I think Miranda Lambert and I would make great besties.

Heartache… is an inadequate word.

It doesn’t describe that perpetual stinging feeling. The dread. The vase that’s too broken to be put back together. The sobbing inexplicably. The burning in your lungs until you can’t breathe, as if a ghost from the past is chasing you and you can’t draw enough air in, and you’re tired, and your body is giving out, and you just can’t anymore.

Inconceivable pain. Tiny pins puncturing your heart a million times over. On a scale of 1 to torturous, getting your heart broken is a solid “absolutely dreadful.”

Heartache.

It turns people into country singers.

Heart—Ache.

I have been thinking a great deal about it – what it means, what it takes of us, how it feels when it’s forced upon us.

The shedding of something, and then the discovery of something else. When you experience heartache, you discover there is no place more intimate than your heart. And if you’re honest, you know there is really only one heartache that is strong enough to break your heart, and it is large and not easy to bear. The visionary poets knew this. The poets also knew that heartache kills the wellspring of all the meaning-making that makes life worth living.

When you’re in the middle of heartache, you can’t expect anything to happen. You just wait. And the waiting, after a while, starts to become deep acceptance, even if you don’t want to accept things. But the really challenging part, let’s be honest, is when your inner voice becomes audible. It can bring you to a tipping point.

Coming to terms with something being “over” is something I’ve never liked. I’d rather something taper off until one day I’m like, “Hmm. How did that end?” or “Strange, I haven’t talked to that person in a while.” But I suppose “The Taper” is really just what cowards do to avoid the inevitable.

So, call me cowardly.

I read online that Americans are likely to have their hearts broken several times in a lifetime. In fact, they average five. And some good doctor somewhere said that it’s good to experience at least one nasty heartbreak because the pain is special. (Special??) And unlike anything else, it exposes one to vital lessons about life.

My heart was broken recently, and if the “vital lessons” are grief, guilt, shame, sadness, and desperation, I earned an A+. What came at me was swift and comprehensive … and it came like the wind. I did not see it coming. And, naturally, my research about emotionally devastating heartbreak shows five distinct stages of grief follows: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I heard some people have even reported more stages. It seems grief is as unique as we are.

I went through the five stages, but I circled back to revisit anger and bargaining.

My m.o. is to cut ties; to convince myself it’s better to go it alone than to do the work it takes to resolve conflict. I find it difficult to apologize when I hurt someone, but I find it harder to forgive someone who has hurt me.

We are all flawed. But I’m not just flawed; I’m also a coward. I should keep this at the forefront of my mind when deciding who to keep in or out of my life—and how to respond to those who no longer want me in theirs.

I know it will be up to me to initiate reconciliation, if reconciliation ever makes it to the table, but I also know I need my anger to taper off. Some problems may be irresolvable, but there are also relationships that don’t need to be lost forever.

Who else wants to change lanes?

First, I will tell you a story about something that happened to me in the past. Next, if I’m as talented as I think I am, I will connect that story with what is happening presently. And finally, because I think I am that talented, I’m going to bring it full circle and roll it into the future.

Once upon a time, in a land called Tucson, I picked up my father to drive him to the doctor’s office…

“You should get in the carpool lane.”

“I don’t want to get in the carpool lane.”

“WHY?”

“Well, because we’re going the same speed as the people in the carpool lane, plus it makes me nervous. Driving all fast next to the wall like that, and then not changing lanes if I feel like I want to. It’s restrictive. And if you drive next to the wall, you have to drive perfectly. If you drive in the middle lane, you have a little bit more room for error. And you can escape.”

Most people think this way. Most people think it’s perfectly sensible to drive in the carpool lane if two people are in the car. It’s like, “YAY! Carpool lane!” I’ve actually heard people get that excited.

I am not one of those people. As a matter of fact, I prefer to not even take the freeway. I’d instead take a longer, more scenic route because I may decide on the way to wherever I’m going that I don’t want to go there; I’d like to go somewhere else first. It’s much harder to make choices like that when you’re on the freeway. It becomes an ordeal.

My whole issue with driving in the carpool lane directly relates to the fact I like to have an escape mechanism. This also speaks loudly to the truth of my intense need to make choices: New choices. Different choices. Better choices. Choices. MY choices.

Being able to make choices is my way of maintaining my freedom. Everything I do, from the type of jobs I hold to the places I decide to live (which is a big one lately) to my nightly plans, etc., etc. My disdain for the carpool lane reveals how deep this is for me.

You may be thinking, well, what if you’re going to work? You can’t just decide to drive somewhere else first, or what if you have plans? You can’t just decide to change them because you feel like it. Well, I know that’s what you’d think. However, I often decide I’d instead like to do something else for that very reason — because I feel like it.

We have free will, so there really isn’t anything we have to do. We can make choices no matter what our spouses say, our bosses require, our president mandates. But lately, there are things that society or people have decided we have to do, which makes our will to stay free less simple to decide.

Our president is forcing our family, friends, coworkers, colleagues into making choices that some don’t want to make.

You guessed it, I’m talking V* mandates in the workplace. The people who do not want to take the V are being forced to decide to keep their job or lose their job. If you’re on the fence, being forced into a decision can be a great thing (but only if you’re stalled), or it can be an awful thing (even a selfish thing).

Let’s call it what it really is: forcible penetration of a medical instrument into a person’s body against their will to deliver chemicals they don’t want into it. This is no less than medical rape. I have the right to decide what goes into my body. You have the right to determine what goes into yours.

(Imagine the outrage if the government enforced weight loss mandates for the obese to relieve the health care system? And while I’m here, If I am forced to wear a mask to protect your health, I’m going to start slapping McDonald’s out of your hands too.)

Everything that subsequently happens in our lives is the result of choices. And those choices do change our experience, even if for a brief amount of time. I have to remind myself that we are never stuck. Even if we feel as if there is no way out, there is. Of course, if I had remembered this in the past, I’d have a list of more life lessons and experiences under my belt, but I do not in the absence of action.

I admit sometimes, I’m afraid the choices I make will affect me negatively. In turn, they’ll leave less room in the future for any option to make a different choice. It’s harder to veer in another direction when flying down the freeway than it is if you’re cruising on a country road.

But I suppose this is just fear, and fear is a thing you create. It isn’t an actual thing. Action is.

And boy do I see action rising in the air (shoutout to Southwest, holla!), and I predict a lot more action very soon.

Have you chosen your lane?

10 Things I stopped doing—and my life instantly got better.

  1. Buying cauliflower-based foods.
  2. Overthinking eye contact.
  3. Buying colored yoga pants.
  4. Re-reading emails after I sent them.
  5. Taking selfies with the front-facing camera.
  6. Texting while walking. (This is how “butch” became “bitch.”)
  7. Food prepping. (Food prepping takes 4 hours. Eating takes 3 seconds. Washing Tupperware takes 7 days and 7 nights.)
  8. Reading long Instagram captions. (When I stay on a post for too long the algorithm thinks because I read one inspirational meme, I want to read a thousand inspirational memes.)
  9. Trying to move things with my mind (and Googling “How to move things with my mind”).
  10. Humblebragging. (Like making lists and bragging about how happy I am.)

Happy October—the best month of the year. It’s finally fall in Arizona. Know what that means? Absolutely nothing. It’s still 90 degrees outside. Fun fact: Arizona is actually closer to the sun than the earth. I drove with my windows down tonight anyway. All the landscapers were out scalping and planting winter grass seed. Planting a winter lawn while it’s 90+ degrees doesn’t make much sense, but then again neither does Biscuits and Gravy flavored potato chips, and that’s apparently a thing that’s happening. Sometimes you just have to roll with it (and try not to barf). Really though, when the temperature shifts from 110 to 90 and we roll our windows down, we’re really no different than Midwesterners who wear shorts when it’s 40 degrees in March. So happy October. Fall is here!