Updated: Jun 28, 2021
June 21st was the opening day for my favorite dirt bike trails. It was one of the best days of riding I have had in a long time; I felt so completely alive! Once I returned to my house, I put the bike and gear away and came inside to share my excitement. I grabbed my phone and began to send my ‘opening day’ photos to friends, to share the moto joy and hopefully prompt their desire to get out and ride along with me.
Most texts came back with fun emojis and going over basic schedules to fit in a ride as soon as possible - success! And then one text came back and said “I love that helmet, and the goggle combo - looks awesome!”. Unlike each previous message, I didn’t reply immediately. I stopped in my tracks. Then I took a second to breathe, and a smile came across my face. I allowed myself to be in the moment - to follow that smile, and see what was coming up for me.
That text caused a pause for me, because my ex partner bought me that helmet. I had been looking at that brand of helmet,‘6D’ for months but wasn’t sure if I was ready to make the big investment, and the helmet I had previously was just fine. We were dating long distance and one weekend we met a little more than halfway between my house and his, on the top of Red Mountain pass in Colorado. The plan was to camp and ride our dirt bikes over Black Bear pass into Telluride to spend the weekend with his family.
We met on top of the pass, and when I went inside his camper I noticed a black bag with a ‘6D’ logo embroidered on the side. No way! He looked at me, smiled and told me to open the bag. Inside was the most amazing helmet - the one I had wanted and dreamed about!
I never asked for this helmet to be gifted to me, I think I had only mentioned it a time or two when we were discussing moto gear and equipment. It was an incredibly thoughtful gift, as much as I loved the physical helmet itself, what was most important to me was the thought, care and intention behind it.
The next day riding together over Black Bear pass was our first full day ride together. A communication system was installed inside of my helmet, as well as his it so we could talk to each other while riding. This added an extra element of fun! (I learned that he could hear my riding self talk “smooth, strong, you’ve got this”). And I could also hear when he fell; he took a hard crash over a small creek crossing (the only hard fall he ever took in our riding together - he is an incredible rider!).
I remember on the easy parts of the ride I’d ask him all sorts of random questions. “What’s your favorite rap song? Is there a song you have completely memorized from your childhood? Etc etc.” I’m not sure if he was annoyed or not, (maybe a little- when I belted out the first 30 seconds of 'Ice Ice Baby'), but it was that ride where I learned how much he listened to Wu Tang Clan as a teenager. That fact always made me smile, because I would have never guessed it! The helmet was extremely thoughtful, and the communication system allowed us to share our experience in the mountains on a different level, adding another layer of connection to the relationship - something I deeply value.
Transport back to today; almost 3 years since the night I was given my helmet. We are no longer together, and our separation was extremely painful as we had purchased a home together, and I believed he was the man I would spend the rest of my life with.
Break ups are one of the most difficult parts of life! They challenge us in every possible way, and there’s no way to avoid the pain and hurt that comes with heartbreak. One common aspect of the break up process is the sudden view of all past events, actions and experiences with a negative lens. For example, a friend can mention the time you all went to a concert, at one point it was the best night. But when going through a break up, it’s so easy to twist that fun night into ‘that was the night he didn’t want to go and I had to basically beg him to come, because he never liked the things I liked’. (Totally random example - not based on my reality - but you get the picture.)
It’s as if we can process the break up with greater ease if we retroactively distort the relationship to the point that we not only gravely dislike our ex partner, but convince ourselves the relationship was never actually that good, and our ex was always the wrong person for us. (Of course, there is always space for looking back with an honest lens and recognizing signs that were missed in the moment.) But in this case, I’m talking about the way lovers and best friends are turned into enemies the second the heart hurts during a break up.
It’s easier to convince yourself it wasn’t as good as you thought, than it is to face the truth of it actually being as good as you thought - and now it’s over. I believe it’s a way our mind naturally comes to try to protect our hearts.
Early on in my break up, I made the choice to feel everything - I didn’t want to avoid, to numb, or to villainize my partner. I wanted to dig deep into myself, uncover who I was, beneath the expectations of who I should be, discover when I abandoned my truest self, and commit to stepping into my power and my truth. If I was going to face the hardest break up of my life, it wasn’t going to be some dramatic event - it was going to be an awakening of my soul. With that in mind, I began a deeper dive into the spiritual work I’d been doing for months prior to our separation. There, I began practicing the art of letting go. Not in a ‘forget about it’ or dismissive way; but a full and complete allowance of emotions and thoughts, and then a releasing and ‘letting go’.
If one negative thought about my partner would come up I knew my brain could turn it into a runaway train and distort every good memory into a belief of him being bad, so that I could feel better. Before my brain had the opportunity to hijack my thought, I would follow these steps:
1. Recognize my thought, allow it and just sit with it.
2. Before long, my body would feel different - typically a lump in my throat or a tightening in my chest. I allowed it all. It was most often grief, sadness, hurt, or anger. Those emotions were hiding within me, and my brain was trying to protect me from them by working to make my partner out to be the bad guy, so I could instead feel proud, free and lucky for getting out when I did. (When you think about it, it makes sense the brain would work that way - it believes it’s job is to protect you from pain and hurt.)
3. After allowing the thought, and recognizing the emotions below them, I would allow myself to experience whatever reaction was coming up naturally. Usually tears, or yelling, some pillow punching and of course the major major ugly crying, that is accompanied with long uncontrollable wails!
4. After it all, I would end up sitting with just myself and the truth; I have so much love for him, and my heart hurts right now. I could come to accept the duality of most emotions; he was a great boyfriend, and we aren’t meant to be. He is not being kind right now, and he is also hurting very much. I love him with my whole heart, and I know I have to follow my own path of awakening and stepping into my truth. He loves me very much, and I know staying together will keep me from the growth and spiritually connected life I crave.
These dualities, and a thousand more joined my healing process. Over time, I noticed the negative thoughts of this partner didn’t show up very often. Even if given the perfect opportunity to vent or villainize, it didn’t feel right. Instead, I’d stick to the facts that I know to be true, when asked about my situation I’d simply say “we aren’t together anymore, it’s been difficult but it’s also been a beautiful opportunity to learn and grow! I feel more like myself today than I ever have. I know he and I will both continue to do amazing things, I love him and know that not all relationships are forever.” What I’ve noticed is that when I talk about my ex respectfully, it sets the standard and expectation for others to do the same - it doesn’t open the door for the judgements and shaming that our society is so quick to throw around when couples break up.
What I am most proud of is the fact that I believe in each word of that statement, there isn’t a bypass of how I really feel, and a fake smile on the side. It’s genuine. I do love him. He will do amazing things. And I will also continue to do amazing and beautiful things as I follow my heart and continue to step into my power every day.
For months by allowing myself to grieve, feel extremely sad, hurt, and angry, I was feeling it all and that brought me closer to my true self. I am no longer the girl who puts on the smile and says she is “fine” no matter what. So, when my friend messaged me about my helmet after my first day of riding. I paused, there was no snarky response about my ex, there was just a smile. Authenticity and truth have been my guides on this healing journey, and on that day - they guided me to a smile.
Because I immediately thought of the person who gave me the helmet., and the night of camping on Red Mountain pass. What a shame it would be to distort that memory, and live my life as though it never happened - just so I can avoid feeling hurt now.
I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to tarnish memories and good feelings from my past, as a way of avoiding difficult feelings in the present. Instead of distorting or tarnishing the memory of my helmet, I sat with my smile and felt gratitude and compassion. I had a man who was caring, compassionate and thoughtful! And he bought me my favorite helmet as a gift, and we rode dirt bikes together while he talked about Wu Tang Clan. I am holding onto that memory, and carrying it with me. Because that was a day filled with love. Whether or not our relationship lasted 2 more years or 20 more years, the outcome cannot change the genuine love and connection shared that day.
For me, what I appreciated most about that gift was the thoughtfulness behind it and how it was able to bring greater connection and promote quality time together. I value connection and quality time very much, and if I was to twist that memory negatively then I would be making my values conditional. Love, quality time and connection are not valuable as a result of the relationship status, rather, they are valuable no matter the relationship status. The ending of the relationship does not change or distort the love shared, connections made or quality time spent. That was all real, and will continue to be - just as my values of quality time and connection continue to be real and without strings as I move forward in my life.
I will continue to ride with my helmet until I need a new one. When I am given compliments on it, I will receive them with compassion. And I am sure I will continue to smile when thinking of the day spent riding among the trees and under the blue sky overlooking Telluride - sending love and gratitude to the thoughtful man who loved me and bought me a helmet. And most importantly, I’ll be reminded that Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nothing To F*ck Wit.