Friday, November 9, 2012

adventures of the paper heart (3)

I am a very vivacious and secure person with a stunning imagination and potential for creative thinking.  I know this because lately, I've been taking these online questionnaires about character traits and happiness and this is what they all tell me.

If you must know, I rank pretty low on modesty, humility, caution, prudence, discretion, spirituality, faith and sense of purpose.
I'm aware of this creativity, and how it's set me apart from some and brought me closer to others and steered me across the globe for the past fourteen years. It makes problem solving not easy but always interesting. The flip side to this vivid imagination, however, is that when life takes the inevitable turn for the worse, I am capable of crafting a perfectly designed, artful, sublime sort of sadness.

Unnecessary sadness, I think. I really commit to it, the first to dive down the rabbit hole, conjuring bad omens out of thin air, swirling consciously downward. I throw back a handful of the blue pills when all I really needed was one or two. I fill my whole self up with sadness and then tip over and pour it into the world around me. And then it takes a really long time to crawl out.

Which is why Ryan, who knows me very well, ripped me from that sad place just as I was beginning to wrap my knuckles around its handlebars and get a good grip. I was crying when he picked me up from my house and during that sleepless night in his guest room I was crying and when he hauled me into his car and drove East on 1-90 I was still crying. Seattle was being hosed by this incredible rainstorm with standing water on the highway and the white lights of cars all blurred and I saw my misery reflected in the rain and oh, what a lonely, achingly sad place!

As one might imagine, this type of gratuitous, head over heals emotion is exhausting and I eventually fell asleep, to the great relief of the driver, and when I woke up we were somewhere in  Idaho.

We continued to roll east, hour after hour, past larches flaming in gold and patches of mountains actually flaming in wildfire, churning heavy grey smoke into the atmosphere. The air was thin and brittle and chilly and burned a little in my lungs. The landscape was arid and open and so very different than the glassy, wet city we'd left behind us.

We stopped at a gas station, a building in shambles, Ryan bought a grape soda as a breakfast drink and the attendant had no teeth. It was there that I unlocked the door, fell out of the car and started to feel better.
For a week, Ryan and our friend Sebby, who lives in Whitefish, continued the process of picking me up and dusting me off. And they did a remarkable job of it.

I love the practical problem solving strategies of men, which differs so greatly from the nurturing instincts of women. They approached me as something broken, but like anything broken I could very well be glued back together by following a simple set of instructions. "Fix it, fuck it, or punch it," is a term I've heard them use before. There was no sitting around wrapped in blankets talking it out, no agonizing hours debating the meaning and merits hiding behind every word in every conversation.

Part of this is due to the fact that Andrew and I broke up very cleanly. But amicable or not, my paper heart still repulses at the idea of he didn't want me. And thank God, the boys left me no room to wallow. They talked entirely in movie quotes and refused to indulge me in the circle-talking of the recently heartbroken. "What do I do now?" I'd ask from where I sat, sunk into the booth at dinner, suddenly overcome by a fog of sadness.

"Shoot the hostage, take him out of the equation!" they'd say, and laugh, and go on talking about whatever they'd been talking about.

The self-pitying observations and pointlessly nostalgic comments did not interest them and after a few days they stopped interesting me, too.
I spent the daylight hours alone, working at my computer at Montana Coffee traders, the cheerful hub of the town decorated in white christmas lights. The cafe saw a steady stream of patrons, all the men were handsome in ski hats and all the women wore sweaters and vests and tights and boots and I looked exactly like them. I spent hours of each day in that place, half working, half watching.

In the evenings the two boys collected me from town and brought me to their luxurious gym. They taught me their grueling core workouts and their weight workouts. We swam in the pool and sat in the sauna. They took me out to dinner and forced me to order something other than soup. One evening I ate half of a hamburger and Ryan said, "Oh, hey, welcome back to life!"

At night we made bonfires and kept a fire in the wood stove and soaked in the hot tub under a bright white spray of stars and blowing snow squalls. We cooked food and watched movies and played board games.
What I really loved was the bars. The bars of Whitefish are full of skiers and country boys, sweatshirts and Carharts and patagonia jackets and old men playing ping pong. Everybody has a beard. I'd go alone or with the boys or with my friend Lauren, a tall, gorgeous butterfly of a woman who laughed loudly and knew everybody. I'd go to the Great Northern or the Brewery or the Palace. After only two days out there, I started smiling at strangers, gauging their reactions, basking in my complete anonymity yet undeniable power of being a girl in this wild place. People either ignored me or smiled at me, introduced themselves or didn't. After a few evenings I started learning their names, nodding at them when they got their coffee in the next day.
And I felt okay. I felt happy, actually, but mostly I what I felt was a staggering relief at having escaped. Even thinking about the confused cells in my body doing the wrong things at the wrong time was okay with me. It didn't scare me so much.

The only time that big ball of sadness lodged in my throat threatened to rear up and choke me was when I thought about returning to Seattle. The new house, shabby and unfamiliar, the wet weather, the dark afternoons and terrible traffic. I knew when I went home I'd have to cope with missing Andrew, and it would be my job to grind through that sadness and face the winter without him.

A week went by, and when Ryan was getting ready to drive home I told him to leave without me. I packed up most of my things into his car and said goodbye to my dog. They drove away early in the morning, and I bought a bus ticket to Missoula to go see Nici, my old friend whom I've never met.
It feels like Nici brought me back to myself, but that's not entirely true. What she did is show me that I'd never really left in the first place.

I still have not gone back to Washington.


Anonymous said...

I'm a new reader and I think you have the most beautiful life. xo

Sarah said...

There is a big difference in life in being alone and being lonely. It took me a long time (and a laundry list of bad relationships) to realize that I could be alone without being lonely. ((hugs))

cindy said...

i can't stop reading. It's like you've said, "here's a little thread, follow it, and you'll find my heart." and when you show your heart, with this simple, plain, vulnerable elegance, i can't help but stumble across my own.

And I'm sure everyone else who's lucky enough to find themselves here feels something similar. I've spent a month trying to piece myself back together again, over something that should have taken days, or not even been a thought at all. But when you feel too much, when you draw a bath full of it, and then find becomes beautiful.

Kerry said...

You even make breaking up sound fun...I'm not kidding. This post is craft, Lina; thank you.

Nici said...

Brittle is such a wonderful word. Remembering to use it.

I have long loved how you feel so fully in your writing. It's made me want to meet you. And now that I've met you, you've exceeded any expectation I had! You are a feeler in person too.

It's no surprise you have a cheering crowd of friends ready to scoop you up and take you away, tell you just-right jokes over beer, push you away from what doesn't feel good, go out of their way to give you a ride.

You get what you give, sister. I am happy to be a part of that cycle.


Sarah W. said...

As someone who ran away to Yellowstone and spent time in Montana following my own split last year, I know the feeling of dreading the return to Washington. I spent months licking my wounds and thank goodness every day for the people that came into my life in those early dark days. They revived me more than they can ever possibly know. It sounds like you have a phenomenal net of support around you, but I'm sending you hugs from afar.

Anonymous said...

hugs and sunshine :)

Katherine said...

Hi there,

I'm a new reader....a 'stranger' although it's funny to say that, I don't feel like a stranger after reading so much of your deeply personal and beautifully written blog. (I loved the sentiment you expressed in your 'letter to readers.' Thank you.)

Although I'm a few years (....) older than you, I want you to know that I understand your words more than you can explain. I too have struggled with heartbreak in my 20s, one particular heartbreak that took me four years to power through. But sister, there is GOLD at the end of that rainstorm. I promise you. And I am SO MUCH BETTER off as a person for having gone through it. My life is not perfect now, but it's beautiful and I am more capable of dealing the everyday hurtles, and the big hurtles, because of the strength I gained during those painful years.

Much love from a brand new but faithful reader,

Katherine in MI

bonjour, i'm rebecca! said...

,,,i'm a new reader to your blog and feel like i know you by way of nici's blog and your comments. i had to catch my breath reading your recent post, it was like looking in the mirror and seeing my pain. i too am experiencing some of the saddest days of my life. "his" words stung like a million bee stings and oh i wish i could wash the pain away. we might just have to share conversation, make your next stop AZ, let's talk. (smile),,,

Anonymous said...

Hello! Ashley, here. I happened upon your blog last week, and am so grateful that I did. Thank you for sharing what you do- the beautifully mundane, raw, exhilarating and messy stuff.

The pain you describe hits so close to home, I feel it. Healing thoughts from Michigan!

KaliGirl said...

I also ran away to Montana to heal...I've been here almost 10 years. Thank you for your eloquence.