how to have a broken heart

August 18, 2013

Backpacking is not for nursing a hurting heart.  A hurting heart needs doonas, the privacy to cry and listen to depressing songs on repeat.  A hurting heart needs days of hiding in bed, bingeing on bad American TV shows and eating peanut butter on crumpets exclusively, or nothing at all.  Eventually, a hurting heart needs friends armed with wine and the patience to dissect the course of events with you, who’ll try to make you eat something, but who’ll willingly join you for a breakfast beer instead, without judgement.  Finally, a hurting heart needs a re-entrance back into the cruel world; puffy-eyed, aching, yet powerful in a strung-out, nothing-left-to-loose kind of way.  Flanked by friends, the world softened by wine, heading out into a night suddenly filled with possibilities and new beginnings.

This, in any case, is how I prefer to coddle my hurting heart.  Youth hostels and cheap B&Bs are not the location for this type of indulgence/healing.  Sheets of dubious cleanliness are a foil to languishing in bed for days.  Seven friendly, enthusiastic and chatty dorm roommates don’t leave space for a good wail.  These things aren’t in my heartbreak recipe.  However this is what I had to contend with as I limped with my insides a heavy mess around the rest of Guatemala.

Some context:

Maybe this sounds a little overwrought, dramatic for what was essentially the inevitable end of a holiday fling.  There were factors at play though.  The thing is – it didn’t really feel like a holiday fling.  I tend to get in deep and quick.  Luke does too, I suppose.  Before it all fell apart there were shy implications that maybe what we had could continue beyond our time in Central America. For a brief little window, I was mentally feeling out my capacity to live happily amongst the mountains, snow and bears of the Colorado of my imagination.  Maybe I’d even begun to consider the logistics of an international wedding.  I don’t even aspire to marriage.  Am I mad?

I move quick.  I move quicker when travelling.  I think it’s somewhat natural.  There’s no time to labour through the preliminary stages of forging a new friendship or relationship when overseas.  There’s no cautiously tiptoeing around the possibility of something developing, as I often do to extreme in my normal life.  It’s now or never.  Travelling with a person accelerates the intimacy and closeness developed too.  It’s proximity and intensity.  It’s every bout of euphoria and frustration and food poisoning, shared.

The other factor that lead to the hurt I felt in the aftermath is the way in which it all played out.  I’ll spare the gory details because they’re boring, suffice to say that the process of dismantling happened very quickly and I had not really seen it coming.  One moment I had a travel companion for two more months.  Maybe the father of all my children.  The next moment I was alone.  The shock of this, combined with how far I was from home, my comfort zone, my support network, made for a pretty tough couple of weeks.  Honestly, I was pretty distraught.  And it was in this state that I dragged myself to the avocado farm and tried hard to sooth the tightness in my throat that threatened to develop into tears at any moment.

Some perspective:

As I wrote in my previous entry, on the avocado farm I met a 24-year- from Germany, Caro, with whom I travelled for another week.  Caro is an impressive, strong woman.  Caro had a boyfriend with whom she was very much in love.  They had only been together for seven months, but they were living together and very committed.  She had travelled to Turkey to meet his family, and he had travelled with her to Spain to help her repair ties with her estranged father.  Her boyfriend loved cooking and every time they visited her mother in Germany he would cook the family a huge Turkish feast.  They loved him.  Caro loved him.

In December last year Caro’s boyfriend died suddenly of a heart attack.  He was healthy, there were no warning signs, it was completely unexpected.  From one day to the next Caro was planning her life and future with this man, and then she was bereaved, living alone in the house that she shared with him, in shock.

Caro and her boyfriend had always planned to travel to Colombia together.  In January Caro set off solo.  She figured that she had two options – either to stay at home in Germany and fall apart, or set out overseas and try to enjoy the holiday for the both of them. She’s been travelling ever since.  Her strength, calm and poise were so inspiring, and certainly put my little bout of heartache in perspective.

Together, Caro and I travelled to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala – a huge, beautiful lake surrounded by volcanoes and clouds and little villages and everything idyllic.  We were both tired though.  Caro had been on the road for seven months at that point.  I still had a bit of the annihilative nonsense going on from Luke’s recent departure.

We spent most of our time by the lake in the Italian bakery, eating chocolate croissants and using the internet.  It was wonderful.  We felt guilty when we met people who’d done 3am sunrise hikes, gone kayaking across the lake, done coffee plantation tours, though not guilty enough to do anything about it.  There is some kind of terrible indulgence in being surrounded by so much splendour and not doing anything at all.

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