Breaking up sucks, but there are signs that you did the right thing.
I wake up before my alarm. It’s dawn and I am lucid, stripped to a lightness I’ve never felt. The hollow ache of last night’s devastation has been replaced with a sense of purpose. The spell has been broken.
I remember why I came to Oregon. I look at my swollen face in the mirror, my crystal-clear, kind, calm eyes staring back. Here we go.
I find myself writing him a letter in this morning’s journal entry. After I finish, I realize that it might actually be sendable, as opposed to the thousands of letters I’ve written in my life, some wisely tucked away forever, some mistakenly dropped in the mail or delivered to some hapless man’s inbox at an ungodly hour of the night: babbling rants, desperate pleas, the cutting of ties, drunken declarations of love.
I begin to transcribe the letter onto a nice card emblazoned with a photograph from one of my art teachers, making minor edits as I go, blue roller ball pen gliding smoothly across the glossy sheen of the surface. The words are full of clarity and letting go and care. I understand that I am writing it mostly for myself, although I want him to read it. I rummage through my box of office supplies (still unpacked) and pull out a packet of foil star stickers. I haven’t seen these for years, and I figure why not, I’ll throw a few onto the envelope. After all, he did mention gold stars last night, nearly as casually as he cut me off from partnership.
But the first star I try to pluck from the sticker sheet is recalcitrant after its half-decade of sitting in storage, and by the time I finally free it from its home, I’ve changed my mind. I hesitate, gold star lingering on the inside of my index finger, and end up sticking to the inside of my office supply box, leaving the letter unsent on the desk.
I bike to the yoga studio, pedaling hard downhill, wind whipping through my light jacket. Fifteen minutes later, I arrive breathless and sweaty. I unroll my mat and begin the practice.
The studio is a place where practitioners come on their own schedule and practice independently, while the teacher comes around and works individually with people. We all follow the same basic framework of postures, but we get the luxury of one-on-one attention and consultation with our teacher.
This morning, I am surprised by my body: my practice feels buoyant, efficient, and aligned. I am not falling apart and I’m able to focus on my breathing. Something has shifted; it’s a pleasant surprise. Usually I am all-consumed with grief and pain when I get dumped.
My teacher is this wiry, nimble guy who sometimes reminds me of an animated leprechaun, in the most affectionate and endearing sense. He used to be a dancer and an actor. Then he got injured and went through some tough times before he found yoga. Just like me, yoga seems to have played a hand in saving his life.
He is dynamic, gregarious, and spry, working the room as he gives physical adjustments as well as philosophic offerings. As I’m hanging upside-down in a pose, I can sense him walking toward me. His feet come into my peripheral vision and I know he is waiting for me to finish the pose and stand up so he can share something with me. I wonder what nugget of wisdom I’ll get; it’s always a treat.
He waits patiently for me to emerge from the pose, a slight smile on his face. He takes a breath and then softly begins this story.
He was going through an incredibly traumatizing breakup, topsy-turvy, flames and ashes askew across the life he thought he knew. He was trying to think of something nice he could do to make his bleak days a little brighter when the idea of gold stars popped into his head.
He was staying at a friend’s house while he figured out his next step in life. One night, he put the kettle on the stove and opened the tea drawer. As he was sifting through “years of tea from all the different renters,” he found a brand new, unopened package of gold star stickers. He couldn’t believe the coincidence: only days before he had thought of gold stars!
“Look,” he says to me and gestures across the studio. On the shelf, above the blocks, straps, and cushions, sits his bike helmet. It is covered in gold stars, a sparkling constellation that could light the whole sky.
Later, he comes over to give me an adjustment. I tell him about my letter, my stubborn stars, and the previous evening’s breakup. We marvel at the synchronicities.
I bike home and decide to add the stickers to the outside of the envelope and mail it after all. I run outside, in a hurry to beat the postal delivery. I place the card carefully in the box and pull out the flag.
Later in the day, I finish unpacking my house and setting up my art studio. I begin to write again. I cannot believe what this anguish has left in its wake.
I am alive.