Story 1: California Dreaming

It was late summer 2002 and my current boyfriend and I had flown to San Jose from DC. Our idea was to rent a convertible and drive down Route 1, see Big Sur, the ocean and stay at hotels along the way to Southern California. I had never been on that highway and was really looking forward to the scenery. It was sure to be a great trip.

We picked up the car stopping in Santa Cruz hanging out on the boardwalk longer than we expected to. We thought we could casually stop at hotels on the way without a reservation. That was a mistake. We couldn’t get into any hotel and we ended up driving late into the night to get to Santa Barbara. It was sad to pass in the dark all of the places I had anticipated seeing their natural beauty — but, I thought I’d come another time. It was also very scary driving so close to the cliffs with the hood down going south — we were right at the edge of the cliff!

(Pre-trip vision, I saw myself wearing a scarf around my neck with sunglasses on like in a Fellini movie in the daylight.)

We made it to Santa Barbara and hung out for a few days as he was into cliff diving with wings (and they had great cliffs in Santa Barbara). He was always into something edgy: bungie jumping, jumping out of planes, we went on bi-planes that went inverted — he just loved everything about living on the edge (and I guess it makes sense since we met on a plane!) His dad was the president of a large American bank so probably dating me then was like living on the edge, as well…

We were having trouble being with one another in our third year though. I had moved to the states to be with him after moving back to Canada for less than 9 months after being in Europe for 2.5 years traveling and working. I already had a hard time being in my own skin. And it felt doubly hard to be with another person in another country.

We planned about 9 days of jumping around California and Las Vegas. When we made it to LA, I fell in love. My only real context for LA then was Pretty Woman, so we did all of those touristy things like walk into the Beverly Wilshire, we saw comedy at the Comedy Store, had sushi, walked on the stars, bought a map of the stars homes to see if we could catch sight of celebrities and went the Capital Records building (I was then a huge fan of Frank Sinatra.) We also stayed in a motel with a pool — it was totally rad.

Except, I tried to commit suicide on our second to final night in LA with over-the-counter pills. Thinking back, I didn’t really wanted to harm myself. It was a cry for help but I didn’t know how to share that. I was already bursting at the seams to be more open but was not emotionally intelligent to let him in and still somehow blamed him and my upbringing for my lack of ability. It was all so silly looking back on it now but then, at that moment in my life, my suffering was/felt real.

I didn’t think he could understand me in a way that I felt I wanted to be understood. I felt jealous of his ability to be cool. Less emotional. I felt hurt that I was not seen in a way I wanted to be seen by him (or others). And at that time, I wasn’t allowing anyone in to really see me. It took a long time to get to a point where I could, and I even still have issues with being seen today.

I was rushed to the nearest hospital and my body pumped with charcoal. It was surreal. We had too much to drink and we argued and I felt I wasn’t being heard. For it to go all the way to a decision about life and death seems tragic. But some twisted thing about it was then I wanted to be a part of a dramatic ending/story line. It was a very hard thing to wake up to. We decided to stay and finish our trip since it would have cost us more to change our flights — we were in our early twenties and cost was a concern.

I had hoped we could bury this blemish immediately and we tried. We had “fun” in Las Vega and gambled but the rest of the trip was strained. It’s really hard to move past something like this quickly or at all.

After the trip we worked together on it, but we fell apart more and more as the months went on and ended on New Years Eve that year.

I share this story because life is a mixture of joy and sadness. I am who I am because of the things that happened or didn’t happen in my life. I am thankful that I learned from those hard lessons. I don’t talk about this lightly either but I put it in a storyline for my sake of healing and to share that this ship tried to sink itself. And it’s hard to acknowledge that.

I also share now because there are many layers to a person. And I know there are many layers to you. When I meet a person for the first time, or for the hundredth time, I can see how their current actions are tied to their greater lives somehow, even if they are not aware of it. In some way I am playing a detective. But not in way where I want to catch people in the act of doing something “wrong”. No, in way for me to see their human side. We are constantly putting up borders, when we should be tearing them down.

And I share this human side of me to show that life does get better when we work through some of the more difficult periods of our lives and tear down those walls. The walls, in the end don’t protect, they just make us feel alone and locked in. In whatever depths of loneliness or sadness you have been in about your life, it does start to shine when you take care of yourself. And I feel I am a great example of that. Just that simple.

This week, I decided to share some of my stories: good and bad and ugly and funny. A mixture. If you want to share with me yours, I would love to hear it here or in person.


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