It was one of the first days after I flew out to Albuquerque and started traveling around New Mexico with Weston when he played me “Long Distance Lullaby” by Stornoway. That was how we communicated in those first days after I showed up on his traveling doorstep, exhausted from the task of completely wrecking my life in such a short span of time. I had hopped on the plane to find the one person I knew would understand everything I had to say, and when I found him, I didn’t have to say anything. That’s one of the beautiful things about Weston–he’s not afraid of quiet. And I’m not talking about the slight lull in conversation or driving with no music on kind of quiet. I’m talking about hazy, permeating, soul-rendering silence. Here’s another beautiful thing about Weston: at the end of the silence, he doesn’t ask me what I was thinking that whole time. He doesn’t try to sum up all that I learned by shutting up and trying to sort it all out. He lets me be.
In the middle ground between the quiet and the carefree conversations, there were the songs. Weston let me play the Avett Brothers on repeat way too many times, and when he needed a break, he made me put on headphones but still let me sing along to my iPod, loudly and very much off-key. I’m sure it was after we listened to Stornoway’s “Watching Birds”–another song I listened to constantly, probably because of the kazoos–that Weston made me listen to “Long Distance Lullaby.” Of course I’d heard it before, but he made me really listen this time.
It’s a song about a guy drinking a bit too much and calling up his ex-girlfriend to tell her he misses her. The refrain throughout the song goes, “Goodnight, soulmate, I know I’m in no state to call you up and keep you up so late.” It’s the last song on the album, and after it ended I remember sitting there in silence, watching the road curve ahead of us through the trees and on toward Colorado.
“Do you believe in soulmates?” I asked Weston. I guess I should have asked that question before we dated for four years, but at the time it didn’t seem as important as what kind of music he liked or if he was a good speller (qualities of the utmost importance in a future boyfriend, of course).
“I don’t think so,” he said.
Or maybe I said that. I can’t quite remember now who said what, but I think we decided that the idea of there being only one person for each person seemed kind of irrational. And I’m not sure what I expected Weston to say, or what I wanted him to answer. I think the only thing more difficult to hear than your ex-boyfriend telling you that you are his soulmate is him telling you you’re not. But perhaps it’s the other way around.
The trip got a lot better after that conversation. Maybe a weight had been lifted–okay, so we broke up and we have agreed we are not soulmates but look, we still get along smashingly!–or maybe we just started going on more brewery tours and forgot to be sad. I stopped bursting into tears every time I got sad or happy or nostalgic or hopeful. Weston stopped measuring the amount of time it had been since I last cried for no apparent reason (“Hey, it’s been almost a whole day!”). We each came home encouraged by the other to find what makes us happy and pursue that wholeheartedly. I think we also came to the realization that, yes we can be apart, but no, we’d rather not. So thus began the process of figuring out what we wanted to do as individuals and hoping we ended up in the same city.
We didn’t. Weston got a job in Minneapolis and I found one in Denver. In the weeks after we came home from the road trip and before we moved away from Missouri, I was scared. Weston and I had been living in separate cities for months, but the cities we were going to were much farther apart. I spent a lot of time mourning something that was yet to happen, the completion of our separation, the finality of everything. I took a bath almost every night. I read shitty bestsellers. I think I remember drinking quite a bit of wine. My strategy for beginning a life on my own, apart from the person who had loved and supported me for years and built a life with me along the way, was to get drunk in the bathtub and read what other people had to say about love and enlightenment and whatever.
I read Eat, Pray, Love. Don’t judge me. I was emotionally unstable. And after reading hundreds of pages of that trollop, I didn’t feel any wiser. I felt rather stupid for letting Elizabeth Gilbert steal my life with her nonsense. But the one character in the book who did seem to have his shit together was Richard from Texas. One of the few quotes from the entire book that I found meaningful was spoken by Richard. He said:
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…”
I suppose the only direction to go after quoting Eat, Pray, Love is to confess that your ex-boyfriend is your soulmate. I’ve never been more thankful no one reads this blog.
But he is. If there is any kind part of my soul, any part of me that seeks truth and love and beauty, it was created by watching Weston. I loved him and I wanted to be like him. Then, after it was all over, he still pushed me to be a better person. And if we’re confessing things here, then I’ll be honest. I started this post before I left for Colorado, when I was panicking about losing Weston. I was this close to giving it all up and just going where he went. Even after I moved here, on days when the Denver sunshine was replaced by rain and I spent the day in bed, I would call Weston and he would listen to me sniffle about how this city is fun but it’s not the same without you and I’m just going to quit my job and move to Minneapolis and work in the grocery store and we can split the cable bill and watch crappy television together because crappy television with you is better than an entire new and fascinating city without you. It would be so easy, just like it used to be.
He told me no. He told me I needed to find what made me happy outside of him. I told him I was perfectly happy outside of him, he was not my be-all-and-end-all, but life was just more fun with him around. He still told me no. Told me I had to stay in Denver and figure things out for myself. He wants the best for me, and that can be quite irritating sometimes.
I don’t know what to think about Richard from Texas’s statement that it’s too painful to live with a soulmate forever, that they must leave eventually. Weston was the best roommate I ever had. In all seriousness, though, I think Richard from Texas had it a bit wrong. It’s not always painful to live with a soulmate; sometimes it’s too comfortable. It was good for us to go through the pain of separation. It’s helped me figure some stuff out, some of that twenty-two-year-old girl moving away and dealing with life stuff. Yet the whole time I have had the love and support of Weston, who won’t let me give up and just do what’s easy (move to Minneapolis and sleep on his couch all day). He makes life hard for me because he wants life to be really good for me.
The people I meet out here don’t know what to do with Weston, this person they’ve never met but who comes up in conversation. I guess I don’t know what to do with Weston. Every label seems so trivial. Ex-boyfriend doesn’t really work because we don’t hate each other, like apparently most people with exes do. Best friend doesn’t do justice to all the years we were in love with each other. And somehow I think saying, “So I was talking to my soulmate the other day…” might not be the best way to reference Weston in casual conversation. But it’s the truth. Weston is my soulmate. If only everyone would read Eat, Pray, Love so they could understand.