Soon.

So very much to tell, so very much to say.



open

Timo and I broke up on Saturday. I guess I get to claim the dubious victory of having been the breaker-upper. It was my decision. Bully for me.

Where to start.

From the moment we got involved Timo was upfront about his intention to leave the US, probably within a year or so. One of the first things he said to me that constituted, I don't know, a warning sign, was that he doesn't let himself get too attached when he dates because of his plans to return to Germany eventually. He said that to me within the first week or so. I adjusted my expectations accordingly.

Then, shit happened. We went to Malibu. We went to a festival together. We started spending about half the nights of the week together. We got close. Our chemistry was always electric and we couldn't get enough of one another. He would routinely sleep over and go straight to work from my apartment. Once he blew my mind by taking his backpack and work clothes to a concert at the Bowl, just so he could come straight to my place afterward. And I didn't even go to the show.

He involved himself in my life, in what I was going through with work, with looking for jobs, interviewing, all of that. He was supportive in actual, concrete ways, going out of his way to help me figure things out, make plans. He told me he loved how much care I showed for him, too. He said I'd made him happier than he'd ever been, living in LA. That he was so thrilled with what we had.

I could feel myself falling for him in a big way, which terrified me because he's leaving. I brought up the issue a few times but those conversations only left me at best mildly reassured and at worst more confused.

The first time I brought it up he understandably balked. It was pretty early on. I think I said something about being open to anything, but that if he wasn't, he had an obligation to tell me. He responded by saying he was open about things too, but didn't know what would happen.

But then some more time passed, and I brought up the topic again. I may or may not have been drunk. This time I was more anxious, more persistent. I don't remember all of the conversation, but I do know this exchange happened:

Me: "It would almost be easier if you were to just say to me, 'I'm going home to Germany, and you, Ellie, are staying here.'"

Him: "I don't know that I want to say that."

Another time I found myself crying in his arms, because I was so crazy about him and so scared of losing him. He held me tight and, referring to a possible job change, said "Who knows what could happen." Little things like this that he would say - they were enough to keep me feeling calm about the situation. But then at other times I would call him out and refer to myself as the "good for now girl." And the way he would wince and softly say "Don't say that" made me think there was some truth in it.

We fell in love. When he told me he was falling in love with me, and then when he actually said the words, I was elated. I thought that meant that, I don't know, we were progressing towards something. So I relaxed a little. A lot, really. I felt his love, every day. I felt secure and so happy in it. He is incredibly loving, incredibly affectionate, and incredibly expressive. I counted myself incredibly lucky.

Over Thanksgiving there was a moment where he told me he wanted to take care of me. My heart nearly exploded.

Still.

Still there was a voice in my head and a dark little spot in my heart. Something deep inside was whispering that he didn't see me the way I saw him. That he loved me wildly, but that he loved me only for now. Little clues. Like when I started learning German, he didn't really encourage it. Like while he once mentioned talking about me to his family, he never said anything along those lines again.

I was at work a couple of days after we got back from Mendocino and I saw a couple that nearly devastated me. They were probably 60ish. They were foreign, Italian I think. They were the most youthful, playful, affectionate couple I'd ever seen. Just giggling and canoodling and so, so beautifully connected. It stopped me cold. I realized in that moment that I want that, too. I want it now - and I want it when I'm 60. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with my going after it, and demanding it for myself.

Timo is going home for the holidays in about a week and half. He'll be gone for three weeks. When he told me, I didn't even flinch. I expected it, had zero expectations about him inviting me or being back in time to kiss me for New Year's. That was all fine. But something in the way that he asked me to make myself available the day of his leaving and the day of his return...I don't know. It was playful and sexy in spirit...but it dinged my radar. Hard. And when I saw this couple I decided I was going to ask Timo, right away, whether he thought about a future with me. Not about marrying me, not about whisking me away to Germany...just whether he even entertained the notion of a life with me in it.

Because just as I have ambitions for myself professionally and creatively, so do I have personal ambitions, too.

I took Friday night to think. He spent the evening with friends. On Saturday I asked him to meet me. We set a time and place. It was an outdoor mall. Christmas tree, lights, music, crowds. The whole deal. Exactly like I needed it to be. I needed to feel surrounded by people and not alone. Because I knew. I just knew.

So, we talked. I told him everything that I felt, about him, about us. What I saw in him, what I saw in us. But that enough time had gone by that, if he wasn't at least thinking about a future with me by now, that he was wasting my time. Or that I was wasting it, with him. Whatever. I more emphasized how much potential I see in us, because my god. There are things about us that are just...exceptional. We never, ever fight. And if we do get into the slightest bit of conflict, it is so easy to just calmly get back out of it. That alone.

That alone. Priceless.

Then there was the intimacy, which just...

This is hard.

Then there is the fact that we both love in the same ways. We both speak the same love languages, in the same order, in the same intensity.

We both respect one another, and one another's independence, tremendously.

Anyway.

It didn't matter.

He didn't say the exact words "I don't think about a future with you, Ellie," but what he said was enough. It was stuff about the complication of moving countries, and how he's very good at seeing the downsides and challenges and impossibilities and la la la. It was "you have no idea how hard it is to completely uproot yourself and try to blend into another culture" or something like that. And it didn't matter to him that I'm unafraid of that (which I said) or that doing so actually sounds like the greatest adventure ever (which I also said), because at the end of the day it is not about Germany or moving or us not knowing how I'd support myself (us) in a foreign place.

Because all of those things are problems couples solve every day, all over the world, because they want to. Partners learn new languages and find expat communities for support and networking, and help with jobs.

But they have to want to.

I know he is heartbroken. I saw him cry for the one and only time. He didn't want to walk away. He said as much. He said he didn't know what it was inside of him, holding him back from saying "Fuck it, let's do this." He said he wished he was man enough to make that call. I tried to explain that there isn't any big or permanent decision to make right now, just dialogue and openness to possibility. Alas.

He said he can't imagine life in LA without me. He said he can't even imagine three weeks or a month without me, right now for the holidays.

But I am not a temp.

What sucks the most, honestly, is that he never even saw me shine. He was with me through what has been, hands down, the hardest six months of my life. He saw a version of me that was so beaten down, so overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, and insecure. He has no idea who I can be. He's never seen me at my best. He's never seen the person I am when I am secure, when I feel safe and loved and in control of my life - exactly the place I am getting back to now, step by step. He never saw the best me, and now he never will. I hate that.

I told him he probably has a window of opportunity, to change his mind. I tried to explain that I'm not after any kind of commitment or promise, that for all I know, when it came down to it I might decide I didn't want to move away, anyway. That all I need to know is that he thinks about it, because he loves me that much, and sees what we have is so precious and rare and amazing.

But two nights have now passed with no boombox-wielding German standing outside my window blasting Peter Gabriel. And I am forced to face the fact that I am not a heroine in a John Hughes movie, and that sometimes really, really good things get away.

When I walked away from him, I held my head high and I didn't look back. I didn't even cry. I just searched his eyes for a moment, asked him one last time if there was any reason I should stick around, gave him once final chance. Then I kissed him on the cheek and left with my dignity intact if my heart crushed.

Anyway. I'm okay. That same night I did the Ellie equivalent of getting roaring drunk to forget my woes - I found an EDM show and took myself dancing. It was actually a festival, a small local one at a nightclub I'd never been to. Two floors, five stages, awesome, unpretentious crowd. I had a fucking blast. Then I went to work the next day, and was so busy I didn't have to think. Then last night it hit me like a tsunami, and I cried harder than I have in probably years.

It's not just Timo. It's this year. This has been the hardest year of my life, by far. I haven't even shared all of what I've been through, though I plan on writing a massive end-of-year tell-all to clear the slate and start fresh next year. But yes, last night I cried so much and for so long that today I feel like I was punched in both of my eyes. I cried so hard that it was purifying. Now it's just numbness.

One part of me fantasizes that a month away from me will tear him apart, that he'll come to his senses and see that what we have is incredible and exceptional. But the rest of me knows him well enough to know that he goes after the things he wants, and if he wanted me, he wouldn't have let me go on Saturday.

I told my friends. Some said "Good for you for knowing your worth." One said, "I don't think this is the end of it." One said, "Oh god, Ellie," and just shook her head. (That was probably the most helpful, TBH.)

I made a bunch of lists, and taped them up in front of my desk. One of them is titled "Fresh Start" and lists all the ways in which I'm getting exactly that. New job. New apartment. New year. New opportunities. One of them is labeled "Me" and is a list of all the words I want to be able to honestly describe myself as, like calm, graceful, giving, creative, assertive, and so on. One of them is titled "Things I Love" and is a list of everything in life that brings me joy. When I wrote it I couldn't believe how quickly I filled up the page. I see it every day, several times a day, and it's a reminder that life is big and beautiful and full of potential, that there are amazing experiences still to be had, adventures of wonder and discovery, of laughter and love.

I'm open to them.

Mendocino

(last installment of Thanksgiving '16)

Saturday's rain maroons us perpendicular on the sectional, him with a book and me with my laptop. Every so often we glance out the window to see if the weather has cleared. It hasn't. We head outdoors anyway, Timo laughing when I push my furry hood back and let the rain pummel my face and hair. I know I look like a drowned rat, but the fresh air feels too good.

We hike up into the acreage behind the house, mindful of property lines. The people living around here value privacy and are armed, I suspect, to prove it. A tree trunk bridging a roily creek is an invitation I can't resist, even though my heart pounds faster as I inch across it than I'd like to admit. From the safety of other side I watch Timo take equally careful steps. We plunge further into the wilderness, crashing through puddles in waterproof footwear.

It's too wet out, though, and too cold. Defeated, we retreat back to the dry, warm living room. The furnace snaps and pops and, armed with snacks, we watch a movie. Timo tries graham crackers for the first time.

Sunday's promise of a clearer day holds, and we take the forty-five minute drive to the coast slowly. Branscombe Road lets us out at the spectacular cliffs just north of Westport, and we stop time and again for photos of the picturesque sea stacks being washed over by waves.

Following the Shoreline Highway leads us through a series of blink-and-you'll-miss-them towns, until we hit Fort Bragg for lunch. At a friendly dockside shanty of a restaurant, we wave seagulls away from our fish and chips and talk about the weekend. I get buzzed on a pomegranate cider, which warms my body but not my icicle-cold hands. Those, Timo invites me to warm on his neck.

With not too much daylight left, we're back on the road to Mendocino. Past the Jug Handle Reserve and Caspar, a sign for the Point Cabrillo Light Station beckons. Timo's game, having never been, and we walk the half mile to the water's edge with linked arms. I'm still merry from the cider; he's delighted with how much I'm loving the landscape he hoped I would.

All the outbuildings in the lighthouse complex are painted in coordinating colors of cherry and seafoam, with brown trim. They are beautifully maintained, cheerfully bright structures that stand in defiance of the drab, grey ocean behind them. We take our time ambling along the headland's curve, and I relax into taking as many photos as I please.

We reach Mendocino just as it's getting dark, making a quick round of the streets along the coast and the main drag. It's a place I could amble through, gallery by gallery and shop by shop.

Maybe another year.

Either way, Thanksgiving '16 gave me quite a lot of awesome to file away in the memory banks. Hope yours did, too.