There once was girl who thought she knew how to love.
She didn’t fall often, but when she did she descended fully, intensely, recklessly. She relinquished her heart with the hopes that a man would become the bearer of her happiness. Her friendships and personal interests fell to the wayside. Finding a love “worth dying for” served as her purpose in life.
Her relationships were few but long, overlapping in wide arcs like waves at low tide, preventing her from ever being alone.
But perhaps isolation was in fact what she sought.
Her high school and college boyfriends lived in other towns, which offered built in boundaries that subconsciously made her feel safe.
In adulthood she chose a man within physical proximity, but he lived beyond an emotional moat.
In the beginning he showered her with attention and fought for her affection, making her believe that he could love her enough to change. Of course, he never did.
Instead she felt more alone in his company than in his absence. Their relationship became an energetic vortex; in the process she became devastatingly anxious and insecure.
She craved his fleeting attention like a heroin addict in need of a fix. Lifted so high by the brief rush of what she called love that she was willing to endure the let down that followed each time. Finally she fell so low she knew she had to make a change.
So she built her own boundary and put six countries between them, escaping to the jungle in Costa Rica.
She never predicted how dramatically this act would alter the course of her life.
How months later she would sell everything she owned and years later she would live out of her backpack all the way across the world in Southeast Asia.
Least of all did she expect that as soon as she arrived in the South Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, she would fall in love again.
The night she met him she was naïve and riding the rush of her new freedom. He was gorgeous, self assured, and made her laugh so hard it hurt. She hesitated initially, aware that she was leaving for Panama in a month, but as he persisted she challenged herself to accept a relationship that bore no future and no weight.
As she surrendered he brought ease to her life in an unfamiliar place. He propped her on a board and held her hand while she was pummeled by waves. He took her into the jungle and together they scaled coral caves. He chauffeured her in his car, brought gifts to her bungalow, danced with her in public, and told her constantly that she was beautiful. Tangled together in a hammock, he asked her what she loved most in life. More focused on relationships than on her own life, she honestly did not know.
On the comedown of a relationship in her home country that shattered her self-esteem, he made her feel worthy and desired. One night she even told him he was the best man she had ever known. He asked her not to leave.
But something felt off.
He pushed and pulled, open one moment and closed the next. He rarely followed through on his promises. He let her down often. She knew that the relationship couldn’t last.
A month after they met, she left for Panama with the intention of letting it go. He wrote how much he missed her, cared for her, how much he wanted to see her again. After a week without him she realized how deeply he wove his way into her heart.
So she returned.
Her homecoming was hardly how she had fantasized it. He was shocked in the worst possible way. He distanced himself immediately. He gave her the cliché excuse that he feared love and needed to protect his fragile heart. Was it true or was it a line? In her eyes he was a coward just the same.
She flew back to her home country so hurt and so confused. They kept in touch and spoke as friends, but her heart ached for him.
Months later they swapped places. He departed for the states to work, she returned to Costa Rica to relax without having to see his face.
But upon her return the small town felt hollow without him. Their memories blanketed the road, the jungle, the beach, the bars; all illusions without him there. Still she stayed, and as the weeks passed she built new memories. She began to love Puerto Viejo just the same.
Until the night she discovered that he had another life.
A life with complications he concealed to maintain a loose relationship with the latest tourist in town. A life with children and girlfriends and ex wives scattered across the globe. A life that he enacted in the evenings after they swam together at the beach and in the mornings after he lay with her in her bed. A life she had absolutely no idea of no matter how deeply he had stared into her eyes or how softly he had pressed his lips against hers or how many hours they spent listening to Brazilian music and telling each other stories about their lives.
It broke her.
She wondered: was any of it real? Was it all just a lie? Was she special to him like he said or was she just another Western woman he collected to build his ego? She questioned her own judgment. How could her intuition have failed her in knowing that it was all so wrong? How could she possibly trust herself again?
She began to see that it was an epidemic in Puerto Viejo. She saw men with girlfriends and children and wives seeking foreign flings every Saturday night. She met woman after woman who lived the same story as her.
“All men are shit.”
“It’s not possible to find love here.”
The bitter words of scorned women permeated the town and soon became her own.
She began to doubt love altogether. Men and relationships were dangerous and her heart couldn’t handle another hit. So she pursued her passion for travel. She wandered alone though South America, Europe, Africa, and across the United States. Content in her celibacy, romance was the last thing she wanted to taste.
Finally she returned to Puerto Viejo.
She devoted herself to her yoga and her writing. She cared for herself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. She took responsibility for the course of her life. She became the woman she always knew she could be: strong and centered, channeling her energy into her own development rather than a relationship’s.
In the process she considered that what she once called love, was not love after all. She saw that releasing was more loving than clinging. She understood that a relationship could last a day or a lifetime and be full of love just the same. Most importantly she accepted that love breathed in every molecule of every creation on Earth.
Then she saw him again. He returned from the states, stunned to see her nine months after her tearful goodbye. He was shaking as he spoke. He remembered every word they shared, every email they exchanged; he remembered things she had forgotten.
“I can’t believe how happy I am to see you,” he said still shaking.
When she told him about her adventures in Morocco, in Belize, in Spain, he asked if she recalled the day in the hammock when he asked what she loved most in life. “Travel,” she said with a smile. She had grown and transformed as a woman yet her feelings for him hadn’t changed.
They talked for hours that night like old friends until he kissed her, telling her his feelings for her remained.
But this time she knew better. She felt validated in his feelings for her while aware of his mountain of lies. Her mind flickered between anger and bliss; distrust and peace. She questioned him persistently until finally, he admitted the truth. She thought that was the end.
She was wrong.
Over the year that followed, each time she returned to Puerto Viejo he managed to affect her life. At times he pulled her into his arms when she walked by, others he pretended she was invisible.
When she saw him in bars fingering blonde, brunette, curly, and silky straight strands, touching the smalls of backs, and staring into foreign eyes, she learned not to cry and she tried not to care.
She constantly fought the gravity that pulled her towards him.
In her attempt to be safe her heart turned hard. Friends told her she had shut down. Reiki masters and tarot readers and massage therapists who knew nothing of her life intuitively sensed she had to let go or she would never let love in. She longed for her former softness and vulnerability.
To break down her emotional barriers, once again she built physical ones. An entire ocean to be exact.
Asia felt gentle and loving. She felt safe. As far from Puerto Viejo as she could imagine, her walls crumbled. She began to trust the people around her and accept new friends. As much as it scared her, after two years alone, she even fell in love again.
This new relationship resurfaced her issues with men that settled deeper than her Costa Rican fling. She identified her lifelong fear of vulnerability and fought against her self-defenses to let this man in. They knew one another for mere days but to her it felt like a lifetime. Their connection was electric but he represented everything that she had fought to leave behind. In his presence she questioned her path and her direction.
She found herself reverting back to the woman she was before her travel life. The less he gave the more she felt the urge to cling. And like the rest of the men who she grew from in the past, he came with built in boundaries. Like the man who lied to her in Puerto Viejo, he too had another life.
Being with him showed her that she did want to find love again. But this time she wanted love that lifted her up instead of love that pulled her down. She wanted love that flowed easily and abundantly instead of an obstacle course of blockages, no matter how interesting that sometimes was.
When their path split she thought she let her old story go.
However she still held onto its deepest theme: she did not deem herself worthy of love. No matter how wide she drew her boundaries for protection or how tirelessly she fought to break them down, this belief still lived in the fibers of her soul.
She continued her journey, falling in love with countries and culture instead of men. She opened her heart to the beautiful world and allowed it to heal her and its complexities to break her, over and over again.
On the coast of Cambodia one day she met a woman who also called Puerto Viejo home. Fated to have met, this woman knew the girlfriend of the same Costa Rican who had rocked her world years before. He and this girlfriend had a three-year-old child. She knew of his girlfriend’s existence now for over a year but the girlfriend had never known of hers.
When the friend asked if she knew this man, she couldn’t hold onto the lie any longer. What were the chances of this encounter all the way across the world? Like the Thai, the Vietnamese, the Lao, the Khmer, she believed in karma.
Pain she had buried and released over the years flooded the lives of others as her secrets were exposed. This man blamed her for revealing their past and his girlfriend blamed her for not revealing enough.
She blamed herself for everything.
She blamed herself for not outing him sooner. She blamed herself for outing him at all. She blamed herself for feeling hurt for so long when perhaps what they had meant so little. She blamed herself for allowing this hurt to initiate a destructive pattern in her life. She blamed herself for not being a selflessly compassionate friend to the mother of his child. She blamed herself for not taking better care of herself. She blamed herself for not being lovable enough to be the woman instead of the other woman.
Escaping the messages of others and the messages in her mind, she looked to meditation. There she finally heard her soul speak.
“You will never find love. You will never find love. You will never find love.”
Her soul felt these words deeper than she knew. This fear is what drove her to passionately pursue relationships when she was so young and this fear is what drove her to escape them as she grew older. She felt both compassion and anger towards her own being.
Why was the universe forcing her to address this now? She wanted to work on her physical fitness, her friendships, and her business. She wanted to enjoy her travels, learn about the culture, and explore her surroundings not herself. She did not want to do this karmic work. But more than anything, she did not want to ride this wave again.
The universe presented her with a choice: continue down the path that she already knew or take a chance on a different one full of possibility.
So she called on the adventurer within her who propelled her to travel more than two years ago. The adventurer who cut her karmic ties and embarked on a spiritual journey around the world. She called on its strength, its will, and its unfaltering intuition.
She called on that force once again to help her find a new way.