I was alone. Just me and the mountains. I hadn’t planned to hike this far. I hadn’t planned to be here. In fact, I wasn’t even quite sure where ‘here’ was. I didn’t have a map, I didn’t have phone service, but the mountains ahead were calling to me, so I kept marching towards them. The thought crossed my mind that if I took a wrong step, I would die here, but it seemed a good place to die, so I continued on.
There was a trail, but the more I walked, the more the trail blended into the surroundings. There were boulders to the left, boulders to the right and boulders straight ahead. It was hard to determine which way was actually the way to go, so I just went up, scrambling over rocks and crossing little streams. My eyes were fixed on the summits above me. They had captured me and were pulling me closer and closer to their snow-lined peaks. On my right, what had once been a series of puddles, was now almost a river. Occasionally, I would pass a rock large enough to break its flow, creating a delicate cascade of water that sprinkled down its face.
My heart was beating in my chest – from exhaustion, from excitement and from fear. I’ve spent plenty of time alone in the wilderness, but this was different. I was under the spell of the mountains and there was no telling what would happen. I had lost control, my heart was leading the way. I continued on until the mountain face became too steep. Even using both hands and feet, I slid more than I climbed, and eventually, I retreated to a place where I could rest. I was surrounded on three sides by rock and snow, and in the distance, far far away, I could see the sun creeping towards the ocean. It cast its golden rays across the surface of the water and shone orange and red on the clouds above. It was time to go back, or I would be lost here in the dark, possibly forever.
When I reached the base of the mountain, I sat down in the grass to watch the final moments of the sunset. I took a deep breath and exhaled out all the fear, joy and excitement of the past few hours. What was left, was stillness and peace. I settled into the moment, enjoying the calm feeling in my heart. It was a feeling that I recognized, but not from my adventures. It was a feeling I had felt only twice before in my life. Once when I was a teenager, and once during the month just prior to my hike, both times nestled in the lap of a man that I loved. It was in this moment that I realized, sometimes, the feeling we are seeking doesn’t have to be found through adventure; sometimes, the feeling we are seeking is waiting for us at home, and all we need to do is take a deep breath, find stillness and peace in our hearts, and let out the things that keep us from appreciating what we already have.
We were strangers, parked in a truck miles outside of the city, completely alone in the darkness. Having only met this man once before, I had done what any heartbroken and reckless girl would have done – hopped into his truck and went riding off into the night. I wanted to see the northern lights and he said it was a good night to spot them. He was probably the last thing that my heart needed, but in that moment I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel something, anything.
I once had two heartbreaks in one year. Two bad heartbreaks. The kind of heartbreak that doesn’t just leave you broken, but shattered. Unable to make sense of the fragments that once comprised my hopes and dreams, for months I desperately tried to outrun and outswim my racing mind and aching heart. I refused to stop to think, feel, or even breathe. But no matter how fast or far I went, my pain was always faster, stronger and more determined. It always caught up with me and when it did it took me down like a lineman trying to stop the final play at the Super Bowl. One day, I just couldn’t run anymore, I couldn’t swim, and I couldn’t hide. I was trapped with my anger and sadness staring me in the face. The clock ran out, the game was over, there was no way to win.
Still unwilling to actually face my feelings, I booked a vacation. I’m not sure if I was trying to run or hide, or just buy some time so I wouldn’t be caught crying at work. I just knew I needed to be alone. Just me, wandering the wilderness, searching for peace. I left for Iceland. It was one of the only places I knew I could hike alone without fear of being eaten by snakes, bears, mountain lions or tigers. A place where the only thing I had to fear was the weather and myself. As it turns out, I was much scarier than the weather. The weather in Iceland in October isn’t bad, but it isn’t great. There was lots of rain, a little snow and winds can that rip the doors off of cars if you park the wrong direction. I loved it. I watched the Icelandic horses standing in open fields bearing the force of the wind. I watched the calm in their eyes as the rain fell around them, they just stood there unflinching in the cold. They knew how to weather a storm. I tried to learn from them, but lacked their grace and beauty in the face of a storm I wasn’t sure would ever pass, but somehow, when I watched them, I felt understood.
On my search for peace, I had planned to avoid men on my trip. They were, after all, the source of all my troubles. But, I have an iPhone, and it’s trusty battery left me with a choice upon arrival, get really fucking lost or hang out in my hotel for a few hours tethered to an outlet. I chose to be tethered and to pass the time went happily swiping away on Tinder. Before I was even at 50% battery life, I had matched with the most beautiful man I had ever seen. Ever. Icy blue eyes, beautiful bone structure, just the right amount of scruff to bring attention to the contours of his lips, and a photo of him with a horse that showed off both his strong body and his adventurous spirit. It was trouble and I have an unquenchable thirst for trouble, especially as a distraction to pain.
We met the next night in the middle of nowhere. Having asked him directly if he was either a rapist or a murderer, I had determined it was safe to invite him to my hotel to meet for the first time. I gave him my room number and waited, watching the night from my window. There was nothing out there but the wind and the stars. Then, a knock on my door. This was it – was he lying about being a murderer? I was about to find out. The night went well. We talked, he taught me some Icelandic, he didn’t murder me. Time passed quickly and I had to send him away as I had important hiking plans in the morning. I never expected to see him again, but on the last night of my trip we met again, this time to chase the northern lights. It was the only thing left on my trip wish list and the weather was clear and cold, good conditions despite the nearly full moon. He picked me up and off we went, driving away from the lights of the city, to a spot where it was just him, me, the truck and the sky.
As I watched the sky, I could feel his eyes on me. He was a native and the lights display that evening was not nearly as interesting as the crazy American girl sitting beside him. I watched the colors dance across the sky. They were faint against the moonlight, but clear enough to see. I was in awe. I never knew how much they moved. How different each moment would be. It was beautiful. I could have been satisfied with just the lights show, but that was not all this night had planned for me. My eyes met the eyes that had been watching me. They were beautiful, he was beautiful. I wanted to get lost in those eyes, just as I had the sky, I wanted to free myself to the moment, and I did.
As we made love, I gazed through the window at the northern lights still dancing across the sky. It sounds romantic, but it wasn’t. This wasn’t about romance or love, it was just a moment. It was two strangers in the night, giving in to passion and desire. One searching for escape, for feeling, for hope, for peace. The other, well you’d have to ask him. Maybe he just liked a bit of fun, or maybe he was just as broken as me, desperately searching for a glimpse of warmth in the frozen landscape of a broken heart.
It was a stormy afternoon in California, dark clouds covered the usually blue sky as rain pounded down. My sister and I had been playing outside when the downpour started. We rushed across the yard to safety, and my sister, being older and very protective, grabbed my hand and said to me, “Stay close to me, there might be thunder!” And, just as she said it, a huge thunderclap burst through the sounds of rainfall.
I was probably 3 or 4 when this happened, but I still remember it clearly. It was one of the few moments in my childhood when I felt completely loved and safe. My sister and I were very close when we were young. From the moment I was born, she loved me. She often showed it in weird ways like tricking me into eating a mud taco, pinning me down to spit on my face, and trying to throw me out the bathroom window of a hotel to save me from our parents, but despite the questionable moments, she was always there to protect and love me. The first line of defense against a dark and dangerous world.
As we got older, it became harder for her to protect me. Danger lurked in unexpected places in our household. Slaps that flew for no apparent reason, quiet whispers of things children should not know. We lived with the constant nagging feeling that something terrible was about to happen, and it was only a matter of time before someone really got hurt. Eventually, I learned to protect myself. But the nasty side effects of growing up knowing mostly fear and sadness showed themselves as I raged into my teenage years full of anger and pain. There was no way for her to reach me, so we drifted apart.
As teenagers, I worked through my internal turmoil with drugs, promiscuity and a fully immersive socio-economic study of the drifter culture, she sought her escape by channeling her intense fight for survival into academia. She graduated valedictorian and I narrowly escaped death on more than one occasion. But even worlds apart, she was always there. She did the things our parents should have done. She had the hard conversations, she offered support and she showed me love. She did the best that any slightly older child could do. And so, with time, we found our way back to each other.
Our reunion started when she left for college and invited me to join her for a skirt party and underage drinking. Next, I visited her one year for Thanksgiving. It was just me and her in a little apartment making chicken, peppered brownies, and rekindling the love and joy we had shared as children. We drank too much champagne, made incredibly stupid videos, and laughed until tears of joy rolled down our faces. After that, the visits became more frequent and the calls longer. The space between us disappeared, and there we were, as close and full of love as two children running from a rainstorm.
This year, thunder struck again. With my sister in Los Angles and me in France, we reach across the ocean to escape the storm. We both protect each other now. We share the hard conversations, the offers of support and show love to each other when it is needed. We call on each other to remember what is real and what is not. To remind each other not to get lost in hope. To accept our limitations and put our energy where it matters most. We help each other to make the tough calls, to face the hard truths and to prepare for the inevitable. In life, there will always be thunder. There will always be storms and scary things. What matters, are the people who will take your hand and pull you close. No matter how far away it may seem, love will always be there when the storm hits.
As fate would have it, I have recently found myself in France. Not just for vacation, but for the next two years. And, in true Tina style, I threw myself into this with as little preparation as possible. No French? No problem. I got this… I had a grand plan. I would move to France, take 5 or 6 lovers, and learn all the essential phrases while making passionate love in a foreign land. My plan was perfect, except for one detail that I failed to take into account: I don’t like French men.
Now, as an American, I have long heard the stories of French men. They are passionate, romantic, and will sweep you off your feet with grand gestures, poetry and incredible sex. Personally, poetry makes me want to gag, but so does deep throating and I’ll do that for the right man. I got this…
But, I didn’t “Got this.” I still don’t have this. I’ve been here for almost three months now, and while my French is improving my taste for French men is not. I was hoping it would be like the white wine from Jura – a bit peculiar at first, but quite enjoyable once you get used to the nutty flavor. Sadly, this is not the case. In my limited research, I have found the men here fall into the following categories:
Stale White Bread: Boring to begin with and only gets worse with time. Absolutely zero flavor or nutritional value, but you’ll eat it at 3am when you’ve had 10 G&Ts and forgot to ask the Uber driver to stop by McDonald’s on the way home.
Shower Drain Hair: Just the thought of it makes you cringe. Looking at it makes you feel dirty all over. If you have to touch it, it’s best to use gloves, but even then the memory will haunt you for months.
Mr. Moody: Always dramatic, everything is the end of the world. This guy makes man babies look like pro adulters. Actually, this guy might be closest to the stereotype, but only because he vehemently expresses how miserable life is with his poetry about catching colds, losing socks in the dryer and traffic jams.
The Tour Guide: Possibly also quite French, this guy knows everything about the city, the region, the history and the culture, and he likes to talk about it… a lot. It’s not actually possible to connect with this guy because he’s too busy trying to impress you with his infinite knowledge of everything. Like the wine? He doesn’t care why, he just seizes the opportunity to tell you the longitude and latitude of where each grape was picked and what the winemaker was wearing during harvest. Like the cheese? He’ll tell you the story about how his great-aunt’s cousin’s wife’s sister had a cow that was neighbors with the horse that was owned by the farmer that sold a goat to the couple whose daughter’s sheep grazed on the property next to where this cheese was produced.
Mr. Casual: I’m pretty sure these guys are universal. They’re in it for one thing and one thing only. This is totally ok with me as long as the expectations are clear and it’s good for both of us. What surprised me about Mr. Casual French Edition was he was offended when I said “No problem, but can we skip dinner and keep it to weeknights?” Oh, and he forgot that last bit about good for both of us.
So there you have it. Dating in France. Actually, the first thing in two years that has managed to get me off Tinder. I never thought it would be contempt rather than love that would finally pull me away from swipe life, but here I am, swipe-free for almost three weeks now.
I will confess, I’m not being 100% fair to French men with this description. There was, in fact, one French man who doesn’t fall into any of the above categories. He was an anomaly. He was able to not only stir my desires but crack open the locks on my bitter heart. I’m inclined to say he probably isn’t French, but apparently his Frenchness dates back to the Cretaceous period. Of course, having felt something potentially real for the first time since my disastrous heartbreak, I dramatically threw a scarf over my eyes and ran from his apartment at 6am only to go home to cuddle a baguette in regret. But, that’s a story for another day.
I sprained my calf this week while running. It’s painful. I have to walk down stairs sideways and I won’t be able to run for several weeks. I hate getting injured. It’s frustrating and prevents me from doing some of the things that I love most. But as interesting as running injuries are, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about heartbreak.
I was talking to one of my colleagues today about my injury and she looked at me and said, “Wow, you’ve had a hard year!” I was kind of stunned by this comment. Had I? I told her it was just an injury and she said, “Well, yeah, but you were sick all that time and you had that car accident and now this.” Oooooh…she was totally right. I was having a hard year. My car, that I loved so very very much, had been totaled. Shortly after I came down with a death-cold that had me sick for about two months, followed immediately by further months of unexplained fatigue and now my calf is sprained and I can’t run. That’s kind of a shitty year. But, it hadn’t even occurred to me because this year has been so much easier than last year.
Let’s rewind to September, 2017. I was in a long distance relationship with a man that I thought was going to be my husband. We had been engaged since 2016 and, due to the distance, I was ready to just get on with it so we could live in the same country. My fiancé, Gaylord (names have been changed to protect the guilty), had been dragging his feet. Perhaps he is also a reluctant adult. I thought things were fine. We had just spent two weeks together in France and Germany enjoying wine tasting, music festivals and the company of friends and family. Life seemed good.
September 3rd, I received a text from Gaylord “I have to tell you something, can we talk?” “Sure,” I said. I was worried by his tone. I thought something had happened to one of his grandparents. He had most of them left and they were all very very old. I answer the phone and he starts to tell me this story of how he went out, had drinks, doesn’t know how it happened but somehow went home with a girl and spent the night with her – but they didn’t have sex, of course. HA! My first reaction was relief. I was so grateful that he had been the one to cheat first. My second reaction was anger, because he had always made me feel like I wasn’t quite good enough for him and his family. My third reaction was sadness, hurt and a sense of betrayal. I didn’t know what to do, so I went and bought some shoes.
When I returned from my shopping excursion, I called him back and I did what any woman in my position would do – I asked him the same questions over and over and over and over and over and over again, trying to make some sense of what had happened and why. He swore he still loved me. He said he was drunk and lonely. He said he realized now that he had taken me granted. He said that he now understood that the distance was too hard and he was ready to get married. He wanted to get married and he wanted it soon. Not wanting to accept failure, I agreed. We planned to get married in October. Ladies, gentlemen, readers…this was a stupid choice. Let me explain.
October arrived. Planning had been slow to barely existent. It was obvious we were not getting married, but he said that we were, so I bought a dress just in case he was telling the truth. I didn’t want to be that girl. You know, the one who has nothing to wear on her wedding day because she thinks her fiancé is full of shit. One week before our wedding, Gaylord called me to tell me he wasn’t coming. It’s funny how even when you know something is going to happen, it can still be surprising, it can still knock you on your ass and can still hurt just as much as if you had been totally naive. I froze, I cried, I accepted it for 12 hours and then I called him back. Surprisingly, he ended up coming to California, but it was unclear why. Was it to get married? To break up in person? Or, was it just to drag me through a few more weeks of hell? Well, it was Gaylord, so let’s go with option number three.
The week of his visit went by, we talked, we laughed, we talked some more, we had sex. I cried, he was cold. His mom called and the two of them joked about whether or not he would end up married before coming home. The humor was lost on me. I was hurting, I was bitter, I was angry, I was sad, and these two people who I loved and had been through some very deep life moments with were laughing together about the uncertainty of the rest of my life. And still, I was stupid enough to want to be a part of that family. Fortunately, the choice wasn’t mine and Gaylord and I didn’t get married. Definitely a blessing, but I was pissed at the time. When I dropped Gaylord off for his flight home, I didn’t fully realize I was saying goodbye. Not just to him, but to the part of myself that wanted that life with him. I hadn’t let go. It wasn’t until he told me not to come visit for Christmas that I realized it was over. And when that happened, I went and kissed a bunch of hot dudes, as you do when your heart is broken and you just don’t have any fucks left to give. One of those hot dudes turned into my next big mistake.
Brutus, oh Brutus (again, names changed)…. He was beautiful. Tall, strong, a god in the bedroom and he knew it. He knew just what to tell a girl to get her hooked. I’m not sure if it was intentional or if he’s just as screwed up as the rest of us, but he rode the coattails of my ex- fiancé’s empty promises and filled my heart and soul with hope that somehow every hurt, every heartbreak and every tear had been purposefully guiding me to the person I would actually spend my life with. Within a matter of months he told me he wanted to have children with me, he bought a gym-proof wedding band just to see how it felt, he went to meet my family and took me to meet his, and he even told his mom that he was seriously considering marrying me. My heart had not had time since my last relationship to harden and close, so there I was, gooshy and full of hope. I opened myself to total destruction of the heart.
It didn’t take long for us to break up, and to be honest, I didn’t take it all that well. When things fell apart, I did too. One year, two epic failures and the painful death of my vision of the future. It sounds a little dramatic – and it is. I no longer felt as if I would ever be able to see another person as a permanent part of my life. I felt that everything I had dreamed of and hoped for only caused me pain and I didn’t want to try anymore. I didn’t want to open myself to the opportunity of being at the mercy of another. Again, that sounds a little dramatic – and it is. So what does a girl do when life takes a royal shit on her face? Well, she signs up for yoga, learns to swim and books a solo vacation to Iceland. Because, I may be a little dramatic, but I’m also one determined little bitch.
So yeah, it’s been a hard year. I don’t like running injuries, but I trust in my body’s ability to heal and know that there are many miles in my future. I don’t like being sick, but there are worse things than staying home from work with chicken noodle soup, Netflix and fuzzy blankets. It’s possible my body is just compensating for the lack emotional stress in my life. Maybe when it realizes that stress-free is the new normal, I’ll stop getting injured and stop getting sick. Maybe after a little more time, I’ll just be me. Healthy, happy and doing my thing, one day and one mile at a time.
As a single girl in her 30s, I have to constantly battle the internal and external pressures to settle down and commit to a life of misery. Oops! I mean stability. My bad….
It’s not that I don’t want to get married. I do, someday, to the right person. But here’s the thing about me. The right person for me is not the person who wants a relationship. My dude, if he exists, is not going to send me a “Good morning beautiful” text every single day. He’s not going to dote on me. He’s not going to try to impress or please me. And, he’s certainly not the person who’s looking to settle down. No, no. My guy, wherever he is, if he even exists, he’s the guy who does his thing. He’s the guy who loves me passionately but not possessively. He’s the guy that doesn’t care if I leave for a month or two. He’s the guy who doesn’t want a wedding but will marry me on a cliff in the mist because it’s not about proving anything to the world, it’s about our little secret and the passion and love that we share. My guy knows that the number one thing he can do to make me leave, is to let me know he needs me to stay.
When I was a kid, my favorite moment of the day was when my dad would come home. Yes, I realize this is two for two posts that mention my dad. I will analyze my daddy issues later on…. Anyways, the story is, in the evenings I would hear his car and go run to the door to give him a big hug. When I gave him this hug, I would always put my feet up against his stomach so I maintained my ability to push away. This is the thing about me. I will love so hard and so completely, with all of my heart, as long as I know I can push away when I need to. But commitment has a tendency to kill that freedom. There’s this expectation that once committed, the feet go down. I can’t do that. I need my feet. I need them up and I need them strong. I need to leave sometimes and do me. It doesn’t mean I don’t love the person, it just means I love myself more. And the right person, is the one where we love and trust each other enough to be apart and still together.
I feel like people don’t understand this type of commitment. People think there’s something wrong when you’re in a couple and tell them about what “I” did over the weekend rather than what “we” did. Realistically, if someone was to be in a relationship with me, they would have to have a lot of “I” moments or they would just be bored. They’re going to need something to do while I’m jogging, or at my yoga class, or meeting a friend for lunch, or making earrings, or going to Trader Joe’s alone because I actually want to go grocery shop by myself, and sometimes they’re even going to have to sit out out on an all day hike because I just want to be by myself with my own thoughts in nature. I want to listen to music in the car with out talking to another person. I want to have private Industrial Dance parties in my underwear and I don’t want share that with anyone, because nobody needs to see that! I want to get wine drunk on Tuesdays and play Tekken (stay tuned for that story). And sometimes, I just want to sit at home on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and a book and not be bothered. So my Mr. Right better either like to sleep late or have his own things he likes spending time with more than he likes spending time with me.
The truth is I am already in a committed relationship. I’m committed to myself. Maybe you could say I’m in an open relationship with myself as the primary partner. I’m open to having another person enter the relationship as long as they understand that I come first for me, and I hope that they have same standard for themselves. I do not want to be a we, but a me and (if you’re lucky) a you. Together but autonomous. Each purposefully pursuing our own independent passions and bringing them home to a life filled with love and lust. That is something I might let my feet down for, because when I trust that I can run, I can also relax and I just might stay awhile.