A year ago this month, my then-boyfriend of four or five months abruptly broke up with me with little explanation. And he did it in sort of an angry way, four days after my grandpa passed away. I went to the funeral devastated. I went to work. I took my son to swimming lessons. I ate Thanksgiving dinner. I decorated for Christmas. All devastated. I lost weight. I got a puppy. And then I bought a house, just down the street from my ex-boyfriend.
In the past (as in 20 years ago when I was last dating), I handled breakups by mostly avoiding the person. This was easy because when I was young, friendships were more fluid.
One break up I regret my handling of was with my high school boyfriend, Aaron. I loved Aaron and he was a good guy. We were together through our Junior and Senior years of high school. He was fun and handsome and we taught each other how to kiss.
When I went to BYU for my Freshman year of college, Aaron stayed behind and went to the University of Wyoming. I broke off the relationship because I didn’t want to go to BYU with a boyfriend back home. I don’t think that was the wrong decision. I sensed that we would grow apart in the coming years. And what was a beautiful thing for age 16-17, would not survive the trek to 25.
I intended it to be a clean break because I understood that was more kind. I was also optimistic about my dating prospects at BYU. But when I went off to school, I found I missed Aaron terribly. I called him, using my AT&T long distance phone card from my dorm room phone. Talking to him felt like being home. When I went back to visit we went on dates and made out in the car. But we weren’t together.
I don’t know how Aaron feels about this now because we don’t talk, but I imagine it was really hard on him. He wanted a life with me. I wanted him to go on a mission for our church. I think my intentions were to follow the plan recommended by the church, that he serve a mission and then when he returned, if I was still available and interested, maybe it would work out. And on some level, I wanted that to happen. But deep down I guessed it wouldn’t.
And I was young so I wasn’t careful with my boundaries. I came home to see him off before he left on a mission for Chicago for two years. We had both been dating other people, but no one seriously. Both hurting. Both jealous. Both still in love with each other. And he left and I did my best to move on.
I wonder what it was really like for him, away from home and family in a big city, doing this church mission for whatever his reasons were. We wrote occasionally but the letters became more and more hollow and eventually stopped.
I saw him once when he returned. He came to Provo with friends and we met as a group for lunch. He barely looked at me. I’m not sure what I expected. But that’s the last time I saw Aaron.
If he were here today, or if he happened upon this blog post, this is what I would say to him. I’m sorry for the walls. I was young and I was doing my best, but I sacrificed you for the sake of the walls that I thought would keep me safe. I would handle that all differently now if I could go back. I would explain that my deepest self knew we would not be together forever. But that my love would remain. And we were 18 so we would probably both be confused by that and time travel is impossible…but I would leave the love on the table.
The walls are the problem. The walls keep us from love.
I spent my first 30 years on the earth building walls around me to protect myself. Just as I finished erecting the education wall and the husband wall, cancer came in from the side and attacked. So I built a cancer wall, that said, you are going to die so do it in a way that hurts the fewest people. Then I didn’t die and built a career wall as a PA so I could financially provide for my diseased self. I used the walls that were presented at church to provide as best as I could protection for my spiritual self. There were walls about finances. Walls about relationships. Marriage. Friendships (those walls kept me looking like I had my shit together but kept everyone out). Walls…all around.
And for the past five years, I’ve been pulling them down. It’s terrifying.
When I bought this house a few blocks from my ex-boyfriend, it went so smoothly. It felt like fate. It’s in the neighborhood that feels like home. It’s got the school I want for R. It’s charming and cute and the right size and close to work.
And sometimes I think I was absolutely crazy. Why did I position myself, just a few blocks from this man that had devastated me? And when you get dumped, you go through all of the explanations of why. Back and forth between I’m must be the worst and No, actually HE’S the worst. Searching for an explanation for the pain. If the relationship was wrong then why does it hurt so much to end it? Or does it hurt because of all the ways it was wrong?
And there’s ego to sort through. Mine was obviously wounded.
And there’s love to sort through. Love is sticky. It’s doesn’t dissolve and wash away. And even when you think you’ve scrubbed it off, a moment pops up and you realized you missed a spot. This has been happening over and over again for the past year.
I wrote this back in December 2018 and it’s the idea I most often return to:
… I’ve started to see this image of walls being removed from around me….I’ve pictured myself reaching out in all directions feeling for the limits of space and finding nothing…. Sometimes I haven’t been sure which way was up. What do I hold on to? What do I know?
I know love. I envisioned love as a golden cord, extending from the heavens, coming down through the center of my head and my body. As my limbs reach and struggle in an effort to examine and understand the space, my being is suspended from this thick, golden cord, which is love. Love is the anchor. Love is the guiding light within me. My sense is that if I can stay in love, then I don’t need the walls. Love will hold me. Love will center me. I trust the golden cord will support my weight and my flailing about.The golden cord, December 2018
So what is the story I’m not giving up? It’s this. My life is mine. It’s my social experiment. It’s not meant to be perfect. There’s not a set plan. But there is a map written inside me. It’s visible in my desires, my intuition, the things I long for—those are my guides. And the golden cord of love holds me as I conduct my great experiment with life. Love makes me free. Love keeps me alive.
“As long as you’re dancing, you can– Mary Oliver
Break the rules.
Sometimes breaking the rules is just
Extending the rules.
Sometimes there are no rules.”
So I just try to make sure I’m always dancing…
Playlist from September! Guys, I think this one is really good!!! Click here to go to Spotify.