Thursday, August 10, 2017
There's a lot I don't write about.
I'm saying this because sometimes I'm sure that people think I dwell on my ex-husband way too much. I would agree with you. But allow me to explain why that is.
This process, this untangling of myself from someone that I loved once, this freedom to become an entirely different person not defined by decisions made at the age of 21, and most importantly this acceptance that this new bend in the road has led to places that I never expected to even glance at, much less travel to-this process is important. To me, anyway. If other people glean something from my journey, that is wonderful, that is what the idea of writing all of this down actually means. But allow me to assure you, I don't write it all down for public consumption.
I write for so many reasons I can barely begin to list them all. I write to find clarity, I write to make sense of so many thoughts racing through my head, I write for solace. I started this blog as an exercise in writing because I missed it, because it had been my whole world at one time and it had become something that I longed to have the time to focus on. 2011 seems long ago and far away.
The blog has morphed into an outlet for my divorce. I can't put to words why that is. Why owning something that I am so personally ashamed of is such a release. But somehow putting words on paper, writing down emotions that I mostly want to shut away and pretend aren't there, it helps me to accept that this is who I am now. It's been a long, hard two years-I changed in ways I can't undo and that had the effect of hurting people that I love. I never meant for that to happen.
Changing what I looked like, changing the way I present myself to the world-that was the easy part. Accepting parts of myself that I don't like, parts of myself that I have a hard time even admitting are there-that is where I'm at now. Writing things down helps. It makes me think in a different way. It takes my attention away from whatever tiny thing that I'm writing about-be it my horrible attempts at flirting or my anger at myself for wanting to meet someone but my immediate shying away from anyone who seems remotely interested in me-and it turns it into something that makes sense. Ultimately I may always be embarrassed by my naiveté when it comes to dating and what have you, but somehow writing it down makes it have a purpose.
I realize that much of my writing is about my sadness over my divorce. I'm still so in the process of dealing with a lot of emotions that are hard for me to put words to. I don't mean to belabor the fact that I'm sad. But it seems important to unwind what grief is-I find myself pulled toward poems and songs and anything that grapples with what it means to lose something that you cherished at one time. But I don't mean to say that I only feel sadness. That I am unable to move forward. That my life is forever going to be one long ache for the marriage that I had.
I am a romantic at heart, and truly want to believe that I will find love-there is a piece of my heart that thrills at the idea that what I thought of as the love of my life was merely the appetizer to the real thing. But it's important to me that I don't minimize my feeling of loss over something that I held sacred. To do that would be to trivialize anything that comes next.
So, while I certainly understand why it might appear that I am stuck in an unending tailspin of grief over what I have lost, I am equally looking with hope to the future. Perhaps the melancholy tends to overshadow my writing because I feel a comfort in the sadness. But the joy is there too. The joy is there too.
Monday, August 7, 2017
"I'll say I loved you years ago...tell myself you never loved me..."
There are days that I feel amazing. There are days that stretch before me with wonder and hope and joy and clarity. There are days with the girls that I feel full to the brim with love, that I feel overjoyed to have met Nick and gotten married and had these girls that fill every inch of my heart.
"Shatter your illusions of love..."
There are days that I feel so low I cannot begin to put words to them. They are a soft, throbbing melody of pain and regret and sorrow for the girl that I was, for the sadness that surrounds my every memory of my life for 15 years, always wondering, 'was that real? Were we happy? Is that the moment that everything shifted? If I could go back in time and not say that or look at him in that way or think a different thought, would that change everything? What butterfly wing did my life perch on that fell away when I wasn't paying attention?'
"Loving you isn't the right thing to do...how can I ever change things that I feel..."
There are days in between. There are days of routine and habit and pushing myself to try new things and hiding out in my room and needing to be alone and feeling so lonely I could die and wishing I had someone, anyone, to talk to.
"I've been afraid of changing cause I built my life around you..."
My days are made up of everything and nothing. Over and over until I think that there surely can be nothing more to say on this topic. This beaten horse has surely died a million times over.
"Like a heartbeat that drives you mad...in the stillness remembering what you had..."
Dreary, rainy days in August make my heart ache for summers past. Make my heart wish for the grace to move forward. And the courage to live in the dark abyss that is the in between.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Let me be clear: I am very, very bad at dating.
Like, painfully bad.
This has always been true. I'm not great at small talk. I talk much too loudly just in general, and I have a terrible tendency to babble on and on when I'm nervous. And if I'm talking, I'm nervous.
I didn't properly practice dating when I was a teenager. Never have I regretted anything more. Maybe if I had spent my days learning on someone-anyone-how to flirt, instead of just watching Meg Ryan movies and convincing myself that magic would just happen and that the right guy wouldn't want me to be anything but my geeky, loud self...
I still sort of think that. That the right guy will just want me, flaws and all.
It's so hard to quantify and put into words what it is like to just meet the person that you would gladly take a bullet for and have them feel the same way about you and you just sort of skip all the dating part and just start living your life together because it seems like it's always been that way. But that is what Nick and I did. We went on a tiny little handful of dates before we said "I love you," and basically moved in together. In retrospect, that seems like not the best idea I've ever had. But at the time it seemed like, how else would you do this? It was sudden and fierce and wonderful. Even if I had the sense to question it, I doubt that I would have done anything differently. I have read about studies that prove that when you fall in love, the part of your brain that is activated is the same part of your brain that is stimulated by heroin. I have certainly never done heroin, but I completely believe this to be true-I was addicted to Nick from the moment I met him. The final two years of my marriage were hard and hurtful, but I clung to him like the junkie that I was.
I know in my head that these two years alone have been like my rehab. I needed to be alone, to figure out who I am and why I allowed myself to fall so far apart over something that had clearly become so unhealthy. And it may take years and years more. It may take forever. Which is a horribly depressing thought, but a very true one.
I honestly believe that I am so uncomfortable on dates because I haven't learned everything that I'm supposed to be learning yet. The truth is, I want to fall in love like I did before, and not have it end this time. All of the good with none of the bad. And that is just not realistic at all. So I'm clearly not in a head space to really be dating yet.
In the meantime, I just write and pray and write. I'm trying to be brave about what I write on the blog. To allow myself to express my feelings, even when they really just serve to embarrass me with how little I know about what I am doing.
And hope that someday I am able to write down how I figured all of this out.
Friday, July 28, 2017
"And now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand."
I always wanted a Betsy.
Her name wasn't Betsy at the time. Her name when I was growing up was always Brad, which eleven year old me thought was the coolest girl name ever of all time, because of a show called Hey Dude.
But, anyway, I always wanted a little girl.
When Betsy was a baby, we had so much fun together. We had tea parties and played princesses. Until Betsy could talk more, and told me in no uncertain terms that she really preferred horses (though she did love My Little Pony, so that was sort of girly) and sports and climbing trees and being with her dad. Nick was her hero, and I was that lady that was always there.
She loved me, don't get me wrong. But I was always at home, or with her wherever she was. Nick went off to an exotic place called "work." Betsy was a Daddy's girl, through and through.
My little tomboy has reached a crossroads this past year. Twelve and a half is awkward and moody and just mostly a lot of worry. All the time. About everything.
She still loves Star Wars and soccer and climbing trees. She secretly plays Barbies with her sister. She had her first boyfriend last year, and her first date, but she wasn't super jazzed about either. She understands that most of her friends are starting to be interested in boys, but she is ambivalent toward the whole thing.
I remember twelve. It seems like just yesterday that I was in the seventh grade, writing notes to my friends during class, making up secret sandwich names for boys so that we could talk about them without them knowing who we were talking about. (I loved Lettuce. Who was Tommy Werner. Just in case you wondered.)
Twelve is lots of wonderful things. Twelve is being brave enough to ride the really big rides at amusement parks. Twelve is old enough to ride in the front seat of the car and "navigate" for your directionally challenged mother. Twelve is watching all of the movies, staying up late and sleeping in, and having a room that is such a mess your mother just gives up on asking you to clean and simply requests a path to the rabbit cage.
Twelve is also hard. Twelve is not wanting to go swimming at the local pool anymore. Twelve is feeling prickly and sad and funky, all for no reason.
Add to that a personality of wanting to please everyone, and perfectionistic tendencies, and twelve can be pretty rough.
One of the side effects of my divorce is that Betsy and I are close in a way that we didn't used to be. I'm not just that lady who is always around anymore. I became her connection to the world for a while, when life was too confusing and overwhelming and sad. We were sad together. We grieved together. And we learned together, fought together, and spent the past two years growing up together.
When they handed Betsy to me in the hospital, when I finally got to look into those beautiful blue eyes, I cried and said, "I love you," over and over. I was so overwhelmed to meet this person that I had been waiting for my whole life. It was the best moment of my entire life.
I want to hold her still and tell her that I know in my heart that everything will work out, that despite her whole world turning upside down two years ago, and then all of the loveliness of puberty on top of that, life will turn out just like it's supposed to.
I don't know that I believe that anymore.
But I believed that with all of my twelve year old heart. Awkward and shy and nerdy as I was, I believed that someday I would fall in love and get married and have a beautiful little girl. And I did. Times two.
Maybe that should be enough.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
This is a given.
I've always been awkward and a good bit shy and at the same time overly loud.
Before you get to know me, you think that I am the quietest person in the world, and once you know me, you think that I seem to never shut up.
I'm a walking mass of contradictions-I don't want attention, but I do want to be heard, for my opinion to count for something. What I really want if I'm being completely honest is for you to think that I am a lot more interesting than I seem at first glance.
Life right now is very jarring. When I have the girls, my life is so full to the brim with their lives, their energy, their passions, I can barely stop to breathe. And then they leave for the week and my life comes to almost a complete and total stop, life becomes about quiet and books and rearranging the furniture again.
I've never lived alone before.
I recently told one of my closest friends that I think that Nick and I always felt like we were pretending to be grownups. It felt like someone gave us our life-Nick's job, and these two girls, and our house-and we were expected to know what to do, and how to save money, and, in short, "be adults."
I hate saying that, because in truth I know that we did a lot of things correctly-I figured out how to be the mom that I wanted to be, and I think that Nick figured out how to be the dad that he wanted to be. We bought furniture and appliances and cooked dinner and lived what surely resembled a normal life. We did things that felt so important-I taught Sunday School and was the Girl Scout leader and Nick helped to coach softball-they were practically jobs outside of normal life.
But we messed up endlessly. We were neither good at budgeting, or the careful planning that big expenses needed. We were both dreamers-not so much doers. We knew what we wanted life to look like, we just lacked any kind of map to get us there.
Nick leaving was like being thrown into the deep end of the ocean-I had to figure out how to tread water and eventually to swim. I'm still treading water but I'm so in amazement of how well I have learned to swim. I budget. Wisely. I make big decisions for sound reasons and not just based on how I feel at the moment. I don't just dream about what life is going to be someday, I take concrete steps to get to where I need to be.
When I look back on this time in my life, I'm going to realize that this was the greatest gift Nick ever gave to me. As lonely and stressful and maddening as living through all of this grief has been, this new person, this adult Joy, carved out of broken promises and such a great deal of hurt, she is strong and capable and fierce(ish). And weird. As ever.
Friday, June 23, 2017
I listen to the soundtrack for Hamilton every single day.
I'm pretty sure I drive my co-workers crazy, because not only do I listen to it every day, but I also tend to play it on a loop.
Of all my celebrity crushes, my biggest is on Lin-Manuel Miranda.
I loved him long before Hamilton.
I, as you know, am a musical theatre geek, and I first fell in love with Lin when I watched a PBS special about his first Broadway musical, In the Heights. The documentary was basically a behind the scenes look at someone making their first musical, the vast amount of work that goes into a show that could close in a week, but in the case of In the Heights go on to win the Tony award for best musical in 2008.
What I took from this documentary and carried with me for all of these years was that this man, this Lin-Manuel, who is one year younger than me, was never going to be able to live up to this billing. I adored him-I found him to be so well spoken and charming and fascinating-but I knew, in my wizened age, that lightning doesn't strike twice. Producing one amazing musical, one book of such importance-nothing that this man ever did could live up to this "coming out," as the documentary put it.
So, what goes through my mind every day when I listen to the amazing feats of a founding father that I knew was important to banking but, like everyone, I didn't realize his true importance until Lin wrote 46 songs that explained it all to me-what goes through my mind is, why was I so certain that this was impossible? What happened to me that made me believe that dreams need to end upon your first success, and if they don't, if you dare fly toward that sun again, you will surely get burned?
I'm not sure. I know that the birth of Betsy was the culmination of all of my dreams, and the birth of Felicity was the icing on top of the cake. That I could have one daughter was a miracle. Me, the girl who dreamed so hard of having a family, who talked about her imaginary children like they were real for as long as anyone remembers, and the girl who never had a boyfriend, ever-that girl somehow managed to have all of her dreams come true.
Dreaming beyond that seems impossible. What dreams I harbor now are for my girls to be contented and free and blessed. Growing up with them, which make no doubt is exactly what I'm doing, is fun and my favorite part of my life. I exasperate my family and most of my friends because, as I have grown fond of saying, "I want to be invited to the party but I don't want to go." I want to be seen. I even want to be heard. But beyond that, I can't function. And I can't even find proper words to express that. Words have never failed me before, but when it comes to what my future is supposed to look like outside of my girls, I am at a total loss.
Enter Hamilton. Again.
Pick up the pieces. Keep moving forward. Write and write and write.
And someday, this will all make sense.
Monday, June 5, 2017
All 80s, all the time summer.
It's such fun.
How did all 80s, all the time summer come into being? Well, I claimed it for myself a few years ago and what I mainly meant was that Nick and I watched 80s movies all summer. It was fun.
Then, of course, summer 2015 happened.
Last year was better, but the girls and I were still adjusting to how summer works in this new family that we have created from broken pieces of the old family. At this particular juncture in life, summer means that the girls are with Nick during the week and with me on the weekends. So, you know, backwards and inside out from normal.
But this year all 80s, all the time summer is making a comeback. And it's even better than before because sharing movies with my girls is so much fun. I dread the day that they outgrow watching movies with their mom, eating popcorn and junk food and just basically living the slumber party part of being a house full of girls that makes my life as it exists now a delight.
So, anyway, all 80s, all the time does take a slight bit of planning. Because, after all, I am me and I'm pretty type A. But I try not to overthink it or it becomes a chore, one more thing I have to do. And that is most definitely not what the 80s was about- the 80s was about fun and glamour and Molly Ringwald.
All 80s, all the time summer involves things other than just the movies. It involves all 80s music in the car, and 80s board games for game nights. For me personally, it involves rereading my favorite books (Sweet Valley, Baby-sitter's Club, and some classic Lois Duncan) and also trying to catch up with some that I missed (I am currently trying to read all the Madeleine L'Engle that I somehow sadly neglected as a young adult).
Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick is one of my most favorite books of all time. I love reading about what other people love reading and this particular collection is so wonderful because it is completely full of books from the late 1970s and 1980s that just sound delicious. I'm not quite sure why I love reading what other people think of things so much, but I definitely do, and hearing about your favorite 80s novel that you treasured in junior high just thrills me-all the more if you are just slightly older than me, and so can speak with a sort of wisdom that I'm always stretching toward but never quite manage. I'm never going to be as cool as I find people to be who were born in the early 1970s, it's just a fact of life.
Shelf Discovery is a great collection of somewhat more serious young adult lit. There isn't much discussion of the luscious Wakefield twins and other books of their ilk, so if you are into that sort of thing, let me point you toward the Cliquey Pizza website. There are actually 3 of these websites for some reason, and all feature stacks of books that I would love to get my hands on from the 1980s. The reviews that she has are great, but the vision was clearly grander than the reality. I have an idea in the back of my head to someday have a blog devoted solely to these guilty pleasure reads, just to create what it is that I'm searching for, but for the time being, that is just going to have to live in my head.
But, of course, all 80s all the time summer is mostly about the movies. According to the girls, that's the fun part. My go to reference guide to all 80s movies is Pretty in Pink: The Golden Age of Teenage Movies by Jonathan Bernstein. I bought this book by chance at WaldenBooks way back when I was 16 and I loved it so much that I bought two more copies to give my best friends, Michelle and Tanya. We all three adored 80s movies and mostly spent our Saturday nights at the Cinema Shop watching as many as we could find. Bernstein takes to task these movies, and he loves some that I'm iffy on, and vice versa, but it's just mostly just a delight.
So, what is my 80s watch list? I will tell you. But I do have some caveats. I can't chose anything that is very scary because I have a highly sensitive child who feels permanently scarred by my insistence on watching Hocus Pocus every October. Additionally, I try to not choose anything that I think is too blue. I do let them watch some stuff that is more raunchy than I probably should (Vacation has a lot of bad language and sex, but who am I to deny them the pleasure of watching John Candy be forced to ride roller coasters at BB gun point?) And this list is in no particular order other than when a movie popped into my head making this list.
3. Summer School
4. Mystic Pizza
5. The Princess Bride
6. Pretty In Pink
7. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
8. Weird Science
9. The Breakfast Club
10. Pretty in Pink
11. Can't Buy Me Love
12. The Karate Kid
13. The Outsiders
15. Adventures in Babysitting
16. Back to the Future
18. The Lost Boys
19. Dream a Little Dream
21. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
22. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
24. The Goonies
25. Just One of the Guys
26. License To Drive
28. European Vacation
29. Say Anything...
30. War Games
31. St. Elmo's Fire
32. Dirty Dancing
34. Maid to Order
35. Happy Together
I could go on and on. I was trying to keep it to 24, because that would be two movies every weekend. But I just had to get a few more in there. I'm learning to be okay if we don't get to everything. It's part of my learning to be an adult.
Anyway, this post is likely not that interesting to most people. But I hope that there are at least a couple of other 80s lovers in my orbit. I know in my head that my poor college professor who told me that no good music was made past 1975 simply lived in a different era- she wasn't a child looking up to super cool high schoolers with big hair and shoulder pads, dreaming of the day she would join their ranks. Of course, by the time I got to high school all of that 80s glitz had dissipated into 90s grunge. Which I love in its own way. But that is another blog post for another day.
For this summer, I'll stick with my most beloved John Hughes and Debbie Gibson and try to pretend that I will ever be as cool as someone born about eight years earlier than me.