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Simply Solo Spotlight: Before It Gets Pretty, Sometimes Its Gotta Get Really Ugly … A Love Story

November 15, 2011

Happy Simply Solo Spotlight Tuesday! Today’s guest post is brought to you by Ali Lawrence, a writer and writing coach. I love the story she shared today, and it’s a good reminder of how things usually work out for the best. When you are done reading and commenting, be sure to check out her blog!

Quick shameless plug: Do you have a story to tell? Advice to offer? Did you just have literally the worst date of your life and you must write about it? I’d love to have you as the next Simply Solo Spotlight! Contact me at:

Before It Gets Pretty, Sometimes Its Gotta Get Really Ugly … A Love Story

Did the dishes? Check

Laundry? Check

Daydreamed about having another life? Check

Went to work? Check

Got to school on time? Check

Broke off engagement? Crickets…

Programming note: I have been engaged twice…

Picture of AliHi, my name is Ali and I am a hopeless romantic with a tough exterior. Boy crazy from day one, I have vivid memories of refusing to put anything over my “Wonder Woman” underoos to pre-school. I had a crush on a boy there and have always been pro-statement-making. By high school, I met the love of my life, but never having been one to do anything the easy way, it wasn’t until a few years ago that we made it official. We will be getting married next June, just over 21 years after that first look.

We met in detention our freshmen year, that’s a true story. We were fast and close friends with an occasional blurred line. With a twinning lust for adventure, I was definitely wild, and he was never one to turn his back on a little trouble. A big and confusing love that broke my silly little heart a million times over; our youth, the cosmos, and everything in-between happened, and we eventually parted ways as friends.

My twenties orbited at both a glacial and rapid pace. I was as much a cliché as I was a Martian; I moved to a big and pretty city, worked, went to graduate school, went out most nights, met someone, moved in, and then got engaged. Meanwhile, back on my home planet, my old friend disappeared into the tremendous loss of a loved one. When I heard the news, I wanted to drive to his house that minute. I didn’t. He was unreachable (and I tried), out of touch, gone. I never stopped thinking about him. Ever.

Six years went by, and one night I got a call from a girlfriend from high school that I was going to see later at a party. I was already out. She ran into him and told him I was engaged. She’s a full disclosure type and I immediately felt bad that he heard from her my news. I had been engaged for over a year with no plans to marry. She told me she had a letter from him for me.

I went to the bottom of my drink hoping to find the right way to feel. I wanted to be ready for the letter, and then my phone rang. His name came up on the screen. I wasn’t sure if I should answer. I did. He told me there was a letter on its way via our mutual friend. I told him I already knew that. He said, “You’re engaged.” I said, “I know.” We talked about what his life had been like over the past several years. His voice was like wearing your favorite shirt in another galaxy. I can’t explain, but I could hear him whisper in a cyclone. It’s always been that way.

When we said goodbye, I didn’t know what that meant. I went to the party where the letter was waiting for me. It had been carefully and lovingly written; he was OK, he was still healing, he said we would always be friends and that he loved me.

Another year went by and my fiancé and I had begun leading dangerously independent lives. When we were having fun it was rarely together. I would break up with him in my mind over and over again, but our lives were threaded together; it was easier to look away and remain status quo. I turned 30 and while I tried to convince myself of my age’s irrelevance, my time only felt more important.

“He is so funny and so smart, but I’m not in love with him,” played on a loop behind every other thought I tried to have. I would salivate over other couple’s break-ups. Everyone in my life was used to thinking of us as together; we lived together and worked together. On busy days I would rush from one thing to the next swearing that I was forgetting something. What was it? And then I’d sink and remember I wasn’t in love and I wanted to be, I was supposed to be, and I didn’t know what to do.

On the day we broke up, I felt like I had dropped off a ledge and was just falling and falling. Instead of hitting the ground with everything I had, I lost most of it: our friends, my things, our apartment, mail, work, and so on. Oh, and there was sadness. A lot. So much gets folded away at the end of a relationship, and eventually you realize how gone all of it is, and then, it’s nowhere.

It took time to piece some of what I lost back into some version of what it once was, and made it even better. When my old friend (future husband) and I reconnected, we were careful to figure out what our big love really was; and when we did, it was everything I had always wanted it to be. Yes, it was scary to slip off the edge into the unknown, but with that leap, I lost my fear of everything/anything and gained the kind of relationship, the kind of life, work, friendships and outlook that I couldn’t have wished up any prettier.

Don’t be fooled, it can be rugged, in or out of love. These days I have a quote on loop that keeps me present when I can’t see what lies ahead: “The journey is the reward.” And so it is, no matter how many times I’ve broken a nail (or heart / my heart) getting dirty along the way, it’s been worth every minute of it…

Tangled rootsThere was a long period in my life where I let things get tangled up, as they do along the way, and while they say the shortest distance between two points is a straight line – sometimes the straight part seems more like the world’s largest ball of string. I maintain that breaking off my engagement to be happy and not settle was one of the harder things I have had to do as a grown up. Aside from clearing the path to the life I actually wanted, I learned a lot about being clear in general. How much have you risked to just to see if you can untangle that knot, was it worth it in the end?

Copyright 2011. Simply Solo blog by Catherine Gryp. All Rights Reserved.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2011 9:10 am

    Ali –

    There is so much in your story that I can relate to…the desire for MORE, but the paralyzing fear of what that means to you, to others in your life…

    But more than that, I especially relate to your description of both “him being like your favorite shirt” and being able to hear him “whisper in a cyclone”…I have one of those in my life..the ONE that you can’t seem to forget, nor want to forget…

    And while we are both taking our own journeys at the moment…call me crazy, but I have moments where I can feel him, hear him…

    And your words about the journey being the reward, they brought tears to my eyes because for as much as I am a TYPE A, absolute control freak, I am trying my best to live in the moment, reminding myself at every turn that THIS is where I’m supposed to be right now…the rest will take care of itself…

    Much easier said than done because like I said, I don’t want to forget…I want to hope, I want to wis…

    Thanks for the inspiration this morning…thanks for sharing your courage, maybe I’ll find mine one day 🙂

    • November 15, 2011 11:18 am

      LH! Thank you for sharing too!

      All I can say is timing is everything–did you ever play the board game, Battleship? If you have, you’ll know the phrase, “you sunk my battleship!” If you haven’t, it’s ALLLLLLL about alignment, timing, etc…I think about that game a lot, I’ve even blogged about it, kind of a metaphor for certain things in life…

      Your comment gave me the chills–it is amazing how deep certain connections go, and those are definitely the ones that can last through it all. Paths do cross and cross again, in my experience, so maybe yours too??!

      I say keep hoping, keep wis…ing, too 😉

      I’m so happy that you could relate to my post, as a fellow control freak–being in the moment saves me A LOT of trouble…reminding myself to trust that it’s all happening for a reason has saved me a million times over!

      Thanks again, and all the best to you…here’s hoping…

      • November 15, 2011 1:00 pm

        It might be helpful if I could spell 🙂 I’m sure you guessed this already, but I meant “WISH”…oh how i WISH…

        The connection…it’s the deepest I know and has time and time again surprised me at its strength, its tenacity…

        And it’s defnitely what makes “us”, “us” for it’s tangible not only to the 2 of us, but to others in our “world”…

        And that…that is what is keeping me going…for I can still feel it, through the distance, through the silence, I feel it – and I’m guessing you can understand what I mean?!?

        But it’s also what gets us “in trouble” with each other, for we KNOW the other so intimately that there is no lying, there is no hiding, instead we push, we call each other out, and sometimes…we’re not ready…we’re not ready to be honest with ourselves, and isn’t that where it all starts? So instead, we push the other away…for they’re getting too close for our own good, they’re threatening to destroy the fragile “bandage” we’ve put in place to protect our hearts…they’re wanting more for us…they’re wanting us to be truly happy, not just content…and there is such a difference…

        And we know…we know that’s what we want for ourself too, but it’s just not that easy…so we panic, we push the other way…

        Until that connection brings us back together…

        And that’s…that’s what I’m waiting for…

        Thanks for speaking to my heart this morning – and thanks for doing a little wishing and hoping on my behalf…

        • November 15, 2011 6:25 pm

          You got it! Sounds like this is that undeniable type of connection–even when you can’t tend to it, it keeps getting stronger!! I knew you were wishing, I’m still wishing for you too!! All the best~

  2. November 15, 2011 11:48 am

    I think you are brave beyond brave. It is a scary thing to act with your heart when your life, your brain, your logic tells you it’s easier to stay. “Easier” is hardly ever worth it.

  3. November 15, 2011 12:06 pm

    Thank you, Tori!

    You’re so right, “easier” has its charms, sure, but without that sense of actually having to do some heavy-lifting, you can’t really appreciate what gets accomplished!

    p.s. Wouldn’t it be amazing if your brain AND heart could just always be on the same page??! But I guess that would makes things just too easy, sigh 😉

  4. November 15, 2011 1:13 pm

    First off, I love your writing! Also, I can relate to the whole fantasizing-about-breaking-up thing. I was in a “relationship” myself for a long time in which I constantly longed to break it off, but never had the courage to do so. And then finally one day, I did. My life has been a thousand times better since I had the courage to no longer settle, but to follow my heart. My heart led me to a very special person who makes me extremely happy.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and good luck to the both of you!

    • November 15, 2011 5:59 pm

      Thanks, Mark!
      It’s so strange how either hiding from the truth, the fear of hurting someone, or what’s on the other side of a big decision can be so paralyzing to such a degree we can talk ourselves out of our basic human right to happiness. I really appreciate you sharing your experience, I am so glad to hear you made that move toward moving on! Glad you are in a such a great place now!!
      Best of luck to you and yours as well! ~A

  5. November 15, 2011 5:08 pm

    I love this. Sometimes it’s so hard to trust that there is something else out there for us, when we have something tangible in front of us. It’s a leap of faith. For a worrier and a person who likes to feel in control, it’s hard. I am so pleased to read your story. As a woman who also called off her engagement, I know how painful the decision was, but I know it has opened me up for greater things, even if I am making some mistakes along the way.

  6. November 15, 2011 6:05 pm

    Thanks KD!
    My fellow runaway fiance, you know how hard it is, how many sad faces people give you, how many questions you have to answer and so on…tough times, right?! I am a full believer in taking chances and second chances, good for you! I am so happy greater things have come your way, as they should, trying to make your life fit into the wrong shape doesn’t really work out for anyone.
    Thanks again for sharing your comment! Good luck out there, sending you all the best!!!

  7. November 15, 2011 6:40 pm


    The timing of this is amazingly on point. I’m happy to hear that through engagements and anything else in between, you were able to get back to what you believed all along was the right fit.

    At this very moment in my life, I’ve found myself in the mix with a former love and while it is nowhere near the “something wonderful” that you were able to share, the types of strong feelings and emotions are still the same.

    Thank you for sharing and leaving a lesson that there is a lot of muddy waters that need to be waded through before reaching the beautiful shore.

    • November 15, 2011 7:05 pm

      Dear Hangovers,

      (I just wanted to write that;)

      Thank you for your lyrical and thoughtful response. Former love is such a great thing to build on–so much you know and so much still to (re)learn! I’ll bet there is a lot of “wonderful” there! For me there was so much already, but a lot that needed to be updated as well…



  8. November 17, 2011 7:07 am

    You had your instincts runnnig right then.Sometimes in life you have to think only about yourself. Unless you are happy you can’t make others happy.I’m glad at the end the break up was worth the emotional drain you’d had.After all you met your man eventually!

  9. November 17, 2011 11:00 am

    Thanks, Kate. Yes, you think that by doing what others expect or what you think they want you to do that you are doing right by them–often this is just messing with the whole program! I have so much more to give in general now that I am in a happier and healthier place! Thanks again for reading! All the best to you! ~A

  10. November 19, 2011 2:22 pm

    I personally know face to face a woman who broke off her engagement right before she entered the church.

    She is so glad though she went into a funk for about 1 month.

    She is happily married to another guy –I think over the past decade or so. It is so important to respond to one’s nagging intuitive feeling that if it doesn’t feel right and hasn’t felt right a long time, then a marriage is not right at all for a couple.

    • November 21, 2011 9:59 pm

      Wow!! There is a whole population of runaway fiancés out there, and yes, when one person isn’t happy and knows it, I’d say it’s most likely mutual, just perhaps unsurfaced…thanks for sharing!

  11. fullyalive permalink
    January 12, 2012 2:23 pm

    Thanks for your story Ali. I just broke of an engagement a few weeks before the wedding, and it has been traumatizing especially because I am still in love with him, but just couldn’t go through with it. It is encouraging to think that perhaps it is just timing or the wrong person. I am really, really, really afraid of the future and sad about the loss of this and the disappointment of a broken wedding and also how I let him down. I know that this is all for a reason though, and I’m just hoping time will tell………It’s weird that being single again, I am feeling more trapped than ever! I am glad there are others who have been equally confused and sad and come through to happiness.


  1. speakeasy: a tale of passwords | ali lawrence | writer | writing coach

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