Hurt So Good

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My heart is broken and the only cure is two-steppin’ at the Creek Side Inn. This may seem odd, but up to this point, I had never truly had my heart broken. I’d been sad when past relationships ended, but this one was different. This one made a mark. Previous to this, I had sworn off relationships all together. I needed time to myself, to live on my own and to travel. That was about five years ago. And now, here I am with a sinking hole in my chest.

“This is the worst!” I confess as I nurse a tallboy. “I feel ya” Bettina says, “You had a beautiful experience and now it’s over. It’s ok to be upset.” We’re at the Creek Side bar, bellied up. Our usual sequence of events is a beer, maybe a shot of whiskey, then boot-scoot bliss. This was, of course, a whiskey night. She pauses, raises her pint glass, and murmurs in a playful, don’t-give-up-hope kind of voice, “But you never know…”. I shake my head, “Uh uh, No way! I’ve got to just let him go and move forward,” I say, trying to convince myself it’ll be as easy as it sounds. “Now, how the hell do I do that?”

Here’s my love story in a nutshell: I had just moved into a new bachelorette pad in Carpinteria, CA, enjoying the freedom of a single woman. And that’s when it happened – my meditation teachers introduced me to their much younger and super gorgeous son and so began my heart’s surrender. At first I wouldn’t allow myself to “go there” and I did my best to keep it neutral when we hung out. He was young and cute and leaving town in little over a month. Perfect for a fling but nothing more. (But I thought even a fling would cross a line – his parents were my spiritual mentors after all.) In truth, it was a night at the Creek Side that changed everything.

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“Would you like to dance?”, he asked eagerly. “Sure!,” I said, not thinking anything of it. I don’t know if it was the glow of the string lights or the Alan Jackson song, but once we hit the dance floor something clicked. He wrapped his arm around my waist, nestled his hand at the small of my back, and pulled me close. He was confident with each touch and as he gazed into my eyes, my heart softened. That was the moment I let my guard down. The moment our brief but life-altering summer romance unfolded. And I fell in love.  

Then, it was over. It ended with the young man boarding a plane to China for two years and, after a little effort of trying a long-distance relationship (I know, I know), the truth of the situation came to a head and we called it quits.

At the moment of impact (read: the actual moment we ended it), a variety of emotions emerged. First came the sadness, hurt, and rejection – all at once and rolled into a giant gut punch. Soon to follow was the feeling of familiarity – I was back to the single girl I once was and it was strangely comforting. Next, was a feeling I least expected: relief. Relief from the struggle of trying to make our summer romance last. A struggle I chose to ignore. I felt pain, confusion, and excitement. I felt more connected with humanity – like, now I understand true heartache .

“All right, all right!” Bettina interrupts. “It’s time to dance!” We take our last sip of beer, tip the bartender, and walk to the dance floor. A couple “West Coast Swings”, a “Cowboy Cha Cha”, and many classic two-steps later, I’m feeling a little bit like myself again. It’s funny what a few twirls can do for a girl. The night rages on, but it’s time for us to go. We bid farewell to our favorite dance partners and hop in an Uber to take us home. As I gaze out the window, a faint smile resides on my face. I was going to be okay. I just needed a night at the Creek Side to remind me.

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