About connections that are lost but not really.
I worked in a business environment forty hours a week, and running was my way to unwind. I used to wake up around 5ish to hit the road and every running morning gave me an almost indescribable feeling of accomplishment. I started running because I needed a goal and a reason to move on. The more I ran and the more I talked about it, the more I realized that every runner will quote John Bingham at some point: “Crossing the starting line may be an act of courage, but crossing the finish line is an act of faith. Faith is what keeps us going when nothing else will. Faith is the emotion that will give you victory over your past, the demons in your soul, and all of those voices that tell you what you can and cannot do and can and cannot be.” And so it becomes a way of life and once it’s part of you, it’s hard to leave it aside and pretend you don’t care about running.
I learnt many things from not giving up. I learnt many things about myself in the days I didn’t feel like running, but chose to show up anyhow. And when things in the real world got too stressful, I used to close my eyes and visualize something nice. “Go to your happy place in your mind and think of things that make you smile.” - it’s a general advice in meditation and probably one I should consider to take more often.
But almost two years ago, I found another happy place. It all started with taking German lessons for writing. I had an opportunity to transport myself to a place where I could indulge my hopes, beliefs, aspirations and fantasies.
And while my teacher found my stories “very kafkaesque” and she agreed that I describe “situations which most people can somehow relate to, although strongly surreal - you should spend more time on improving your grammar.”
Little did she know - this is how I improve my grammar, by writing and reading, not by memorizing some rules which I could quote even if I would wake up from a nightmare. But as I was still learning German and I needed someone to guide me through, I decided to find a teacher that will help me evolve, even if my stories are dark and twisted. But in the next couple of months I was about to discover that my vocabulary in German was limited and I didn’t have the tools to express what I wanted to say. So I turned to English.
I started reading more in English, writing down every sentence I found inspiring and learning words that opened new horizons in my tiny German world. It wasn’t an easy process and the frustration I felt with every pause I had to take in order to understand a complex phrase made me give up so many times. My main goal was to learn German anyhow and making an effort to learn how to say “Autumn has come, with wind and gold” instead of “It’s cold outside” felt too big many times. It’s just a more poetic way of talking about the changing of seasons and wondered if talking in simple sentences wouldn’t suffice in the future. But then I remembered my love for running, so I continued learning English.
I spent a lot of time online, reading other people’s opinions and trying to understand how people think and react in different circumstances. While I limited my online presence to likes on Instagram and short comments on Facebook, I found a lot of smart people on Reddit. I felt more safe there, being anonymous while replying in English and finding teachers among strangers. I felt entitled to my opinion online and I started to feel the same in real life. I started to feel that I matter and that I am allowed to express my thoughts like anyone else, regardless of university degrees or social background.
You might ask why I chose this picture. What does He has to do with Me? (Or my writing or my learning habits.) It’s a fair question that I tried to ignore. Long absent, soon forgotten, no? Nope, not really, because I still don’t have a clear answer. Only that his writings were part of my happy place(s) at some point.
“Aus den Augen, aus dem Sinn” translates into Romanian to “Ochii care nu se văd se uită.” But when I canceled meeting with a friend yesterday and all I could say was “I can’t even explain what I’ve been feeling lately. I’m just heart broken,” tears ran down my face. And I couldn’t stop crying for a couple of hours, feeling such a big pain inside me that I didn‘t recognize. It’s not the usual “I’m heartbroken because he broke up with me” or the “I’m hurt because he didn’t call me back.” It’s a pain that I feel deep down in my soul and one that I’ve been feeling in the last months. It’s like a monster crawled inside my heart, without me noticing. A monster made of fear and rage and pain and all the dark shadows that you’re too scared to walk throughout during a heavy storm in a cold autumn night.
It’s hard to put into words what I feel, when there weren’t any “eyes to forget.“ We’ve never met, although we lived in Berlin at the same time. We had a short exchange of messages at some point, but it all ended abruptly. I would have had many things to say to him, but he wasn’t interested in hearing them. Which was fine - he was a stranger from the internet and my opinion didn’t matter to him. Or he thought his opinion about me as a person mattered too much to me.
Either way, he was part of the past. But it allowed me to live and breathe a topic for eighteen months while I was researching my soul and writing about how I feel. And at some point I was sorry I wasn’t good enough.
I didn’t spend my time hoping he will suffer the consequences for what he did to my heart, because I didn’t want to allow him to hurt me a second time in my mind. Time didn't heal, although it anesthetized. But there was pain. Lots of it. The emotional pain that you need to learn how to let go, otherwise it takes a hit on your body, because the human mind can only feel so much. That sort of pain that is another system of your body saying, "Whatever we're doing, I don't like and will lodge a complaint."
So I waited for time to pass. For months, I protected his name because I didn’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. And also because I didn’t want to accept that someone would hurt me knowingly and on purpose. Again. It was my stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, people can change for the better. I genuinely wished him to find a place inside where there's joy, and that the joy will burn out the pain.
Because I can feel his pain and his loss. Yes, I can feel his suffering, without talking to him. Even after all this time. He didn’t know this, but I knew when we was upset long before we started talking. And while he has been around a lot longer than me, I know what love is, and I’ve lost my fair share, too. And it might be that I understand him better than he tries to understand himself.
It took me several years to figure out who I am and a few more to accept what I discovered. Now, I'm in the enjoyment stage of that process and it's a good place. And I know I still have much more to accomplish, but I’m connected to him in a way I can’t explain. My brain keeps finding reasons to put everything in a box and lock it in the deepest parts of my mind.
But on Sunday evening, I called a friend crying and told her I feel lonely, but in a way I’ve never felt before. And I can’t explain it, but it feels I’m experiencing something I just can’t put into words. It’s not the type of loneliness that you feel when you’re by yourself in the woods, breathing in the fresh air and marveling at the nature. It’s the condition that yearns for recognition, to be seen and to be heard. And to be loved.
But this is not my pain I’m feeling and I don’t care how crazy it might sound. I’m not build to be an unhappy person. I like laughing. I find joy in eating a cake or reading a book. And then I feel his pain. How? Or why? I don’t know. I just sit here alone in this little apartment wondering what the hell happened to my life. Or his life. He probably doesn’t even know that I’m his happy place.
But Aric, just because we have a different way of handling it, doesn’t mean I don’t have scars of my own. Doesn’t mean I don’t fight my own demons. So I would kindly ask you to find another happy place, as your pain is too much for me to handle.
Photo of Aric Queen by Angela Renai (via Pinterest)