It Had to Happen This Way

Thank You (Photo credit: thoughtfulbeliever)

Recently I came across an old email from the man I once believed was the love my life…my soulmate. I wasn’t looking for it. I was searching for something else. I thought for a moment about not opening it. Just going on my way. But it had been a while. And I was curious. You know how that goes.

His words were so sweet. My heart softened as I read them. It was from the beginning of our relationship, a time so full of hope and promise. A time when we both believed we would be together forever. A time when we thought we had found that ever-elusive fairytale in our love for one another.

Some would argue (and have) that I should delete those emails so I won’t be reminded of the pain I felt when that relationship suddenly ended. I see their point. No one wants to feel bad. But I look at it differently. Just because the relationship ended doesn’t mean I have to close the door on those feelings. Love isn’t so black and white. And sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly low, it’s nice to be reminded that someone loved me that much. If only for a short time.

It’s been two years today since he broke my heart. I’m not focusing on it, but it’s there…lurking around in the back of my mind. The anniversaries of significant life events are hard to shake. Maybe you’re not supposed to. Daphne Rose Kingma wrote in her book, Coming Apart, “Next to the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship is the single most emotionally painful experience that any of us ever goes through.” I can attest to that.

Sometimes I’m still angry with him. He handled it so poorly. But in his defense, there was really no way he could have ended things that I would’ve agreed with. I didn’t want it to end. And yet, there are moments now I feel I should thank him. When I lost the thing I thought was most important to me, when I no longer had someone to focus my attention on, I was forced to focus on me.

So much has changed in the last two years. I’ve taken risks and challenged myself in ways I previously hadn’t though possible. I’ve realized I have a calling as a writer. This blog is a direct result of experiencing something so painful I felt my whole world was falling apart. I am also completing a course to become a life coach. A course I had no idea when I signed up how I would pay for. I’m leaving my current job to find more fulfilling work. I’m still scared all the time, but now I don’t let that stop me. Life is short. What you think will last forever can be gone in an instant.

I still feel sadness from time to time. And I often miss having him in my life. It hasn’t been easy, but I know it had to happen this way. Though I would not have chosen this path, I am grateful for where it has led me–and for the person I continue to become.

What A Year Has Taught Me

The last photo of us together taken July 31, 2010

It has been a year since my life took an unexpected turn. Since the man I thought would love me forever said those words, ”I don’t want to be in a relationship.” I’ll never forget that moment. I didn’t believe him. Honestly, I still don’t. But he seemed pretty convinced. He took me to the airport, gave me a hug and never looked back. I walked away with my head held high. I was determined to be strong…I wouldn’t let him see me cry. But as soon as I went down the escalator to security, the tears started to flow. Other than two brief email exchanges, we haven’t spoken since. I have missed him every day.

I told myself I would give it six months. Six months to hurt and to heal. But six months came and went and still the pain persisted. Apparently you can’t put a time limit on moving on. You just have to live your life and follow where the pain leads you. A lot has happened in the last year. It struck me recently as I realized Labor Day weekend would mark the anniversary of that time in my life, that I have learned so much over the last 365 days. It has not been easy. But it hasn’t been all bad either.

I have often thought about what I would want him to know. What I would say if I had that opportunity. So here is what I would tell him; what the last year has taught me about life, love and being myself.

  • No matter how painful the loss, or how fearful you are of that pain, love is always worth the risk. ALWAYS. Even in my darkest hour, and there have been many, I never had regrets. Before our relationship, I had never experienced such a deep knowing, a sense that we were meant to be together. And that everything we’d experienced in our lives had led us to each other. As difficult as this has been, I would do it all over again, given the chance at that kind of love.
  • Loving you gave me a kind of courage I’d never known before. I’m not saying there wasn’t fear and trepidation. You know how many times I ‘pumped the brakes’. It’s just that loving and being loved so deeply, helped me push past my fear. The decision to move away from my friends, my family and the only life I’d every known was huge for me. But it paled in comparison to the thought of living without you. And as a result, I don’t have that same fear of moving now. In fact, the thought of it excites me more than anything. I look forward to the adventure someday.
  • I learned to step outside my comfort zone and take a new job even though I’d been with the same company for more than 11 years. After you broke up with me I kept thinking, “Why would you walk away? Don’t you realize life is short and you have to live it right now?” And then it hit me! I was doing the same thing with my job. Playing it safe. Doing something I really didn’t like, but not leaving because I was afraid it wouldn’t work out. So, I took a leap of faith, got a new job in a completely different industry, have met some terrific people and learned so much about myself in the process.
  • I realized I wasn’t spending my time doing the things I truly love and that make my heart sing. I had wanted to write a blog for a long time. I really enjoy writing. There’s just something about conveying my thoughts and feelings through words that amazes me even as I’m doing it. So I started blogging and have been jotting down ideas for a book. I am also working toward getting training to become a life coach. I look at my life and the choices I make now more in terms of how I really want to spend my time and what’s really important to me.
  • I’m stronger than I realized. When I left that day I had no idea we wouldn’t see each other or talk again. I really still thought it would all work out. Ever the optimist. But it hasn’t worked out the way I thought and dealing with that loss has been a day by day experience. I have felt the feelings as they come, but I don’t let them consume me. If I can get through the pain of losing you, and come out with more peace and clarity of purpose on the other side, I can get through anything.  There have definitely been some dark times. Some moments where I didn’t know if I could keep going. But I did. And I do.
  • I learned what it feels like to love deeply and truly…without limits. I loved you to the depths of my soul. Until you, I had never loved anyone that unconditionally other than my children. I had hoped it was possible, but I had never experienced it. Now I know that deep, “I will love you until the end of time” kind of love does exist for me. And it doesn’t go away just because you’re not with that person. Love that deep and true spans time, distance and circumstances. I would never settle for anything less again.
  • I learned I don’t have to try so hard; that I’m fine the way I am. I like that I’m introspective, love to read and figure things out. I’m not a morning person or a neat freak and that’s okay. Better than okay. It’s who I am and I wouldn’t change it. I’m neurotic, I worry too much, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I can’t take a hint or read between the lines. I think a lot and often over-analyze things. This is who I am…I make no excuses. There really is beauty in imperfection. I didn’t believe it at first, but I’ve come to realize it’s true.
  • I learned I needed to be alone, to not have someone to ‘take care of’ right now. Because it allowed me to see what I really want my life to look like. As painful as this has been, I needed to figure it out on my own. Oddly, I am grateful for the pain. It has been a doorway to finding my purpose in life. You gave me a great gift by walking away. And though it wasn’t what I would’ve chosen, and I still miss you so much, I don’t believe I would’ve discovered these things about myself in any other way.
  • I was reminded how much I enjoy cooking. Cooking feels like something I do for the people I love. It makes me feel like family. After 15 years of having to cook for someone who didn’t appreciate it when I was married, I had forgotten how much pleasure there is in cooking just for the joy of it. This last year I’ve spent more time in the kitchen, trying new recipes and spending time around the dinner table with friends and family. And you were right. Life really is easier with a good skillet. I am reminded of that every time I use the one you bought me.
  • I learned you can love someone even though their actions have caused you pain. It’s true you don’t have to feel things so acutely when you put up that wall of anger and blame and play the victim. But it doesn’t make things easier. The pain is still there. You can love someone for the person you know them to be; underneath their fear, shame and nagging sense of unworthiness. I understand those feelings. Because I fight my own battles with those very same things. It gives me compassion. You can love someone and not be with them.
  • I realized that life is good right here, right now. No matter what is going on I always have something to be grateful for. When I say something funny and Kyle actually laughs. When a friend calls for a spur of the moment barbeque. When I find myself in a great conversation or enjoying a lazy afternoon. When I make time for a walk outside in the middle of the work day. I’m living my life more in each moment than in the future or the past. I hope you know what that’s like.

Even though we’re not together, I am grateful for the time we had. I will always cherish those memories. Loving you has taught me so much about myself. I got to see the things that still need work, like communication and feeling not good enough. And the things I’m proud of, like how much I care about people and how deeply I am capable of loving. And all the things in between that are often less than perfect, but make up the incredible imperfect me. Loving you made me want to be a better person. Not just for you or for us, but for me.

I hope you have learned something this last year too…about yourself, about life, about love. That you realize with all your strengths and all your faults, you are worthy of love. You are sweet, kind, dorky, stubborn, opinionated, loving, funny, smart, messy, strong, fearful, open, withdrawn, introspective, protective, negative, handy, and so much more. You can be both the sweetest man and the biggest pain in the ass. But I hope you realize, as I have, that there’s nothing wrong with you. I still have my fears and insecurities…my feelings of not good enough. That’s just part of being human. But I learned, through this experience, I still deserve to be loved. I hope you learned that too.