The changing of the seasons

With everything going on in the world today, the only thing I know for certain is that we're living in uncertain times. No one knows the answers to the questions everyone is asking, and no one knows where we're headed. The only thing we know for sure is that the times are ripe for change.

Tonight I went for a ride after work, my last opportunity to ride in the evening until next spring. I took it slow and easy and enjoyed the unseasonably warm temperature. While riding my usual Paoli route, I let my mind wander. I thought about life... the future... the changing of the seasons... the uncertainty of everything. I thought about how I like to ride hard. How I like to suffer on the bike. How it makes me stronger. And I wondered if that correlates to life. Does suffering in life make one stronger?

This brings me to what I really want to write about... the changing of the seasons. After 8 years together, Cheri and I broke up - her decision, not mine. Although I didn't want to part ways, I'm starting to believe her - it's probably for the best.

I remember toward the beginning of our relationship, I told her I didn't think you could make a relationship work. It either worked or it didn't. For the past two years we've been trying to make it work. I stand by what I said.

Two years ago we broke up, or at least we thought we did. But all we really did was add distance between us. I moved to Madison; she found a new place in Janesville. Other than that, we never skipped a beat. There was no time apart, no days or weeks without phone calls or visits. We didn't break up; we just moved apart. And eventually the physical distance between us turned into emotional distance.

Looking back over the past two years, I don't think we enjoyed spending time with each other as much as we wanted to enjoy spending time with each other. It's like we wanted each other to be "the one" so much that we couldn't see that we were just really good friends. We were afraid of being alone so we hung onto each other like security blankets.

As much as it hurts to have someone you love tell you it's time to move on, I have a ton of respect for Cheri for realizing what she needs to do to make herself happy and having the courage to let go of her security blanket. It's not easy to do. I think deep down I knew it too, but I didn't have the courage. I thought I could make it work.

When I think about our relationship, I don't miss it as much as I wish I did. It wasn't making us happy, and we were trying so hard not to acknowledge it that the relationship became a weight on our shoulders. It wasn't working, and we were tired of trying.

October 6 marked 8 years together. There were no cards, no gifts, no romantic dinner, nothing. The day came and went and we barely acknowledged it. The worst part is that neither of us got upset, and I think that shows where our relationship was at. It had become just another day.

But when I think about the friendship, that hurts. Cheri was a great friend, and we had a lot of fun together. I have a ton of great memories, and I consider myself lucky to have those memories to carry with me for the rest of my life. Although the relationship didn't work out, I'll never regret the time I spent with her. It's the friendship that makes me want to pick up the phone and say, "we can make it work." But I stand by what I said.

Like most couples that part on friendly terms, we agreed to stay friends...because the friendship is what we both cherished. We promised to remain a part of each others lives, but I know the reality of life. That rarely works. I hope we're one of the exceptions, because I can't imagine my life without her being a part of it. And I don't want to.

I hope she finds what she's looking for. She deserves it.

My apartment in Madison was never meant to be my home. It was supposed to be temporary. Suddenly, this small, one-bedroom loft feels big and empty. There's something missing.

Like my driver's license, my checks still have the address where Cheri and I lived in Janesville. I have pictures leaning against the wall where I intended to hang them more than two years ago. I never bought that coat rack I wanted. There is no place to hang your hat here. Maybe I should have seen the writing on the wall when Cheri bought a coat rack a few weeks ago.

But I will say this...my apartment has never been so clean.

As for the future, I don't know what it holds. I find myself on a new path, one I didn't anticipate. The day before we broke up I changed the wallpaper on my computer to that of a trail cut through the trees. It's covered in wet leaves, making it hard to see. It's rocky, uphill and it looks cold and lonely. I don't know why I chose that image. It's unlike any image I've ever put on my desktop. Sometimes I wonder if our lives are filled with foreshadowing that we're unable to see because we're too close to the situation. But when we step back a bit, we see that all the signs were there.

All I can do now is continue down that path and see what lies at the end of the changing of the seasons.