Heartbreak is not a Team player (#100daysofgratefulnessday29)

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“Grateful for this guy.  My Teamie.  I waited long enough and had my heart broken enough times before he came along.  I’m glad I waited and didn’t become a Charlotte Lucas.  He was worth the wait.  And that’s why I am also grateful, strange as it may sound, for all the horrible, horrible heartbreak.  I needed it to learn what and who would be the right guy for me.  Thanks for loving me back, even when I’m a diva”. #100daysofgratefullnessday29

So here’s the background.  Carl and I have known each other since I was eight and he was ten, my Mum was his year six teacher.  We went to different secondary schools from the age of eleven and saw each other occasionally.  There was a period when we got the bus together in sixth form, and I totally fancied him, he doesn’t remember so….yeah…We went to different Universities and almost ten years after leaving school re met at our mutual friends’ wedding.  The rest as they say is history.

I kept Carl at arm’s length for the first six months of our relationship.  I had been single for almost two and half years immediately prior to meeting him having been in a couple of relationships almost back to back from the age of eighteen to almost twenty five. I had been hurt.  Badly.

Unrequited love.  I’ve been a victim of that both whilst in relationships and out.  I saw a future where there wasn’t one and I became consumed by it. I was always the one doing the chasing, the giving, I totally made my life fit around those guys for a time.  I considered the impact that every decision would have on them as part of an “us”.  They didn’t do the same, and really, who can blame them?  I shouldn’t have been doing it.  I should have been more selfish, I was young and romantic and in love and I let it become all consuming.  I think that might be a trait that women have, we are socialised to be considerate, to think of others, to be polite, to be care givers, and sometimes we go too far, and suddenly we wake up one day realising we’re the only one doing all the running, all the caring, all the giving and inevitably we are the one getting treated like crap.

It’s horrid when you realise it, that yet again you got carried away and have been letting yourself be treated badly for quite some time now and that makes you MAD.  You, the independent, educated, woman who knows her own self-worth and her value has been letting herself be walked all over and played for a fool.  Unacceptable.

It’s especially bad if well-meaning friends have helped you get carried away “but he obviously loved/loves you, you just had/have to see you together”.  Yeah, my response eventually became “but not enough”.  I know my own value, I know what I deserve and it’s not to be someone’s back up, or to be the person he’s with until someone else shiny and new catches his eye.

I know all of this, but when it happens, again, it’s devastating.  You feel so betrayed and so crappy.  You have hopes and dreams and plans and structure and then it’s all up in the air and you just DON’T KNOW.

I was often just plain sad and then angry that I was sad.  I constantly repeated to myself my mantra that “you can’t help how you feel, so don’t feel bad about how you feel”.  Whilst true, I often felt overwhelmed.  “I shouldn’t be feeling this”, “it wasn’t meant for you”, “let it go, let it go, let it go…”.

I am lucky to have some great friends and in particular, a couple of very special ladies who would listen to me being sad.  Other friends who have basically been married for years don’t get it, and as much as they may have tried to I felt bad for seeming to bother them again with my broken heart.  My two ladies who listened to me most have been there and they didn’t feel the need to offer solutions, they understood that sometimes when your heart is broken the only thing that helps is constantly repeating yourself.  I’ll always be grateful to them for this particular kindness.

At one of my lowest moments, one where I felt I couldn’t whinge to any more even to those two particular friends because this was getting boring now and I should be over it and #firstworldproblems, I was sobbing on my bedroom floor in my underwear (oh the glamour) and I started to feel panicked, I didn’t know where my life was going: “I don’t have a plan, this wasn’t the plan, what am I going to do? Why do I still feel like this? Will I ever feel any better? I am sick of feeling like this I am so tired, I don’t know anything anymore*”.  I started to hyperventilate.  I couldn’t catch my breath.  I mentally cried out to God “help me, make me feel better!” and: instant calm, instant serenity and a sense of love.

I immediately picked up my bible and opened it, randomly, the passage it fell on was one of many variations repeated throughout the Bible of “do not fear, I am the Lord your God and I will not forsake you”.  I have never felt closer to God in that moment before or since.

Some people will think that is a load of bollocks.  To those people, I will say – whatever.  I may not be able to remember what happened immediately after that (I mean I’m assuming it involved picking myself up off of the floor, eating some chocolate and watching Grey’s Anatomy, but maybe it involved eating granola and going for a run!), I may not be able to remember the exact Bible passage but I know how I felt and I know that God was there, right with me in that moment.

From that moment I found I started to believe my mantras and slowly I became very contented being single.  I prayed a lot, asking for God’s help and guidance, I spent a lot of time with other single friends and basically said yes to every single opportunity which wasn’t great for the bank balance but kept me very busy and made me laugh a lot and make some awesome memories.  I won’t lie and pretend that I was completely happy all of the time (who is?); I often still felt lonely and disappointed and sad but it became less as I learned to trust God that there was a reason and a plan.

When Carl and I re met I was determined that I wouldn’t “be back at square one” if it all went wrong, I fiercely kept my independence, refused to adjust my schedule that much or spend all my time with him.  I initially saw him once a week and then twice.  I liked spending time with him, but I questioned all the time, I wouldn’t let myself fall head over heels and get carried away.  I was cautiously optimistic, but I didn’t reveal his existence to my wider circle of work colleagues and friends for ages.  In fact, I felt quite bad recently when remembering a colleague asking me who I was going on my holiday with and I said “my boyfriend” and she (understandably) expressed some surprise that I hadn’t told her I had a boyfriend (we sat next to each other).  I responded a bit more harshly than I’d intended that “we’ve been together four months, it’s not a massive deal.  I don’t like to talk about my personal life at work”.  Poor girl.

After about six months I realised that I could trust Carl and that I had to.  In order to have everything I wanted – be in love, part of a team and eventually happily married and raise a family together then I had to risk a little.  It’s the way it is, you both have to be a little bit vulnerable, as terrifying as that is: you hold part of each other’s hearts and as corny as that sounds it’s also true.

Carl and I aren’t really “alike” I’m an extrovert, he’s an introvert, I blow up, he stews, we have different music tastes and tastes in films.  We do have the same work ethic, the same ideas about family and we do both enjoy walking, eating and the cinema (even though we often compromise on film choices).  Generally it makes for a pretty good life.  Our main difference is in theology, I have a faith, Carl does not.  I pray every day that Carl will come to know God, he knows this and doesn’t mind, much like he’s known about my secret Pinterest wedding boards for an age now.  He comes to church with me sometimes and supports me in my choices because it’s important to me.

After almost four years together, buying a house together and living together for two and a half years Carl finally (!) asked me to marry him in April in Cinque Terre when we were watching the sunset on a little hike.  It was perfect for us, no other people there, he said some lovely things about us and he cried, and I cried and he proposed with a massive fake ring and then we amused ourselves by laughing and trying to take selfies with said massive ring.

We have already started building our life together, he’s a great partner in that respect.  I can’t wait to marry him next year, to me marriage is important, it won’t change the way we feel about each other or how we see ourselves but it’s an important sign of our commitment to being a team and sticking at it together, through the good, bad and the ugly.

Like so many things God’s version was better than what I had imagined or thought that I had wanted.  Carl and I are team mates or “Teamies” a bit soppy, but to the point.  We are a unit, we’re on the same side, and we love each other even when we hate each other.

Grateful to get the opportunity to do life and marriage with someone who makes me laugh, mainly at myself, and who is more kind, caring, compassionate and principled than I had ever dared hope my future husband to be.

 

 

*obviously this wasn’t true but the broken heart is nothing if not dramatic.

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Cinque Terre

So the second part of our week in Italy was spent in Cinque Terre.  This has been a “Bucket List” destination of ours for a while now, so it was truly a treat to be going here and I was super excited!  Cinque Terre is a collection of five fishing villages on the north eastern coast of Italy.  They are crazily constructed and the whole area is a Unesco World Heritage site.  They are a very “Pinterest” destination, as the houses are brightly coloured.

It is a train ride of about 4 hours from Rome, so naturally, I read up on the area in my Lonely Planet guide and also read some of C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” which I was reading at the time.

Carl had booked us into a gorgeous little en-suite room in a house in Corniglia which is the middle of the five towns.   We arrived on the Thursday afternoon and just had a mooch around Corniglia, I think Carl was pretty tired after carrying the case up the 377 steps up to the village!

There are trails for hiking which connect the five towns.  There are two routes you can hike; the blue routes, which are generally easier routes following the coastal paths and which you have to have a Cinque Terre card for (the Cinque Terre cards are 7.50 euros for one day not including the train) and the red routes which are more strenuous and are free.  You can buy Cinque Terre cards which last more than one day.

A train connects each of the five towns so you could go to this area and not hike at all, although I think that would be a real shame, as you see so much more when you are walking and it is part of the experience!

When we arrived we were told that the two blue routes connecting Corniglia and Manaroloa and Manarola and Riomaggiore were closed due to land slides.  The only option was to do a red route or get the train.  Carl and I love hiking, so we opted for the red routes on the Friday.  Below is the map and the view of Corneiglia on our first hike to Manarola and the view of Corniglia from our bedroom window.

The day was gorgeous and we hiked through vineyards to get to Manarola.  Each village has a Sanctuary above it and we visited the one above Manarola in the tiny village of Volastra.  Manarola is the oldest town, and after Corniglia was my favourite.  We went back here on the Saturday and did a wine tasting course for 15 euros each at La Cantina dello Zio Bramante where we tasted a red, white and dessert wine paired with small plates of local foods.  This was one of our favourite activities and not least because of the knowledgeable guide and the three ladies who were also present with us.  They were in their late sixties and were friends (two Aussies and one American) they were hilarious and managed to completely take down an annoying American tourist who seemed to be basing his identity on Russell Brand and was talking very loudly about inappropriate “sexploits” and generally being a bit of a knob.  We laughed a lot!

We didn’t find the hiking too difficult, it was steep in places, but it was a good two hour walk to Manarola, where we had a drink and look around stopping for Lobster Tagliatelle at a restaurant called Trattoria da Billy which had gorgeous sea views and was incredibly reasonably priced.

 

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Beautiful Manarola

 

We then went on to Riomaggiore, which was a much steeper trek, almost straight up and down through vineyards and was a bit harder on the legs!

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Colourful Riomaggiore

 

After all that trekking we took the train back to Corniglia and watched the sunset with a glass of wine in a gorgeous wifi free café which we came to love!

On the Saturday the weather was a little overcast but intermittently sunny.  We took the blue route to Vernazza and while easier than the red route, it was full of other hikers and the views weren’t as good.  Vernazza is very pretty though and has recovered remarkably well from devastating floods in 2011.

We then walked on to Monterosso the newest and biggest of the five towns.  Then on a recommendation, we took the train to Levanto and then hiked back along a red route.  This was more difficult, I don’t know if this was because we were tired or it was genuinely a more difficult red route.  The weather when we started was beautiful, but unfortunately when we reached the viewpoint to look over Monterosso and down the coast to see all five of the villages, it was completely obscured by cloud!

We were very tired after this and Sunday was much more leisurely day, it’s when we did the wine tasting and when we repeated part of our first trek in the evening, which was our favourite one overall.

On the Monday we came home and said goodbye to all the amazing Italian food we had eaten! Evidence below:

My tips for trekking in Cinque Terre:

  1. Plan your route and be prepared with water and provisions – Italian signage is not the most accurate and it may take longer than you imagine!
  2. Comfortable walking shoes are a must.
  3. Take your camera, you will be snapping all the time!
  4. Don’t treat it like a race, take your time to enjoy it and stop for gelato, pasta and wine!
  5. Have a map with you when trekking.
  6. Be realistic about the time you have and if you can plan to trek one way and then train it back!

I love the pace of life in Italy, the food, the attitude, how family orientated it is. It really is “La Vita e Bella” and I always leave a little piece of my heart there…until next time Italia!

More snaps are on my Instagram @nackandnace.