Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Tale in Forgiveness (& accolade, & giving up, & following your heart)

Why my weekend was awesome;
a tale in forgiveness, accolade, giving up, and following your heart.

Friday night: I was scheduled to work at the mall, but they called and told me not to come in. so I didn’t. Instead, I finished the last disc of One Tree Hill Season 6 that I had been waiting to watch. It was good. The whole thing led me into a spinning web of thoughts and re-evaluating life. The entire last episode discussed getting what you wished for. And the closing voiceover starts with something like: “When you look into the mirror, who do you see? Is it the person you’ve always dreamed of becoming?” And goes on to talk about looking at the person you want to be, and the person who is living their dream, etc.

So of course, I started thinking about this. Who do I see when I look into the mirror, etc? What are my dreams? I was thinking about Jenna and Caitlin and Tina and Angela who are all apparently living out some sort of their dreams RIGHT NOW and taking their steps to get to where they want to be. And I don’t know where I want to be, or what I want to be, or who I want to be. I mean, I do. I know little pieces, but do I really know? Or am I just pretending to know?

Let’s take running, for instance. Last week I ran once. One time. I say I want to be a runner, but do I really, or is that just something I think I want. Or something I think I should want? Or something that I think others think I should want? And why would this all matter, what others think I should want? [answer: I am human and have not yet mastered the “not caring what others think.”]

So Saturday morning comes.
I wake up.
I turn on ESPN.
I make breakfast.
I do the dishes.
I make tea in my Wisconsin heart mug.
I fold the laundry.
And I watch College Game Day.
And I cry a little- during all the Mark Herzlich stuff. They spot lighted him, and different athletes and coaches had prerecorded all these messages for him and they would play them before and after commercial breaks. And the Boston College community was all supportive with their BC “beat cancer” shirts and cheers and signs and face paint. It was all very touching. Then Mark came on with the guys, and he told a story of how early in the week the Doctor had told his dad that he was 99% sure the cancer was gone. And so I cried some more. It was beautiful.

Then, right after college game day, the Badgers played.
So I watched them win.
It was a big game- Wisconsin and Minnesota have the longest standing college football rivalry in the nation. The Battle of the Axe. Sixth year in a row that Wisconsin has won the axe. So it returns to Madison, another year (unlike me). And it was wonderful.
This brings the Badgers to 5-0; currently undefeated. They have a BIG game this week- they play OHIO state which is arguably the best team in the conference but I have FAITH that Bucky will pull through. [I always have faith in the Big Red].

After doing a little “we are keeping the axe” victory dance, I went for a run. I decided that I had to go. I had to get out there. I had to try.

While I was out, a few things happened.

I started thinking about why I suddenly wanted to quit running.
I started thinking about how I always quit everything. How I quit school. I quit trying in high school at some point (junior year, maybe?) and I did graduate in the top 25, but I never put in much effort. I was too focused on extracurricular activities and never focused on studying or homework or anything even remotely close to academics. I was a student director for the swing choir and musical, I was in the 3-act plays, I was the publicity manager for student council, I was the drum major, I was the yearbook editor, I was the host of some pep rallies and worked in the CRC. I planned our annual eagles nest leadership retreat. I was EVERYTHING I wanted to be- but I failed Trig and got a C in Spanish. And I could have learned Trig. If I would have tried. But I didn’t. instead I staged and choreographed shows and led rehearsals and stayed at the school until 2 AM decorating things.

I quit basketball after sophomore year. I quit soccer twice. I went to college- I left Edgewood after 2 years. And then, after a semester at LC – I quit. AGAIN.

And I moved to Texas.
And I became a youth pastor.
And I quit one church.
And I became a youth pastor again. At another church.
And I quit.
And I moved to New York.

Now- where there many, many reasons why I quit all of these things – of course. But I quit. I quit them all.
I am a quitter.
And I don’t want to be a quitter.

And it didn’t stop there.
Another thought cycle I went through is why am I running.
There was a point in my week where I remembered thinking that I didn’t want to see my former fiancé yet because I wasn’t skinny enough, and couldn’t run far enough yet to shove it in his face.
And then I realized how stupid that was.
I want to run; I want to keep running, for ME. Not for him. Not to prove to him. Not to do better than him.
First of all, I deserve better than that. Secondly, he deserves better than that, too.

The truth of the matter, which I very clearly see and have for a few weeks now, is that we are NOT meant to be together. We make great friends. We make GREAT partners in projects, and ministry, and getting things done. And I’ve never had anyone support me in my goals and dreams the way he does.

But we were never meant to be.

He needs someone that isn’t afraid of downhill skiing, and gets excited for surprises, and knows a thing or two about music, and can stand on her own without feeling like she is becoming just an extra limb of his in the grand scheme of ministry. He needs someone that will put him in his place, and will LOVE his family and will share salmon burgers with him.

I need someone who lets me be the star of the show, and who plays soccer or basketball or touch football. I need someone who pursues romance- not candles or flowers – but collecting bottle caps from our first few dates and keeping them in a jar, or framing a napkin from the place we first met for some special anniversary: Cheap things that mean something to a girl. I need someone who wants to vacation the way I want to vacation and always carries a notebook and likes to be sporadic with me but understands my need for a plan and is moved by song lyrics and movie lines and the relationships in television programming.

I need someone who is NOT allergic to peanut butter and who loves parts of me that I can’t stand and who will do whatever it takes to provide time in front of the TV for every Badger game. I need someone who wants to teach me things and likes to play trivia as much as I do and who won’t allow me to get in a rut.

It’s not that he wasn’t some of these things for me. It’s not that I wasn’t some of these things for him. We learned the art of compromise in our relationship. I planned to go skiing. He loves the Badgers. I now have a large affection for drum corps. He made homemade cards, and puppets out of brown paper bags and went out of his way for me every day. And I know that every relationship either of us are ever in again will need compromise and we will probably never find the person who fits each of these silly, dream-about characteristics that were written about in the elusive green book years ago.

He was a lot of things that I can never stop being thankful for; he believed in my dreams more than I did and helped me to hold on to the them when I tried to let them go. He pulled out the best in me and always spoke highly of me, even and especially when I wasn’t around. He tried things for me over and over again. We had the best intellectual conversations and shared so many favorites: coffee, The West Wing, NPR, John Maxwell and Andy Stanley and Robb Bell, and just time together.

But so many of these things are things I share with other people. And things I can find in a best friend and not necessarily my boyfriend, fiancé or husband.

Maybe it means I was wrong for the last six years.
Maybe it means I was foolish.
Maybe it means everyone else was right, and I have to stand up to my pride and humbly accept that I was trying to force something that was never meant to be.
Maybe it means we almost made a horrible decision.
And maybe it means I am the luckiest girl in the world. That this man cared so much about me to know that we were not meant to be and call it all off. Even though it was scary. Even though it hurt. Even though it could mean that a lot of people would be saying mean things about him and he may lose his very best friend.

But that’s okay. Because I am still going to live happily ever. And not in spite of him. And not with him or without him. But because of him.

Then there was another point when I was running.
I was thinking about me wanting to give up.
I had planned to run two full miles non-stop.
But I couldn’t. I hadn’t run in days and I had to stop and recover a handful of times. And each time I had to talk myself into running again. And it was fine, and it was good.
But I started to think about it, and why it was.
I was thinking about me running by myself, training by myself, logging miles by myself. I was thinking about the bloggers in Florida who have a running support group. And I was thinking about my not having anyone to run with, and running my first 5K, and no one being there. I pictured myself crossing the finish line, and leaving. Not talking to anyone. Not celebrating. Not hearing anyone say they were proud of me.

And I started to think about lately. I think perhaps that I don’t feel like anyone is proud of me, and I don’t feel like I am proud of me. I become upset with myself for not running, but I’m never proud of myself for running. I may feel good, I may feel happy, but rarely, if ever, proud.

So then I had a huge debate in my head about needing to please people. Needing to hear “I am proud of you.” How when I do hear that from people, and especially certain people, how much it means to me. And how I haven’t heard it in a while. And how that hurt me. And why did I allow that to hurt me. Why did I care so much. And how my former fiancé told me he was proud of me all the time- but not in a false, having to tell me that, but in a genuine way about different specific things. He always made me feel GOOD about what I was doing and reminded me of why I was doing them and that I should be proud of myself too.

So I started to realize that the reason I didn’t run much last week is because I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I wasn’t pleasing anyone. I wasn’t hearing anyone say they were proud. And so, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to prove it. I didn’t want to even try. I got offended easily throughout the week when comments were made about my lack of exercise. I allowed myself to be selfish and stubborn and bitchy. But I didn’t run. I pouted, I got mad, I got sad, and I sat in self pity. And that was WRONG. And rude. And just silly.

So, I was coming to the conclusion of my lack of running coming from a lack of hearing that someone was proud of me, and I had just stopped for a 15 sec recovery before my last little jog.
Two men on bicycles zoomed by me while I was walking.
I caught my breath, and i started running.
And the last quarter of a mile I pushed it hard.
And I really sprinted the last 100 yards or so.
All the time thinking about not making people proud.
And the oddness that was my desire to make people proud.
And not feeling loved and cherished and all these things we as women long to feel.
And I just kept running faster.
And when I crossed the line, and started my walk back to my house, I past one of the bikers who was now loading his bike to his car.
And he said “wow- for walking, you really did go fast.”
And then heather said “well, I jogged a bit too.”
And he said “well, still. That was really quick. Good job! You are doing great.”
And then heather said thank you, and not two steps away from him, started crying.
[I was out of breath and red faced and now crying which made me look hilarious I am sure.]

And I thanked Jesus for sending that man to tell me “Good Job.”
And I thought about my former fiancé being proud of me, some more.
And about him setting me free.
And about my going to live happily ever after.
And about him doing the right thing, but being treated like he was doing the wrong thing.

And I thought about this all the way home.
And when I got to my apartment, cleaned up, and refueled, I sat on my bed, crosslegged, and said a little prayer.
And I sent a text.
“just wanted to say hi. And I hope you are well. And congrats on the job at the church. And thank you.”
And he responded.
And I responded
And he
And i
And he
And then heather said, “thank you, truly, for so many things.”
And he said “how so, though? What for?”
And then heather said, “ For letting me go. For not marrying me out of fear or false obligation. For doing the right thing. And for believing in me. Mostly for that. For believing in me.”
In which case he apologized, again.
And we texted some more
Before deciding to meet for coffee.
And talking for some time.

About fear and dreams and life and love and right and wrong and how much we missed each other- but not our romance or our relationship, but our friendship.

And he is moving out of the apartment this week and found some of my stuff, and he wanted to get it to me.
And he offered me some furniture for the living room.
And we shared with one another. Open and honest. Honest to each other and honest to ourselves.

And we talked again.
About how life will be if we are friends. Not best friends. Not too close. Not too fast. Not too soon. But friends.
And how life would be if I started to go back to that church (which I miss so much) where he now works.
And we talked about how it was done in the past, us existing in the same circle of people and working together in ministry. And where we went wrong. And why this is different.
And how we need to remain honest.
And we discussed how dating other people will go. How it will be for each of us. And more importantly for the people we end up dating.
And we discussed how before, during break up times, when we were together and friends and working together, we always thought there was going to be more.
But this time I didn’t feel it.
And nor did he.
I didn’t want to kiss him.
I didn’t want to marry him.
I didn’t want to hold his hand.
I didn’t want to hear him say I was pretty or that he was impressed or that he wanted me back.
And he didn’t want to kiss me. Or marry me. Or hold my hand. He didn’t want to hear I was lost with out him or beg him to stay.

But I did want a hug. And so did he.

There was this point, where I fixed his cup of coffee.
And he said, “don’t give up on the writing. It’s who you are.”
And I predicted what he would say.
And he knew what I was thinking, more than once.
And I asked him how he knew, and he said “because you were my best friend. And I know you. And I understand you. and that’s how we are.”

And I know that all of my protective friends and family are going to yell.
They are going to tell me im not strong enough, that I’m vulnerable, that it’s too soon and that I am being foolish.
And to be careful.
And that he doesn’t deserve my friendship.
But I think I can make that call.
And not just because it feels different.
And not just because it is different.
And not just because I think im a bit of a different person than I was before this whole things went down.
And I know that it sucks that it happened.
That he asked me.
That I moved here.
That I had a ring.
That we planned a wedding.
That he had sucky timing.

But he saved my life.
Someday I will marry someone so much better for me.
And someday he will marry someone so much better for him.
And who knows if we will be in each others lives at that point in time.

What I do know as that I haven’t felt this GOOD in a long time.
My heart feels full and happy.
I feel like I can face the world.
I feel like I am strong.
I feel like I am me, but better.
I feel like I can run for days.
And I want to run. Not for him. For me.
And I feel like I am getting somewhere.
And I feel proud.

And what I do know is that he is going to be at the finish line on Halloween.

I know some of you are yelling. Or angry. Or frustrated. Or think I’m stupid and should have learned my lesson. But I don’t care. Because this is my life and I can live it how I want. And this is what I want.
I don’t want to see him every day.
I don’t want to see him every week.
But I do want him in my life.
And that feels so good to say.

So- Sunday I went to church at a DIFFERENT church.
And I tried it out.
And I evaluated the service.
And it was good.
And they played my break up song.
And it was good. (thanks, Jesus.)
And I started thinking about a lot of things.
And I missed the church where I became a member not too many months ago.
And I filled out my visitor’s card.
And the pastor taught on forgiveness.
Which fit right in.

And I sent out some mail.
And I watched a movie.
And I went on a walk and did some yoga.
And I read a bit.
And I cleaned a bit.
And I got out my fall holiday decorations.
And I wrote.
And I wrote.
And I wrote.

And I feel like I’m back.


  1. He is so right. Don't give up on the writing. I absolutely adored this blog. It even made me tear up.

  2. omg love it, fucking LOVE IT. sorry, i cursed only because i was so excited. you are superb, excellent... DON'T STOP WRITING.

    also, if you lived in florida, we could run together and it would be awesome.

  3. I'm pretty sure you just made me cry. Yes, I am sitting at the computer with tears in my eyes. It took me three years to say and do some of the things you said in this post. Three years of anger and hurt. I still haven't ever talked to him. We never had contact again because I was so angry and hurt. You are an amazing person and I am proud of you.

  4. Don't stop writing. Because I would have walked away, I would have closed the page-- for any other post. This is long, and my day has already fulfilled all the "long" criteria I can handle.

    Yet I read. Every word. Even scrolling back to read things twice, three times.

    Don't stop writing Heather.

  5. Oh, my God, this was so moving. I loved it...crying by the end, was I. Heather, you have an amazing ability to turn situations around to see them from so many angles...second only to your writing.

    Love. It. Love. You!

  6. Your post moved me halfway around the world, and I'm all the way in Beijing.

    I can tell you have a beautiful heart just by reading how you open yourself up to all the good and the bad.

    I fight an uphill and downhill battle with myself everyday over absolutely everything (from running to going to work to my boyfriend, etc.), and it can be pretty debilitating. Don't beat yourself up too much over some things, especially if it won't greatly change your life.


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