At the Edge of the Cliff
You never forget the first time you travel outside the country with the love of your life.
We landed at the Lisbon airport and the journey to the surf town seemed short, but two hours later we arrived at our little beach pad in Peniche, Portugal. This town was the perfect mixture of local surfers looking to catch a good wave and tourists craving tranquility under the sun. Every person in this fairy-tale town had a laid back attitude, easygoing mentality, and spoke to me as if I were their beloved cousin from America. It was hard for me to say goodbye to some; like the kind man with the Poseidon tattoo. He owned a cozy surf shop selling hand-made products from local artist friends. After Donald and I professed our love for the authenticity of our orange eggs in every breakfast, he ran home to grab some from his chicken coop for our last meal before returning to the States. Little gestures like this made us fall in love with Portugal and its people even more.
The best day on the trip happened to be a Sunday, my favorite day of the week. Donald and I woke up at 7 a.m. after the sun had just risen over a frosty night. We could transport everywhere on foot and the beach was only ten minutes down the road. As we walked close together by all the local shops that morning, we could have been the only ones awake in the whole town. The air smelled sweeter and our smiles were bigger. Bad days could never exist here when humidity was a stranger to the crispy cool climate.
A pounding gust of wind forced us to sneak off into a beaten track. We hiked through bumpy hills of concrete rocks toward a path overlooking the steel blue Atlantic Ocean. Donald was in front of me and I could tell by the crinkle in his eyes he’d already caught a glimpse of our final destination. I bounced through the rest of the tumbling rocks and stopped to dig my feet into the ground. I stood there for a while to let it all hit me.
The sky was just starting to blend into a Carolina blue and I studied the tide as it slapped the cliffs to command its presence…In and out…it moved freely. It was so alluring I had an unexplainable urge to run wildly off the edge and into the ocean just to conquer the crashing roar of the waves. I looked at Donald and my cheeks were frozen into a permanent smile. There was nobody else standing there except for us. We had come so far, in distance and in life, it was euphoria waiting for us at the edge of the cliff.
But life was not always this good to us and we have not always been this happy. We had to overcome a billion hurdles to arrive at this magical moment in our lives.
I met Donald when I was only 16 years old and back in high school we all knew him as Cody, until he “told” me I was his girlfriend and catapulted me into his world…. Fast-forward through 10 years of our relationship, and we have been severely tested, but it has always turned out to be beautiful.
In 2014, I was a dainty, young girl driving around a grandma ’99 beige Toyota Corolla with a clear image of what greatness was supposed to look like, but no sight of the vibrant path leading me there. I hated my major, I hated my job, I hated my identity. I was looking for signs telling me how to fix this pain, but instead, I fixated on my relationship.
Even after my parents divorced, I was a hopeless romantic in love with the idea of a soulmate. I held on tightly to the belief my one true companion would hold my attention for eternity without ever minding the years that passed. At 16 years old, I knew I had found this person, but fear of the unknown has an ugly way of making us question everything. Despite the undeniable connection I shared with this incredible human being, daunting thoughts lingered in the back of my mind. Am I ever going to find what I am passionate about in this life? Could this person be holding me back from that?
A few years later, I was 20 years old on track toward finishing a college degree I didn’t believe in and I felt my time had been completely wasted. I blamed my boyfriend for this, fell into a black hole of regret, and craved making spontaneous new choices on my own without accounting for his happiness. I decided to separate myself from him. However, I also had the crazy notion he would understand this and agree to pick things back up when the timing was right.
I was under the impression this love was so real, he would give me the time I needed to ‘find myself’ and agree to take me back when I was ready. Looking back I realize it was crazy selfish, but selfishness was the catalyst setting the break up into motion in the first place. I still believe everyone has the right to be selfish because too often we devote our precious time to others instead of healing ourselves, especially when we need it the most.
Those months were tough. I did spend all my time obsessing over my success, but it made me physically and mentally sick. I picked up the pieces eventually after hours of therapy and self-reflection, and I was able to start watching our old favorite tv shows again. Everything was starting to make sense. However, I could only stop to appreciate it because I was more emotionally stable. It opened my eyes to the beauty that unfolds when you are experiencing heartbreak:
You think spending time with her, kissing her, having fun with her, you think that’s what it was all about? That was love? THIS is love. Missing her, because she’s gone. Wanting to die…. You’re so lucky. You’re like a walking poem. Would you rather be some kind of a fantasy? Some kind of a Disney ride? Is that what you want? Don’t you see? This is the good part. This is what you’ve been digging for all this time. Now you finally have it in your hand, this sweet nugget of love, sweet, sad love, and you want to throw it away. You’ve got it all wrong.
The old crabby doctor from Louie has a wise point. But when you decide to break up with your beloved high school sweetheart, you don’t exactly view it as an opportunity to celebrate the love you were capable of experiencing. You’ll say goodbye to him as you replay the demise of your parents’ marriage in your head to keep you from changing your mind. You’ll fight off any remorse for leaving behind the best man you’ve ever met because it’s for your own good. You’ll tell him you know exactly what you’re doing and you’re ready to let go. You’ll push him away without knowing the real power in your actions.
You learn a lot about yourself when you’re nursing an empty hole in the pit of your stomach, like how much you need your family and how privileged you are to be a young girl making mistakes in her twenties. You also learn how far you are willing to push your boundaries to create space for the person who will hold your hand through all the crazy spirals life throws. The reality was my journey toward self-realization only brought me closer to love. I never stopped longing for the presence of the boy I grew to love like a man. When I finally started opening up to this idea, I felt peace and fought my way back to the person I truly believe to be my soul mate.
There’s a truth not necessarily universally understood yet, but I’m here to propose it. There’s an exception for a couple who chooses to fight all the hoops, hurdles, obstacles, blocks, objections and sacrifices the universe throws at them. The reason is because in this lifetime, despite the odds, they are meant to find their way back to each other.
Now we live together, have a five-year-old boxer together, and we’re thriving in the comfort of our relationship. Six years ago, we traveled on our first trip across the pond to the Atlantic together. On our ten year anniversary, he asked me to marry him on our first long road trip together. We have fought against life’s cruelest curveballs, and we will celebrate all of our triumphs as the goals we set for ourselves continue to inspire us.
Being in love is like standing at the edge of a cliff, facing the infinite sea as the uncertainty of your life flashes before your eyes. It is passionate, fulfilling, absolutely thrilling and I will cling to it for as long as I can.