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Heartbreak training, and how to Woman Up.

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Where did you get your heartbreak training?

Today, I’m going to tell you a story of where I got mine, and the experience that turned it all on its head (for the better). 

But before I do, I have a quick update for you: A few weeks ago, I told you to save the date for my book launch, September 20th, 2016. Well today, I am so thrilled to officially invite you to join me, live in NYC, for a legendary evening of provocative conversation, celebration, and sisterhood. 

All the details and registration info are right here. 

I expect tickets to go fast, so if you’d like to join, I encourage you to reserve your seat today. . .  And check out the special guests we’ve lined up – I’m so excited to share the stage with these powerhouse women. Click the link above, or scroll down to the end of this email for more info. 🙂

Okay, back to heartbreak training. Where did you get yours?
Friends? Movies?
Your family?

Not my family.
My family never let ‘em see us sweat.
No one had heartbreak.
Our upper lips were so stiff that we were like the most British Jews in Philadelphia.

But growing up in the suburbs, I longed to feel. Everything.
By the time my tween years were upon me, I was having a full on love affair with heartbreak.
It was such good times for this.
And I got so fueled. 

It was the late 60’s, early 70’s. The music was incredible. Janis Joplin was killing herself both onstage and off, Simon and Garfunkel were bemoaning the Sound of Silence, Jimi Hendrix was overdosing, and Streisand was singing about people who need people.  

I was basically a 40 year old in a 7th grade body – bitter, resigned and, relating way too much to the tragedy of love.

It’s no wonder, years later, when I finally let myself live enough and love enough to feel something, that I was clueless of how to proceed.

As an English and Theatre Major, I looked to Shakespeare for my answers.
This was not helpful.
Romeo and Juliet ended up ending their lives.
Hamlet either directly or indirectly killed his girlfriend, his mom, his stepfather, his beloved friends, and himself.
King Lear destroyed not only his life, but the life of the very daughter who loved him the best.

Heartbreak didn’t just trip us up. It seemed like once heartbreak hit, it was unrecoverable.
And permanent.
And above all things – not at all ‘good’.

What I didn’t realize was that the way I was taught about heartbreak was just that – a way.
A highly masculinized way.
Not the only way.

From my family, I learned to avoid the expression of my inner on the outer, in any and every way.

From the pop music culture, I learned that expressing yourself fully, takes you to the edge of out of control madness.  

From Shakespeare I learned that tragedy is tragical.

But when the woman in me started to wake up, and educate me about her truths, I learned about the life-giving gifts that arrive in whatever ‘package’ we receive from this adventure called the human experience.

I had been thigh deep in the Womanly Arts for about 8 years, when I got hit with my divorce.  

I reached immediately for my familial tools of the masculine – stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on, never let ‘em see you sweat.
I sank deeper.
I had a kid to raise, a table to put food on, a school to run.

I was never ever going to climb out of this hole using the tools of how I was raised.
It was going to take something else, something different.

I was going to have to stop the man-up game and start the woman-up game.
I knew how to woman-up when things were going well.
I knew how to reach for a hot bath with music at the end of a long day.
How to flirt my way out of a traffic ticket.
How to dance as if no one was watching.

But – dance when I was having to siphon out my kid’s savings account to make payroll?
Or flirt on my way to meet with my divorce attorney?
Not happening. Not so much.

In fact, the more heartbroken I became at my own circumstances, the more determined I felt about the absolute impossibility of using the discipline of pleasure at a time like this.
It just wasn’t fucking appropriate.
Nor practical.
And utterly unrealistic.

This is how certain I was of my point of view: 

When my pal, Sally, gave me the gift of five dance lessons with her award-winning ballroom dance teacher husband, Alex, I threw the card in the trash.  

Fortunately, I was too deep in heartbreak to empty the trash much.
And a few days later, I dug that card out of the garbage and called Alex for my first appointment.
I had come to the end of man-up rope.
It was time to practice the art of being a woman.  

I arrived at the ballroom dance studio, which bore a significant resemblance to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Not just the tatty surroundings, but the eccentricity of those that ballroom dance.

But then I saw the most delicate slight man, extend his hand, like a king, to a wonderfully robust woman, who floated towards him like the butterfly that she truly was, and I knew I was in the right place.  

Dancing was not frivolous. It was not petty. The pleasure of dance was genius. Dance was actually the great exaulter. The place where a frail human woman gets to meet her goddess, her queen. And an ordinary man gets to step into his prince, his king. 

I quickly used all of those 5 sessions and booked many more.
I would take Maggie and a coloring book and she would watch me, sometimes clumsy, sometimes elegant, locate a new center inside myself.

And from that dancing place, I could write a whole new story for myself, my daughter, my school.  

Instead of being uptight, fucked up, stiff, defensive, wrong, failed, humiliated, facing destruction and defeat, I was a kind of butterfly. A princess. A queen.

Instead of finishing me or destroying me, this rupture was part of my unfolding adventure.
It was my chance to locate an inner strength built on beauty. My beauty.
A resourcefulness created from my poetry. Not my circumstances.  

I became the woman I wanted to be – a woman that could take any situation and pirouette it to her advantage.  

It was only the depth of my despair that forced my sea of change.

If you are in heartbreak now, or when you hit it (and my prayer for you is that you hit it, and hit it hard), you don’t listen to anything that the culture or your family taught you.

Instead, reach across your anguish and pick up anything that sparkles. Glitters. Glimmers. Even and especially if it initially irritates you.

Do not forget that pleasure is always irritating. It always seems like the wrong choice. That’s how you know you are onto something.

Because that will inevitable mean you are choosing your pleasure as the highest value.
Which, of course, it is.
And that will change everything about your destiny.

It doesn’t ever matter where you came from. It only matters where you intend to go.

I’d love to hear from you today in the comments below  . . .

  • What were you taught about how to handle heartbreak?
  • What does it mean to you, to Woman Up?
  • How can you choose pleasure today?

All my love,
Mama Gena

P.S. My new book, Pussy: A Reclamation, is hitting the shelves on September 20th, and bringing forth a whole new paradigm for women. I’m hosting a legendary evening to celebrate, and you’re invited. 

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS AND REGISTRATION. 

Plus, I’m so excited to welcome my special guests Marie Forleo, Kris Carr, and Gabby Bernstein to blow the lid off this special event. Join us! 

Woman Up: A Live Event in Celebration of My New Book

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38 Comments / Leave a Comment

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  • Deborah Smith July 25, 2016, 4:46 pm

    Congrats on the book Regena. I will miss being there on the 20th. Fortunately my SG daughter will be there so I hope to hear all of the juicy details. Love your witnessing to Alex and the power of dance.
    I’m deep love and gratitude. dls

  • Rosalie July 25, 2016, 1:44 pm

    So excited for you! Cant wait for your book! After my divorce I started doing things off my bucket list! I feel so alive and am publishing a book myself because I can! So happy to have your strength and wisdom!

  • Jasmine July 25, 2016, 8:44 am

    Oh dear Mama, I am going through a separation now with stiff lips, lid on, uptight while torn to pieces screaming inside.
    The ways of dealing with such situations adopted from my mom, my family and society were crying it off, keep it inside, smile on and remain shut and lonely.
    On the other hand I remind myself on the Mastery lessons to propel me out of this hole. I am pushing myself to practice and it does work although feels unnatural at times.
    This lesson comes as a wind under my wings to move confidently on my new path as a women and a goddess. Thank you Mama. Much love, Jasmine

  • Blaire July 24, 2016, 8:22 pm

    I absolutely loved this piece! I love the message that you embody and share – thank you!

    Mama Gene, why is pleasure initially irritating? How is our irritation a sign that we are into something?

    • Lilian July 25, 2016, 2:02 pm

      Hi Blaire, I read your questions and thought of sharing my experience about it. Usually when something irritates us we need to pay close attention to what’s behind that feeling, it can be something that we need to work on ourselves. If you read my reply above yours, I kind of say something similar, I just got out of a relationship where this guy took me to amazing expensive places that I haven’t been before, and I’d be very irritated all the time instead of being grateful and happy. After working on this issue with a coach I got present to all that was behind. Sorry for the long post, hope that helps;)

  • Lilian July 23, 2016, 11:23 am

    Thank you for sharing!

    Also loved the comment above “The teacher is going to come when the student is ready” exactly what just happened to me. Despite the fact that I miss him, I’m thankful for the lesson he taught me and will always remember him with love and admiration.

  • Sara July 23, 2016, 8:52 am

    So funny! I came from the same background and went through an intensely long and drawn out divorce. I have 6 kids and I believe this divorce is enabling them to follow their own journey. I have started belly dancing and have progressively been freeing myself with self love and feminity of astronomical proportions. I can’t wait to buy your book!

  • Elli Sparks July 22, 2016, 3:46 am

    Oh my Goddess! Perfect post for me today. I took my pussy into my own hands today and moved out of a 20-year marriage I wish I had left 22 years ago. The amazing thing about my move is how I conjured up two houses on our little farm making it easy for me to move into the pretty one and let him stay in the little one. I am making space for a man to continue his healing journey. I will be his friend and cheer him on but I am done being his lover and wife. I feel fresh and clean and beautiful. I am excited. What a delicious 50th birthday present I’ve given myself and him.

  • Andrea July 21, 2016, 11:59 pm

    My heartbreak training began when I ended a 28 year abusive marriage with his arrest. I was finally free. But like a caged animal, I was deathly afraid to go it alone, out of the comfort zone of sickness and control. Deep down I mourned the life I thought I was always meant to have. The dream. I had done everything right, just like the tv wives I watched as a little girl. My family training prepared me well to sweep it under the carpet in ladylike fashion.
    I am still searching for my inner goddess, but I know she’s there. I’ve seen flickering images. What does it mean to woman up? Show up. Dress up. Dress down. Whatever pleases me. Take chances. Discover what I like. Do as I like and not as I’m told. Kindness shouldn’t be reserved just for others. With that I say be kind. Be thoughtful. Be respectful. Be you. Peace.

  • Foxy July 21, 2016, 9:22 pm

    Cannot wait!

  • Margo Wixsom July 21, 2016, 2:54 am

    The greatest acceleration tool is really to be vulnerable and transparent, reach out to sisters and ask to be held and pampered by love. I hid out and stiffed myself after a horrible divorce and the death of my oldest son – but the trade-off is a decade of healing. NOW I would much rather have the pleasure components from SWA, swamp, spring clean, find my turnON, and find the joy and pleasure EVERY day. NO need to hang out in Penanceville for some hoped-for redemption. I prefer to save myself – SAVE all the good stuff for myself and my sisters. Thanks for the reminder to reach out for the joy even when we are down.

  • Madelyn Hoffman July 20, 2016, 2:11 pm

    Oh Mama, you have done it again – you have spoken directly to my heart with this and your previous post.
    Your last post left me feeling so much less shame about finding myself so frequently “overextended”, overwhelmed, with the kind of To Do List that always included thank you notes, sympathy calls, touch base calls and How Are You calls – unfinished Want To Do’s alongside the never ending unfinished Should Do List.
    And feeling inadequate because other people, or my (ex) husband seemed so much more “Organized”.
    What I realized reading your post was that I wasn’t Disorganized or Spacey. I just had more on my mind. More I wanted to do. Less of a Vanilla Life than other folks. And I wasn’t willing to settle for anything less.

    Reading this post about heartbreak and recovery, I realized it was dancing that saved me. And the dance partner/lover who instead would say when he saw me all tense, “You have a lot on your platter”, and hug me tight.

    I left my marriage eight years ago and lived through the rage from my ex and the blame from my beloved only – my daughter – and woke up every morning for a year unable to breathe, crying in the Duane Reade mop section, crying on the bus, crying in synagogue, blaming and shaming myself for stepping so far off the grid and wrecking so many lives.

    Very slowly, with the help of dance and the little dog who rescued me, and Mastery 15, I crawled inch by inch out of that pit, and began to breathe again. and to see my choice as absolutely right.

    Time takes Time, and tears and prayers, and sisterhood and exposure.
    Wounds uncovered are wounds unhealed.
    With the addition of a son I law I love and a brand new baby – our first grandchild – My ex and my 32 yr old daughter and I have re connected in a new configuration now – in the one I conjured but despaired for so long of ever achieving.
    And I now see my journey as a CoJo vs a Shame and the stepping off the map I did and the new form the family I created and then tore apart took as a Reclamation.

    Thank you so much, Mama G, for helping me and making so many things that I and the patriarchal culture deemed Wrong seem absolutely Right.

    I still have days where I struggle to breathe, I give up hope, I despair, I want to stay in bed all day, but I have a container now and the comfort of knowing that I am in good company and that I am not completely alone. My struggle is universal.
    I am deeply grateful for what you have given me and so many others.
    I can’t wait for September 20th.

  • Rebecca July 20, 2016, 8:20 am

    Thank you so much for your words. Every time I read something you write I feel beautiful, wild, desirous, heartbroken-wide, brave, playful, tender, smart….could go on and on. Love what you say about ¨tragical¨. Had a big heartbreak recently. In the middle of feeling my arms pull in and the curl of shame take over I got a dispatch from that big pool of woman wisdom. That voice that knows girls and women have a much bigger wardrobe than tragedy gowns spoke, ¨oh sweetheart, the solution isn´t to ask for less…feel your deepest yearnings, feel the yumm there, through the tears, trust it…. and actually Ask. For. More. ¨ Momma Geena, your words are always good for my compass.

    • Rebecca July 20, 2016, 8:22 am

      ¨Mama Gena¨,I mean xo

  • Lily July 20, 2016, 1:46 am

    I’ve been mourning a lot of losses, my father, my dog, my grandfather, brother-in-law, nieces and then I threw in divorce as well as more losses. At 38 years old I ended up in somatic therapy for an entire year and uncovered that I was sexually assaulted when I was three years old. I was beyond emotional pain and through it all I had to manage to get up everyday and mother two young children. Looking back I’m not sure how I did it, I knew that I needed to walk through the pain, to feel the pain and make amends with my pain. I know that I am not the same person who once danced with my pain and I’m glad I did. I’ve gotten abnormally good at feeling things deeply and I uncovered a very special gift I didn’t know I had, I was blessed with the gift of being an intuitive empath and the ability to connect with people on a deep emotional level.
    My life is amazing because I’ve allowed my true self emerge.

  • Santha Cooke July 19, 2016, 10:12 pm

    Dear Mama,

    This is SO helpful.
    Thank you!!!

    SG Santha

  • Vee July 19, 2016, 9:38 pm

    OMG! I read this during my lunch break today and it sooo totally spoke to me. My story about heartbreak is pretty lengthy, but suffice it to say I’m coming to terms with the lessons I have learned from those experiences, so history doesn’t repeat itself. But even if it does….the idea of pursuing pleasure as a means of pushing through is a novel concept that I will need to have tucked away for future use:)

  • Dixie July 19, 2016, 7:58 pm

    After reading parts of everyone’s story I realize I am not by myself. Their are many of us that get knocked down on our faces and get back up again only to be slapped down more time then we would like to remember. I’ve started over so any times I’ve lost count., and I’m running out of reasons to get up. This is not the life I saw for myself.
    It would be great if you could do a live feed for those of us who live to far away to come. I am in Florida and can’t even think about taking off work let alone travel to New York. I am looking forward to your new book. I just turned 64 so I pray the days ahead can be positive .

  • Teresa July 19, 2016, 6:35 pm

    Interesting read and comment replies. I am curious if you are NLP trained? I love helping people discover their core values and true identity. This article reminds me of journeys that people have shared with me. Of course, what I was taught about heartbreak was my mothers what is love line, “What’s love? 7 minutes of pleasure 9 months of pain, hours of labor and baby to name.” Heartbreak was learning what you thought was normal not being sad but fuel by anger, not feeling empathy, dwelling in hate and holding grudges … were all a broken woman’s baggage.
    I say it all happened in prison. I worked in max security male pen. After all that testosterone and Type A shit. I was relieved to find my softer side. Merideth Brooke’s dong BITCH was my these song. I womaned up knowing I am female I can’t and don’t want to kick a grown mans ass. I’m a great communicator I have fear and vulnerability and I cry. It’s all good because it’s how I was designed. I am strong and confident,healthy and beautiful. I find pleasure in gratitude. I find pleasure in helping a beautiful help themselves. My dad said to me once life isn’t too short, it’s too damn long to be miserable. So I made a choice to make it seem short. Time flys when you have pleasure. Thanks for the sight. The uplifting opinions and the blunt, raw, vulnerability.

  • CS July 19, 2016, 5:31 pm

    As they always say… “when the student is ready, the teacher will come.” I lost my love a little over two years ago. He felt a bit dizzy, was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, and died 19 days later. And I was raised with “never let them see you sweat”. So I’ve gone on with life and closed my heart away. And just in the last couple of weeks, I’ve met someone (with all kinds of times we’ve seen each other along the way to that point). I don’t know if it’s really going anywhere, but I’ve determined I want the fun and pleasure in my life again.
    So looking forward to your new book and more lessons.

  • Katharine July 19, 2016, 3:51 pm

    Extremely timely tale. Can’t wait to see you in the City and get my copies of your book. Meanwhile I’m dancing in my sequined sneakers . .

  • Daphne July 19, 2016, 3:47 pm

    My own heartbreak is wathcing my beloved husband of 34 years slowly disappear with an agressive brain cancer. Wathcing the one you love, such a beustiful handsome, masculine man, slowly diminish day y day is heartbreaking, My heart breaks a little bit more every day and its a year since he was diagnosed. I dont know how to find any glimmers, pleasure or delight in this, all I can do is live for the day and find pleasure in small moments, such as walking my dog, cutting my roses. The grief is ovewhelming and the fear of being alone and all our dreams of the futire together shattered, I dont know how I will survive the next 25 years.

  • Sue July 19, 2016, 12:20 pm

    Hi Gena,
    I came to you through Dr. Northrup’s book “Goddesses Never Age” and I love what you have to say. The last 15 yrs have been one huge F#%*ing lesson and it got to the point where just as I was coming out of one shitstorm, certain that I’d picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again, when another one would come along – laughing at me – hit me square in the face and throw me back to the ground once again. I’m talking abuse/illness of my husband (lung transplant….no less)/divorce/losing it all and having to start all over again/moving/death/job loss/breakup/death again/car accident(s). I’m not kidding. I tried everything I could think of to get past it all and I suppose one of the f’ing lessons was that I couldn’t rush anything, I couldn’t skip over the bad parts….I needed to go through it all, one brutally painful step at a time. What I’ve realized is that I’m supremely lucky. I have an unbelievable support system that I’ve been forced to lean on and I do dance. Unabashedly, without restraint and without any shame. It’s pure and utter joy and I glean every second of pleasure from it.
    Thank you 🙂

  • Amy Z July 19, 2016, 12:04 pm

    My personal tragedy of events seemed like they just went from one event to another event. Never getting a reprieve from the negative activity in my life. Pretty soon I just took them as they came. They made me stronger and made me more confident in the choices I made. I chose glitter and glam to survive and now I thrive. I think all tragic events in ones life, need to be mourned, then throw them in the fire and be done with it. My goal was to fall in love with the beautiful parts of my life to use as a stepping stool to thriving happiness. As painful as those events were, I wouldn’t trade them for any reason. Thriving is much better than surviving!

  • Vernell Scott July 19, 2016, 11:45 am

    I do desire to celebrate with you. How about a live stream of the event – included in the registration fee? I want to get the book and attend the event – my physical presence in New York is simply not possible at the moment.

    • Sarah July 19, 2016, 3:18 pm

      Livestream of PUSSY – great idea for those of us that live too far away – any chance MG?

      • SG Lisa July 19, 2016, 5:09 pm

        Yes please !!!

  • Jane Wyker July 19, 2016, 11:19 am

    Thank you for this gorgeous piece!!!!!! Thank you for your gorgeous work!!!! Thank you for you!!!!!!!! I look forward to celebrating you and PUSSY on September 20th!!!!!!
    I so relate to your story about dance. I started ballroom dancing about five years ago and instantly felt beautiful and alive, graceful and feminine. I felt like the woman I wished I was and could be!!!!! The woman I am.
    Thank you for the many ways you have cheered me and all of us on to connect with our bodies, our beauty and the power of woman.!!!!!

  • Martha July 19, 2016, 10:56 am

    I hear what you are saying and at this point can only feel like a failure for NOT having better weathered, accepted, learned, glittered in my past heartbreak.
    It was an ugly scene and still gives me shivers of shame when I think of the various pieces of it that still cling to me, shards of my own and other ugly, infested, stuff.
    Wanting to improve the scene now, not the past, it’s done. But improve the now, the prep for tomorrow.
    thanks for this space and your perspectives!

    • mama gena July 19, 2016, 2:31 pm

      dear martha-
      just so you know-
      no shame allowed. only love. 🙂
      you were doing the very best you could with the tools you had.
      and now, there is no limit to the gorgeous adventures you will create for yourself!
      xo
      mg

  • Jayme July 19, 2016, 10:48 am

    This came at exactly the right time for me. as I’m coming to terms with my own masculine energy and how it’s worked against me… all these years! I started to cry reading the Heartbreak training and realized I do have a love affair with tragedy. Oh how I love my tragic ending stories.. All my stories end in me with a broken heart, being abandoned, disappointed, let down, etc.. I realized it started with my mother, as a kid watching all her relationships fail and her own misery when they did. Now that I know, I can change these old tapes! Thank you Mama Gena! 🙂

    • mama gena July 19, 2016, 2:28 pm

      i am so happy you are seeing new story lines for yourself, jayme!
      xo
      mg

  • Carrie Altemus July 19, 2016, 10:42 am

    You words really get in there….I’m in!

    • mama gena July 19, 2016, 2:27 pm

      thank you so much, carrie!

  • Psycholobitch July 19, 2016, 10:42 am

    Woman up! I love it! it’s so hard how these patriarchal structures have completely infiltrated every area of our lives. Most of what i was taught about heartbreak comes in the form of well-meaning friends who say, “just let it go”. The patriarchal way is to not tolerate grieving, but grief is SO important, as is the expression of anger. We are an unmourned society. So for me, to woman up means to tread that path of grief and make room for it, and in doing that, it helps me lay down the burden of that grief, even if for just a short time, and makes room for pleasure. Pleasure for me is being a creative being, so any time I am making something I am happy.

    • mama gena July 19, 2016, 2:27 pm

      i so agree!
      i love this: ‘We are an unmourned society. So for me, to woman up means to tread that path of grief and make room for it…’
      it is such an incredibly brave choice for a woman to choose to embody her emotions.
      xo
      mg

  • Dona Tracy July 19, 2016, 10:29 am

    Gosh, I miss you! I just preordered your book and can’t wait to read it. I love you you incredible woman you!

    • mama gena July 19, 2016, 2:20 pm

      miss you too, dona!!
      nice to hear from you!!