April 2011: My heart had been broken wide open by the ending of an 8-year relationship with a man with whom I truly believed I would grow old. He believed it too. Our friends believed it. Our families believed it. My new reality shook me to my very core. And I just needed a distraction. It didn’t matter who or what the distraction was. Anything to keep me from being stagnant, with too much time to think. But most of all, to keep me from feeling. I had an irresistible urge to run away. In retrospect (damn you, 20/20 hindsight!), I now realize I wanted to run away from me, from the unbearably painful emotions I was terrified of letting in.
I thought moving to a new city two states away, and the possibility of a new beginning, would be the distraction to end all distractions.
And oh, it was! Without a doubt. For a minute, anyway…
The problem was, in my finite wisdom, I hadn’t allowed myself to fully experience that pain, to feel. Ergo, I hadn’t healed. I’d merely – if not very creatively and successfully! – delayed the grieving process. Jesus, it really is true – you can run but you can’t hide. And once the newness – of the new city, the new friends, the new job – had worn off, there I was. Emotionally naked. Exposed to the elements. In excruciating, bring-you-to-your-knees, undeniable, gut-wrenching, agonizing pain.
You get the idea.
It was as sudden as if I had awakened sober in a strange place after a wild night of partying. I thought, “What the hell am I doing here?”
And then, I just wanted to go home.
The problem was, where was home?
I knew “home” wasn’t where I was at the time, two states away from where I started. I mean, sure, technically it was: I had a physical address where I received mail, parked my car, kept my belongings, prepared meals for my son and myself, hung my proverbial hat, and went to sleep at night (that is, when it wasn’t eluding me, which it usually was). It was my physical home.
But it wasn’t home in my heart.
I decided I would follow my instincts. My instinct was drawing me back to where I began, nearly 14 months earlier. I listened, and I went. The first night back, as my son and I stayed with friends, I walked outside around midnight and just stood there, completely content in the moment, gazing up at the velvety black prairie sky, dotted with tiny twinkling stars.
My friend walked outside. “Hey, you okay?” he asked.