43: I Should Thank Him

43: I Should Thank Him

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

I Should Thank Him

Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.

~Janis Joplin

The night the knock came at our door, I was unprepared. I was at home with Jason, my boyfriend of two years. I had moved from Maine to Florida to be with him. He was my first love and my first real relationship. We had been talking about possibly buying engagement rings. Jason had been acting a little strange lately, and we had been arguing a bit. But couples have their ups and downs, right? It was just a rough patch, and we’d get through it.

The knock came at 7 P.M. Jason answered the door. I came downstairs just in time to see him get hit.

“Stay away from my wife,” the guy said to Jason. And then, before he left, he looked at me and said, “Your boyfriend has been sending e-mails to my wife.”

I was in shock. What kind of e-mails? I kept asking Jason what he was talking about, if he was involved with this man’s wife. He denied it over and over again. Finally I asked him for her phone number so I could talk to her husband. He gave it to me and I called. The husband answered and I arranged for him to bring copies of the e-mails to me at work the next day.

That night I couldn’t sleep. What if it was true? What would I do? Jason was my entire life. I’d given up everything for him, even to the point of putting myself in debt in order to get him out of debt. I didn’t have enough money to move back to Maine. Other than a few friends at work, I didn’t know anyone else here at all. And even worse, I didn’t have a driver’s license. Jason was my sole means of transportation.

Reading the e-mails the next day made me sick to my stomach. Jason wrote about how much he wanted this girl and how much chemistry they had, about kissing her and having her over to our house, about skipping work with her so they could be together. He wrote about nights that I’d stayed up and how sorry he was that I did, because it meant that he couldn’t talk to her that night. Over and over again, I read about how wonderful he thought she was, and how he didn’t care for me at all. I cried so hard I was physically sick.

I had to make a choice. Did I stay with Jason and give up my self-esteem? Or did I remove him from my life and try to make it on my own? It was not an easy choice, but in the end, there was only one thing I could do.

The lease for our apartment was in my name. I called him from work that day and told him to take whatever he needed for the night and to be gone by the time I got home. That weekend I packed up all his stuff and left it for outside for him.

It was scary being on my own. In the beginning, I took a taxi to and from work or bummed rides from people. Eventually I figured out the bus route and took that instead. It was lonely, but some friends at work stepped up and helped me. A cousin moved down to help me with the rent, and it was nice having family around.

Then came a time I had to be at work on the weekend and didn’t have access to a ride of any kind. Because I worked as a vet technician, I had to be there to feed the animals, and let them out to go to the bathroom. So I walked. I was overweight and thought the walking would be hard, but it was actually pretty easy with my headphones on. When I later mentioned this to my cousin, he said, “Why don’t you walk all the time? It’s good exercise.”

His comments changed my life.

From that point on, I walked eight miles home from work each and every day. As I walked, I felt better about things and my outlook improved. They say exercise is good for your soul. I agree. Music doesn’t hurt either.

I was alone in my life without anyone to take care of or to take care of me. And you know what? It felt pretty good. And as the pounds started coming off I felt like a new person. A happier person, maybe happier then I’d ever been. I tried to share my happiness with others. My motto became “Practice random acts of kindness, and senseless acts of beauty.”

I became more confident, more outgoing. People began to notice, especially a client around my age, who’d been bringing his animals to the vet clinic for years. It wasn’t long before we were dating. But, this time things were different. I stayed focused on improving myself and helping others, instead of just fixating on the guy and the relationship.

I’d learned a big lesson and, boy, did it pay off. We were engaged a year after we started dating and married six months later. By then I had lost seventy pounds. I looked and felt the best I ever had.

Right before we got married, my fiancé and I bumped into Jason at a bookstore where he was working. We talked for a little bit. Jason told me how he was living with the girl he’d e-mailed. I told him I was engaged. I wished him well, and I meant it.

After all, I had a lot to be grateful to him for. Our breakup was the best thing that ever happened to me.

~Heather Ray

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