Kimberly Ann Johnson is a Sexological Bodyworker, Somatic Experiencing trauma resolution practitioner, birth doula, and single mom. She specializes in helping women prepare for birth, recover from birth injuries and birth trauma, and heal from sexual trauma. She is the founder of Magamama, an international holistic women’s health care resource for expectant and new mothers, and author of "The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions and Restoring Your Vitality."
If you think back to the first time you were heartbroken, what advice would you give to that younger version of yourself?
Life is not about this ONE. There will be many loves. The separations don’t mean that there is something wrong with you. The separations mean that you learned more about your self, valued yourself more than you valued the promise of the relationship. The separations mean you know a lot more now about who you are. There is nothing wrong with you, sweet one. And I know it fucking hurts. You’ll get through it.
What has heartbreak taught you about yourself?
I lived in Brazil for 8 years, and they have a word “saudades” that is a cultural pastime. It means nostalgia and yearning, and it incorporates a little bit of heartbreak as well. I really learned that however painful that yearning or missing that it is a part of being human, to have the privilege of having a human life and to have loved very very deeply.
I am an all-in lover. I fall hard and my break-ups are terrible. I hate letting go, of the person, and then of all the dreams I had with that person. As I’ve gotten older, and gone through more heartbreaks, I know that it can take awhile to feel like myself again. It can take awhile to come back home to myself and remember my compass on my own outside of the mutual dreams that were created. I have more patience and self compassion for that in-between space.
What are your rituals during a breakup? What things/practices/people helped you mend?
Right after my last breakup, my parents came over and helped me deep clean my apartment. My mom brought me a new bedspread and helped me rearrange my room, and that felt surprisingly good - to have a physical fresh start and to have my tribe with me for moral support.
I also had written my boyfriend a note on my bathroom mirror with lipstick. It felt really painful to clean the mirror. So I decided to clean the mirror but then write “I love you” on it in red lipstick to myself, as a reminder to look myself in the eyes each day and really see my love for myself, in spite of all the big feelings of loss and disappointment. I took inventory of the things that I was not doing for myself or that I had wanted to do in relationship and started doing them. My ex and I had talked about taking tango. I couldn’t see myself doing that exact dream without him, so I went back to other dance classes.
My breakup survival tactic is talking to the people who have known me the longest, sobbing with them. I keep a balance between being alone and allowing for the sadness and loneliness and being with friends who can make me laugh and distract me. I allow myself to grieve and remind myself that I have survived it before, although truthfully that sometimes makes me feel worse, because I don’t want to have to keep going through it! I do my best to keep reading Sufi poetry and not close my heart off or dry up. But my last breakup, it took me about 3 months before I could read love poems again. Many people have to remind themselves of all of the good parts, but I’m the opposite. I have to remind myself of all the things that didn’t work so that I stop lamenting, and feel my own footing. Long walks on the beach and exercise help.
Thinking back to breakups you’ve had, did you have any breakup vices and how do you conquer them?
During my last breakup, my ex who had rarely posted anything on FB started posted things as a way to indirectly communicate with me. I had always felt ambivalent about being “friends” on FB while we were in relationship. Our relationship was intimate and precious to me, I didn’t see the need to be FB friends where I do general marketing. So when I could tell that he was indirectly communicating with me through his Facebook posts, I decided that it would be better not to be FB friends anymore. I ripped off the bandaid. When I unfriended him, it made it so that I also could not look at his page (he has a private page), which seemed like a compassionate thing to do for myself. I have a rip the bandaid off approach to break-ups. For me, once the decision is made, it’s more compassionate than the slow painful tear.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about love so far in your life?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned about love is that it takes many many forms and I want it! The biggest privilege we are offered in this life is the gift of loving another human in body, mind, soul, sex, and spirit. When I am with someone, I never take that for granted. I make a point to come back to the awe of what it means for two humans to come together and have a unique constellation of intersecting energies. The privilege of walking my path intimately with another has been one of my greatest joys in life, paralleled only by the privilege of motherhood.
Do you think exes can be friends? Do you stay friends with your exes on social media?
I need separation in order to move on, and not harbor false hopes or continue to revisit the possibility of being together. Like I mentioned, letting go is the hardest part of life for me, in spite of the inevitability of impermanence. I feel positive regard towards all the men I have been in relationship with, but I don’t keep close friendships with them.
What keeps your heart open, despite the heartbreaks you’ve had in your life?
What keeps my heart open is how much I love to love. Each heartbreak has grown my heart bigger. It takes a bigger heart to hold all the contradictions. I want lasting love in my life, and never give up hope for that possibility. I also know how much emotional connection and true care is a part of sexual connection for me and how alive I feel when I have those in my life. I value open-heartedness, so even when heartbroken, I try to stand tall and have an open face. I also work with women and sexuality. I hear a lot of stories every day. So it’s a great reminder that when I get into comparison or feel envious and jealous of other people’s relationships, that we are all dealing with some kind of heartbreak, and things are often not what they seem.
What is your favorite song about heartbreak?
Papillon by Chaka Khan.
What is your favorite movie about heartbreak?
Dirty Dancing is just my favorite movie about anything! Period. It is a love story. Most love stories are just the falling in love part- the lead up to the big love. Real love stories have heartbreak, even within the same relationship. Loving big means heartbreak. I love the young love- girl meets boy from the other side of the track. I could totally relate to Baby, the smart good girl who falls from the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. I love what she learns about love in the movie- that it’s real and it’s gritty and you don’t always get what you want, but there is usually some meaning or purpose that becomes clear later.
What projects are you currently working on, and looking forward to most?
I’m maniacally excited about the release of my book, The Fourth Trimester. It was a four year project and feels like a magnum opus of the last 10 years of my life. I am SO excited that it will actually soon be in people’s hands, and helping women all over the world. I am incredibly excited about the Initiated Woman program that I am developing to help women to live into their full sexual expression. My podcast, Magamama, which began as a passion project and a labor of love is AMAZING. AND I am VERY excited about the possibility of the manifestation of a longtime dream of mine to work at Eve Ensler’s project in the Congo and train some of the trainers there in working with sexual trauma, pelvic health and scar tissue remediation.