March Secret Subject Swap - Shattered Dreams and New Adventures

Welcome to March's Secret Subject Swap. Again 14 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  
Sit back, grab a cup and check them all out:

My subject is 

You've just had your heart shredded by someone you were madly in love with. 

How do you recover from it? 

Is there a soundtrack to your recovery or any special rituals you go through? 

And are you a better person for the experience?

It was submitted by: Searching for Sanity - 
Thanks, Erin and welcome back!                      

To get straight to the point, here's my secret recipe:       

Now if only it were that easy…

Last year I told you about my scary, yet magical wolf dream and hinted that after having my heart broken I pursued a new dream, and that I would tell you about it as soon as I reached 300 likes on my FB page.

Well, it happened! I got my likes, and I got the perfect writing prompt for the new dream story today!

But first, let's rewind and go into the questions above. 

I don't handle heartbreak well. Recovery from it is long, hard and full of detours and relapses.

I withdraw into myself, relive the past, fantasize about getting back together and listen to sentimental music. 

A soundtrack? I've got one all right. 
  • Air Supply, greatest hits, the whole album
  • Chicago, you're the inspiration
  • Phil Collins, groovy kind of love
  • T'Pau, china in your hands
  • Shanya Twain, from this moment on
  • Michael Learns To Rock, angel eyes
On and on it goes. Songs that are connected to special memories with the very person I am 
supposed to forget. 

Once I even physically went back to a happy place in the mountains we used to frequent. Counter-productive, right? At the time it felt like the right thing to do in order to say goodbye.

Over time things get better. I manage to distract myself. Not going to the places I might run into him (which is kind of hard if you attend the same school or work for the same company.) 

Keeping busy at work helps. 

At some point I don't want to bother my friends who were wiling to listen to me with the same old story, so I stop talking about it. The new conversation topics slowly take over my mind. Emphasis on slowly. It's hard. 

Exploring new places, taking up new activities if I can scrape together some energy and enthusiasm.

Eventually telling myself to fake it till you make it. Once you've hit rock bottom and start feeling better, put on your happy face - you might end up being happy(-ish!)

The last time I was in a situation like this was just about now, 14 years ago. 

M, my ex, was traveling at the time, and even though we were thousands of miles apart, I knew that something was wrong.

He was in Australia, I was at home in Switzerland, and upon pressing he told me on the phone what I already knew but refused to believe. It was over. He was with somebody new.

I felt like all the crawling under the duvet and listening to music would never see me through. 

I had lost my appetite. Can you believe I didn't even want chocolate? Which is a shame because look what I just found on Youtube: A Break up Brownie recipe! Who knew this existed?

Luckily I had some really great and patient friends around me who would visit, take a walk with me, invite me over and cook for me.

As soon as I was home alone I would break down and cry, though. I couldn't go on like this.

I went to see a shrink who tried to talk me into hugging trees and discussing my relationship to my Dad to whom I wasn't close as a girl, so now apparently every man I met had to take my father's place, bla bla, bla. 

I didn't go back to that doc. Wasn't he supposed to make me feel better?

Instead I did some hard thinking of my own. I needed to do something big for myself. 

And I knew what it was, only I'd never had the courage to do it. There was always this great job or boyfriend or apartment that I didn't want to leave. None of the above was holding me back this time. 

I wanted to go and live in San Diego, CA. My happy, sunny, magical place.

It's not that at that time my state of mind was very optimistic or anything, but talking to people who had some kind of experience in living and working in another country or who had friends or family anywhere in the U.S. provided me with some energy and joy. 

Looking back it was incredible. A coworker's son helped me with my resume, friends put me in touch with somebody who worked for the Swiss consulate in Washington, D.C., a coworker covered for me at work so I could take a trip to the U.S. consulate in Bern, Switzerland, to pick up my 6 months'  student visa (best I could get), a Swiss friend who did what I wanted to do years ago, invited me to visit her at her new home in Redondo Beach, my ex agreed to share a storage unit for our furniture and to clean and hand over the apartment after I was gone.

Then I had to say goodbye to my family and friends.

It was hard. Kind of added to the heartbreak. 

On the day of my departure, M's mother hugged me and said "I was hoping you'd become my daughter-in-law and let me do some babysitting one day!" 

Geez, so was I! I was crying so hard, I barely made it to the car. My car in which M was going to take me to the airport.

What the h*** was I doing? Was I doing something really stupid like trying to run away from a bad break-up that all in all, under the circumstances, was actually quite amicable? 

Leaving behind people who proved to be such wonderful friends? 

No more ifs and buts. Everything was ready, my bags were packed,

and I boarded that plane, basically cried the whole 8.5 hours' flight to JFK and some more connecting to California,

then I picked up myself, my bags and my rental car, 

arrived at the house I was going to share with three roommates, and even though I was exhausted, I couldn't fall asleep. My thoughts where churning, and I was cold. 

There was no blanket on that bed. 

I went to purchase one the next morning. 

I visited E in Redondo Beach and she introduced me to all of her Swiss and German expat friends in the area.

I spent July 4th in Las Vegas, watching the fireworks from the Stratosphere Tower.

I attended summer school at UCSD Extension and graduated in International Human Resources Management.

I went to Coronado / Mission / Pacific / Del Mar / La Jolla beach.

I took and failed the theory test for the CA drivers' license (this alone would made for a blog post on its own) which I  needed in order to buy a car instead of renting. 

I went to see Christopher Cross and Air Supply at Humphrey's

I met with an old fling when he was in San José on business,

and because San Francisco is right next to it - or so I thought - I went there, too, which got me in trouble because I had to be at school at 7pm and had no idea how bad L.A. rush hour could be. It was a time before navigation systems, mind you.

I went shopping. 

I tried out all kinds of locations from where to watch the Sea World fireworks at night.

I did laundry.

I lived off peanut butter crackers, baby carrots and Diet Coke on most days, and on the other days I went to Hard Rock Café, Outback Steakhouse, Cheesecake Factory or Pizza Hut. 

I was listening to KYXY a lot.

I went to the movies on my own and watched "legally blonde"

I visited my grandmother's cousin in Pacific Palisades.

I made a handful of friends which was much harder than I expected.

 I went to see Martina Hingis play the Acura Tennis Classic in Carlsbad.

I opened a bank account without having a U.S. social security number (that's a pretty big deal!).
I went on a couple of dates, one of which was pretty blog worthy as well.

I went to a couple of parties.


 I started to like pick up the accent and you know talk kinda like a California girl.

I took up yoga.

And I tried to apply for jobs. Usually I failed early at "are you eligible to work in the U.S.?" 

I asked around at the places I liked to eat or shop at, and I told everybody who was willing to listen to me that I was trying to find an employer who was going to sponsor my Green Card. Everybody knew somebody and provided me with names and numbers to call. Siemens, Disney Land, Avis, you name it. They were all downsizing in 2001, and that was in summer!

Then my lease was almost up, and I either had to  go back home or try harder, and in order to do so, I needed a new place to stay. I found one, and it was unfurnished, so I went on to check out some basic pieces. 

And just as I had been doing pretty much on every website I was visiting, I also routinely clicked IKEA's "careers" button. I almost fell off my chair! They were looking for a Recruiter for their San Diego store!

I don't remember how I got past the fact that I didn't have a work visa, but they invited me for an interview! It went very well, and they called and asked me to come for a second interview. They offered me the job and told me they were going to apply for my work visa! 

On one of the following mornings my beeping cell phone woke me at 6am. There were lots of text messages from Switzerland asking if I was OK or telling me not to go to downtown or other crowded areas. Somebody texted that buildings were on fire in NYC. 


My own take on 9/11 and my returning to Switzerland with one of the very first flights out would make for yet another post.

400 likes? Another secret subject prompt? Whatever comes first.

There is one question left that was part of this prompt. Actually, there are two: 

Is there a soundtrack to your recovery?

I was talking about my mourning, wallowing in self-pity kind of soundtrack. Once the worst is over there is in fact an uplifting "I think I'm over it" kind of soundtrack:

  • Katrina and the Waves, walking on sunshine
  • Cher, the shoop shop song
  • Gloria Gaynor, I will survive (you do know the alien version, right?)
  • The Weather Girls, it's raining men
  • Olivia Newton-John & ELO, Xanadu
  • Sash! Halleluja

Did this experience make you a better person?

I don't know about "better person", but definitely a grateful person. Everybody who has been dumped can't take a fabulous, yet pricey time-out at their favorite city. Grateful that NYC is not my favorite city, too. Who knows where I might have been on that day.

Something I did take from this experience is that I can do it, and I can do it on my own. 

At the end of the day I get to spend my life with myself. There may always be people by my side for a period of time, but I have to and I can do it on my own, and I've got to look after myself and make myself happy because no one else might.