AFTER SAYING GOODBYE to your wife in New York City, go online and find a room to rent in a house in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The room should be in an old, creaky house devoid of furniture and shared with two female university students. Discover that one of them also recently left a long-term relationship. Spend mornings on the front steps together, drinking coffee and sharing tears and homemade cookies. Here is where you will recount meeting your wife and spending the past six years with her…
You’d met through a mutual friend but it took months to actually go on a date (dinner at a Caribbean restaurant — she had the jerk chicken). Your second date turned into a long-weekend affair, and from there on out, when you weren’t working, you were spending almost every minute with each other. A couple of years in you traveled to her hometown near Munich and bought a campervan. When you returned home to Vancouver after three months of driving around western Europe, you made the decision to work for a year, quit your jobs, and leave Canada. Work Holiday visas were secured for Australia.
You wanted to elope but in the end you had your wedding at home with family and friends. You bought another campervan in Germany, drove that around for five months, then trained across Russia on the way to travel in Mongolia, China, and Vietnam. You’d settled in Melbourne for two years, working full time office jobs and drinking many lattes.
You will recall that, while you did some neat and budget things like building your own couches and bookshelves and turning your van into a campervan, you also acquired a bunch of stuff. Stuff that took 20 boxes to pack up when you left Oz, of which half went to your in-laws in Germany and half to your parents in Vancouver (this ensures a “floaty” and ungrounded feeling during the break-up).
While still in Halifax, Skype with your wife who confirms what you’ve been dreading: the separation is for good. Slip the wedding band off your finger.
While going through the emotions and the prospect of no longer spending the rest of your life with your partner, remember the plans you made for the rest of that year. The three months you were going to spend in Guatemala learning Spanish and volunteering. The culinary school you were going to attend in France so you could both run a chalet in the French Alps for the upcoming ski season. Hold tight to that to keep the illusion that it still might happen (it won’t).
Before flying to Halifax to spend a month recuperating, accept a press trip to Thailand, which came at the perfect time to “get away from it all.” On the flight, sit next to a short Indian man wearing bright yellow Bermuda shorts. You may be taken aback by his apparent rude behaviour sometimes (the way he talks to the flight attendants and his penchant for burping) but bear with him. Watch him out of the corner of your eye as he quietly cries and wipes tears away. Then accept the piece of paper he hands to you, with a poem he just wrote for a close friend who died while he was away on business.
Listen to him while he tells you about his wife that died a few years ago and how his friend — who was actually his wife’s sister — helped him immensely to get through the pain of losing a loved one. Think about your current relationship problems and gain appreciation for the fact that this woman that you loved (and still love), who has been a huge part of your life for the past six years, is still alive.
Enjoy your time in Thailand, making new friends and forgetting everything at home while you do various activities like ride elephants, visit temples, and cycle in back alleys. But at night, when you’re alone in your hotel room, remember everything.
With the month in Halifax almost up, when most of the tears have been cried, consider flying back to Thailand to rent a beach hut for three months to chill the fuck out. But then get a serendipitous phone call from a close friend who recently bought a house and moved to Nelson, a small city in southern BC of 10,000 residents and hemmed in by mountains on all sides. Listen to him as he says to you, “if you want to come here for a bit I have a room I can rent you for cheap.” Go there.
Fall in love with Nelson almost on arrival. Feel the warmth of the place as people smile and say hi as you pass them on the street. Get to know people. There’s a woman who runs the yoga studio where you become a regular. Listen when she tells you that the first time she passed you on the street she felt compelled to wave, even though you didn’t see her.
Feel the openness as people — strangers — share their stories with you and listen to your story. The dental hygienist who also found a safe haven in Nelson when her marriage ended. Or the woman who hemmed your pants and listened with genuine interest after asking the question you will come to hear so many times: “What brought you to Nelson?”
Read lots of books. Books with names like Emotional Alchemy, The Way of the Superior Man, and Man’s Search for Meaning. Watch TED Talks, like Brene Brown’s presentation on vulnerability. Write. Start a website about love and relationships. Do lots of yoga and meditating.
Reconnect with nature, that thing that is often forgotten when living in a concrete jungle, by swimming in lakes and rivers, climbing mountains, and gardening in your backyard. Hug a tree whenever you go hiking in the woods. Lie under the stars, give thanks to the moon, balance rocks, and light a campfire.
Let people know you love them and stay open to the love that surrounds you.