How Did We Get Here?

For many of us, the answers to this question range from positive things like: How did I get into this awesome job position? How did I end up in this great new apartment? How did I get into the college or grad school I’ve always wanted? How did I end up finding the one person who ‘gets’ me, who completes me?

Of course, there are the negative answers to this question as well: How did I end up hurting this person? How did I end up disappointing someone? How did I find myself in this situation? How did I let it get this far?

How do I always end up at a breaking point?

You don’t always remember it really. Whenever pain or trauma is about to occur, the body self-protects, shuts down, there’s a numbing, or even blacking out. That’s what happened in what I call, the crash of 2008.

I had my car just barely over a year. I was just barely starting to feel normal after the crash of 2007 when I lost a friend to suicide. It was my first semester as a grad student. I spent each month driving to my hometown to teach a monthly writer’s workshop. I loved it. Not that I wasn’t enjoying teaching freshman composition at the university level, but teaching in the community was something different, something that fed my soul. A typical southern Colorado December meant snow, and sure enough it came down that morning in big foreboding flakes. I should have known something was going to happen.

Like most things, I should have known better. At least, that’s how it happened with “him” – and for those of you who have loved, lusted, longed, lost, or any of the above, on your journey to any of those emotions probably all have one “him” or “her” of your own. One of those people who broke your heart and even so, after you come out on the other end of the rabbit hole you’d probably do it all again.

I knew it was wrong. It didn’t feel right, especially when I was warming up my car, the windshield wiper fluid frozen, and I just knew it wasn’t a good idea. I could tell my mother didn’t want me to drive down to Albuquerque, New Mexico either, but I had to get back for classes so I went anyway. I’d made it through what I thought was going to be the rough patch, got past the state line and was just outside of Bloomfield, NM when I tried to decelerate. My vehicle began to fishtail and I tried to control it, tried to steer off to the right into a field, embankment, anything other than the left. But my car started spinning and I slid into oncoming traffic.

And that’s usually how it happens with accidents. Sometimes it’s all chance. We both didn’t plan on it. I sure as heck know he wasn’t expecting any of it to happen and me, well, I can’t say I saw it coming either.  One night he’d tell me about vibrations, how we each pick up on them. He’d hold my hand up and oscillate his fingers in towards my palm and back out. He’d said something about the body, that the skin remembers the touch. It didn’t really make any sense to me – the conversation, the entire “whatever-it-was”, none of it made sense. No matter how many times I went over it in my head, I came out more confused. But, I suppose none of that matters, I was hooked, pulled in like a lost planet looking for an orbit.

The last thing I saw approaching was a SUV. I remember thinking “please, I don’t want to die.” And then, boom. I don’t remember the impact, don’t remember getting t-boned, and didn’t feel the passenger side being dented in all the way to the center console. I just woke up with blood on my hands, a shattered windshield, and tears immediately streaming down my face.

Of course it sounds cliché.

To say you’re broken or when people tell you that you shouldn’t feel that way – it’s all been said so many times in so many different ways that saying it doesn’t mean much these days. But I know no other way to say this – so, I ask you: what are the things that break us?

  1. losing a loved one before you have time to say goodbye
  2. losing someone even when you have the time to say it
  3. loss?
  4. The list goes on….

We each have one of our own I suppose. Sometimes I wish it could be given to us, in a pretty little box labeled “The things that break us.” When you’re ‘old enough’ your parents can give it to you so when it happens…you’ll know. You’ll know what, why, and how – heartbreak happens.

It’s never supposed to happen. Sometimes you’re driving too fast and you don’t realize it. Sometimes you say things you don’t mean. And, sometimes you enter a bar so dark you forget who you are, you lean in and steal the kiss you were never meant to have from lips you were never meant to touch.

The artist in me wants to write this, to catalogue it, and somehow compartmentalize the experience, put him in a box with shiny wrapping paper and maybe even a bright red bow so that whenever I want to open up the box that contains the memory of him, I’ll just look at it and remember it was good while it lasted. But, I won’t open it, I won’t relive it – I wouldn’t want to tear the pretty paper, or risk unwrapping something I’m not so sure I’ll remember how to tie back properly, how to wrap him up neatly and put him on a shelf again.

And I’ll admit, I wish my body had self-protected. Wish I could have blacked all of him out and not remembered how we even got here, wish I could put the impact of him into a dark place deep in the corners of my unconscious, and then maybe I could fall asleep at night thinking it wasn’t real. As much as I wish it was all just a dream where “dream-me” and “dream-him” could be together, here, in one moment where nothing existed outside of us, it’s not so easy trying to navigate things.

A few weeks ago, on a trip where I was in and out of cell phone service range, I got my first flat tire. Sometimes fate has fucked up ways of telling you: Guess what, you’re out of alignment. But, that’s what I needed. I’m as stubborn as they come and don’t take advice. I always have to learn the hard way. I dive headfirst into the wreck and wake up “here” to the consequences of shattered glass, bloody hands, and feel as if pieces of myself are scattered every which way trying to find a way back together. Sometimes you need the crash, if only just to remind you to slow down, you’re going to fast or the wrong direction and it’s okay to just stop, move on, and try to learn from your mistakes.


  1. This was a profound, profound piece of writing! There is so much I can say, but I’ll stick actually to your last paragraph – where you wrote ” Sometimes you need the crash, ” I have lived here for 3 years. It was wrong literally from the day after I arrived, but instead of saying ‘well while I still have money and everything’s all packed, let’s just GO!’ I decided to try to make it work. It only got worse and worse and as I just wrote on another blogger’s site, this place qualifies for the “ugly book”. For 2.5 years I’ve been searching, searching, searching, online for an affordable place to go, where I feel more emotionally comfortable. No success. Then, in May, my heat pump broke. No a/c (I get heatsick) and now no central heat ;- I closed on my house last week … I have 30 days to vacate … I have no forwarding address! I still haven’t found a place! But you know what??? If it wasn’t for that heat pump crash, how much longer would I have sat here, miserable, searching, searching, searching …?!!

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