In case you missed Part 1 here it is: Part 1
So I left you with the realization that I needed to reclaim San Diego for myself. I went to our old places to make new memories with them, either alone, or with someone else. I made new, happier connections. But eventually I realized that was too simplistic and I had to think bigger-way bigger. I had to reclaim the world for myself, and I couldn’t let old memories prevent me from creating new ones. Since I had been so set in my ways and really attached to a very strict world-view, that really left a lot of the world open to me.
I started to try anything and everything and trying to make my life different. I also didn’t shy from spending time in some of the places I shared with my ex. The walkabout is all about finding yourself. I started challenging fears, and my preconceived notions about things. I decided I needed to get in shape, and over the next two years lost thirty pounds, got braces, and started to enjoy life a little more.
I tried yoga, and working out, I went on some dates-ok, a LOT of dates, and continued to improve myself. I tried to let go of the bitterness and anger. I was impatient and I think it’s not in my nature to wait for something. But it was true: only time would fix this. And I tried to convince myself that I could achieve happiness by myself, and that I didn’t need anyone else to be whole again.
I don’t do well being alone, hell, my friends will tell you I never shut up simply because I hate the silence. Every silence feels awkward to me.
It’s weird because I needed someone to want me to feel whole, but at the same time I needed to not care whether I was single or in a relationship. Someone once said that desperation is a stinky stinky cologne. Which makes me think of this guy:
For me, there were so many steps to my recovery, with a a long period reserved for feeling sorry for myself. I thought my walkabout was long finished when I started dating my current girlfriend. The relationship is the best one I’ve ever been in, with a partner that blows me away with her thoughtfulness.
The most important thing is she makes me feel so wanted and cherished. And I realize now, I needed to feel this way for my walkabout to finish. Everyone is different, and maybe for the majority of us need to feel that they’re awesome as individuals and that no one sets their value but themselves. For me, I needed to feel like I had value. Even if we break up, I feel like she’s brought me out of the fog, and that someone felt something for me that motivated her to treat me so well. So after a few months of dating, I thought that my walkabout was finished.
I was wrong.
The Frozen Four is college hockey’s premier event, akin to the Final Four in basketball. Each year it rotates to a different host city, and my ex and I had a tradition of going every year that we were together. In 2011, the first year after my ex and I split I wasn’t strong enough to go there and deal with the fact that my ex and her family would be there. Even though the tournament was taking place in Minnesota where I had gone to law school, I couldn’t go. I was wracked with fear and simply not ready for any possible confrontation.
I stayed home and watched the tournament on tv, ashamed. That night The Doctor texted me, and in between asking me some legal questions, told me “it wasn’t going to work between us.” Double whammy.
This year, the tournament was in Pittsburgh, where I went to college. I hemmed. I hawed. I convinced myself I didn’t have the money to go. Finally, I convinced myself to try to use miles I had to burn to get there. Everything fell into place and off I went. I made sure I looked as good as possible in case I ran into her. I wanted to make absolute sure I wasn’t going to rue my appearance when or if she saw me.
The first Thursday night game came around and I was nervous. Very nervous. I didn’t know where she was, or how I could avoid her. I didn’t know what I would say if she said something. I cringed every time I saw a UNH sweater, convinced it was her. When I sat in my seat in the upper bowl, I looked at the crowd beneath me. I half-heartedly scanned the crowd until I saw four people staring at me from the lower bowl. Anyone who has attended a sporting event knows, you’re really not looking up during the game. Down yes, as it’s the direction of the action and comfortable to look that way.
Why are these four people staring at me…oh. Sonnavabitch. Already? I immediately felt something. But instead of fear, it was curiosity. What will their reaction be to my presence? They basically stared at me the rest of the night. I enlisted my friend Mark’s boy to tell me if they were still looking at me. I convinced myself I shouldn’t look at them (yay) but still cared if they were looking at me (boo-hiss.)
“They’re still staring at you. They’re looking away. They’re staring at you. They’re still staring at you.”
Finally the first game ended and my friends and I walked around the concourses. I lived in abject terror as every time we would go around a bend I’d expect to see them. I decided then and there that I couldn’t live like this anymore. The night ended with no ex-sightings, and I went back to the hotel with my friends. We partied the night away and I couldn’t stop thinking about Saturday. The final game. What would I do if I saw her? While we hung out outside of the Consol Energy Center, drinking beers I finally realized what I needed to do. I entered the arena early and walked around, building up my nerve. All of a sudden, I saw them all sitting in their section alone, my ex-MIL’s big red hair giving her position away. I took a deep breath and bounded down the stairs. I told them that I had seen them see me on Thursday and figured I would come over and say hi, and that I wished them well and hoped they were ok. They stared blankly at me, like I didn’t exist and didn’t say a word. I thought to myself this was a little unnerving, but so far I hadn’t broken out in tears or get punched in the face, so I was taking this as a win. Then I looked into my ex-MIL’s eyes and saw the pained expression and the eyes filled with conflicting emotions. She cared! She felt bad! She felt good! Hell she felt something. And for me, that was enough. That she still cared about me, even a little bit was all I wanted, just some kind of recognition after my ex cut off all contact when she left me. I told them to take care of themselves and clutched my heart and pointed at my ex-MIL. She nodded.
I bounded up the stairs, gleefully taking them two at a time. As I reached the top of the stairs I had an epiphany. All this time I had been concentrating on how hard it was for me to get over her. It ate me up inside that she moved on from me right to a guy she met on Twitter. That I was crushed and sobbing every day and she was already in a new relationship. I never, not once, thought it was hard for her to move on passed me. Or that it was hard for her family to move on passed me. Not once did she, or they, contact me. They cut me out of their lives and didn’t look back.
But with a smile on my face I realized something. It’s hard to get over losing me. She’s not over me yet, and it’s been almost three years since she boarded that flight to New England. When I saw her again and I didn’t even recognize her by the way she looked at me I realized something: I had finally confronted my biggest fear, on my terms. I had always wondered what would happen when I finally saw my ex-wife again. Always. I hoped that I would handle it well but I was scared to see her again.
As I hi-fived the confused usher at the top of the stairs, I realized something else.
My walkabout is just beginning.