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..."

Friday, September 1, 2017

Smile and Nod...

It's Friday. It's billing day, so I am actually a bit spent but happy to say that the water bills are in the mail with no major issues.

I feel that I need to say something about the pictures that I use on the blog. Because I do realize that I don't smile in pictures very much. There are a lot of reasons for that-really boring reasons that include how big I think my nose looks from certain angles and how self conscious I am of the fact that I don't have my back teeth (I know that usually you can't even tell that, but I can). Anyway, I'm not really making a statement either way about smiling or not smiling, I'm usually just trying to keep my nose from taking over the picture.

I genuinely hope that most people who visit my blog are there more for the words than the picture.

Okay, so, that said, I have read some wicked cool stuff on the internet in the past week that I thought I would share with you.

At the Heart of Every Restaurant, The Washington Post by Tom Sietsema
I must admit, I have never much thought about the importance of the chef having served as a dishwasher at some time. "When you learn to clean dishes,” says the French chef, “you learn to dirty fewer pots and pans.” From my experience, this is completely true.

Laser Pointers and Hand Signals: A Deaf Chef in the Kitchen, The Salt on NPR by Kristen Hartke
I guess I have a restaurant theme today. Again, I have never given any thought to how a deaf person would manage as a chef.
"It's important that we do this as a society," he says, about providing work for people with disabilities. "In my 45 years in the business, I've only had two deaf chefs, but that's two more than most other restaurants have ever had. It's a bit challenging, but it's also worth the challenge. David has become so integrated in our kitchen that we honestly forget that he's deaf; we've all adapted to each other to function as a team."
We need to ingrain this into our souls.

The Greatest Goths in Literary History, Literary Hub by Emily Temple
My favorite read this week. The idea of Mary Shelley carrying around her husband's heart for her entire life just sounds like the most romantic idea to me. (I know, I'm weird. I'm not quite goth but I sort of wish I were.)

Life this weekend looks fairly lovely-I'm alone for two days, which of course means cleaning and reading and football. And then I have my girls back. So the best of all possible worlds. Even if the picture doesn't quite tell you that.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Something Just Like This...

The other day I found myself saying to someone that my ideal man would be someone that I met because they read my blog. In all sincerity, I said something like, "That is who I am. I'm completely myself on my blog."

The person that I was saying this to looked at me quite incredulously, and said something along the lines of, "Joy, the main thing that you write about on the blog is how hard your divorce has been for you to deal with."

So I've mulled over that for a few days, and I admit, that is quite true. And I do understand that any future guy in my life likely wouldn't read about my sadness over the end of my marriage and think, wow, she sounds like a great date. Who wouldn't be interested in a girl still tangled up in grief over the loss of her husband?

Perhaps I put too much hope into the blog, then. I likely do lean much too much on my writing because it is so much easier for me to write my thoughts and feelings down than to begin to put them into words. When you encounter me speaking, you will find me loud and babbling and stumbling. And I usually inevitably say something that I realize later sounded stupid or insensitive, but only at the point that it is much too late to bring the subject up again in order to apologize.

My life currently is mostly full of joy and peace and calm, and it is a blissful way to feel. There are moments of panic and sadness in every day, of course. That is how grief works. But time heals in a way that absolutely nothing else does.

My favorite things right now are an absolute obsession with Scissor Sisters, particularly their song Only the Horses, which I can just listen to on a loop for hours; The Popcast with Knox and Jamie, What Should I Read Next?, and On Being, which are my favorite podcasts ever; and my busy, hectic schedule that includes my Betsy playing soccer for the middle school girls' team, and my cheer girls-I think that it's impossible not to feel loved when 8 and 9 year olds hug you goodbye when they leave cheer practice.

Fall is my favorite season of all time, and I love absolutely every moment I get to spend in my Rix Mills, breathing in pumpkins and watching my real bend in the road turn to beautiful colors and wearing big sweatshirts and cheering on my Buckeyes and my Browns, even as they teach me every week the agony of loving a team with no focus.

I don't know that I will ever not feel panic over the idea that I honestly have no idea what I'm doing. Other people seem to know at the very least how to meet people and not seem like a babbling idiot. But I'm working on it. I promise.

"I know you didn't realize
That the city was gone
You thought there would be advertisements
To give you something to go on
So we search the sky
For any flashing signs
We've gone too far beyond
The border it's just you and I
And if this is the end
It's the best place I've ever been."

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.