It would be too easy to say that 10 years ago, I was living a life of freedom. Maybe not freedom per se. More like… thoughtful independence. I was discovering myself. Discovering a woman who needed to fill her soul with anything that was, for lack of a better term, nice.
For this journey of thoughtful independence to make sense, though, I have to back up. Two years earlier, on March 24 of 2007, my relationship at the time ended badly, just about killing every part of me that I thought was strong. I remember the exact date because the day it happened I was working an event featuring Jack Horner. Jack Horner! He’s the dinosaur dude who Sam Neill’s character in Jurassic Park was based on. Jack suffers from dyslexia and I remember thinking at the time what an awful disease for someone who loved to learn and study. That doesn’t have anything to do with my breakup except from that moment, I started on a path that would last almost three years.
For years I had gone relationship to relationship, each one ending painfully, and it made me feel rotten. I was 35 and what the hell was I going to do next except get busy dying alone? What would become the jumping off point for my travels in self-discovery began with questions of self-doubt:
Why couldn’t I keep relationships together?
Why couldn’t I become who they needed/wanted/desired/loved?
It’s not you…it’s me. Right.
This was where I started. I needed to build the relationship between me and me before trying again to build a relationship between me and someone else.
So, in July of 2009, I was full-throttle forward on the “me2” movement. Being alone is an exercise in reflective cognition. After all, the only person staring back at me in the mirror was me. I did things I always wanted to do. I became a tourist in my hometown and visited places, shops and restaurants I’d never been to before. I read when I wanted and spent Friday nights alone with a pizza and a movie. Saturday mornings were for sleeping in, leftover pizza, and hot, strong coffee.
My mom had been retired for two years, so we spent a lot of time together at the lake. She was my boating buddy, the one who packed the cooler with all my favorites and never forgot to bring something to read. We’d sit out on the lake for hours, her reading the latest James Patterson thriller and me laying on the back of the boat being rocked to sleep, the sun warming my skin until it felt like it was on fire. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I would jump in with no other sense than how the water cooled every inch of my body as it crept up and over my head. I’ve never known anything else so refreshing.
When I think back on it now, I needed those three years to become who I am today. I tell my husband that every relationship I’ve ever had has taught me something about myself, and that has helped make me a better life partner. By the time he came along, I was ready. Ready to open myself to new possibilities, to a stranger who, despite living 1,500 miles away at the time showed interest in me and my life like no one ever had before. I was ready to lean full on into the life I knew I deserved.
I can’t remember where I first heard it, but someone once said that déjà vu is the universe telling you you’re in the exact right place at the exact right time. I don’t need déjà vu to tell me that anymore. These days, when my husband and I are on the boat on a hot summer day, and my skin is on fire, I jump in. And I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
Sarah Heggen is a small town Iowa girl through and through. She grew up in Clear Lake, attended Iowa State University, and currently resides in the capital city of Des Moines with her husband, Mark and their two dogs Lucy and Sunny. For the last six years she has been the Communications and Member Relations Specialist for Central Iowa Power Cooperative, an energy provider for rural electric cooperatives across the state. In 2010, her book Images of America: East Village was published following extensive historical research on an up-and-coming urban neighborhood in Des Moines. Sarah also hates people who refuse to use proper grammar.
Sarah encourages you to learn more about Patriots for Pets an organization that helps homeless dogs and cats find their forever homes. They do private adoptions to individuals, and have a program to assist Veterans by placing dogs with Wounded Warriors that served in the military. Visit patriotsforpets.com.