I woke up suddenly, feeling disorientated, knowing something was horribly, horribly wrong in my world. “I can’t breathe,” I thought. My chest was heavy, my head fuzzy from the copious amounts of wine I had consumed, my eyes red and gummy. Everything hurt. The most consuming pain though was not physical. Inside me was a ball of hurt so deep, so consuming, that I was having trouble drawing breath. As the reality of my betrayal slammed fully back into me, tears streamed down my face, and gut wrenching sobs wracked my body. It felt like the grief would tear me apart. I wrapped my arms around myself, feeling like I needed to physically hold myself together because it felt like my heart was shattering into a million fractured pieces. All I could think was, “oh god it hurts so much.”
When I got divorced six years ago I was terrified of getting my heart broken like that again. That fear controlled me for many years. I flitted from country to country, backpacking through Southeast Asia, sleeping with gorgeous men with accents, knowing one of us would be on a bus to another exotic city the next day.
When I finally returned to the U.S., I started dating Michael, a sweet fun-loving guy who had moved back in with his mother two years ago when his business went bankrupt. He was currently “in between jobs.” My dad jokingly called him, “Without a Paddle.”
It was only years later as I looked back on my string of “great” guys that I dated for a month or two at the most that I realized I’d subconsciously chosen men who were “safe.” Men I could never fall in love with or have a serious relationship. They always treated me well, the sex was great, and we had fun. I never had to worry that they would break my heart and leave me with that soul wrenching incapacitating grief I had experienced when I’d finally been forced to face the truth about my husband’s drinking problem and leave my ten year marriage.
The problem was I wanted a real relationship. I wanted to get married again. Have fat babies and live a full life free of fear. I started doing some serious soul searching. I hired coaches. I read a ton of self help books .
In January, almost five years after my divorce, I met Peter. A happy-go-lucky, gorgeous, bearded bartender. Stable job (check.) His own place (check). Looking for a serious relationship (check). Emotionally healthy (check). Yes! I had broken the pattern!
A month long whirlwind courtship followed. I had never fallen breathlessly, recklessly, head-over-heels in love before. Peter made me feel safe. I told him my fears of having my heart broken again. I bared every dirty detail from my marriage and he held me while I cried. His voice broke when he told me he thought I was his soul mate. He was terrified he had scared me away when he told me only two weeks into our relationship that he loved me, but by then I was madly in love with him.
I had finally found my person. Life suddenly made sense and I cherished every kiss. Every “you make me so happy” text. I remember him finding me at a party and leaning in to whisper “I love you” with a quick kiss. I cherished it all. He assured me that he would never break my heart and I believed him.
And then it all went to hell. Long story short, he had a girl who he had grown up with that he had always loved. She suddenly figured out that she loved him too and he chose her.
Just like that it was over. And I was left shaking and sobbing, my deepest fear, a cold hard reality.
Here is the amazing thing though. I survived. I embraced my grief. I let myself feel it in every part of my body. I journaled. I screamed. I cussed out the universe. I found this amazing dance/meditation practice called Qoya that helped me channel my grief.
I had spent years half living my life, controlled by this fear that came to pass anyway and it was horrible. But I survived. I picked myself up. I learned the lessons I needed to learn and I grew stronger, more self-confident., and self-aware I had faced my monster and come away scarred, but triumphant.
One of my good friends says it hurts until it doesn’t hurt anymore. When we try to run away from the pain of a break up, or let our fears control us we fail ourselves. Life is meant to be lived, both the joys and the heartbreaks.
It hurts, but it is worth it. I wouldn’t trade those six weeks with Peter for anything. I wouldn’t change my marriage and my divorce because those shaped me and made me the person I am today.
And today that person is heartbroken. I took a risk on loving someone that I was pretty sure would break my heart, but it was worth it. So, I will lay here for a few more minutes I will breath through the pain that is coursing through my body and then I will get up. I will be grateful for what he taught me, the time we had, and the pain he caused me because I now know how strong I am and I love myself more for having the strength to take a risk.
I am not advocating making bad choices. I am asking you to not live a life controlled by fear. To make the hard, but right choices. Leave the bad marriage even if you’re scared to be on your own. Love hard even if he might break your heart. Start your own business even if it’s risky. You never know your own strength until it’s tested.
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