My boyfriend spent one summer in India. I didn’t know how I’d cope with the constant surge of emotions I was experiencing as he prepared for his travels. I was anxious, envious, angry, and romantically disconnected. I felt betrayed and left out. Why was I not invited on this dream trip of his? Once upon a time that trip had been his vision for us.
What had happened? He wouldn’t tell me. How could he change his mind? He wouldn’t say.
I felt rejected and overlooked, minimized and unloved.
It was obvious now that our romance thrived on distance, on waiting for one another to come back around. It was obvious his heart was begging him to disengage, begging him to slip into an adventure all his own, begging him to let me down and let me go.
I felt the truth of our love overwhelm my reality, leaving me no choice but to see just how unrecognizable our dizzying romance had become. No choice but to see that beneath my longing for him and for us—the old us—to love each other like we used to, was a more prominent longing. A longing that had been there even longer. It was the longing to acknowledge an emptiness all my own, an emptiness I didn’t know how to remedy but which I knew I could no longer escape from.
Before he left me for India, he suggested I begin coloring mandalas. I thought it silly. Maybe even embarrassingly simple. But I did it. Maybe because I knew nothing else to do. Maybe because I wanted to live through his example. Maybe because I thought it was my last chance to show him I was listening, my last chance to recover his interest and make him proud. And thank God I did, thank God I followed his direction.
What began with anger and heartbreak, turned into a summer of mandalas and color pencils and then, to my surprise, grew into a summer full of canvases and acrylic, brushes and glitter. I traveled into the mountains and painted the land from the front porch of a house. I planted seeds and saw green sprouts turn up after days. I began with one, and then grew giddy planting and watering several.
Even I began to feel healthier every day.
I drove into small towns and hunted down hand-made cards. I took advantage of the golden hour from a hammock, rocking gently between trees. And because we so rarely were able to speak with one another, I curled up in the evening and through a cloud of incense wrote to him about my drives and my days, the mandalas and my closet full of paints. I told him about all the plants that had grown green with life and I forgot to harp on my need to have him home.
I let myself be curious about India, instead. I let myself picture him there, hanging up a mosquito net and turning over in the heat, bargaining with rickshaw riders and watching stray dogs howl in the streets. When he sent me photographs of the Himalayas, I let myself feel his awe. I let myself call his journey brave. I grew to congratulate him on his choices, on his decision to leave everything behind. I grew to understand him, to understand the itch to go at life alone.
That was a most unusual summer.
It was the summer I expected would break my heart but which instead insisted on me to mend myself, to feel at home with myself again.
It was the summer my boyfriend left me and the summer I had no choice but to let him. It was a summer that turned into days and days full of time, full of me time, a summer when the hours became unfamiliar and calming and imaginative. It was a summer where I filled a hat box full of cards, of love letters, of thank yous. A summer where I surprised myself, where I became thankful that my boyfriend went missing.
And so, it was a summer I didn’t want but which I needed. A summer of subtle changes, a summer of small miracles, a summer where I was happy to be left alone.