- Posted December 31, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
What My Three-Year Hiatus from Men Taught Me
By Venise Grossmann
This time there wasn’t going to be a rebound relationship. I was going to embrace the pain, experience every bit of the process, and allow the agony to penetrate to the core. Then I was going to dispel the toxic feelings--however long it might take.
Our eight and a half year relationship was tumultuous from the start. No one expected it to last because of our vastly different personalities and experiences. But love knows no logic. After three years, we saw a counselor who said we had irreconcilable differences. Instead of accepting the obvious diagnosis, we remained together for another five and a half years yet broke up often. Toward the end, it seemed we separated once a month whether we needed it or not.
In preparation for a month-long trip to India, I began practicing yoga. Before I left, I broke things off again, fully aware that the relationship was not serving me. He threatened to go out will someone new, something he had never done before, and made good on the promise while I was away. When I returned, I learned the news, and knew that this time the relationship was truly over.
I wish I could say that I accepted the situation with grace, but I didn’t. It hurt too much to hear the details of his dates with someone else. While I was away at my first yoga retreat, he sent me a text, wishing me peace and happiness, but I was filled with anger and disappointment. We remained in contact, but became enemies. Whenever a relationship ended in the past, I sought solace in the arms of someone new, but this time I made a conscious choice to allow myself time to heal. Instead of seeking male companionship, I continued to immerse myself in yoga.
Over the course of the next two and a half years, I took asana and meditation classes, went on yoga retreats and made another trip to India. I mediated in a Buddhist cave, dipped my fingers in the Ganges while watching cremations from a boat and practiced yoga on rooftops in India at dawn and dusk. I booked massage, reiki, biofeedback and acupuncture sessions. I had warm oil streamed on my head during Shirodhara and soaked in the hot springs at Esalen in Big Sur. I took part in kirtan at a Krishna Das performance, tried free expression dance class and had my tarot cards read.
I juiced, shopped at Whole Foods and ate clean. I used a neti pot, drank hot lemon water and visited an Ayurveda doctor, experimenting with holistic remedies. I took part in a 10-day self-transformation program at the Himalayan Institute and was initiated into the Himalayan tradition.
I kept a gratitude journal, read Rumi and sacred yoga texts, and created a meditation shrine in my bedroom. I made solitary camping trips, kayaked, swam and traveled to the Middle East.
And I spent a year by my father’s side as he transitioned from this life to the one above. All the while, I abstained from any romantic interaction with men.
After two years, I became a certified yoga teacher and released enough pain that I was able to approach my former love and congratulate him on his recent wedding. A month later, I sent him a card, apologizing for any pain that I had caused him and wished the two of them love and happiness. Despite my progress, I was still unmotivated to start a new relationship and continued on my yogic path.
Eight months later, I started to feel a shift. I began to flirt. I started to look at men and felt ready to date again. Two months later, it happened—almost exactly three years after the demise of my long-term relationship. I sat across the table from a man I had met 28 years prior who had contacted me on Facebook. We met in a historic country inn in Concord, Massachusetts while I was visiting Walden Pond. He was a man I admired--handsome, smart, funny, and I enjoyed every moment of his company. I was finally ready to embrace a new relationship without any debilitating emotional baggage. I knew I was capable of opening my heart to someone again.
After our date, I continued on my journey to Acadia National Park where I planned to camp for a few days. As I drove, I thought about what my three-year hiatus from men taught me. As Plato said, we must be kind because “we are all fighting a huge battle.” Embracing that sentiment, I learned to forgive the man who had unintentionally hurt me. As Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” How true. I had caused myself needless pain by holding onto the anger.
I also learned to forgive myself for the mistakes I had made in our relationship, especially during the break up process. As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better,” and I hope to carry this insight into my new relationship. As I hiked around Walden Pond, I realized as Thoreau did, that in order to achieve true happiness, I had to learn to be content on my own. Only then is it possible to share your life with someone else.
A month later, my former love observed me embracing a friend of his who had been a major bone of contention between us. He approached me and said, “I can’t believe I just saw you hug him.” Placing his hands in Anjali mudra, he bowed, a gesture that was shocking coming from a man who was not spiritually inclined. And then he said, “No one is more centered than you.”
Recognizing and commending my hard work was the most cherished gift he could have given me. At that moment, I knew my process was complete. There was no more animosity between us. After three years, I had learned to love him without attachment. I too placed my hands at my heart center, smiled and said, “Namaste.”
Photo: Author practicing yoga in Acadia National Park
Venise Grossmann is a high school English teacher, freelance writer, photographer, and yoga instructor. She is an advocate against bullying and a proponent of healthy eating in the schools. Although she has travelled to 63 countries, Africa remains her greatest love. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and www.venisegrossmann.com.