Under the Northern Lights

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.

Broken Hearts or Broken Legs

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.

Your author, with that good-run feeling!