We met at a bar, at my going away party before I left for India on a mountaineering expedition.
When I shook his hand, his name didn’t even register. He had shaggy hair and some weird “Occupy Wall Street” graffiti all up on his hoodie. Not my type, I thought to myself, though who ever is your type when you are hosting your own going away party?
I spent the ensuing hours wildly gesturing in conversation with a different guy who had done boatloads of traveling in Asia and making inappropriate eye signals at my roommates across the bar. I danced, I laughed, I screamed bad 80′s music at the top of my lungs. I was leaving New York and I was on another adventure. This girl don’t let no grass grow.
When he had had enough of watching me not watch him, he stole me away to talk about jukebox music and what terrible taste in it I had. He tried desperately to impress me with stories of how he traveled around the world playing baseball. I may have audibly rolled my eyes. And to be honest, I still didn’t know his name. But he did make me giggle and I was leaving New York soon, and he was so very tall.
I found myself at an all-night a diner with him, trying hard to ignore our collective attitude of what-the-fuck-are-we-doing-here, and ripping into the New York Times. He had bought it moments before on a whim because the front page was about baseball and the travel section was a splashy photo essay on India. It was then that he taught me, without meaning to, that I should pay closer attention to the signs.
What I didn’t know then was just how much he would teach me by letting me go.
In one moment, we were silent, reading the paper, drinking coffee. Trying to nonchalantly be nonchalant. And then, we were just talking. About everything. From eastern philosophy to world traveling to food politics to the Yankees, it seemed impossible that two people could have more in common. I said something about my chakra alignment and he nodded like I was describing a routine dental visit.
My slightly neurotic female brain tried not to envision introducing him to my parents.
There were long phone calls, and a trip to Brooklyn, and eating sushi while watching the Knicks. There was a walk around his neighborhood that seemed endless. The spring air had just started to set in and the trees were growing back their baby leaves. The sidewalks, the townhouses, the little Brooklyn gardens were opening up their blossoms. And somewhere deep inside my chest, I felt a space open up, too. We both knew we only had a few days. But it seemed not to matter as we sat on his front stoop, eating ice cream, and simply being with each other.
As quickly as it had started, it was over. There was no way around it, no matter how desperately I wanted to get around it. I was leaving New York, possibly forever and he had just come back, possibly forever. He stopped by to say goodbye. When I hugged him and let him leave, I knew it would be for good.
Unbeknownst to me, that previously open space deep inside my chest had been packed with dynamite. It exploded as the door slammed shut.
I didn’t know what else to do, so I turned to my mat. The day he walked out of my apartment, and presumably out of my life, I pulled my mat into the living room, something I hadn’t done in months, and rolled it out with a satisfying thwaack. I lowered myself into Hero’s Pose and closed my eyes.
And instead of rolling up into a downward dog like I had planned, I just started to cry.
Face in my hands, I cried not only for the love that I had felt for the past few days, but for the heart I had broken because I had opened myself to this type of love. And even before I knew it, I finally began to let go.
I cried for New York, my home that I was so hesitant to make, but had made my entire life so delicious. I cried for all of the friends that I was leaving, and I cried with the fear of not knowing the friends I was going to make. I cried for the end of my life as I knew it, and I cried for the beginning of a life that I did not know if I would like. I cried because there were so many other times that I couldn’t, and finally, finally I could.
I cried for close to 10 minutes, tears streaming from my face, my hands too porous to hold them all. When the stains on my mat finally dried and my breathing returned to my chest, the white noise of my empty apartment was frightening. Not sure what to do and too afraid to be surrounded by silence, I heaved myself off the floor, rolled up my yoga mat and slowly began pack up my life.
While my heart didn’t heal instantly, I found myself turning to my mat more and more. Initially, I laid out my mat to distract myself from thinking about him and to spend an hour in sweaty, breathless asana. But as I became more grounded and more focused in my practice and in my new life away from New York, I started to forgive. And that was when I realized that he was the mechanism through which I finally allowed myself to let go of everything that I once was and open up to everything that I was about to become.
In that silence that day, I heard the sound of the unknown. I heard what the next edition of my life was going to be like—an absolute first ascent. But what I didn’t know then that I know now is that, it wasn’t ever about him. And by letting me go, I let go. He opened me enough to let me say goodbye, to realize how the change I was about make was not just another job or another town, but the introduction to another chapter that was going to be wildly different than all that I had previously known.
How has your broken heart made you a stronger, more self-aware, more grounded person?