*this picture represents how I felt during this time of my life..I was being a messy depiction of myself.
Yesterday was a busy day, as we had an arrival to prepare for, some self care to lean into and a birthday party to attend, so I didn’t post on here. I did however think about writing and think about whether I was ready to write about what happened with John. So I went to bed with curiosity and woke up to feeling it was time. I was ready to share what happened, and how I played a not so pretty role in it.
There are so many twists and turns in this life, so many doors opening and closing and so many chances I could have taken or not taken that would have lead to me having a completely different life than I have now. It’s interesting to consider. So this is a story about a life I almost had when I said yes to a proposal but I meant no, and what circumstances the Universe and I rearranged together in order to shift my yes to a no.
It’s September now, which is crazy to imagine, because that means my daughter is almost 6 months old and that reminds me of how fast time is moving. And though I’m in Costa Rica now where the weather mostly stays the same, September gives me a cozy & crisp feeling of change, as it’s typically the month the weather begins to feel brisk in my home town of Park City, Utah and Fall begins to show itself on the mountainside with its rich beautiful colors.
September is also an anniversary month because it’s the month I married my husband 5 years ago, but it’s also the anniversary that only one man in the world might also remember. It’s the month I was scheduled to marry someone else 14 years ago, when I was 27 years old. Even just writing that gives me the chills, because I think about the me now and the me then, and I’m so grateful the me from 14 years ago had the courage to listen to her heart, and shift a yes to a no, and allow for another story to unfold for us both. This story is not easy to share not only because my fiancée was such a nice guy (he still is), but the circumstances of how I left him were messy and it wasn’t my proudest moment. However seeing the life we both have now (thanks to Facebook), it’s important to share what happened, in hopes it gives someone else courage to listen to their heart and do what may not make any sense to them at the time.
So with that, here's another thing I did I did for love: I said yes when I meant no.
I met John at a bar through my friend Ian, and our first meeting wasn’t a date, it was a hangout. It was Spring of 2002 and I’d recently completed massage school and was living in Salt Lake City, and Ian, who I’d met that winter while being a lift operator and waitress at the Canyons Ski Resort had sent me a txt telling me he and his friend John were having a beer in Salt Lake City, and did I want to join them. Ian was handsome, funny and British, and I always enjoyed time with him, so I said yes without expectations. So there we were at a dive bar in Salt Lake City eating wings and having a beer together. His friend John was also handsome, but a little quiet and seemingly shy. He and Ian had been down in Salt Lake City for a lacrosse tournament that John was a referee for. I was still finding my way as a new massage therapist at that time, so any potential job opportunity I saw to market myself I jumped on, so I asked John if any of the lacrosse games needed a massage therapist. I think John liked my business sense, so he asked if I had a card and said he’d let me know. I’d recently had cards made and had little opportunity to pass them out yet, so it was quite thrilling to hand him one.
A week later I got a phone call that there was a lacrosse tournament in Park City, and John asked if I wanted to set up a massage table and then grab dinner after the tournament. Sure I responded. I definitely meant sure to the massage opportunity, but was dinner a package deal? I wasn’t particularly attracted to John, so I wondered if I could say yes to the massage part and maybe to the dinner part. Plus I wasn’t sure if he was asking me out, or if it was just a casual offer to hangout, as it had been before, in which responding to the dinner part would have been awkward. I knew I was up in my head about it all but I didn’t want to embarrass myself or him by saying no to a date request that wasn’t a date request, so I said yes and just let it unfold.
Thankfully it didn’t turn out to be a date, but rather several coaches and players going out for burgers and beer, so I gratefully tagged along. And encounters like this with John kept happening, until one day, he asked if I wanted to hang out just he and I, and I found myself saying yes again and again, because time with him was easy. There was something so stable and soft about John, which was such a far stretch from the strong ego’d men I’d been meeting. John had recently bought his first house, he had a great job with a local property management company, and he drove a Honda CRV, which to me said he wanted to be a family man. He also had a little bit of a lisp that he didn’t seem to mind, so I tried not to mind either, and I began to find it endearing. He had thin brown hair, small brown eyes and was just a little taller then me, which meant he couldn’t have been more than 5’8. And as I said, I wasn’t attracted to John in a physical way, but I was liking him more and more as a kind man and gentle human being in the world, because I needed evidence of kind & gentle men. Our hangouts got more often and would linger into the evening, so before long we took it up a notch and kissed, and my dog Sadie and I would regularly sleep over at his spacious but cozy 4 bedroom home in Park City. We’d go on long walks together because he also had a dog, and it was on one of those walks that he asked if he could be my boyfriend. I loved how chivalrous it felt, so I said yes.
I spent a lot of time with John, and he was supportive of whatever I was doing or going through. So when the painful time came when my dog Sadie began to get aggressive and bite people, John was by my side when I made the gut wrenching decision, at the suggestion of my family, to release her to animal control to be put down. Sadie & I had been together 6 years at that point, and I even tear up now when I’m writing about this because I remember the me that wasn’t available to support Sadie when she needed it, instead I gave up on her.
After I lost Sadie I was completely lost and threw myself into my work. I understood how things got bad for Sadie; I’d spent the last year driving around all day, every day giving massages, both in Park City and Salt Lake City, where I also worked for a chiropractor. Sadie would be locked up for hours at a time at either my tiny one bedroom apartment, or she’d be at my parents house, tolerating but their dog and wondering where I was. So it was understandable she got aggressive. But rather than lean in and support her with more time and attention, I turned away and listened to the warnings from my parents that I couldn’t risk having a dangerous dog. So as much as I loved Sadie, I knew I couldn’t keep her, and she was a risk to anyone else.
Despite the support I got from John through this, I saw him less and less, and I felt detached from everyone, including myself. John knew I was hurting, so one day out of nowhere he asked if he could get me a new dog and also if I’d like to move in with him. It turned out my lease was going to be up soon in Salt Lake City, so the timing was great, and I said yes to his offer because it felt like a life preserver being thrown at me to help rescue me from my own murky dark waters. And so John moved me in, we rearranged his room to account for a plus 1, and there we were having meals and brewing beer together and adding a little hound dog puppy named Scout. It was exactly what I didn’t know I needed to help me heal and it was the closest thing to being a family unit I’d experienced in a very long time, so I loved it. We went to parties together, we had other friend couples and we celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day and Memorial Day together. Life was good and honestly I wasn’t thinking much past each day because I was very focused on my career. But one evening, as I was getting ready to go to bed, John walked into our bedroom opening a Manila packaging envelope and told me he wanted to take a step forward with me and he got something in the mail that would help make that happen. I had no idea what he was talking about or what was about to happen. Moments later John was on the bed in front of me, on both knees and proposing. The package contained a diamond and sapphire ring that had belonged to his mother, and he said, “will you spend the rest of your life with me?”
Well let’s just say I didn’t handle it well.
My first response was, “are you fucking kidding me?” Not the kind of response a guy wants to his proposal. I saw his confused look so I back pedaled and said, “can I think about it?” To which he awkwardly responded, “umm, ok.” And we went to sleep far apart in the same bed.
Here’s the thing; I had given zero thought to marrying John. Not because he wasn’t a nice guy, but because marriage just wasn’t on my radar. My career and my body were, in that I’d literally just gotten a boob job 3 days before this grand display of love from John AND I’d just taken a huge leap of faith by signing a 3 year lease on a 1300 sq foot commercial space for my future business. Signing up for marriage on top of all this just felt like a lot.
Before I went all in at my own spa, I’d been working in my 1 room massage office, doing housecalls for massage and working at a fancy spa in Park City. I loved working at the fancy spa; I’d been visiting spas most of my life in order to help me with my skin, so I appreciated the tranquil and ritualistic nature of them. But while working at said fancy spa, I got a request from one of the owner’s friend for a “happy ending”, a service not on the menu but a service therapists are quietly paid well for, so I turned him down, left the massage room and quit immediately. And I declared to the Universe that there should be a high quality day spa out there where people can get both professional and therapeutic services, and it’s safe for the staff to work there. No creepy requests from clients. And so I decided to start said spa myself, not knowing what the hell I was doing, but that felt oddly empowering and fun.
And John was with me every step of the way through all of that. He’d often work his property management job until 5, go home to feed the dogs and then come meet me at the spa to help me install floors or paint the walls. I was opening this place on a shoe string budget, so a lot of the work was done by me, which meant John as well. He was the best boyfriend I’d ever had, and I got scared that I wouldn’t find anyone better, so one night I invited him over to the spa, met him there, and lit some candles in the fireplace where I had a sign that read, “Yes, I’ll marry you.” And with that, I was engaged now, and I had his permission to redesign the ring to be more my style, so I did.
When I told my parents I was engaged, my mom was stoic and I saw a look on my dad’s face of disappointment. Little did I or my family know that my dad was a few months away from filing for bankruptcy and leaving my mother after 32 years of marriage. He did his best to show he was happy for me, and said his finances were thin, but he could maybe scrape together $20,000 for a wedding. That sounded like a fortune to me, so I thanked him and told him the wedding was over a year away, and I saw him relax more.
We took our engagement photos, we sent out our save the date, which was September 2004, and away we went to live life as an engaged couple, and me as a new business owner with new boobs and entirely too much on her plate. But the Universe always has a way of balancing itself in ways we can never imagine according to her agenda, and so began a deep doubt in me that I was doing the right thing for myself by committing myself to John. I knew in my gut it wasn’t right, but I didn’t know why.
This doubt felt palpable and it affected how I slept, my appetite, my work and how I showed up in my relationship with John and my family. I felt myself shutting down and it was like I couldn’t stop the downward spiraling momentum. I wasn’t religious at that point in my life but I did consider myself spiritual, so I found myself on my knees in quiet times, praying for guidance, a sign, an exit strategy, or a reason to stay, anything. I wanted to be sure of my next step and I asked it to come from the divine because I felt unreliable in my decision making. And in no time, the Universe answered in two clear ways.
The first way came in an email. It was from a guy named Scott that I’d met at a Yonder Mountain String Band concert on the Mishawaka river almost 3 years prior in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Scott and I had danced together most of the night and at some point in my evening, after several cocktails, apparently I wrote down my name, phone number and email for him, but never heard from him again, until that moment when his email appeared 3 years later when I was looking for a sign to not be with John. In his message, Scott was saying hello, apologizing that it had taken him 3 years to reach out, but he’d lost my contact info until he’d recently deep cleaned his office and found the slip of paper I’d written my info on under his desk. That sounded pretty divine to me. He said he’d tried my phone number, but it was disconnected (I’d gotten a Utah number), so he’d taken a last shot and sent an email, and here we were. Thank you Scott; that was sign #1.
The second sign came at a Christmas party, when John and I went and did a tarot card reading together and after the psychic did her reading, and John had left the table, she asked us what we were together...friends? Brother and sister? Business partners? But when I told her he was my fiancé, she got a noticeable look of doom, and replied, “good luck.” And her words helped seal the deal on what I already knew. John wasn’t my guy, and I needed to stop waiting for an easy way out, or an easy way to tell him, and I just needed to leave. But it was winter in our ski town, which meant busy season was upon us, so if I was going to do it, it was not a good time, but would there ever be?No. But what was my exit strategy?
No sooner did I ask myself that question did an opportunity to break John’s heart and demolish a chance at a future friendship present itself. Scott from Colorado wrote to me saying that he was going to steamboat springs for New Year’s Eve to see some music, and did I any chance want to meet him there? It didn’t make any sense, but every cell in my body said yes, while sadly knowing this was the end of my engagement. Was I ready for that? Not exactly, but I knew in my heart I was doing a disservice to both John and I by staying. I also knew that if I didn’t make a clean break, then I could maybe be talked into staying, because leaving was going to be hard and uncomfortable, because I didn’t have anywhere to go. But regardless of not seeing the whole staircase, I took step one.
On a clear and cold New Year’s eve day, while John was at work, I packed up what stuff I could fit into my truck that already had a lot of massage stuff in it, and I took it to my massage office. I hadn’t planned on living there, as there was no kitchen, no shower, and no private bathroom, but my parents had rented out their mother in law apartment, so I was beginning to accept my reality that this couch in my office might have to be my home for an undetermined amount of time. And if I was going to make this leap, these conditions would have to be fine. I tried to find the positive, and smiled to myself at the irony that I’d wanted a good motivation to get to the gym, and here it was. That was where my shower was.
So there I was, halfway to Colorado, answering a phone call from John asking what we wanted to do for New Year’s Eve, and I took a deep breath and let him know that I’d left, and that I’d moved most of my stuff out, but I’d be back in a few days to get it after returning from Colorado. Not my finest moment, but I was truly in survival mode. Thank God my trip to Colorado turned out to be quite fun, as I got to see 2 of my old roommates from my freshman year in college, who I found out were going to be there. And as for Scott and I? There was no love story there, just a 1 night stand, knight in shining armor who helped whisk me away from one situation in my life so that I could find my way through my tornado of a life on my own.
I returned to Park City to find my remaining things on John’s porch, which I knew would happen. And though I knew he wasn’t at home, I respected his space and said goodbye to the dogs through the fence. Scout, the puppy we’d gotten together the year before wasn’t a good fit for either of us, so I learned later that he was releasing her to the local shelter to be adopted. Scout needed big open fields to run in, or a very active owner that would take her on several exhausting daily adventures and that just wasn’t us. So I drove out to the adoption center, took scout for 1 more walk, kissed her goodbye, and left. She didn’t recognize me or seem to really care, but saying goodbye at least to the dog helped my heart find some peace around my actions.
And I wished John the best, because he really was such a nice guy, and I knew he’d make some other girl other than me very happy, which I know he did. But this was a wonderful lesson for me that my heart is always communicating with me, the Universe is always conspiring to support me, if I have the courage & willingness to listen and even if I have no net in place, I still needed to trust and jump.