Love Story Part Two: Rewriting My Story

katie rewriting my story

Read Part One Here

I started telling Ryan and I’s love story last week. The story began at the beginning of my journey to finding love with Ryan. It is not your typical love story – as it starts in heartbreak years before I even met Ryan.

But, this is the story that brought me to Ryan and this is my story to tell.

It was October 2009 and my week’s vacation at the beach had come to an end. I tearfully said goodbye to my mother and brother and hopped on a plane back to Chicago to face my future. I was so hurt on the inside but I masked it with a fiery rage. Zero part of me wanted to have a conversation with him. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and run away. I could barely walk with out shaking as I collected my bags at baggage claim and made my way out to his waiting car. My heart felt like it was going to explode when I made eye contact with him for the fist time. He looked guilty. He looked sad. But, to me all I saw was a loss. Something I didn’t even recognize anymore. I spent five years of my life with him but I did not know him anymore.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I tried to make things work. Giving up felt like quitting and I’m not a quitter. But as October turned into November it became easier to see that the life we built together was over. But, it’s hard to say goodbye to something that you’ve held so close for so long. It was a decision that was stalled and ignored. I laid in bed and tried to sleep it off. At the beginning of November, we jointly made the decision that I return to my childhood home in PA for the duration of the holidays.

So four years ago, on this week in November, my father flew out to Chicago and helped me pack up my tiny two door coupe with just enough clothes and belongings to get me through New Years Eve.  The following day, he, my dog Maggie, and I started the 12 hour drive to Lancaster, PA. I left with a horrible sinking feeling, like how you sometimes feel when you are leaving for a trip and feel like you left something crucial behind like your ID or your camera. But along with that sinking feeling, I was overcome with a sense of freedom of letting go. Yet, I still held hope that the heart I knew hadn’t completely been buried in tarnished memories. I still held hope for not only my future but our future.

The usual happy tidings and excitement of Thanksgiving and Christmas weighed down on me like a bag of bricks. I couldn’t make it through most Christmas songs without breaking down in tears and I suffered countless panic attacks. I felt both comforted and claustrophobic in my childhood bedroom – recently remodeled away from my girlhood pink carpet and twin size bed. I felt so lost. I settled into the comfort at home, but part of me still didn’t feel like I belonged.

winter 2009

It wasn’t just the loss of love that made me feel so out-of-place, it was the fact that my identity was so wrapped up in that love, in that life. But the love and support that I felt from my family and girl friends pulled me though.

Sometime before Christmas, it was clear to me that although I had never experienced this much pain or this much confusion, I was better off here than there. I was better off with out him. With out that life. It was time to call off the wedding. I felt like a failure. Like a disappointment. I was 26 years old and had no idea where my life was headed. Thank goodness my mom handled all of the dirty work. It was just all so embarrassing.

But, I was ready to rewrite my story. I decided to go back to school – and took some classes at the local art college to get certified in web design and graphic design. I accepted a new job using these skills and gained back some confidence. I ignored all of the phone calls with him, pleading for me to take him back. Crying out that he had changed his mind, that he had made a mistake, that there was nothing else he needed but me. I ignored it all and kept reinventing myself.

Eric's wedding 2010

I travelled almost every weekend to be with friends. Yes, I probably drank too much, dated too many losers, and slept too little, but I had fun. I also created bonds with girlfriends during this time that are everlasting. I found my soul mate in a college best friend – a bond stronger than any I had with him. I’m forever grateful for this time and the bonds it help me create with girlfriends. Life wasn’t perfect, but I was surviving.

Jeanette and I

katie jeanette and laura

My defense mechanism was a giant wall of coyness and coolness. I let no one in other than my family and girlfriends. I dated boys that were not dating material. I tried on all different types. I treated some badly, just because I wanted to feel what it was like. But, I was still wounded.

I was the girl who would sometimes cry at the bar. I was the girl who would never reveal anything personal about herself. I was the girl who didn’t let any man in, but then got hurt when I didn’t receive anything in return. I craved validation. I was the girl who had no idea where her future was headed.

Five months after I moved back into my parent’s home, my Dad and I flew back out to Chicago to pack up the rest of my belongings and mark my furniture for professional movers to bring back. Walking into my old home was a strange experience. It felt haunted, I didn’t recognize the ghost of myself that I caught glimpses of. I was ready to officially say goodbye. I wasn’t that girl anymore. Yet, I still didn’t know the girl who had replaced my former self.

For the next year, I was an explorer. In many ways, the world felt like a fresh new place. I was rewriting my story. I learned that only I could control my destiny and I was going make sure my new life was just what I wanted. I was searching for myself again. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find – was she going to be better than the person I was with him? Was she going to be better than the person she was before him? Was I going to have to force myself to love her? Will she love me?

I was searching for love, but the most important kind, self-love.

Once I finally started to feel comfortable with myself again and could see a future, I decided I wanted to share her and it with someone. In the beginning of summer 2011, I decided to try a free online dating site.

What did I have to lose?

Stay tuned next week for Part 3: Second Chance

xoxo katie

 

{Love Story Part 1} When I Lost Sight of Love

wrightsville beach, abla

After posting our “abridged” love story, I promised to one day write Ryan and I’s full love story. But in order to tell our love story, I have to start with my history with love. You see, every good love story has a good back story. It makes it all that more special when you know the journey that led the lovers to each other. So this is part of my story.

The part of my story that is all my own. The part of my story that has shaped me into the woman I have become. The part of my story that left me wounded.

The part of my story that in time redefined my definition of love.

Let’s go back in time to when I was engaged to a different man, no boy. Yes, I was engaged before during a time that feels like a lifetime ago. You see, four years ago I had a completely different life in Chicago and was preparing myself for a future that looks so different from where I am now.

My old story began back in 2004. I met my ex in college when we were silly and free – still kids at heart. We dated for 5 years. After I graduated I accepted a job in Annapolis to be close to him as he was still in college. Two years later, we moved in together. He was my first adult love. But, I was ready to grow up and he was still maturing. Things were not perfect, but after we had been together for so long the next logical step seemed to get married. We got engaged in the winter of 2008 and I was happy. I do remember being happy, it’s hard to see myself like that now, knowing what was to come. I dove into wedding planning. We picked a date, a venue, and vendors. We were moving ahead, together.

The future was looking bright. He had a job offer in Chicago and after some very careful planning, negotiating, and talking we decided together that this was the right move for us. I would quit my job and move to Chicago for him. So, in the Spring of 2009 I packed up my life and moved half way across the country, putting all my faith into our future together. It was so hard to say goodbye to my friends, my family, my beloved east coast. But, as the die-hard romantic that I am, I trusted my heart and my love.

My time in Chicago was a big adjustment. I missed my family, I missed my friends, I missed any sign of normalcy. Even he started to change. It was scary but I tried to stay positive.

Then, during the week of September 28, 2009, the world as I knew it ended. I was vacationing for a week at my favorite beach in NC, Wrightsville Beach with my mom and two of her girlfriends. During this time, my brother and his wife lived there as well. The beach is where I feel the most serene – so I was ecstatic to leave the already chilly Chicago on a plane to go see my mom at the sunny and warm beach.

katie all smiles at the beach

He stayed behind – as this as a girls’ trip. After my second day there, I knew something was up. He wasn’t answering any of my phone calls. Even after I left frantic messages and called his parents. As the worrier that I am, I was picturing the worst. My mind was creating images of him lying dead on the floor while Maggie cried and licked his face.

My fun in the sun was halted, because I just knew, in my gut that something was not right. Two days later and he was still not answering any messages, from me or his parents. I was mad, I was scared, I was full of rage.

Yet, I tried to keep smiling.

And then, 5 days into my trip I received the phone call that changed everything. We were out at a nice group dinner at a Thai restaurant. I loved this restaurant and was so mad that he was ruining this for me.

indochine dinner

It had been five days since I had talked to him. Every single tear filled voice message was left ignored. I must have left around 20. And then, during that dinner, my phone rang.

Writing this makes my hands shake and causes my stomach to do flips. Not that I’m still hurt – but just because I can still remember being that girl. I can still feel how it felt to step outside of the restaurant and hear my fiance that I love say, “I don’t want to marry you anymore. I don’t think I love you anymore.”

I no longer remember what I said. Or how I initially reacted. I do remember feeling nauseous. I do remember feeling like this couldn’t be true. I do remember feeling like everything inside of me turned into dust and disintegrated. I do remember walking back into the restaurant and trying to smile but the tears streamed down my face uncontrollably.

That evening, I sat on my bed and screamed and cried while my mom rubbed my back. What a blessing to be with her when I received this news. I was hysterical and nothing could help me.

After everyone else went to bed, I sat on the deck facing the ocean and it is so quiet except for the sound of the crashing waves which is competing with the pounding of my heart. My pain seems to take up the whole beach and ocean and I feel so alone, drowning in it.

beachview

I called my best friend around 2 am and she picked up and listened. She was so supportive and insisted that it couldn’t be over. But, telling someone else only made it more of a fact – I knew that this part of my life had concluded.

If only I had known then that it was only that, a part, a small segment, of my life that was over. In that moment it felt like all was lost.

I had built my life around him. I had left my job, a city I loved, my friends, my family, my everything to be with him. I had no idea who I was without him. It was like someone had died. Five years of my life vanished. The memories, the laughs, the love were all a waste. My heart was ripped out and discarded. As I sat there listening to the waves crash on the shore, I imagined myself as a lifeless piece of seaweed getting pulled under the current and pushed out to sea, never to see these shores again.

I couldn’t imagine facing him. I couldn’t imagine even facing my own heart. I had no idea how I was going to make my way back on a plane in two days and confront my future.

I didn’t know what love was anymore.

And, more importantly, I was afraid I didn’t know who I was anymore.

Stay tuned for {Love Story Part 2} Rewriting My Story 

xoxo katie