Instead of the traditional travel memoir focused entirely on a place, my upcoming book “Ghana Heal a Broken Heart” (working title – to give suggestions for a new title please click here) also chronicles the story of attempting to get over the love of my life. I’d had an epiphany – quitting a man is like quitting smoking. You can’t do it until you truly want to. If you simply think you should quit, then chances of success remain low.
We’ve all been there – and if you haven’t, you’re the luckiest person I know. Sometimes I think Tennyson was on crack when he said “I hold it true, whatever befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; ’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Of course, his poem was grieving the loss of a friend (although some speculate the friend may have been more). But there are certainly days I wish I’d never fallen in love or experienced the pain of losing it. Is there any other pain like it? I felt as if I had plunged into an endless pool, the water crushing me as it dragged me down to its depths, and I had no idea how to return to the surface or even how to find it again. I could feel the pressure on my chest, unable to get enough air. I was drowning with no clue how to save myself.
Melodramatic descriptions? Yes. But accurate when you’re going through the pain of a breakup and rejection? I think so. And we do such desperate things when we want a person back – convincing ourselves they’re completely rational. How many of us, men and women, have maintained a friendship with someone we wanted to date in the forlorn hope that one day they’d look at us and say “wow, I’d never noticed (xyz) about you, obviously you’re the love of my life and we should be a couple immediately.”
When I left for Africa, I didn’t truly want to get over James (not his real name). Deep down I hoped to prove to him there was more to me than he knew. He’d grown up in Kenya, so I knew (or believed) my going to Africa would deepen the bond between us. I also worried he sometimes saw me as a spoiled Jewish princess, and I wanted to show him that I could not only survive but thrive in a place like Ghana. I sent him pictures of doing my laundry in buckets under the blazing sun in the backyard, and I shared stories of hiking to obscure waterfalls, having my underwear stolen by a baboon, and even saving the life of a beautiful 2-year-old girl dying of malaria.
He loved the stories and even called me constantly during my time in the country. But my dream of finding him at the airport waiting for me with flowers and a proclamation of undying love upon my return didn’t come close to happening.
Still, that trip to Ghana marked a new beginning. I may not have proved anything to him, or if I did it didn’t matter. I proved a lot to myself. It may sound cheesy, but I learned that I was so much stronger than I thought I was. And now, on days when life isn’t working out the way I want or even when pms hits a little too hard, I can look back on my time in that country and remember the lessons I learned.
One especially sticks with me, and I’ll leave you with this. There was a queen in Ghana around 1900 who led a counterattack against the British. When men refused to serve under a female military leader, she told all the wives to withhold sex from the “cowards” until they joined her army. Naturally, it worked. She was a woman to admire, and someone I hope to emulate whenever I feel weakness overtaking me.