Mt. Hood from I-84 in the Columbia Gorge

Mt. Hood from I-84 in the Columbia Gorge

For me, leaving something in the rear view mirror is more than symbolic. Or, perhaps I should say the symbolism effects actual emotional distance to match the increasing physical distance. In my past I have made a point to watch a place recede as I drove away, to reinforce for myself the fact that I was leaving it behind.  I was reminded of that Friday when I left Mt. Hood behind me as I drove east on I-84, heading for my dad’s house near Boise.

You’ll need some background before I can tell you what happened to me Friday. Then you’ll understand how it was cathartic watching the snow-capped volcano shrink into the distance, having less and less of an impact on me. Like my relationship with Arno.

Maybe a few of you have noticed my online activity has dropped. It’s because my heart is broken and I’ve been in too much pain to interact. In May, just shy of our 3-year anniversary, Arno and I broke up. It was a loving, mutual decision, but a tremendously sad one. I said previously and I’ll repeat it: he’s the best man I’ve ever loved. Still, we shouldn’t be dating, and breaking up was the right thing to do. We had some awesome things in common: lots of energy, positive enthusiasm, wildly in love with the outdoors, relentless drive and responsibility for our own achievements, interest in travel, open minds, a love of deep conversation about challenging topics.  We had planned to get married – even shopped for rings – and had made multiple trips through the Hood River valley to find the best locations for where we would buy our future home together. We built much of our relationship in sight of Mt. Hood, and we even hiked on the mountain together. It’s no wonder Mt. Hood pretty much symbolizes Arno for me.

But we had at least one fundamental difference, and that was how much togetherness we needed. Arno needs a lot of high-intensity interaction. Crystal needs long stretches of total isolation. Arno enjoys lots of little touches, little “Hi, I’m thinking of you, I’m here, I love you” touches, like 30 texts a day (down from about 200 a day in the beginning, thank the gods). Crystal figures if she expressed her love on Monday, then it should hold the other person over till at least Thursday before she should have to think about reassuring her partner again.

We figured this out about each other early on, and set right to work on compromising. Arno worked really hard to give me space and not take it as a personal rejection when I asked for a day without him. I worked really hard to spend more time with him, to learn how to send the touches that he needed since we lived so far apart, and to learn to engage in conversation during moments that I thought would be best honored by silence. Over the years we grew frustrated and exhausted from working so hard, even while appreciating each other even more for the obvious work we were putting into it.

A month after our breakup, the ache inside was beginning to fade, and I was feeling better again. I must have been in denial. Tuesday, less than two months after we broke up, Arno told me he was dating again. The blow knocked me flat.

I thought I had been hurting before, but that news killed me.

I won’t go into details. You’ve had your heart broken before, and …it was like that. All day long Tuesday I was in shock, and ever since then I’ve been miserable. There’s nothing like hearing the other person is dating again to make it very clear that things are O-VER. There is no chance of any last minute miracle idea that will be our solution to making this work. I think it finally became real to me Tuesday that I have no more Arno in my future.

If he’s over me and has moved on already, then *I* want to move on. The knowledge that I’m still wallowing around in the pond scum of loss and pain in the face of his new relationship is totally humiliating. His readiness to date again so quickly (He reassured me that he didn’t start looking till after we broke up. “Start looking?” He had time to recover and “start looking” already?) makes me feel like a fool and doubt what we had.

That’s the cycle of thoughts I’ve had to endure this week. Yuck.

Friday morning I headed east into the Columbia River Gorge with a huge amount of trepidation because it was the first time I would be driving through Hood River since the breakup. Driving down the highway I kept thinking, “I am tired of being miserable. I want to let him go.”

But when I got to exit 62, and then passed it instead of taking it, I couldn’t breathe. Slam! The pain hit me again, and I bawled and gasped for breath as I drove.

One can see Mt. Hood for many, many miles in a rear view mirror, heading through the Gorge. I’d glance at the rearview, see the mountain, and feel an icepick in my heart. Or a boot to my chest. Or one of those dramatic metaphors that work well in YA novels.

And then something amazing happened. As I drove the mountain got smaller. And as that happened, the pressure came off my chest and I began to think a little more clearly again.

I reminded myself that we broke up for good reasons. And even though it feels terrible right now, I will find my happy spirit again. And as much as I shudder to even think about it at the moment, I will love again. In the mirror in front of me I watched that fabulous volcano I love so much, shrinking and fading as I thought these things.

I could see Mt. Hood from the town of Boardman, 100 miles after I had passed exit 62. By that time there was only a hazy tip visible of the snow-covered peak. No overwhelming obstacle, that’s for sure. Just a little hint of a mountain in the distance.

So the cure to my pain is to just keep going.

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