My most recent breakup with Joel has made for a difficult few weeks, especially since this one is our fourth and final end. No backsies. We couldn't live together, I couldn't live apart from him and now I'm permanently stuck in the very predicament that was causing my misery. (Don't waste your money on the tasting flight, just trust me that irony pairs perfectly with crow.)
My mood is better than you'd expect, actually. I'm still smiling at strangers, happy with my clients, singing along to the radio and texting cute boys, but then the lyrics will remind me of him (Fuck you, Bruno Mars!) and I'll start sobbing like a ten-year-old girl, only to be perfectly fine again five minutes later. It'd be disconcerting if it wasn't so terribly normal. I've spent two and half years with a plus one at my side. This DUDE's been hanging around all the time and now he's gone. Poof! Just like that. No matter what the reasons were, I still need to grieve that loss. Dude loss. (Or can I just carry it forward and use it to offset future dude gains?) (<-- See that? TAX humor! Win!)
None of this is supposed to be easy and it isn't. I hate it when people ask me how I'm doing because they don't really want the truth and I don't really want to lie. Grief, even when long overdue and self-inflicted, is never pretty. Beautiful perhaps, gut-wrenchingly, horrifically human, but never comfortable to watch from the bleachers.
Sorry about that. I promise it's not contagious. I'm just an over-sharer. I didn't let him tattoo BE WHO YOU ARE on my chest for nothing.
I'm also a terrible actress, so I'm going to skip the stoic facade where I pretend I'm fine! and totally okay! Instead I'm going to cope by running my ass off. I figure I'll run 100 miles for every year we were together. That's an easy 250 miles for this tough-ass broad, even if sobbing while running up a mountain isn't as easy as I'd hoped. (You can breathe or you can cry. They are mutually exclusive.)
I plan to run as many of those miles as I can on the Wildwood trail in Forest Park.
Ironically enough, my friend Brie introduced me to it on the last day of JoelandAmanda. (I actually read the final e-mail in our Dear John exchange from inside the Honey Bucket at the end of the Leif Erickson trail. There's one trip to the bathroom I'll never forget!). Anyway, I'd been feeling like a broken, useless, pile of shit all day and that run saved my ass almost as much as Brie's secret toilet paper stash. She and I gave each other therapy all the way up the hill (which was hard) (in a good way), but the downhill was magical.
Her sweat kept splattering me in the face; there were so many bees I thought for sure I was going to inhale one; and everything was so green in every direction that I wondered, briefly, if I, myself, had turned into part of the mountain. I would call it an out of body experience except I don't think I've ever been more inside my body than I was on that run. We flew down that mountain whooping and hollering and giggling like schoolgirls.
I've never felt stronger or more alive. More present. More ME.
It turns out trail running is heroin. One shot and I was DONE. Since I no longer have a plus one, on Saturday night I geared up (chapstick! toilet paper! water!) and went back for a hot trail date with myself. This time I had a goal - run five miles up, cry like a baby, and then book it back down in time to catch the sunset.
Apparently I was still in the bargaining stage of grief because it felt like every step I ran up that hill spawned a new want. [breathe in] want, want, want [breathe out] want, WANT. Every footfall screamed at me. Want! I want so many things I'll never get. I want to be different. I want to change the past. I want to change perceptions. Perspectives. Events. I want him. Himhimhimhimhimhim. All things I can't have. If you're counting steps, ten miles is 20,000 wants.
I am SO on Buddha's shit list.
Or maybe not, because at one point on my way down the mountain I started to sob with the sheer gratitude of knowing I'd found this perfect green vessel for my grief. A place for me to stomp all my wants straight into the ground. A place for me to FEEL everything without holding back. I've decided to spend this summer sweating and crying and giggling and singing all of my grief right into the forest until there isn't anything left inside me but strength. It's beginning to feel almost sacred, this idea of giving my tears back to the trees.
Then I remembered something a cute Jewish professor (who was also a runner) told me on our first (and only) date, "Terwilliger still holds my divorce in its hills."
And my floodgates opened. Because how many other runners had left their tears on this exact stretch of trail? All of a sudden I wasn't just crying my OWN grief into Wildwood, I was crying for everyone who had ever experienced a loss and then handed it over to this forest. I felt like I could see every dying parent, lost dog, never-born child, painful divorce and unrequited love that had ever been felt there. So many tears! No wonder Oregon is so wet all the fucking time! I was surrounded by grief, almost as if I was running through mother nature's emotional compost bin.
Only instead of sadness, all that grief filled me with love. With acceptance.
Because we can't grieve if we never love.
Grief is an expression of love.
So I'm going to keep handing my grief - and my heart - over to the trees of Forest Park. I'm going to lean into the downhills like I lean into everything - love, discomfort, grief, vulnerability, opportunity. At some point I know I'm going to run too fast, trip over a twig and break my face, but I won't regret it any more than I'll ever regret loving Joel. Instead, I'll just book it down the next hill with the same fearless fervor as ever.
(Oooh! There's my next tattoo!)
If I get over this break up sooner than what seems normal, it's only because I've already been grieving it for months. I haven't met him yet, but some day I'll get to make someone the happiest man alive. I'm only sad it wasn't Joel. I loved him ferociously. (I fear only Henry Miller really groks how much.) But I'm determined to not let this grief change me. I'll stay this wide open and vulnerable and brutally honest and loud and abrasive - and beautifully, frightfully flawed - for the next guy. And he will love me BECAUSE of those things, not in spite of them.
Until then, I'll have me.