Sigh. Monday morning alarm goes off…As I reach over to SNOOZE the lumineers humming on my iPhone… my throat swells and I remember. Today I am not waking up to a fresh summer day. There’s a cloud of heartache over a once exciting day full of BBQ’s and family.
Last night was like a bad dream. (read:breakup)
And one we’ve been in before. It hurts. Maybe from the conflict, the meaningless arguments out of pique, and hurtful reactions that get thrown around as protection. Maybe because it means leaving on a flight with no plan to “kiss and make up” in a few hours or even days. Breakups are more absolute… more definite when you live 1700 miles away.
My head fills with questions, fear and sadness. An overwhelming feeling of “how did this happen…”
I immediately check WhatsApp for a glimmer of hope… I hope that we might stay on the rollercoaster.
***I say roller coaster because long distance dating is a frenzy of highs and lows. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable and it’s really fucking scary if you don’t have a plan. So in the name of grieving, healing, and accepting where I am… I unpack my thoughts on the page.
It’s not news that relationships are a constant challenge. It’s no surprise that they require effort, choice, support, and sacrifice. Being a champion and supporter to my mate is a role I’ve played, a map I’ve drawn and navigated many times, so I thought I knew what I was doing.
…and then came Erik.
***And this was no rinse and repeat fairy tale romance.
I knew “of” Erik in the way that I know “of” the celebrities and athletes I see around Chicago and haven’t built up enough courage to talk to yet. So needless to say I certainly never considered dating him, pursuing him, or let’s be honest… meeting him.
But. Then. I. Did.
We were both in LA for work and met for lunch. So that happened.
***Not only did his reputation precede him, but so did a commonly shared infatuation with him due to equal parts confidence, authority, and ridiculous genetics.
Lunch. No big deal right? Child’s play!
I have mastered my first date M.O. They start with flirty small talk, off-the-cuff behavioral interviewing, and sharing just enough Deb to pique their interest while keeping a firm grip on my persona.
Well, I THOUGHT that’s how it’d go. Until about 5 minutes in when instead of leading with ego, confidence, and narcissism (just being honest- what I was expecting) he led with compassion and modesty. We talked about family, work, friends, and even made time to laugh at ourselves which is usually reserved for 3 or 4th dates.
***insert deb’s world getting shaken here.
Fast forward through me breaking up with my boyfriend, cutting my hair, and finding myself being overwhelmed with admiration for this dude. This also came with a nasty case of “not good enough” feelings and a gross inadequacy complex.
When I am around him I swoon with nervousness and excitement…I ensure that my hair is done, nails are done, tan is done, and outfit is perfect. Everything has to be perfect. Control at all costs. Do NOT let him see any flaws.
***insert head over heels cliché here
I knew this relationship would be different. I knew it would be hard. I was exploding with excitement, possibility, and still trying to wrap my head around how this perfect man existed. Is this real? WHAT am I going to do with him?! Holy nervousness.
At this point in a relationship, I would be inclined to do 1 of 2 things:
- Cut if off to avoid any chance of rejection
- Dive in with two feet and ride the wave of fairy tale romance momentum until it dissipated and fizzled
But for some reason, I did something different. I was excited enough to pursue it, but too insecure to all the way jump in. I tip toed into it with enough armor to shield him from seeing my insecurities, anxiety, and whatever else I dragged into our relationship. While there were plenty of times he washed those insecurities away, it took about 9 months for me to actually loosen my grip on the armor.
That’s the incredible thing about Erik.
He’s a game changer. He’s influential. His presence is powerful, wise, loving, and when I expect his eyes to be cold and final, they are sensible, loving, and encouraging. His old soul always has something to teach. He teaches even when I’m not in the mood to be a student, and he teaches when I don’t even have the capacity to understand the lesson. This is just one way he relentlessly pursues greatness in his own life, in me, and in us.
***Which is NOT always fun… or easy.
It’s that relentless pursuit that left me paralyzed with fear on the bank of a glacier lake, choking back tears on a mountain hike, and countless occasions of embarrassment when I couldn’t even make eye contact. He probed my heart, and taught me about life, love, and everything in between.
He was the great equalizer I needed.
Over the last few weeks, it’s been a roller coaster. I cried, I laughed. And thank god I had a partner who showed me that it was OK to do both with loving eyes and patience. He showed me how to let love in even when I didn’t want to through SUPER abrupt departures, and tearful SKYPE dates.
The hard times really pushed me out of my comfort zone. They made me realize that goodbyes can be as enlightening as they are heart wrenching. I exuded just as much love when I was snuggled up crying on his chest, than I did when I told him I loved him on Manhattan Beach.
Last night we looked at each other with equal parts sadness and reassurance, and our parting hug moved me in a way that I cannot even describe.
As much as I’ll miss his courage, openness and sensibility in everyday life, I appreciate Erik and all he brings to the world. I’ll miss our sweat dates, walks, date nights, and family holidays until I see him again. I’ll miss smiling at him in the morning, and laughing until we were both in tears after a few cocktails.
My relationship with Erik has humbled me. He taught me that when I approach life and love with the belief that “I’m not good enough…” the payoff is just not there. He reminded me to slow down to build strength and bravery. He reminded me that I can become overtaken by anxiety, or I can appreciate and enjoy what I have. I can control, perfect, and question, or I can live and love, and that’s enough.
I think the universe gave me Erik to teach me that we’re all enough. When we do things with all of our hearts we feel close, connected, and inspired, and when we hold onto insecurities, we’ll create conflict without fail.
I think it’s so ironic that the most intense and powerful presence I know shook up my life and my heart with his warmth, compassion, and softness.
I don’t know why he received me so warmly, but knowing that he doesn’t need me to be anything more than I AM gives me more gratitude and confidence than I can say. His voice inspires me to experience, to dream, and to someday return the favor and devote myself to loving a partner in such an inspirational and beautiful way.
We talk a lot about goals and visions, and I can easily envision a life of what I KNOW. But Erik made me look at the future in a different and unique way. He is so firm and clear about what is important to him in life, in a partner, yet really open to how that shows up.
So I’ll be in his life as much as he’ll let me. I’ll smile when I think about the ridiculous moments that led to uncontrollable laughter, and appreciate the tough conversations that made me feel week and defenseless until they made me stronger and more confident.
I’ll never forget that being a lover is sometimes being a teacher and sometimes being a student. That my life is my own. I mold it every day with my thoughts, my conversations, and my actions. And that real self-worth creates space for heart-to-heart connections that are playful, meaningful, and lively whether I am in a cocktail dress or speed shorts.