running wild

Nothing has ever brought me such exhilaration as running along the ridge of trails at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. The wind was blowing but there was not a cloud in sight. The massive waves crashed noisily yet tranquilly against the cliffs below. The endless expanse of Atlantic Ocean sprawled out before me and breathtaking green all around me. As I ran further and further down the narrow path, I came to a bend in the hillside where I found two beautiful wild horses. They were grazing peacefully and I kept my distance. They looked so majestic, so free and I resonated with them deeply. They were wild horses – just like me.

A boy I knew once compared me to the girl in Kenny Chesney’s song “Wild Child.”

Got a spirit that can’t be tamed, She’s a calico pony on an open plain…She’s a wild child, Got a rebel soul with a whole lot of gypsy wild style. She can’t be tied down but for a while…

I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. I loved romantic comedies and sappy movies and romance novels. Anything and everything that had to do with love and happy endings made me heart gleam.

I’d say 98% of people these days end up with a very skewed perception of love and marriage and relationships from a very young age. Be it from a soured relationship of their parents, the lack of two present parents, an awful divorce or infidelity, or witnessing abuse or constant altercations. Be it from early exposure to sex and pornography and becoming desensitized to emotional connection by our hook up culture. Or be it from giving their heart to the wrong people and instead of ignoring all the red flags that were there, pursuing relationships that led to despair.

Fortunately for a very naive and wide eyed younger version of myself, my first relationship was perfect. The two years I spent loving that man were two of the best, most growing of my life. It was everything that every song and every novel and every movie described. Love at first sight, best friends, sneaking off on old back roads, falling asleep talking under the stars, kissing on old train tracks, and running through life’s adventures together. I never smiled and giggled and loved so much in my life. It was perfect. But we as humans are not. And as amazing as he was, there was so much more to life that I wanted. That I needed. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to chase the stars. I wanted to do everything. And after two years, he wanted a settled life and I wanted one roaming the world. A wild child. A wild pony. Fortunately for me, my perception of love was not skewed the way most are.

I did however learn the deep heartache that comes with building a life and a future and walking away. I had seen “forever” and “I do” every day since the day I had met that man, and then one day it all changed. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and there are many things I wish I could do differently. But I have zero regrets in life.

Following that first relationship it took me nearly two years to truly fall in love again. Every guy I had been interested in or tried to date in that time, just didn’t compare. My standard had been set, and I wasn’t willing to compromise. Until I moved 7500 miles from home. The girl who didn’t allow any guy to measure up then began the girl who turned a blind eye. I’d make the wrong guys fit the right box by ignoring the things that didn’t align. As an optimist and idealist, I’d look for the best traits and allow those to supersede the obvious shortcomings. I allowed my self esteem to be diminished and my heart to be crushed. I’d given everything I had in hopes that I’d get something in return. I hoped and I prayed and I wished.

I know first hand how difficult it can be to give your heart away. To hear the sweetest lines and the most promising of words. I’ve been told every one in the book. I’ve had multiple men tell me I’m the love of their life, their soulmate, everything they’ve ever wanted, and so on. I’ve heard I love you and forever. You’re the one and you’re it for me. It all sounds good. Words of affirmation certainly are the love language for me. But just because you’ve been hurt; just because you’ve been lied to, doesn’t mean that one day someone wont come along and give those empty words weight.

I met Eric at a time where the absolute last thing in the world I was looking for was a relationship. After two years of recklessly throwing my heart at the first thing that got my heart racing – be it an Irish accent with a massive front squat, a cute Scottish boy who feeds me pancakes and takes me to pet goats, or a charming Marine with special warfare devices – I had gotten to a place where I just wanted to surrender my heart to God and fix myself. How could I love someone when I didn’t even remember how to love myself? At the time I had sworn off dating. I had recently told several guys that I was good friends with that were interested in something more, that I was unavailable and not looking. I had prayed a very specific prayer. And one Sunday morning after church, on a day that I least expected, at a place I didn’t intend to be, my life crossed paths with the love of my life. My best friend. My person. I had no idea in my wildest dreams, that this random guy with a backwards Harley hat and a forearm tattoo would be the man that I couldn’t imagine living life without. I had no idea that saying yes to him working out next to me would mean saying yes to working through life together. It was the strangest thing. It wasn’t love at first sight. But the longer we were near each other and the longer we talked, this voice inside me said “When he asks you to dinner, you will say yes.” Not even ten minutes later, he started to walk away when he turned around and asked, “Do you want to go get something to eat with me?” I was stunned. What. “Yes!” I blurted. His face kind of twisted up in a smile. “That was fast,” he laughed. I turned red. Did I really just say that?!

“I just thought you were going to ask,” I sheepishly replied.

We grabbed dinner then walked along the beach. Talking and learning and laughing. We spent a week doing just the same. Learning way too much about each other and saying way too much. Falling way too in love. Our time was limited – as I was preparing to deploy again. On our third date, a hurricane was slated to hit. We had dinner and a few Guinness when we strolled over the dunes to the aggressive seas. The Atlantic Ocean that I know of is flat, but these waves were angry – yet inviting.

“Want to go swim?” I dared, peering at him mischievously.

To my surprise, he shrugged and took towards the water. We stripped our shirts and he grabbed my hand. We dove right in. We dove right into the chaos knowing a storm was coming, knowing that that is the gamble we must take sometimes in life. It was in the eye of the storm and the tumbling waves that we shared our first kiss and I knew that that would be it. I knew that this was the man that I wanted to spend my life following into stormy seas and finding the adventure through the chaos with.

A year later I can say I’ve grown a lot, I’ve changed a lot, I’ve matured a lot. In the time we have been together I have changed my Master’s Degree three times, I’ve changed diets countless times, I’ve been injured, I’ve overcome a five year long battle with an eating disorder, I’ve been mad, sad, frustrated, and defeated. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that when the storms come, the hand that is always there to guide me, is Eric’s. When I feel like I’m drowning, he pulls me back to the surface.

In the last year I have learned to trust again. I have learned that love doesn’t come in a one size fits all package. I’ve learned that talk is cheap but actions are priceless. I once compared loving Eric to trusting the guide I followed up a glacier in Iceland. I feel like that doesn’t even do it justice. Loving Eric is like trusting the skydive instructor when we jumped out of a plane 14,000 feet in the air. I had zero control. I made the decision to jump out of a plane and trusted that the person I was jumping with had me securely strapped in and knew what he was doing. It was a complete leap of faith — and it was terrifying! When I got onto the ledge of the tiny little prop plane with the wind blasting my face my stomach dropped. I could either think of all the what ifs or I could enjoy the moment and jump. So we jumped. And it was amazing. Unreal. When you decide to pursue a real, adult relationship with someone – I mean truly engage in a future with someone, you have to jump. You have to trust them. And you have absolutely no control over what they do from there. Once you make that decision, you pray for the best and take the leap. It has taken a lot of growth, as an individual and a couple. We are still evolving every single day. But I trust Eric. I trust that he will always pull the parachute and have my back.

When we disagree, we talk things out. When I’m upset, he always tries to understand. When we see things differently, we respect each other’s opinion. Eric has taught me so much and makes me a better person every single day. He is the hardest worker and most motivated person I have ever met. He gives 100% to all that he does and does so with such attention to detail and precision. He is everything I’m not and makes me the woman I want to be. With Eric, I don’t have a plan B. I don’t have an exit route. When you finally meet the right person, you won’t feel the need to have those things. You’ll understand the beauty and power of trust and respect.

I think Eric and everyone else we know would agree that I still have my wild side. I’m stubborn and hard headed and a free spirit. I still have a need to run and wander and adventure. But rather than tame me, he meets me where I am. He sees me for all that I am and instead of change me, he runs with me. We may not have all the same hobbies or interests, but we push each other in the same direction. I love CrossFit and pancakes, he likes powerlifting and French toast. I spend my Sundays at church, he spends his on the open roads. We don’t mirror each other but we compliment one another.

Don’t give up on love, because you’ve been hurt. Don’t walk away, because things get tough. Don’t be afraid to trust. If there are red flags, acknowledge them. If you’re always hurt, walk away. Don’t settle. Someone amazing is out there wondering when someone like you will come along. Even if you’re a wild pony, one day you’ll find someone to share the pasture with, you’ll find someone crazy rough to run through life with you.

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