatly contributed to my nightly cry-sessions and horrible depression.  I felt pretty trapped by the circumstances of my life, and I wanted to escape by almost any means.  It’s a desperation I hope I never experience again, even though it forced me to examine a lot of parts of myself I had been surreptitiously avoiding that were in need of fixing.

And that’s when the Doctor came into my life.

I wasn’t the most fun person to be around for the first couple months of 2014, so I would often come straight home from work, cry, and watch movies or TV to soothe myself until I fell asleep.  I had been catching up on another of my favorite BBC shows, Sherlock, and I wanted something different; a little more escapist.  My brother and various friends had been begging me for a long time to start new Who, believing (rightly) that I would be hooked if I actually gave it a shot.  My main excuse for not watching had been a combination of stubbornness, lack of time, and too many other shows to keep up with.  But considering I was an emotional wreck with quite a bit of time on my hands, I figured that was as good a time as any to start my travels with the Doctor.

The Ninth Doctor is totally underrated.

And like most of the companions, the Doctor arrived when I needed him most.  Within minutes of starting the first episode, “Rose,” I was swept up by this Madman With a Box into a universe full of aliens and amazing planets and historical figures.   I felt the same rush of adrenaline the Doctor’s companions feel stepping into the TARDIS for the first time; eyes large with wonder and disbelief.   For the first time in months, I felt hopeful instead of dejected, like my life really counted for something.

I know this probably sounds silly to say about a television show, but when someone and/or something has crushed you so completely you feel like you’re nothing, like you’re worthless, to have something constantly remind you of the sheer wonder of being alive is not silly at all.

As a companion, I'm some hybrid of Donna & Amy

As a companion, I’m some hybrid of Donna & Amy

To be inundated in episode after episode with the message that even the smallest, seemingly insignificant person is actually deeply valuable and worthwhile and capable of extraordinary things just because they are human and alive and full of feelings and thoughts can work wonders on a heart and soul that have been battered and beaten to think otherwise. This is what the Doctor does to everyone and everything he encounters in his travels: he saves them by showing them how those “weaknesses” are strengths, how their ability to feel things deeply makes them stronger and more capable than they’d ever imagined.  How they always have a choice between light and dark, right and wrong, war and peace, hope or despondency.  He even says at one point, “I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”  And boy oh boy did THAT one hit me like a ton of bricks when I heard that for the first time.

I became addicted to the Doctor, which tends to happen to his companions and fans alike.  I couldn’t wait to get home from work and watch hours and hours of Doctor Who until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.

"Vincent & the Doctor" is one of DW finest hours

“Vincent & the Doctor” is one of DW’s finest hours

And then I’d dream of adventures with the Doctor in all corners of time and space.  And the longer I spent with him, the more my broken heart started to heal and get stronger.  And I realized the Doctor is no stranger to heartbreak eitherHe’s lost so much, but yet, he keeps going.  He keeps fighting for those he loves.  He never gives up on them even when they’ve given up on themselves.  He looks for the hope even when it’s just a sliver…that’s all he needs to keep going.

The Doctor is lucky enough to have two hearts to keep him alive.  But in reality, ALL of us have two hearts: one that breaks and one that keeps  beating.  You mourn the one that’s broken while you ignore the one that’s beating and full of hope for a future you cannot see until eventually through time and healing, that becomes reversed.  Eventually, you allow yourself to focus on the hopeful heart instead of the broken one, but you always carry both with you, because one cannot truly exist without the other.  To ignore the pain is to forget what makes you so beautifully human.  The Doctor would agree with me on that.

YES!

YES!

I’ll fully admit to having become a full-fledged, cosplaying Whovian these days.  I own two Sonic Screwdrivers (and I guess I’m gonna have to get a pair of Ray-Bans now too).  I have a Pinterest board full of quotes and gifs and behind-the-scenes videos.  I read fan theories and follow DW writers on Twitter.  I’ve gone to multiple early preview screenings and been to the Pandorica Restaurant in Beacon, NY.  I re-watched the entire series over the summer to prepare for the current one.  The Doctor is an old friend now; someone I rely on to show me a good time, encourage me to never give up, and occasionally give me some tough love.  But I need him a little less than I did when I first met him.  This happens with many of his companions too;  they grow enough to not always need him around.  They learn to fend for themselves and others without constantly relying on him for help.  I’m always up for an adventure, but I don’t need him to be everything for me anymore.  My heart is healed.  My spirits are high.  I have, thanks to the Doctor, learned to navigate my life as well as he navigates his TARDIS: competently, enthusiastically, and  with the occasional malfunction every once in awhile.   It doesn’t always take me where I WANT to go, but it always takes me where I NEED to go.

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Three is a Magic Number

Someone, and I can’t remember who right now, once said to me they thought it takes about three years to settle into living somewhere.  Three years to work out some of the kinks, establish some favorite haunts, orient oneself with its landscape and features, make new friends, and ultimately, become acclimated enough to start calling it “home.”

One of many gorgeous sunsets over my city

One of many gorgeous sunsets over New York City

Now, college doesn’t quite follow the same rules.  I went school out of state in Oklahoma City, and by the end of my sophomore year, OKC already felt like my second home.  I had put down enough “roots” to feel about as comfortable there as I did in my Missouri hometown.  And if I went back to OKC now, I would probably settle right back in fairly easily even though it is a rapidly changing and growing city, which thrills me; though I DO wish some of that growth had happened during the four years I spent there.

Ah well.  C’est la vie.  Oh, and THUNDER UP.

ANYWAY, the point is this past Saturday, the 13th, marked my three year anniversary of moving to New York.  Usually, my yearly moving anniversaries have been plagued by tumult in some way, always spurring changes in my life.  Last year around this time, I had just been slapped by a dramatic confrontation with my previous roommates and the nightmare of having to find a new apartment in an incredibly brief amount of time.  It set me off on a collision course with other problems both financial (Hello overdrawn bank account, we meet again!) and personal (Goodbye boyfriend who won’t commit!) over the next several months, which were tough to shake off, leaving me depressed in all senses of the word (monetary and emotionally) well into 2014.  My third year in the Big Apple, which should have signaled my “settling,” was, well, rather unsettling on the whole.

Elliott on the Hudson River, looking down at NYC from Palisades Park, NJ

Elliott on the Hudson River, looking down at NYC from Palisades Park, NJ

BUT, when my third year here was good, it was REALLY good.  Like getting to go to an opening night party for a Broadway show and getting to work that same show’s TONY Awards party.  Or joining a new church and making some of the best friends I’ve had.  And I would be remiss without mentioning my many, many bike rides around the five boroughs, which has kept me saner than almost anything other than writing.  Sometime a little more than midway through my third year, the “settling” actually began to happen.  Money worked itself out.  A lot of the personal hurt vanished.  It felt as though a giant weight had lifted.  Suddenly, I was very much enjoying this City instead of feeling as though I was being hurtled around inside of it.

My third anniversary this past Saturday was decidedly unceremonious.  I spent the morning riding my bicycle, Elliott, over the Queensboro Bridge (which is a bitch of a steady incline, though it’s getting easier the more often I do it), down Second Avenue, across SoHo and the West Village, and then back up Eighth Avenue to Times Square.  Then I went home, showered, went grocery shopping, made my first pumpkin-flavored dessert of the season, watched Doctor Who, and went to bed.  So, all in all, it was a fairly ordinary Saturday, not unlike most of my Saturdays in recent months.

Solid life advice from the Twelfth Doctor

Solid life advice from the Twelfth Doctor

Ordinary.  Standard.  Settled.

Some people want to start things with a bang.  In this case, I’m perfectly fine with a whimper as I glide into my fourth year in New York City.  I don’t know if ALL the kinks have been worked out, but this place really IS starting to feel something like “home.”  I have an ever-growing list of favorite haunts, I know how to get basically anywhere within the five boroughs without much consultation of my MTA maps, and I’ve certainly accumulated an abundance of great friends old and new.  I don’t expect everything to be smooth sailing, because this place always catches you off guard, but I DO expect SMOOTHER sailing henceforth.  I have most definitely earned it.