Open Hearted Confession

I have been struggling with whether to share a very personal story here, and after about a year of laboring over whether and how to broach the subject, I feel the need to share this story publicly.  I think it is in part, a reconciling for me of the past as I try to unburden myself of pieces of my history which I no longer need to carry as I enter the journey into motherhood.

This time about a year ago, just before my wedding, I received an email from an old boyfriend with a link to a google document titled “Growth Curve Data.”  Unsure what it was, I opened the link to find several pages of his writing about the ways he had grown and changed in the three years since we had parted ways.  It reflected on whether true love was something we each find only once, and asked whether I too, felt a “cold wind blow” through my soul since we ended our relationship.

My stomach dropped when I read the words.  He had cut me out of his life, and then his new significant other had barraged me with messages full of accusations and lies that I could only assume originated from him.  I was warned never to contact him, and here he was sharing with me this slice of his heart that I can only assume he had been forced to hide away for years.  I felt terrible for him and sad.  Then I felt angry that he had the nerve to throw this mess of feelings at me just a few days before my wedding.  I considered whether to reach out to him in response to share my reactions.  And, finally, I called him.

It had been a long time since we’d last communicated by phone and it was hard to come up with words to span the years and dramas that had intervened.  Despite the strangeness of the context it was still clear that we connected deeply and both had felt a sense of uneasiness with the way our story ended.  Our talk was cut short when my husband walked into the room.  He asked who I was talking to, but it was clear he knew.  And it hurt him. And seeing the flash of anger and hurt in his eyes I knew that the unresolved issues of my previous relationship were not going to be resolved on the phone, or in person, or ever.  I reminded the ex that having any kind of relationship with him was too hard on our significant others and reminded him that I had never reached out to disturb him when he married his girlfriend – and that while it was good to hear from him, I wished he’d have done the same.

Though the conversation was intense, it was relatively benign at the same time.  Subsequently, I have heard several stories from other women who have had exes reach out to them right before their wedding. So, I know it wasn’t even unique. It was a commonplace situation.

My husband emailed the ex, asking that he not contact me and not share these types of feelings.  He responded and apologized. It was awkward but resolved.  But, then,  my ex’s significant other responded with a final email where she accused me of several indiscretions that were entirely untrue – including telling my husband that I had plotted to leave him in Australia.

Obviously we saw the accusations for what they were – a lashing out of someone who was very hurt.  I felt so much empathy for this woman at the time that it was almost hard to be mad at her.  In some ways I still feel a strong sense of sadness for the way it must have hurt her heart to read what he wrote.  But, unfortunately, for me – over the last year occasionally, and against my better wishes, an anger has come up within me against this woman and my ex for their callousness.

I wonder often if they would have felt a sense of satisfaction if their actions had ended my relationship or created a rift that could not be healed.  It makes me wonder how they would have felt had their behavior truly and significantly impacted two other souls who love each other.  And, it sometimes really bothers me that they can go on with their lives merrily after attempting to cause such a disturbance in mine.  Moreover, it bothers me that a year later the lies and immaturity of that situation still get under my skin.

I’m not an angel and I have done things I am not proud of.  But, the way I see it, when two people have committed their lives to one another then it isn’t my place to attempt to intervene in their relationship. Before there are rings and commitments, perhaps it is open season, but afterwards no.

I often wonder why my anger over this lingers.  I guess perhaps it is simply that the event made me question people.  My husband is a rock – my rock.  He is the most stable and calming influence in my life.  He lights fires for me in constructive places in my life, and helps quell those other flames in me that burn without purpose.  I loved my ex dearly, but he was exactly the opposite type of influence in my life – sowing unease and rebellion in me. I think of the little man I am bringing into the world, and more than anything I want him to be a force for good.  When I reflect on the situation that happened a year ago, it reminds me of the tenuous nature of our fleeting lives and how in an instant the course of our lives could change dramatically.  It threatens my sense of peace.

I hope that voicing these thoughts allows me to get them off my chest and helps me to let go of them before I move into the next phase of my life.  As I read about and explore the steps ahead of me, through labor, delivery, and the early stages of motherhood I know I want to enter into this phase of my life without lingering stressors from my past.  I also know that clearing my soul of these things may not only make me more present in my life, but may allow me to open up to the process of delivering a new soul into the world more gracefully.  I hope this small step will help me to look this new challenge in the face and approach it with an open heart.



Going deep

Delving into the intricacies of one’s relationships, spirituality, and personal interpretations of the world can be complicated territory as a writer and someone who blogs.  I’ve often struggled with how to use my blog to interpret and delicately communicate these issues to my audience without sharing too much of myself or appearing to be gossipy.  I believe that our relationships past and present are crucial components in making us the people we are, and I’d like to talk about mine in greater depth.  But it’s a struggle that often ends in me writing about the schedules and events of my life over the feelings and emotions that color my personal perspective. I hate that.  I think that privatizing and shielding our experiences and reactions – the joys, sorrows, and lessons – is denying ourselves.  Not everyone agrees with me that our feelings and experiences deserve so much time and space.  But, if I am honest with myself, I truly believe that our feelings, joys, and struggles are what makes life the adventure it is, and I want to document that.

Life has been tumultuous of late.  Rare is the moment of calm in my current storm.  Between home renovations in Denver, having family in town for weeks, traveling to visit other family, interviewing at a blistering pace across the west, moving cross-country without knowing whether it’s temporary or permanent, and beginning to consider longer term plans for home ownership, etc. – there has been a lot to think about!

So, we’ve been busy.

Add to this the unexpected and extremely unlikely scenario of running into my estranged ex-boyfriend and his wife few weeks ago at a hot springs in Montana (where I was interviewing for a job) and a whole extraneous existential element is thrown into the fray. I haven’t really talked about this since it happened, because the whole thing broadsided me so completely.  But, I guess I feel far enough away from it now that I can address my feelings about the exchange.  Plus, it feels inauthentic not to discuss the incident since this blog is devoted to examining life and love through my own personal lens.

I was with my friend Meg in the hot springs on a Sunday night.  We’d been lounging for a few hours after an afternoon of backcountry skiing.  We were preparing to leave when I looked up and saw my ex and his wife walk in.  I knew that during the weekend I was in Bozeman I risked running into them, but by the time Sunday night rolled around, I felt confident that the chances of a run-in before my early Monday flight had narrowed to nearly non-existent. The hot spring was small, so once in the pool they were mere feet away from me. But, it was dark so assuming they hadn’t  noticed me, I continued to soak while I strategized with Meg as to how best to approach the situation over the last of our beers.  I was pretty shaken up by seeing them for a few reasons.  First, I hadn’t spoken to my ex in about 2 years at his urging, with the exception of a brief interaction just days before my wedding where he reached out to me with a long email.  I, therefore, knew that though we hadn’t spoken in a long time, he still cared about my, missed me, and wished there was a way we could still share in each other’s lives some way.  Then, there was his wife, who in her last exchange with me had promised that if I ever saw them again, the situation would not be pretty.  So, I was at once terrified and confused and felt as though the universe had definitely thrown me a curve ball.

But, curve ball as it was, the universe had placed me in the same hot spring as them.  And, I felt compelled to acknowledge it.  Not to her, but to him.  To just make my existence in that space known.  After all, if I was going to have my stomach drop and my heart racing, he should share in my terror too.  Why should I suffer alone?  Rick and I had developed a bit of a strategy for me, in case I did run into them:  acknowledge the situation, say I couldn’t really talk, but say hello, and make my exit.  So, when I saw him get out of the pool to buy a beer, I exited the pool, walked over to him and said his name.  He looked sidelong at me (through an enormous beard), recognized me, and then his face grayed with a wave of what appeared to be terror.  He looked down, his eyes darting back over me again and again.  I said, “I really can’t talk to you, and I know you can’t talk to me.  But, I saw you walk in and thought I’d say hello to you before I left.  I’m just heading out now.”  He looked into his beer and mumbled that he couldn’t talk to me.  Out of my peripheral vision, I saw his wife quickly approaching, nostrils flared.  Seeing his fear and her obvious defensiveness, and feeling like a criminal for that measly conversation, I turned and walked into the dressing room.  From there, I heard Meg jovially say to them, “Bozeman’s a small town, eh?”  as she walked in to join me. And though I was still shaken up, her lightheartedness reassured me that the awkwardness of the exchange was, after all, short-lived.

It’s hard to talk about the situation that exists there.  Nobody is thrilled with the outcome. He was my best friend and my partner for many years. I still deeply respect him and care about his well-being. I know he feels similarly.  I don’t hate him or have lingering negative feelings toward him.  But, we don’t speak anymore.  It was not my choice. He said it was what was needed for him to move forward. Though, it probably is for the best.

Right before my wedding he reached out to me. I was very touched by what he had to say.  It appeared to have been a long time in the making – as such things tend to be, I suppose.  But, I was bothered by his timing.  It felt malicious to contact me and disrupt my happiness just a few days before my wedding. I called him, and told him that.  I told him we had to maintain our non-communication for the sake of our own sanity and our partner’s.  Then I put it out of my mind and went on with my life for a few months. It’s hard to lose a kindred soul, but it is harder to attempt to maintain an extremely complicated friendship.

When I ran into them in the hot spring and had the world’s most weird exchange, it stirred up old feelings about the how and why the situation came to be.  It seemed such an unlikely scenario that after years of deliberately not talking and being on different continents that there in the hot spring we were standing just a few feet apart. To me, the fact of our meeting seemed meaningful in some way, and I did and do continue to wonder what that meaning might be.

Though it ended horribly, that relationship catalyzed such immense pain, growth, and change in my life that I feel it deserves a lot of credit for making me who I am today.  In many ways it taught me how to be a better partner – because I did a lot wrong the first time around.  It eventually led me to better understanding and compassion for others, better delineation of my goals and life plans.  It helped me to become a stronger, healthier, wiser, and more loving person.  Its demise also catalyzed many discussions and learnings that helped Rick and I grow closer and learn to be open and honest in our relationship together.  It helped me understand and to fully be present in our relationship.  I think I never would have been ready for Rick had I not been through what I went through with my first serious relationship.  So, obviously, the run in in the hot spring touched some nerves for me.  In my inspiration to share the feelings that came out of this run in, I am guided by a beautiful quote by Ernest Hemingway: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

Later in the week following the hot springs incident, my mom asked me to clean out my boxes from the basement as I prepared to move west.  In doing so I unearthed about 30 letters from the same guy.  In the letters, as compared to our encounter in the hot springs, he was anything but terrified of me. The contrast was startling.  

As I re-read some of those letters, I couldn’t help but think about the several happy years together, followed by several years of turmoil and drama while attempting to remain a part of each other’s lives.  Our interaction at the hot spring – benign as a passing conversation – was all that remained of my first love and one of my best friends.  All that could survive the fallout.  It was a poignant reminder of the ephemeral nature of our lives and relationships.   It forced me to confront the impermanence of even those bonds that seem to be the most lasting in the moment.

Sure, I guess we all know that life is short, nothing is constant, change is inevitable.  We are meant to be present and enjoy the journey.  And, certainly, I do agree with that.  But, I think it is human to long for something that defies that entropic nature of life – something eternal and unchanging. It made me a bit sad that our brief exchange was all that was left of a bond that had felt so strong at one time.  It reminded me of his words in the letter he had written to me just before my wedding – “I have only the sweaters and boxes and letters to show that you are even real.”  And it is true.  There is nothing more.  And that eats at me in more of an esoteric fashion than a personal one – why do our connections fade away?  What is the purpose of our suffering in life?

Yoga, through hinduism, tells us that the reason for this experience of life is that the universal spirit, or supreme being, seeks embodiment for pure entertainment. Shiva danced the world into creation, and in doing so created the mayas, or veils, within which we perceive reality. To have the omniscient, and omnipotent power of the supreme consciousness masked behind these veils of chronological time, embodiment, and attachment hides the transcendent nature of ourselves.  The universal spirit seeks entertainment in experiencing life behind these veils, so we live with the understanding that time constantly progresses forward, our bodies define our beings, and that our feelings and attachments delineate real barriers and challenges in our life.  But, the masks, the chronology, the bodies that contain us are illusory.  To pierce the veil of these mayas is to recognize our true universal and eternal nature.

I try to remember this as I struggle with these sorts of day-to-day challenges life presents, where you’re confronted with real hurt and lingering sadness that seems hard to shake.  I try to recall this when I get a bit down about lost friendships and the fleetingness of life.  I try to reason that my attachments and perceptions are illusory.  Or, as my friend Katie once said “This shit ain’t real.”

Perhaps this confrontation with my past was simply a challenge to my understanding of the way the world operates.  It was perhaps a test of how much I have internalized the learnings I’ve gathered over the past few years about life, love, compassion, and detachment. Perhaps, it was there to confront whether I really accept life as an adventure of spirit.

But, here I am, mayas notwithstanding, a spirit making its way through this journey, and riding the waves as they come.  That incident presented me with some important questions to answer for myself. But, when I look around me at Rick and the life we’re building, I know I’m on the right path. I smile and feel grateful for the road that brought me here, challenges included.

You can’t go home again

More than anything, I think this road trip is a showcase of how a cross-section of our friends in their late 20’s and early 30’s actually live their lives. It’s fascinating and it’s affirming. Wonderful, even.

This morning I awoke in Salt Lake City on a mattress on the floor of my sister’s house. Her place is amazing.  She has a massive backyard with gardens, a tree house, and fruit trees.  She has the entire upstairs of the house to herself, with walk-in closets, a huge log frame bed, and a jacuzzi.  Right now I am writing this blog while cuddled up with my pj’s on in front of the wood stove with tea and lebkuchen.  Life in Salt Lake is good (current inversion notwithstanding). Yet again, my severe case of “home-envy” (as Rick and I are calling it) has kicked in.

We spent yesterday and the day before in Jackson, Wyoming.  It had been more than ten years since I last visited Jackson, and things definitely were different.  But, I think Rick and I both ranked it high on our lists of places to live.  We visited a friend there and caught up over coffee.  Between hearing about her backcountry skiing, trail running, the amazing gluten-free cafe she likes, and her yoga studio, we were pretty smitten.

The downside to Jackson, and several other places we have explored, is the difficulty of getting home to our families.  Even Salt Lake City or Portland don’t allow us to travel home without a connecting flight, making a trip into a full day of travel.  So, with this in mind I have been examining my attachment to the idea that I can travel home easily.  I have struggled with guilt and a sense of irresponsibility living far from home and from my family.  I don’t particularly want to live in Wisconsin, or Chicago, or the Midwest – but I want to be there for my family.

Over the course of our trip the phrase “you can’t go home” has come up several times. The first was in “Travels with Charley” the Steinbeck book about a cross-country road trip that Rick and I listened to during the first half of our trip. In the book, he travels back to his boyhood home in California and realizes that what he associates as home has changed around him. Home exists only in his memory.  Revisiting the place only serves to deconstruct the idea.

The second was in reference to a seedy bar in Denver called the Rock Bar.  Many of our friends from our time in Denver are now spattered across the country; New York, Chicago, Portland, Salt Lake, Seattle.  So this trip has been revisiting “Denver” in the sense that it’s the last place we all shared together.  As we have traveled, we’ve spent lots of time reminiscing about our lives while in Denver – surely it was kind of a magical time for all of us.  We were young, in transition, unburdened by much responsibility, with good jobs, and altogether very free.  We skied and hiked and went out to the bars.  It was a FUN place to live.  But, we all recognize that the joy of Denver was mostly a product of the coalescence of many factors of our lives there in a specific place and time.  Were we to go back to Denver now, it would prove to be a different place.  This hit home in Portland as we reminisced about our hazy memories in a little place called the Rock Bar.  It closed down a couple years ago – thus concluding a chapter in many of our lives.

You can’t go home again.  I keep reminding myself of this. In both a light-hearted way and a serious way, life as I knew it can’t be recreated.  This is a new chapter and we have to choose what home will be going forward.

Yoga Bitch

I’m in the middle of my yoga immersions. On my bedside table is a workshop manual covering all the stuff we discuss in class, my notebook for notes, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and what I’ve heard to be the most easily-readable translation of the Bhagavad-Gita. Heavy stuff. So, when I was buying these, I allowed myself a fluff book too: Yoga Bitch.

I have to admit that when I got my shipment of books, Yoga Bitch was the first one I opened. I have seen it in circulation amongst my yoga teachers, and from the moment I saw the name I knew the book was for me. Its premise is exactly what I have struggled with as I have walked this yoga path – how to reconcile a wry, sardonic persona with the authenticity and vulnerability that yoga demands.

I’m not yogic on so many levels.

From a young age my mom referred to me by one of two names: Grace, and the Princess.    I was called grace due to my lack thereof.  No bandying around that one.  Though I have managed to cultivate bit more physical grace with age, I can’t really hang my hat on a graceful physicality, or nature in general.  Strike one against Kat the yogi.  I was also known as both “the Princess” and, even better, “the Adorable Child.”  These were both tongue-in-cheek references to my ability to play the role of a sweet daughter while actually bossing my sisters around and manipulating them like puppets.  Cute stuff. So, there’s a testament to my authentic nature.

I note these because they underscore the fact that, hell, I am no yogi.  From childhood to now I lay no claim to being sweet and sincere. I like to drink beer, enjoy the occasional cigarette, get a little wild, and have been known to exhibit a bit of temper.  I’m sarcastic and occasionally snarky and judgmental.  I struggle to cultivate inner peace – and I’m not always sure I want to.  That’s the rub.  That’s why I love Yoga Bitch. I get this chick. She’s like me.

From her musings on her inner conflicts regarding her need for freedom in her first serious relationship, to her ambivalence about becoming someone who “drinks the kool-aid” (or her own urine, as the case may be), I relate to this author wholeheartedly.  She embodies my personal dilemma with yoga in so many ways.  How do you embrace yogic principles without giving up the identity that you have created for yourself? (Answer: release your attachment to that identity.) But why?  And by what proof do we know that this path leads to the enlightenment we seek?  Are we just drinking the kool-aid like we would from any other organized religion (that my inner cynic (and Marx) tells me is simply the “sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions… the opium of the people?”

Ay.  This is too much thinking for me right now and I haven’t finished the book. Perhaps she addresses these questions further in.

Anyway, I think her memoir works because so many people come to yoga from a place of inner conflict and/or confusion.  So many people find that yoga’s integration of the body and mind in the quest for enlightenment simply…works.  It works better than a lot of other things.

Last weekend I got a massage; a Valentine’s gift from Rick.  It was probably the best massage I’ve ever received and I know this because I started crying in the middle of it – which as I’ve learned from yoga means they dug up something juicy deep in the flesh around my kidneys and lower back.  I could tell you more about the juicy bits, but let’s just say it’s awkward crying through the hole in a massage table and leave it at that.  It was a snotty experience.

I bring it up because the author of Yoga Bitch, and I, share the common experience of finding that yoga answered (or helped to answer) something existential that our souls sought.   It’s a tool that has helped fill a bit of a void in my comprehension of myself as a relational being amongst a world full of ’em.  It’s a path that has brought me to a new understanding of myself, my pain, my past, and even more so, my present.  My massage last weekend reminded me of where I was with yoga just a couple of years ago – crying on the mat and feeling every hip opening take me a little deeper into a dark place that I, frankly, did not want to explore.  It reminded me of what yoga has done to make a wry and sardonic creature like myself into a bit more of a well-rounded, authentic person in just a few years.

Yoga Bitch, in closing, is a book that I have not finished, but that I’d already recommend.  It’s good stuff.

Morning musings

I have been on a bit of a journey lately.  It’d be difficult for me to describe the path I’m taking, but I can offer vignettes.  I’ve meandered through vegetable gardens (three), discovered a body (mine) capable of doing things I never expected, fallen head over heels in love (again), and begun drinking strange potions that taste unpleasant.   How and why these things are strung together in my life as they are, in the space and time they are, seems a bit unclear.  The thread uniting all of them charts a circuitous path through my past and my future, and I’m pretty sure it doubles back on itself and may be tied in knots along the way.

It all begins with something that happened about a year ago while I was in Nicaragua with R.  We had a fight, as couples do.  But this one was less of an argument and more of a reckoning, on both our parts, that we were making huge life changes – together – and we needed to figure out how to make it all work.  Together.  Now, R, being the intelligent and compassionate guy that he is, didn’t really need this reckoning.  The one who needed it was me.  I needed to be reminded that I had to really take pride in, be happy with, and love myself in order to be present and active in our relationship. Something that, at the time, I was not really doing.

So, over the last year I have worked hard on making myself happy. I’ve been examining my motives, and analyzing when and why I sometimes feel discontent. It’s been a bit trying to take a fine-toothed comb to my intention, and asking whether my actions are rooted in desire, obligation, competitiveness, or perhaps a bit of each.  It’s been a long-overdue process of claiming ownership over my actions and my life in a way that I had never done before.

One thing that has been a valuable tool for me on this path has been yoga.  I’ve written about it to a certain degree here, but it can be a hard thing to write about because to me yoga is very emotionally laden.  It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to really understand the mind-body connection that is intrinsic to yoga; that yoga is about much more than achieving a pose. But, with time, and probably through confronting heartache and pain during my practice, I’ve begun to recognize how much emotional impact the physicality of yoga has on me. With time I have learned to recognize why the emphasis is  in process, form, and patience.  I also realize now how the powerful connection between our minds and our bodies can be an amazingly transformative tool.

So, yesterday after a hard practice based in the theme of “letting go,” I lay on the floor of Shri during savasana and listened achingly as the girl beside me sniffled quietly before choking back a loud, painful sob.  I felt for her. I wanted to reach out to her and let her know things would be okay.  I’ve been in her place– during savasana with tears pooling in my ears as I laid on my back, or feeling emotions rise up during a long hard run that leave me doubled over. Crying.

I may be a particularly sensitive person, or I may not.  I’m not entirely sure.  But I know that at times life can really beat you down.  It can be relentless. But, in my experience, from those depths it’s sometimes possible to see just how valuable your connections to people are, and to level with your own failings and weaknesses.  One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, says of this low place:  “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.  It took me years to see that this too, was a gift.”

I have lately felt like a teacher in the sense that I feel I have something to share with those around me traveling the path of sadness.  Some of the people closest to my heart are facing their own heartbreaks – which inevitably leads to the soul-searching moments, the doubled-over crying, and the confrontation with real, agonizingly stark grief.  I feel like I have walked through that fire and reached the other side on my own personal path.

I guess that’s probably why on Monday, when I went for my first ever Ayurvedic consultation, I wasn’t surprised to have my doctor look into my eyes, deeply furrow her brow and note gravely, that I have DEEP stress lines in my eyes.  But, she went on to say that I had stress lines in both eyes, meaning that I had carried significant stress in my body for quite some time.  The good news was that in my right eye, which indicates my current state, she could see that I was healing.

It’s funny to say I am healing, when I honestly can’t quite describe my illness.  All I know is that for a long time I wasn’t happy.  I can’t say why, exactly.  Except perhaps that I lived with a pervasive sense of uncertainty.  I feared missing something, the future, an unexpected change that would dash my hopes and dreams.  I honestly, am not sure what I feared – probably simply failing at being the person I wanted to be.

Have you ever see Take This Waltz?  It examines this dilemma pretty well, in my opinion.  Admittedly, I’m mildly obsessed with this movie, but it’s worth taking a moment here and watching the trailer to look at the pretty people.

The end run is, I’ve come to a place where I am not scared.  I am content.  Each morning when I wake up an wander my three gardens turning on hoses, pulling out weeds, and eyeing the growth I see, I know I am doing it from a place of love.  Each time I soften my shoulders and feel that I no longer have that sticky spot in my back hindering my mobility, I know it’s a product of the work I’ve done.  And each time I see R smile, I know he knows.  He knows that I have grown.  He’s seen how I have changed.  He knows his role in it, and he knows my immense gratitude for his help and guidance through some confusing times.

I guess the point I’m trying to make through all this rambling is that lately I’ve been witness to a fair bit of loss and sadness.  It’s served to shine a light on my own experience of grief, and made me aware of how far I’ve come beyond it.  My immediate loss and then my general sadness were once both so deeply entrenched in my life that it was hard for me to finally let them go because they had come to define a piece of me.  But with time, love, and lots of hard work I think I can say that I have put away the pieces of my past sadness that once defined me.  They can sit on a shelf in my past, reminding me of my path, but today I am going to tend to my squash, and my life, with the dedication of someone who has worked for what she has and is grateful for it.

Would You Stay?

Watch the above video.  It always makes me cry.  Read below and you’ll see why.

Two years ago, today, I was presented with a difficult choice.  I learned that my boyfriend at the time had cheated on me.  It wasn’t the first time, and I hadn’t always been faithful either.  We had a tumultuous relationship, we’d done a lot of distance, we’d tried being “open,” we’d questioned ourselves, we built layers of scar tissue upon layers.  But, this time it was in my face.  The girl contacted me.  Told me she was sorry.  She wanted to be friends.  She was, sweet, almost as if she didn’t realize she’d blown a hole in my life.

I loved him.  With my whole being. I hated him for what he did.  I felt the kind of loveanger that makes you crazy and blind at the same time— completely unreasonable, completely set on ending it, completely unaware of how to live without it.  I cried mascara stains into my pillow case.  They never came out.  I knew that I had to make a change.  So, I called him to my house in Denver, sat him down, and told him I couldn’t live life wondering when my next Silda Spitzer moment was going to happen.  We had to be over.  It wasn’t a choice so much as an inevitability.

Since that time, a lot has changed.  He has moved on.  I have moved on.  We had our stumbles.  We had our tearful, rambling phone calls. Loss, over the phone line, is almost more poignant than loss and sadness in your living room, on your couch.  The distance magnifies it – the tinny sound of human on wire, over waves, through space.

Our souls fell out of solution.  Grains, one by one, falling to a cold, still bottomplace, where they rested.  Today, we live on different continents.  Lives separated by oceans, time zones, easterlies and westerlies, accents, seasons.  We share nothing.  Nothing, that is, but the history of loss.

These days, I don’t mourn the loss of that love.  I miss the boy I knew who was fragile and sweet.  I miss his insightful way of seeing the world. I feel sad that there was the callousness within each of us to hurt each other so badly.

I can’t imagine acting the way we acted anymore.  I can’t imagine inflicting that kind of pain on my new love.  I bristle at the childish notion that our hearts were so resilient.  They aren’t.  They continue beating, but the scars are still there, torquing the muscles, creating heart murmurs that whisper through stethoscopes to us, telling us not to make the same mistakes again.

And I won’t.

Letters to My Future

In the window before me as I lounge on my bed, a palm rustles and sways in the warm Queensland breeze. It waves at me, a benevolent but constant reminder that I am far, far from my home in the snowy Midwest.  The peaceful rustling of leaves is interrupted by the squawking of unknown birds, and at night ring-tailed possums occasionally saunter in through our open french doors, eyeing dinner enviously.  R chases them out breathlessly and looks at me in wide-eyed amazement. We have no screens, so every window is a doorway to the unknown animal kingdom.

I look down at my bedspread, lit coolly white in the teal glow of our walls, packed away when I left Denver in July, and finally just unpacked a couple weeks ago– a reminder of home. I look at the matching Ikea wardrobes we bought for our bedroom– Australia doesn’t do closets.  I look at my tanned legs, a phenomena never before seen in December.  In fact, December as I know it, doesn’t even exist here. My world here is different. 

I realize that this life is lived in episodes and stages, as told by Mireille Guiliano.  Having exited stage left (as you look at a map) on a plane, I now begin a new chapter.

Reflecting back on the previous chapter, I consider the time I had before leaving the U.S.– a haze.  Privileged to have a great deal of time with my family and gifted with the means to travel, I made the most of my time off, yes.  Yet, that time carries in my memory a sense of pregnancy;  a longing, knowing a great change was afoot, and sadness for a future that I will miss with my family and friends, a sadness for impending losses expected, a sense of slow unraveling of life as I knew it and dislocation from the familiar– in so, so, so many ways.

I clung for dear life to those things that I attached mentally to a sense of “home”; my family, my old friends, my old loves, and the nostalgia I hold for such things.  And they clung back with shocking frankness.  And for a few fleeting moments before I left, it felt as though I could never leave.  Something would happen.  I would stay.

But then I left.

And in days, the fact that I was oceans away led to a “come to jesus” moment unlike any I’ve had before.  A realization that with this distance, with this freedom, comes great opportunity and obligation– to be 100% honest with myself and those around me, regardless of the consequences; to embrace the life I live now without thinking of the past or too much of the future.  I looked at R, and saw one of the more beautiful and complete people I’ve had the privilege of knowing, and felt an immense gratitude to be here, with him, with an open road before me.    I feel free to move forward, unburdened.  Joyful.

Sometimes I think I’d like to write letters to myself in future, or to an unborn child, or to the universe telling them of the moments like this in life that mean the most.  Perhaps this is that.


Over coffee this morning, I skim emails on my phone.  There are always too many and lately, rather than even reading the subject line I simply check all the boxes next to emails that weren’t sent by a person in the flesh and blood, whose face I can picture, and then hit “delete.” But as I skim, one subject line pops out at me–from a philosophy website that I subscribe to but rarely read.

amp;q=10+relationship+words+that+cannot+be+translated” target=”_blank”>Top 10 Relationship Words that Cannot be Translated to English”

This gives me pause, because try as I might, I can’t stop thinking about love.  It sounds strange to say that, but it’s easier to admit to it than closet it away.  I think about it when I cook, when I write, when I sleep.  I wander through the farmer’s market pondering love and avocado.  I run along the river considering Neruda. Marquez.  Lahiri.  Yuknavitch. Roethke.  Lopez.  Cather. Plato.  I wonder what it is,and what it means, and what it entails for whom and for how long.  I wonder at its forms and at its nuances.  I wonder how it can be bent and hobbled;  how it can overcome unexpected challenges. I wonder if one kind of love trumps another, or if they are really, really, all the same,deserving the same reverence.  I want answers.

In a flash of inspiration, I remove the check from the box and keep it as I delete my other junk mail.
Later in the evening, after a day spent settling into the home I am making in Australia, with my boyfriend, far from my real home and from my past, I think back to the saved email.  I grab my phone and fall into one of the mauve, leather couches that we have scored for free from our old hotel.  They’re incredibly comfortable, despite being mauve and leather.  I open the email and read through the first few, until my gaze settles on one description in particular.

Yuanfen:  A relationship by fate or destiny.  A complex concept that draws on principles of predetermination in Chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters, and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends; a binding force that links two people together in any relationship.”

In this description, counter to popular conception, fate and destiny are distinct things, which makes for an interesting exploration of love between the fated versus that of the destined.

I think of fate without destiny.   I think of love without destiny.  I think of fate without love– and fate with love.  I think of destiny without fate.  The permutations are startling in their number. This is what yuanfen means, I guess.  The chance of any two people sharing a moment, or a year, or a boat ride, are so small.  Fate brings two people together, but only destiny keeps them on the same course.

I think of my deepening yoga practice and the readings of the Dalai Lama which have been informing my daily routine. I think of relational existence and attachment.  I think of the rube goldberg that is life if all is predetermined in the way yuanfen suggests.  And I look around, and here I am in Australia, and I am happy.

I wonder at yuanfen some more.