Tuesday, December 5, 2017

New endings, old beginnings...

"To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love."
- Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hahn

We are nearly to the end.

I don't really mean that, of course. The end will never actually come, the end will become a new beginning before I've even realized that that an ending came to pass.

But that's a bit out there.

What I mean is that we are nearly to the end of the year of letting go.

One of the best parts of being born on Christmas day is that you get to become a new age just as the old year fades away, and the new year becomes a time to focus on the future.

For the past two years I have somehow found that giving a name to the year ahead of me gives it some purpose. Calling 2016 "the year of transition" made me feel like I was actually accomplishing something besides just wallowing in grief. If you have read my posts from that year, you know that I really wasn't doing much more than that-but calling it a transition allowed me to feel free of expectations that I get it together and move past the end of my marriage.

My divorce is the prism through which everything gets filtered.

So, what does it mean to be to the end of letting go?

I physically have let go of so much this past year. The more things that I purge, the more layers peel away, and my soul feels lighter and lighter. I am breaking a cycle inside of myself of hoarding not only so much stuff, but so many emotions I could drown in them. Writing down all of this grief has been such an outlet-I would likely still be unable to get up out of bed without it.

And so, as that particular chapter is coming to at least something of a close, I am looking forward to my new year, my next adventure in this tiny little life that I lead.

I'm thinking that I'm going to call it the year of peace. I am so blessedly at peace right now it barely seems real. There was a time when I was most certain that I was never going to feel peace ever again. When I was sure that all of my best memories lay behind me, memories that lay inside of such young adoration and babies and a struggle to make life out of very little money but such love.

I had a small moment of clarity, in the time between when Nick told me that he was leaving and when he actually left, when I was immobile and scared beyond anything that I had ever felt before and completely sure that I was trapped inside of a nightmare-and in that one tiny moment of clarity, I felt like everything would be okay, and that this horrific moment in my life was going to lead me to a place that I had only ever dreamed of, a place where I was at peace.

I've said that the final two years of my marriage were unhealthy. But on the surface, everything was fine. There were days on end where everything was just fine, where I was certain that I was inventing the distance that I felt creeping into my marriage. It was like dancing on a knife's edge, everything perfect until the slightest turn undid it all. I would tell myself that I was such an ungrateful wife, imagining that things were off kilter when they were clearly fine.

Obviously, the lesson to be learned here is to trust your gut.

And yes, I have now have trust issues that go deep.

But my point is, I have a peace to my soul now that I simply have not had for a very long time. An understanding that I am in charge of my life from here on out, a firm grasp on the idea that being assertive does not mean that I am pushing my own demands onto other people, but rather that I am standing up for my own thoughts and feelings, giving weight to my own opinions. I still would rather listen, I still would rather hear why you think a certain thought and understand where you are coming from, than offer up my own opinion (my family will find that to be an untrue sentence, but everyone else will understand it)- the point is, I can offer them now, I know to my bones who I am and what I think.

So, for today anyway, I am at peace. This restless soul has found purchase that has always eluded her. And I know that somehow I found a way to communicate that to that lost, lonely girl who only wanted her life back.

I told her that the life ahead would be bliss. And so it has.

Love is: I gave you everything I had to give.
-The Lover Speaks

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

So Many Nothings...

I have a thing for Meg Ryan.

Tom Hanks and Nora Ephron, too. But Meg, I have decided, is the magic glue that holds it all together. Because I adore Nora's writing (Heartburn is a must read for a person going through a divorce with infidelity involved), and I do love old school Tom Hanks, back when he didn't only make important movies and strange Saturday Night Live cartoons.

But Meg. Meg is the charm, the joy, the delight-both Sally Albright and Kathleen Kelly are kindred spirits to this girl that I am.

I have written a blog post about Sally before, so I won't go over that whole thing again but I will reiterate that as a girl going through her first break up in her mid-thirties, nothing soothed my soul like watching Sally fumble and falter her way through a dating world-it gives me hope. Of course, I am missing a Harry. What I wouldn't give for a Harry.

This weekend I watched both The Shop Around The Corner and You've Got Mail, as I am wont to do at Christmas time. I adore both movies, and can never quite land on which is my favorite between them. This year You've Got Mail stole my heart all over again.

Normally, I love so much that the script is full of love for children's literature (surely, someday, I will find an outlet for my love for children's books that is on some par with Kathleen Kelly), I love that the movie reminds me of why I love New York City so much (but only to visit because we all know that I can't even live in a city the size of Zanesville, much less New York), and it's just the kind of romantic comedy that they don't make anymore. This movie, that I saw with Michelle and in a theater, dreaming of the life that I was sure to have someday-it was, to my mind, a glimpse into my future.

Anyway, as I watched Meg and Tom fall in love over loud arguments and all the books this past weekend, my heart ached with a new realization.

"People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all... has happened. The truth is... I'm heartbroken. I feel as if a part of me has died, and my mother has died all over again, and no one can ever make it right."

Something you don't want to happen at all has happened.

You have no idea how many times that has resounded through my head in the past two years.

And I knew that it was from You've Got Mail. I knew the context. It's a line that has become a part of my soul.

And yet. This time it was different. This time, I watched as Kathleen Kelly accepted that change with a grace that I can only dream of.

I want so badly to be worthy of this change. I want to move forward, out of this year of letting go, and feel like I'm in this place of love and acceptance and peace. Mostly, I feel that. Mostly, I'm so contented and happy to be this Joy that I have become, a Joy of adult decisions both welcome and not. I know, I have dwelled on that long enough.

I want to be my beloved Meg at the end of that movie. She has blossomed, she has come to view the change to her life as magical-she has become who she was meant to be. She has done the brave thing and lived to tell about it. She has become the heroine of her own story-a story that she is living and not just reading about.

I don't know that I am ever going to be that brave. But we will hope. And pray. And read all of the books.

"The odd thing about this form of communication is you're more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many... somethings."

Any of you, who read these words that I write, who walk along at my snail's pace-you have no idea how much you mean to me. All of this nothing that I write-all of this sadness and happiness and everything in between-I can never quite express how much it means that anyone reads my words and is at all encouraged in their own journey. If I could, I would send all of you bouquets of sharpened pencils. Thank you.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Defying Gravity...

I'm happy.

It's not a word that I love. Happy always sounds insincere to my ears. Oh, you're happy? Well, guess what? You are going to be sad again soon. And mad. And frustrated. That is how emotions work, they flow through our veins and we treat them like they are the mirror to our souls.

But the thing is, I'm happy. Glad. Felicitous. (That's my favorite.)

This is not, of course, to suggest that I wasn't happy for the majority of my marriage. I certainly was, and people who know me well have pointed this out to me many times-"Joy, you didn't just love Nick, you adored him." When one of my friends said that to me over the summer, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Because I knew that, but I didn't quite know that other people could see it inside of me.

The final two years of my marriage, however, were not really what you would call happy. The final two years of my marriage were enveloped in a great deal of tension. I can't (and don't) presume to write Nick's feelings down. But, for me, the final two years twisted all of the years that preceded it, years that were full of love and gratitude and yes, happiness. I try (as is mightily apparent, I'm sure) never to discount all of those years that we had a healthy relationship.

But the fact is, the final two years were not healthy. They were full of an anger that I couldn't comprehend, a discontent that I couldn't make sense of-I didn't understand what had changed, what had happened to make living with me suddenly such a burden.

None of that is important now, except as context to understand this:

I'm happy because living through this divorce has been the healthiest thing that has ever happened to me. It pains me to write that-I believe to the depths of my soul that marriage is a commitment to a lifetime of understanding of another person. I think that a lot of my continued feeling of guilt over the idea that I am divorced comes from this belief that somehow I failed in this core mission of marriage.

But by the end of those two years, I was broken. Happy is what happens when all your dreams come true. I was so unhappy, so tired and so frustrated by my own attempts to make things better. I didn't want to give up on my marriage.

The weight that was lifted when Nick finally left, when the decision was made, etched into my skin and my head and last of all into my heart-it has been freeing. Liberating.

I'm writing this down mostly just for myself, for that girl who was so torn to pieces over the life that she was living. I have grieved my marriage hard. I have missed the person Nick used to be, and I have lived through the shifting of my entire life through moments so dark and damaged it scared me to my core. At times living through such pain has seemed unbearable.


It was for the best. It was necessary. There is a lightness to my soul, an understanding of who I am, and a genuine feeling of gratitude for this most painful, shameful event to ever occur in my little life.

Oh, I know. So many blog posts to get to such obvious answers. But my (belabored) point is I am who I was meant to be. Much as I loved that girl who was so delighted to be married to Nick-who adored him so much that it showed in her face. How lucky was I to have had a love like that?

As lucky as I am to be this girl I am now. Blessed. Grateful. Happy.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Some Fairytale Bliss...

Once upon a time, my life was pretty much what I considered to be a fairy tale.

Fifteen years ago today, I wrote a story about a girl and a boy and a happily ever after.

I spend a lot of time remembering that girl in my head. That boy, too, if I'm being honest. I loved them so. And 15 years ago today, they made these vows that they technically broke 13 years later.

The thing is-and for reasons I can't quite name this seems important to write down-I don't think that we really broke those vows. I still believe in everything that I said that day, everything that day stood for, everything that I wrote inside of a story that can only be written by someone who is wide-eyed in love for the very first time and promising that love will never falter.

The story that we wove together, a story of young love and Betsys and Felicitys, led to a story of broken trust and hurt and more pain than was surely necessary.

But on it goes. The story that is enveloping me now is one of a girl who knows loss. When my marriage fell apart, nothing scared me more than the idea that I would never know a love like that love I had with Nick.

What I didn't understand then was that the fairy tale didn't have anything to do with Nick. It had to do with me. I love who I have become from the wreckage of my divorce. I love stupid, simple things, like that I can make appointments on the phone without having a panic attack, I can budget for the car that I desperately need, and I can say no when I need to say no to something. They are tiny things, but they have taken me my whole life to learn-this person that I'm presenting to the world can be whomever I want her to be.

And she grew in confidence and faith and love. That's my story. Whether we reach the happy ending or not, I will believe.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Mirror Images...

I live in firm belief that I resemble my mother. My mother wholeheartedly disagrees with me.

That, in a nutshell, is our relationship.

My mom is just practically everything to me-she is a mirror of my own heart, she is tangled up with who I am and how I see the world.

These past two years have been hard for us.

My mom wants nothing more than for me to be happy. Watching me hit rock bottom and slowly rise up was easily one of the hardest things that she has ever had to do. She wanted nothing more than to take all of my pain and my shame over the end of my marriage away from me. She did not always approve of how I chose to handle the shattered bits of my relationship with Nick. She misses the old me a lot, by which I think she means the person that used to insist that she knew best and the person who never really faltered in her faith in the happy ending.

What I wish I had the words to say-in a much better way than I'm about to attempt-is that I love my mom not only because she is my mom and she would fight tigers and move mountains and give me her whole world if I asked her to, but also I love her because she gave me the space and the time to fall apart. She didn't want to. She wanted to fix everything, because that is what moms do. I know, I am forever trying to make the path easier for Betsy and Felicity and they are forever forging ahead in spite of my efforts.

It took a while for us to figure out that there just wasn't anything that my mom could do to help me grieve faster. It was frustrating for both of us, feeling like we were talking around each other instead of to each other.

This is hard to write-the experience of being left by someone that you love, someone that you trust with your life, it changes forever your experience of trust even with people that you know love you and care about you and would never, ever leave you alone. I know in my head that Nick's leaving really did not have anything to do with me-it had to do with him and his journey and his truth. But it profoundly changed the course of my life. It's a difficult truth to embrace.

But like all pain, however inflicted, it lessens over time. It's sometimes hard for me to remember that I felt so unmoored. I certainly have taken my time in living with this grief, and there were days that I was most convinced that it was never going to end, but I have reached a point in the past few months where I not only feel contented but I feel delightfully happy. I have somehow grown to love this new person that I have become, and looking back I see, not exactly a method to all of that pain, but...a reason for it? My point is, basically, I never want to live through such hurt again. But the end result of that pain is such a change for the better in what I bring to the world, I can't be anything but grateful that it happened.

My mom and I have slowly been learning how to maneuver around all of this-all of my feelings and all of hers and all of our genuine love for each other. I am blessed to have a mom who hurts so deeply because I am hurting, who never for one moment blamed me for the sadness that swallowed me whole.

I will forever hope to be my mom when I grow up.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My Dating Profile (Alternative Title: If You Like Pina Colada)...

Things that are important to know.

I am a mom. Lots of my life is spent at soccer games, cheering with third and fourth graders, making mediocre dinners (I'm working on this, but we often are in a rush), reminding girls to practice various instruments and to do their homework.

I love my job. I can talk about water billing all day long, if you like. I love everyone I work with. I perhaps do not love typing minutes, but I manage. Shut off day hurts my heart.

I love silly things that do not matter in the least. I love the royal family, I love my People magazine, I honestly have a lot of feelings about Katie Holmes and Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Garner. I don't watch much television, mostly just sports and an occasional PBS documentary, which sounds so pretentious but I swear it's not-I just have no time. I plan to binge watch really great shows on the weekends that I don't have the girls, but I usually run out of time. Eventually I will have time for these things.

I love to clean. I love to organize a closet. I love to tackle a really huge project that seems overwhelming. It's like therapy for me. Learning to love this has changed my life.

I love my morning workout routine. I love yoga and running and all the squats. I'm slow. I'm not ripped. I don't run marathons. I still feel silly running at all, which is perhaps why I run so early in the morning, so that it is still dark outside and no one can see me making an idiot of myself.

I love coffee in the morning and wine at night. Often I love a can of pop in between. I can't say that I love water, but I drink it most of the time.

I love podcasts and Jamie Golden and Knox McCoy and Anne Bogel and I want to read all of the books ever.

My family is my world. My friends are the best.

I recently learned from Betsy how to make a playlist of my favorite songs on Youtube. This has shifted my life in so many good ways.

In my head, I think that I would be a really great dancer if I had a willing partner. In reality, I have no proof that this is true.

I sing at inappropriate times and dance in the grocery store. This embarrasses my children. I rather enjoy embarrassing my children.

I'm not afraid to talk about politics, but I don't fit neatly into any ideology.

I'm mostly a really positive, upbeat person. I'm content with my life, with my decisions and my goals and my dreams. But I've been to dark places. I have scars that go deep.

My favorite thing in the world is to be wrapped in a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate, reading a book. Or watching old movies or 80s TV shows with my girls. Or eating potatoes of any kind. That's pretty much what my idea of heaven is.

I have no poker face. I don't lie. And if I try to lie, you'll figure it out pretty quickly. I can, however, keep a secret.

None of this really matters right now. And that's cool. More than cool, really. But someday maybe it will. So I wrote it down for you.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Just an Awkward, Plath-loving Girl...

I think I may have mentioned that I'm learning a great deal about myself in this 38th year of my life.

Mostly it's cool stuff, like that I enjoy running and I have learned finally how to fix my hair and probably most importantly I have learned to stand up for myself and be firm in my decisions, regardless of how desperately I want to please everyone.

And of course, some of it is hard-learning how to really budget, and how to look at what I have and be able to purge away the things that I am not using, to let go of expectations without losing all of my determination in the process.

Mainly, though, I have learned to come out of my shell, and talk to people, and go to football games all by myself, and not feel like everyone is staring at me all the time wondering why I am such a freak. But I am still an introvert at heart, and I relish the time alone that being single allows. I want to be invited to the party, but I don't want to go. Ordinarily. Sometimes I surprise myself.

Why Are We So Unwilling to Take Sylvia Plath at Her Word?, Literary Hub, by Emily Van Duyne

I fell hard in love with Sylvia Plath when I was in college. Her book, The Bell Jar, spoke to my often tangled in depression heart. Sylvia just got me, she spoke right to my soul with her images of scars and death and guilt. I very vividly remember telling my creative writing teacher my senior year of college that I loved Plath and she said, yes, that people my age usually did, and recommended that eventually I try Anne Sexton. Which I did last year, and I loved her immensely.

But reading this article about Plath reminds me not only of why she was my favorite poet when I was a young girl grappling with a great deal of depression, but also of why her poems still resound in my soul. I don't romanticize her death the way I used to-I see too much the children growing up without her to think it the only logical choice-but I still feel that stir, that anger that I read in her poems, that discontent.

Stranger Than Fiction: What Happened After the Bookstore, New York Times, by Remy Tumin

Oh, I love this article. This is exactly what I want, exactly how falling in love again-as very hard as it is to imagine-this is how it should be. It should be awkward and strange and involving all of the books.

I would also like to recommend Top Shelf Text. The blog is very well done, but my favorite thing about Madeleine is that she is exactly who I was at the age of 24. I love following her stories on Instagram because I have never met anyone so much like who I used to be.

I am mostly really loving who I am at 38. I am trying to mentally prepare myself for the notion that this next year will be my final year in my 30s. I am trying to appreciate this shifting that is being done, trying to learn and grow and continue to be absolutely fascinated by "practically nothing."

"Out of the ash/I rise..."