Tuesday, June 26, 2018

More What I Had In Mind...

I have sort of repeatedly said, falling all to bits and piecing yourself back together can be a fascinating process.

(It can also be overwhelming and exhausting, but that’s not the point of this blog post.)

I’m one of those people who likes to know where life is headed, and I always have been. When I was a kid I knew that I would grow up to have girls and live in the exact house that I live in. My life unfolded exactly as I planned it all out, down to the age I was when I got married and when I had each of my girls.

Then, you know, life diverted. Two roads diverged into a wood and all-only not quite the sad longing of Frost, but more of being shoved onto a path that you weren’t expecting.

Of course, in the beginning, I panicked. I mean, I was wrong about the cornerstone of this plan, I was wrong in where I laid my trust and my future, and nothing seemed like it was ever going to make sense ever again. You can’t trust yourself because, after all, it was your trusting nature that got you into this predicament.

Three years on, I still have a lot to come to terms with. I’m not done figuring all of this out yet.

But, about six months ago, a path opened up in front of me that I wasn’t expecting. My initial reaction was to pull back and question everything and not trust myself at all to make any sort of decision. But I did manage a tentative step and braced myself for sure heartbreak and so far, we are still walking and talking and figuring things out.

I don’t exactly have a plan. I have a sort of broad outline, and we exist inside of as much margin as we can. But what I found myself telling someone recently is this-this part of my life, this strange path that I have found myself on in the past half a year or so-I am loving it because it wasn’t a part of the original design. I wasn’t planning on life taking a turn that was quite so unexpected and out of the blue.

“There is pleasure in the pathless wood-“ I don’t know that I quite agree with Byron on that, I’m much too in love with my routine to just throw all caution to the wind. But I can say with all certainty that sometimes spontaneity can be just what your heart was longing for all along, that opening yourself up can be frightening and fun all at the same time, and that finding yourself existing outside of the lines can be just the thing that eases the worry that you have that you haven’t the foggiest idea what you are doing.

Piecing yourself back together is a delicate dance in which you get to question every last little thing. But perhaps the person that emerges is worth this strange journey.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Go Your Own Way...

“And hope that someday I am able to write down how I figured all of this out.”
-Me, last summer

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the blog and its purpose and how it has morphed so far from what it started out to be. About the things that I write about, and the things that I don’t, and why exactly I do any of it.

I love to write. I love to write like I love to breathe-it’s my favorite thing in the world to do. Often when I write something down, it’s the first time that I’ve ever realized that particular thought and it sort of catches my breath and I go oh. Huh.

So anyway, naturally, most of my writing doesn’t end up on here. And some of what I have written here is just the loose ends of a girl grappling with a great deal of fear of where to go and what to do next. When life fell apart, I didn’t write anything on the blog for 6 months. I spent 6 long months wondering if I would ever find the words to tell the world about anything happening in my life ever again. And then I wrote that first post after we decided to divorce, the post that told the world, yes, my marriage has ended (and there are many things about that post that embarrass me now) and it broke open a dam inside of me-it was my way of saying, this happened. This mattered.

I don’t know how common my feelings are to other divorced people, but I know that I felt like I was taking an eraser to fifteen years of my life. Like we were saying, oh, we didn’t really mean any of that. And writing down anything-from the shame that I felt over getting divorced to the overwhelming fear that I had of what to do next-it gave this chapter of my life some meaning. I know, of course, in my head that no one thinks that my marriage meant nothing, but I just didn’t know what to do with the pieces that existed in my hands.

Many people at the time came to me and told me that I shouldn’t panic, that I needn’t worry about dating, that the only thing that mattered was the girls…they were words of kindness, but they only served to make me more insecure. I was scared to death of never falling in love again, of living all alone forever, of not having any kind of a plan other than getting up every day and breathing in and out.

So, I wrote it down. I wrote down how scared and all alone and bereft I was. I wrote down guilt and fear and shame and joy and bliss and wonder. I wrote it down so that I could process it, so that I could own it, so that I could understand any of it.

Sometimes I worry that the blog seems to only perpetuate the idea that I was sad and scared and alone. I’m not that anymore (I’m not sad and alone-scared I’m working on). I write about the things that overwhelm me so that I can get a grip on why I’m feeling that way. I write about things that I am ashamed of to allow myself permission to let go of the shame.

I don’t know exactly why this journey took this particular shape. I do know that whenever anyone has told me that they enjoy my blog or relate to some aspect of it, it makes me feel like it is serving a purpose bigger that just me navel gazing. Maybe that’s ludicrous. I have no idea. But what I’m meaning to say is that writing led me through this maze of grief, and now it’s leading me into this brave new world of whatever it is that comes next.

”I do not know what lies around that bend, but I’m going to believe the best does.”
-Anne of Green Gables

Friday, June 8, 2018

Wake Up. Be Amazing. (That's What Betsy Says...)

Routines are life giving.

I am resolute in my belief about this.

People are constantly teasing me about my quite ridged ways, and I will agree that not everyone needs to be as structured about life as I am, but the fact remains that routines are life giving. Having a routine, first of all, ensures that you get everything done that you were intending to do. It frees me of the notion that I forgot to do something.

But more importantly, routine gives a structure to my days that I crave. I have written about my anxiety a lot-and some days are better than others-but having a routine just allows my brain that little bit of space to breathe, like, we got this.

I have spent the past three years perfecting my morning routine. Prior to life flipping all upside down, I was much more of a night owl and my mornings generally just consisted of getting my kids ready and out the door rather than worrying over my own self. Such was the life of a stay-at-home mom. (That feels like lifetimes ago.)

But I have managed, somehow, to turn myself into a morning person. I honestly enjoy waking up every morning, which was certainly not the case in my old life. Some of that, I’m sure, is like everything else-I am such a different person in so many ways now. (Hopefully good ways.) But some of it is due to figuring out a routine that gives me the space I crave to physically prepare for my day.

A couple of people recently picked my brain about my morning routine, and so I thought that I might share a few of the highlights here, just in case anyone else remotely cares. I don’t pretend that it’s perfect or anything, but so far, it’s worked for me.

The first, and perhaps single most important piece of this blog, is my Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Colored Sunrise Simulation and Sunset Fading Night Light. Oh, my goodness. The life changer. This alarm clock basically simulates the sunrise for half an hour before waking you up-you can chose to either wake up to the radio or to the sound of birds chirping. I have it set to the birds, and I tell the girls all the time that it makes me feel like I’m Cinderella, waking up to her forest friends. It is the loveliest way to wake up.

I journal first thing in the morning, and then I use the Headspace app for a meditation exercise for 10 minutes. I will admit that I was a little weary of purchasing that app because most of the time when I have tried meditating in yoga class, I always find myself realizing when we are almost done that I have been thinking about a hundred other things, rather than concentrating on my breathing. But what I like about the Headspace app is that it is guided meditation, meaning that it helps me to focus on what I’m doing. I have tried a few different packets and I really loved the anxiety packet-imagine that.

While I’m making my coffee and getting my breakfast, I pray. It feels strange to me to write that down, and I’m not quite sure why, but that’s what I do. Starting my day by covering my family and friends in prayer has been my habit since college, and it is one of the few bits of life that didn’t change after my divorce.

While I’m drinking said coffee, I read my devotion. I have been using an app that my sister recommended called First Five, and I absolutely love it. I get an infinite amount out of those five minutes of my day (on the weekends there is a video wrap up with about a 10-minute lesson and I have found them to be incredibly eye opening and interesting).

I have the same thing for breakfast every day-hot water with lemon, a banana, coffee, and Greek yogurt (usually strawberry or raspberry). I know, it’s super boring. It’s okay-that’s who I am.

And then we get to my workout. All told, it’s an hour and a half. I do yoga, cardio, weights, and I run. Here’s the thing-getting blood moving to your brain is the best possible thing that you can do for your mental health. It’s changed my life-clearly, it hasn’t dissipated my anxiety or my depression, but it has changed my ability to get a grip on them, to keep my head above water when I want to fall under waves of sheer panic.

Like a year ago, Betsy showed me how to make a playlist on YouTube. (I’m sure there are cooler apps for this, but I am like an old lady with my phone, so this works for me.) I have a yoga playlist and a workout playlist. My yoga playlist is a mix of Sarah McLachlan and Jewel and the Black Crowes and my favorite song, “Hallelujah.” Just what you would expect out of the angst ridden 90s teenager that I still think I am.

My workout playlist is more upbeat, more probably what you would expect out of a woman trying her best to do things that scare her. “Fight Song.” “Whatever It Takes.” “Part of Me.” “Praying” by Kesha is my cool down song and the lyrics there (“Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell/
I had to learn how to fight for myself/And we both know all the truth I could tell/I'll just say this is I wish you farewell”), they are a healing balm to my soul *every* *single* *day*.

And from there, I just get ready for work. It’s sort of a lot for a morning (I’m up at 5 and to work by 8, so it’s basically 3 hours all told). But I can’t really overstate how lovely it is to have that workout done and out of the way before my day really even begins. Whenever I have tried to move my workout to evening (for whatever reason), it just doesn’t work for me. I’m tired when I get home, and all I want to do is read my book.

Embracing truths about myself has been one of the best parts of my life in the past 3 years. One of those truths is that I am far from perfect. But one is also that this life I lead may seem super boring and predictable to some people, but for me, this is a part of my weird existence on this planet.

It’s a beautiful life that I get to live.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

All Endings are Beginnings...

Kind hearted people often tell me that they admire me for being able to be friends with Nick and Jenifer. It’s a lovely thing to hear, but I don’t always know how to respond. Because really, there’s a lot to unpack there.

People often say something along the lines of, “It’s great for your kids that you are friends.” And it is, it is a great thing for my kids to witness. But my head usually reels to people that I know that are divorced who either don’t really get along with their ex-spouse, or who honestly have no choice about it either way because their former partner is completely out of the picture.

And this is the thing that I want you to know if you read my words ever and think that I magically knew just how to handle my husband having a whole other family and how to approach that with any kind of grace at all-I didn’t. I made up everything as I went along, and I did a few things correctly, and I also messed up a lot, and suppressed a lot of my feelings, and therefore ended up stuck in waves of grief for what seemed a long, long time.

I approach everything in my life, always, with the questions, “What would a good mom do? What would a good daughter do?” and so on. So, when all of this came down the pike, I asked myself, “What would a good ex-wife do?”

The answer to that, of course, is simple. A good ex-wife would let her husband go with as much grace as she could muster, and wish him all the best, and hold tight to her kids while understanding that they need to have a good relationship with their dad, if only because everything that you read during your divorce makes a point to tell you that children who have divorced parents are more likely to go down dangerous paths of drug use and promiscuity and all kinds of lovely avenues. It’s super fun.

But the reality of living that answer is not that simple.

Sometimes people will say to me, “I would stay friends with my spouse because that’s the {fill in the blank}.” Father of my children. Mother of my children. Person I first fell in love with. You name it, there’s a reason. And in the abstract, yes, of course. Nick is the father of my children. He was my first love. Heavens, Nick was my first real and true boyfriend. Can’t go much farther back than that.

But here’s the deal: divorce changes people. There are all kinds of things to maneuver around. There are the reasons that you are getting divorced, to start. There are feelings of abandonment, of loss, of fear. There are new people coming into your life who get to have a say in this new reality. There are decisions to be made, and wounds to be healed, and dreams to lay to rest (I want to write dreams to kill right there, but that seems passive aggressive).

My point with this particular post is simply this: this friendship is hard won, and it’s not perfect, and I worry constantly that it’s not enough. I have issues with boundaries, you know. But I’m working on it.

There isn’t an easy way to say any of that if someone says anything, good or bad, about my continued friendship with Nick and Jenifer.

Divorce is a messy thing. Nothing about untangling yourself from someone that you loved is easy or simple. But eventually, perhaps three years later, you will find yourself excited about being brave, and learning all kinds of new things, and getting yourself tangled up in new adventures, and just feeling forever grateful for whatever grace existed to get you to this place where all of life feels shiny and new again.

To make an end is to make a beginning.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

This Broken Road...

3 years ago, give or take a couple of weeks, my life imploded. It was scary and dark and frightening. All the words in the world that mean, something happened that I didn’t want to happen, and all I wanted ever was for life to just go back to what it had been before.

In truth, I know now that life could never have returned to what it was. No matter what course you ultimately choose to take, life is forever altered. It’s something that I honestly thought that I understood-after all, if you read this blog at all regularly you know that I call Nick leaving the third big terrible precisely because two other big (huge) terribles had preceded it. I know what it’s like to endure a huge hardship, something that could end a marriage, something that could haunt you for years to come, and choose to remain married and to forgive and forget and move along to the next phase of your life. My point is, I thought I was all knowing and wise because I had endured these two huge betrayals in the past, and I had swallowed hard and gone on with life. It’s what you do.

So, along comes betrayal number three, and everything crumbles. I didn’t want it to-obviously-but it did, it crumbled right to my feet and nothing that anyone could say or do could fix the fact that my marriage had ended. Hope, you see, had died. Hope had lied.

Three years later, life is of course gloriously different. If you had told me then-if you had taken that girl that I was in 2015 who was just barely functioning-if you had said, in three years, you will be going about life as if it’s always been this way, as if Nick is just sort of your goofy brother-I might have wanted to believe you, but I would have thought, three years? Why can’t we just fix things now? Give me some little shred of hope, just so that I can get up and function through the day. That’s not how it worked, though.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when hope showed back up, but I do know that it was long after I had learned to get through the day. My days were rote, muscle memory of how to exist in the world and breathe in and out. The one thing that I wish that I had understood, that I didn’t understand until much, much later is this-because I stayed in my house, because my outer life really did not change at all except that now I didn’t have a husband anymore, my experience of my divorce was completely different than Nick’s experience of the exact same thing.

Granted, no two people experience the same thing, right? But I hated myself for how sad the simplest, most routine bits of life made me. I found that I missed things about my old life that I never even thought about before. I rarely found myself crying over the big things, the thing that you would imagine you would remember-vacations and holidays and such. But I can remember of standing in Imlay’s, buying a pair of scrubs, and being overcome with sadness remembering that the last time I had done that, we had gone as a family and the girls had picked out silly shirts for me and Betsy had asked for a real stethoscope for Christmas. And I had this lovely meltdown in the middle of a store, buying scrubs that I wouldn’t need in just a few months time.

All of that is just to say, I never knew when I would fall to bits, I never knew what weird memory would rise to the surface and just undo me. Accepting that this was life now-memories of memories-I fought against it, and then gave into it, and basically wallowed for what surely seemed like much too long (but felt like just the only thing to do), and eventually life actually moved on.

Last night, the girls and I put the flags out at the cemetery, which is something that we have done as a family for years. (This is hard to put into words-I know, why do I struggle to do it? A good question for a different post.) In the past few years, this has made me feel a sadness, because it was something that we did together-it felt like someone was missing. Which makes sense, I think. But last night, I didn’t feel that at all. I still remember, of course, but the feeling that I am pretending at being this single mom, who doesn’t feel abandoned and left to do all of these “family” things alone-that feeling is gone. The girls and I are a family, as we are. No one is missing.

If I had known three years ago that we would get to a place of solace, I would have felt relief. But I also suppose that I would have felt three years a terribly long time. It really hasn’t been at all. In the grand scheme of life, these years, these years where all of life changed and turned me into this completely different person, they are just barely a moment in time. And before I realize it, my girls will be grown up and gone and life will shift again.

Life lately just has me remembering that panic, that sadness, that fear. I suppose that the return of June will always make me remember, in the same way that March reminds me of what it felt like to be the wife of a soldier deployed overseas. Heavens, that was years ago, and still the chill of the beginning of March brings it back to me.

All I know for certain is that life has changed all for the better, and I wouldn’t trade where I am for where I was. Letting go (truly letting go) of my old life led into this new life of complete and unabandoned joy. And it took years to do, but there the hope lies.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Days We Lay Dying...

My dear and most beloved Gidget and Moondoggie.

I am so profoundly sad to write this post.

Gidget Catherine and Moondoggie Heathcliff came into my life on December 24, 2003. They were brother and sister and never spent one day apart from each other in their 14 years on this earth. They loved each other, and us, hard. They wanted nothing more than a lap to lay in. They were my Gidge and my brave soldier.

When they were little, they tore up everything in my house-anything that was within their reach, including my kitchen floor. They remain the most anxious dogs I’ve ever known-they are scared of closets and the toaster and Moondoggie is even afraid of stairs.

They loved running and barking and protecting my house from delivery people. They loved Betsy and Felicity once they figured out who these tiny creatures were that we brought into the house. They were intrigued by Anakin.

The past three years they have been cared for by my parents, beginning when I went to work full time but in the past few months, my parents have cared for them day and night. I carry an incredible weight of guilt over that but I do know that there is no one more loving than my parents, no one better to take care of my dogs and spoil them rotten and make their last years on this earth full of love and treats and kindness.

I love them to the moon and back and will miss them every day. In my lifetime I have loved my dogs fiercely, and I dearly miss Caleb, Mandie, Mollie, and Zoe. I dream about Zoe every so often (I was the one with Zoe while she died) and I truly believe with all of my heart that Gidget and Moondoggie will join them.

Carry on, brave soldier, and take care of your sister.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Someday These Will Be The Good Old Days...

Six months ago, I wrote a blog post that I titled “Defying Gravity” in which I said that I was feeling happy-and that I didn’t quite know what to do about that. I loved that I was feeling happy-there had been such a long stretch of time where I could feel content but just not quite happy.

Writing that blog post scared me. I was terrified that the minute I claimed that profound joy as my own, it would all dissipate. Such had been my experience before, when I would imagine myself beginning to see the end only to be overcome by a wave of grief more intense than the last.

Instead, six months later, I am delighted and a tiny bit scared to say that I am still quite blissfully happy. There are days, of course, that aren’t quite as wonderful as others, but most of my days anymore are completely sated with a degree of joy that I just didn’t think was possible for me anymore. I thought that I was too jaded, too skeptical, too full of doubt and questions about where life was going compared to where life had been.

I have lived with my twin issues of depression and anxiety, with a nice bit of co-dependency thrown in, for nearly all my life. My depression first settled into my soul at 14 and I have cycled through ups and downs with it ever since. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t live with anxiety, though there surely must have been a young age where I wasn’t consumed by worry. I honestly cannot imagine life without them.

My divorce, though, going through my divorce was like living with depression and anxiety on steroids. Looking back, I wish that I had had the sense to be more patient with myself. I knew where I wanted to be-I wanted to be in a place where all that mattered was that I had my girls, my family, my friends-I knew to my bones that I was blessed beyond measure but I just couldn’t feel that anymore. I felt numb to the world, I felt such sadness that I had never experienced to that level before-and I just couldn’t see an end to it.

But now, today, nearly 3 whole years since that third big terrible that ripped life apart, I wake up every morning so incredibly grateful that I had this experience, this time of such complete sorrow and loss. It's a strange thing to be grateful for, but I feel like such a stronger person, a happier person, a person capable in spite of such obvious deficits.

So, so many blog posts to get to what of course has been true all along. This was always my story, this was always my fractured fairytale.

So, dear old world, I am so lucky to be alive in you, to paraphrase my favorite literary heroine. I never would have dreamed that I would look back on these past three years with anything but sadness. But such is life. Joy slips in even when you aren't expecting it. Even in the midst of crazy, sad, out of your mind grief. The joy is there.