A Mixtape for a Broken Heart


Back in my day, we made each other mix CDs. My best friend Jess made me one when we went off to college, and I made a stack of unsent ones for the girl I was in love with (and didn’t realize that that’s the feeling I was having! Ahh, adolescence.)

But these days, I find myself turning to books, collecting books to read my way out of a feeling, or into a mood, or through a situation. I play the same song on loop, over and over and over again. I listen to a podcast on my commute to work to feel a little less alone in the world, that my feelings are valid and other people are feeling them too.

This season can be hard for a lot of reasons, but especially if you’re getting over a broken heart. At family gatherings where people are coupled up, questions about your singlehood can be salt in the proverbial wound. And when you’re alone at home, or on the street, or shopping for holiday gifts, the shorter, drearier days lending themselves to swells of melancholy. Tis the season…for wallowing. For feeling raw and vulnerable and sensitive. And tired. Heartbreak and loneliness are exhausting, aren’t they?

I pulled together a mixtape for you this month with books and music and a podcast I think you’ll like. I hope you’ll find solace in them. They’re often quieter, gentler, and maybe a little prone to wallowing and melancholy. But sometimes you need to sink down into the feelings like a warm bath, acknowledging and accepting them, before you are able to move on.

This is for you, my broken-hearted friend.

Dear Sugars
1. Dear Sugar – a podcast by Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond

You probably know Cheryl Strayed for her novels–Wild is her most famous–but you should also know her for her novel Tiny Beautiful Things, written from an advice column she did for years. That column ended, but podcasting revived Cheryl’s succinct, beautiful, and genuinely helpful advice for awhile. Neither she nor her co-host Steve sugar-coat things for you–expect tough love when it’s needed–but nor are they cruel. They’re honest, and hopeful, and I come back to my favorite episodes again and again. While the podcast isn’t recording new episodes as of September, there are four years of episodes. There’s something for everyone in this podcast. I just relistened to How to Follow Your Heart while I wrote this post.

2. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

This book came out two years ago, but when I think about books that made me feel less alone in the world, this book rises to the top. I listened to it as an audiobook, which I can’t recommend enough. Anna reads it, and her voice, humor, and self deprecation comes through in full force. I loved Anna talking about her career, her awkwardness, her dating failures, her frustrations about trying to be seen as a multi-talented actress and how she tries to honor her own voice. Every moment in the car listening to this audiobook felt like a roadtrip with a best friend where she was just unloading all of her life’s best stories. This one’s special and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

3. Rising Strong by Brene Brown

I can be hit and miss on Brown, to be quite honest, but this one’s worth reading especially if your heartbreak comes from a relationship that made you feel restless, stifled, and lost. If you’re not sure who you are in this big, confusing, and stressful world, if either your relationship torpedoed your sense of self, or if you’ve just always struggled with trying to find your voice and purpose, this book’s worth the read. Like most books in this category, this book will have some chapters that click, and some chapters that don’t. I encourage you to take a highlighter to this one (so…maybe get an ebook or a physical book version. Don’t mark up a library book, please. Librarians will weep) and absorb the lines that strike home for you. Discard the ones that don’t. Nothing is gospel, except what feels like it should be. Take what you need to rise strong.

4. the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

I love Lovelace’s poetry, and this collection is like stitching a heart back together and holding up a mirror and holding hands and wrapping yourself in a fuzzy blanket all at once. It’s a collection of poetry about love, and relationship, and self-love. It’s about being hurt, and hurting, and vulnerability and fear. It’s about picking up the pieces and opening up and taking risks. If you’re not a regular poetry reader, don’t worry. Lovelace’s poetry is accessible and easy to read. You’ll feel, without having to analyze the page. Return to these poems as often as you need to. This is a track I think you’ll keep on loop for awhile.

5. How Do You Like Me Now by Holly Bourne

Okay. This one’s not out in the US (yet?) but it’s easily found on Book Depository. This is the book about a woman who faces her thirties and all the societal pressure that comes with it, and has to forge her own path, and her own way. Okay, and yes, it’s all about that image we show the world versus reality. The main character’s written a memoir! And done the tour! And inspired all these people! Like the instagram accounts where people’s houses are perfectly clean all the time (LITERALLY HOW, PEOPLE? HOW?). But in reality, her life’s kind of fallen apart. Relatable content ftw. It’s funny, heartwarming, and sometimes painfully real. You’ll feel a little less alone, and a little braver, which makes this read worth it.

6. Don’t smile at me by Billie Eilish

It feels strange to recommend music by a sixteen year old on this list–but hey, here we are. The same way that Lorde felt like a prodigy when she burst onto the scene with Pure Heroine several years ago, teenager Billie Eilish makes music that feels old beyond her years. She has a sweet, ethereal voice and haunting lyrics. It’s one of those albums that you’ll enjoy if you’re listening closely–watch is one of my favorite songs of the year–but it’s also easy listening to turn on in the background to keep you company.

7. It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense by Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid’s one of my favorite indie artists, and boy did I ship her with her now-ex-husband Greg Laswell. But their marriage ended, and like two good artists always do, they both processed it through music. (Laswell’s album title, My Friends Say I Dodged a Bullet, literally makes me wince every time I see it pop up on my iTunes shuffle. Ouch, dude. Ouch.) Of their two breakup albums, I like Ingrid’s the best. It’s a mix of “screw you” and “I miss you” and “I’ll be fine without you” which I feel like appropriately sums up the immediate aftermath of a breakup–or, if you’re like me, years later! (Getting over things is not exactly my forte.)

So break out the bath bombs (but not too many–yeast infections are NOT what you need right now, friends) and the mugs of tea, and sink into your feelings with a podcast, music or a book. It’s okay to wallow. It’s also okay to move on. Getting over a broken heart is personal. Your process is yours, and I hope you own that. And know that you’re not alone, even when it feels like it.

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