Monday, March 19, 2018

Out of My Misery...

Again, I am wishing that I were a poet.

I read a poem this weekend that spoke directly to my soul and said all of the things that I’m about to clumsily attempt to say in far too many words.

I can’t quote the poem, only because it goes to places that I don’t talk about on the blog. I have some boundaries when it comes to what I say here (which probably seems humorous if you know me, because I often don’t have any boundaries around what I say, usually too loudly, in person).

What I am comfortable sharing here, what I have stated before so it’s none too shocking, is that there was a great deal of anger and tension directed at me in the final two years of my marriage. Not every day, but looking back, more often than not. Anger and rage became normal. It got all mixed up with what had always been love. And it turned life upside down before I ever realized what was happening.

My heart and my head began to think of hurt as an extension of caring, as crazy as that sounds. Anger masked itself as desire.

Unlearning this is harder than it sounds. I equated anger with passion and hurt with want. I stand at a distance now from that girl and understand how unhealthy that was. How profoundly untrue it was. The fury was born from frustration, the anger from unhappiness, and the hurt from a complete lack of knowing what to do about this place that we had fallen to.

But it’s still all mixed up inside of me.

When I am offered a hand, a shoulder, soft corners-I don’t quite know how to react. I yearn for sharp edges to know where the heck the boundaries are. How far to push before you push back.

It’s complicated.

Why exactly do I live this out on the blog? I listened to a podcast this past weekend in which the guest, a poet, said that when you write something down you can stand back and look at it and see it from different angles. I agree.

When I write something down, something that pains me to write, to admit to, something that honestly makes me want to crawl under the table and hide-it frees me of it. I have written it down, and now all the world knows for as long as they care to remember. I cannot explain it any more than that.

My words are my freedom and my sacrifice, all at the same time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Still Faking This Art of Love...

I feel torn in two.

There is a piece of me that wants more than anything to think that I'm going to fall in love again. And there is a part of me that is screaming that I can never, never fall in love again.

It's just lovely.

This is a hard thing to admit, but I'm trying to be brave. I honestly thought when I got divorced that I would just love Nick forever. That it wouldn't matter that he had moved on, and that he definitely didn't love me anymore, I would just live forever the way that I had prior to meeting Nick-certain that he was the love of my life.

I don't think that anymore. I think that's probably fairly obvious from what I write.

Letting go of the idea that I love Nick was a tangle of its own emotions. That's basically what the blog was about in the past year. Opening myself up to the idea that there could be a human being that I care about possibly even more than Nick-there are days that feels like the most wonderful idea ever, and there are days that I think if I don't shut down all of my emotions right now all of this is going to lead to sure hurt.

Grief is such a strange beast, coming and going and hitting me when I least expect it, and it sort of feels as if I'm standing on a mountain and I keep climbing but I'm never quite sure that I'm not just about to slip and fall and get hurt all over again.

I do wonder at the consequences of allowing myself to fall to such a scary place-will I ever be able to not be scared of being abandoned? I have created such walls within me, I'm not sure that they can ever be knocked down. On the one hand, that seems good-it seems more adult, more sensible. Not to dwell on it, but my marriage had many, many glaring warning signs that I chose to ignore, for reasons that I understand but that are not healthy in the least.

On the other hand, that seems lonely.

It's such a dance-figuring out how much of this is about figuring out things about myself, and how much of it is about allowing someone new in. I don't want to mess it up. I don't want to undo all of the work that I've done to get to this point.

There is a feeling that comes of someone having your back that cannot be replicated even with the genuine joy that comes of standing on your own two feet.

I had forgotten that.

When you are the only one to do all the things, you simply go about doing them. In the beginning, you remember what it felt like for there to be two adults, but for me, in the past two and a half years, I have just gotten used to carrying in all the groceries and doing all the cleaning and all the laundry and helping with the homework and just all of the bits and pieces that go into being a grownup. This is not to say that my girls don't help-they definitely do, and I would be lost without them. But they are kids still, and reliant on me to keep it together.

I found myself telling someone last week that I worry that people look at me like I have some sort of strength, like I manage to keep the girls and myself alive and fed and what have you, and if they only knew how scared and confused and worried I am, they would lose all respect for me. And, of course, as the words were leaving my lips, I realized how vain I sounded. Likely anyone who knows me from reading this blog realized long ago that I don't have any idea what I'm doing, and that I'm fumbling along this path much at my own peril.

For now, for right this minute, I'm going to hold onto the joy that I'm feeling, and try my best not to overthink every second of my life. In the end, I may get hurt, and I may fall all over again, but it's a chance I have to take if I don't want to just stay stuck on the side of the mountain forever.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Remnants (of a Former Life)...

I wish I were a poet.

I am sadly not a poet in the least, tiniest little bit. My words form in paragraphs. I talk too much, I write too long, I ramble to get to my point.

I envy people who can take a few words, a sentence, and sum up what it takes me a mountain of words to write.

(All of that is to say, I wish I could sum this up in a few simple words. But such is not my lot in life.)

This past month-the irony of this very long month of February-I have allowed myself to let go of some of the very last vestiges of who I used to be. On the one hand, it feels lovely to let go. To stop trying to fit inside of a mold that used to feel like a second skin, but that now feels like a pretend world. On the other, change is hard for me. (I'm sure that's fairly obvious.) I like for things to remain the same-it's a comfort to know what to expect.

At the beginning of the month, the girls and I sat down and had a very sincere discussion about what we want to continue to participate in, and what we are ready to say goodbye to. Soccer, dance, piano, track, and Girl Scouts made the cut. Which means that this year we are not going to be participating in 4H or cheering.


Being the cheer coach was the last little remnant of my former life.

When life fell apart, some bits fell away quickly. Others took much longer. I had to almost immediately stop being the Girl Scout leader and the Cloverbud advisor and the room mom. It felt like chopping my arm off-but there was no getting around the fact that these roles took a certain amount of free time that I no longer had.

Being the cheer coach, however, that I held onto.

That summer-that summer that is blessedly missing from most of my memories-that summer of upheaval and sadness and crazy, out of my mind grief-that summer, going to cheer practice and fairly much just watching in something of a stupor while Kayla did most of the work-it gave me something to do. Some reason to get up. Some very vague notion that someone needed me.

The next summer I was on my own. Cheer still gave me a sense of belonging-a sense that even though I could no longer be the mom involved in all the things, I could still hold onto this one piece of my old life.

Eight and nine year old girls do not know that you are just barely holding it together. They don't know how broken you feel, how unperfect and alone-they just know that you are their coach. That you call out the cheers. They hug you goodbye and give you a love that you are completely unable to give to yourself.

I will forever treasure those girls. Even as we move into a new phase of life.

I know that it's healthy to move into this new phase of life. My life with my girls is so different than it used to be, but I'm happy with the changes. "New Mom" (which is what they call this version of me), she is mostly a lot more fun-she says yes more often than no, and she has a better understanding of just how lucky she is to have these two girls who love her in spite of her many flaws.

All of this twisting and turning and changing, some of it feels amazing and wonderful and like the best thing that has ever happened. Some of it is scary and sad and overwhelming. And sometimes it's all of those things, all at the same time.

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

Friday, February 2, 2018

You're So Vain...

I think that possibly planning is my love language.

I know technically that's not a love language (my real love languages are acts of service and quality time) but planning is definitely my thing. My favorite thing.

I love color coding, label makers, really great pens (Pilot G-2 07 are my favorite), Erin Condren, Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks...I could go on, but you get the picture.

It has also been brought to my attention that I follow a really rigid schedule. I can't really emphasize enough that I do that for a reason-setting tight boundaries around my days helps to calm my natural tendency toward anxiety. Knowing what is ahead is soothing, even if it's just my morning schedule of coffee, devotions, workout, shower, and makeup.

I have always been this way. My mother has told me many times that when I was little, if she just said to me, "Joy, put your shoes on, we're leaving," I had a meltdown. But if she told me, "In ten minutes we are going to leave," I was perfectly fine.

Is it any wonder that I fell to pieces over my world being turned all upside down 2 1/2 years ago?

So, anyway, I like to know what's coming. And for the most part I can control that-my morning, my job, the girls' schedules. But stepping into this world of dating-that I can't control. It has me a bit freaked out.

Here's the thing-I have never, ever done this before. Nick and I went on just a few actual "dates" and then moved in together. Until the divorce, I thought nothing of that. We were in our early twenties, with few real responsibilities, going about creating a life together the way that we assumed everyone did. It simply did not occur to me to even question the pace at which falling in love happened.

So, fast forward 15 years, and Nick leaves, and I spiral down a dark hole, and spend tons of time grieving and healing and I have finally emerged into a place of sheer joy and contentment-and there is a part of me that just wants to stay there, you know? I like me. I'm perfectly capable of taking myself on a great date-I have no problem going out to the movies and to dinner by myself. I enjoy my own company.

But there is a part of me-a part of me that frankly I have pushed away for most of my life-that enjoys attention. It's hard for me to admit-if you know me at all, you know that I'm normally most comfortable hiding in a corner-but I can't lie that I do enjoy it when people compliment me on my looks. It's not something that I'm used to-I was never the girl asked to the dance when I was in high school. Looking back, I don't think that I was all that different looking then, I was just really shy and uncomfortable in my own skin. I think-I hope-that what people are responding to when they say I look nice is the fact that I have at least a slight confidence in myself anymore.

This week I uploaded a bunch of pictures to my Facebook page because I wanted to delete them off of my phone to free up space (Betsy has since shown me that all of my pictures are backed up to the cloud, and therefore this was completely unnecessary), and I somehow uploaded a picture of me in my personal favorite dress, which is also very short. Too short, my mother thinks. Somehow Facebook must have put it on the newsfeed and as of my writing this, it has 43 likes and rather a few comments (all blessedly nice).

Now, on the one hand, I hate for anyone to think that I am so vain that I would post such a picture of myself. But on the other, 43 likes for one picture is sort of a nice compliment? And if you have seen this picture, and do indeed think that my skirt is too short, well, then, you have good company in my mom.

My point with all of this blather is this-this whole dating thing is like posting a picture times a thousand.

After all, just because I like my own company, it doesn't mean at all that anyone else will.

If you know me well, you know that I over think every single possible thing in my life. I analyze and fret and worry to a ridiculous degree if someone likes me. I have a terrible tendency to want everyone to like me, and I know that isn't possible, and even that there are people who do indeed like me but who don't necessarily love everything that I do. And that's all normal, completely normal, and it is not healthy to tie myself in knots over things that I cannot change.

In my Bible study we are talking about taking time to rest, to stop, to contemplate. My mind keeps focusing on the Israelites, wandering around in the desert, being granted the miracle of manna from heaven but only as much as they needed for that one day. Every day they had to trust that that manna would be there. If I had been an Israelite, you can bet that I would have laid awake every night, worried that maybe tomorrow the manna wouldn't be there.

Trusting this process-this process of turning myself inside out and figuring out who to be and how to be and why exactly I'm like that and hoping that eventually somehow someone will come along who thinks this bundle of anxiety and insecurity is right up his alley-it's hard.

It's hard but it's important. Much as I like my own company, there are times when it's lonely. When I remember what it was like to have someone to talk to, to hang out with, to laugh with. And so that is the road that I am electing to take, much as these next bends scare me.

Someday, I tell myself, I'll look back this road and realize that all of these curves were leading me right to wherever it is that I belong.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Etymology of a Heartbreak...

It's time to pivot.

This blog has been my solace, my voice, my hope in a sea of grief and loss and abandon. It's no secret that the end of my marriage was beyond the most difficult period of my life. The complete tailspin of grief that came after- this blog has become a record of that. Reading back through some of the posts from the first year after the divorce is painful to me now, knowing how hard that girl I was then was trying to hold it together and be positive in the face of this obstacle that seemed the size of a mountain.

January 14, 2016:

I wish I had some sense of direction, some sense of what the heck I'm doing. Trying to convince myself that this won't always feel so heavy and all-encompassing. It's hard to imagine how this ends.

There remain bits of my divorce that I don't talk about on the blog. There are pieces of my grief that lie only with my sister and my therapist, and there are huge chunks of this process that remain on pieces of paper that only exist for my eyes, and perhaps one day for the girls.

February 2, 2016 (the day before my divorce was final):

Please let this be a beginning-a good beginning. A hope, a peace. I pray that for you, dear Joy. I pray for good to come, amazing things you never even knew you wanted or needed. And that you read these words with a smile at the joy you realize only with hindsight that you are about to experience.

My children watched me fall apart. I rocked their already shaken world to the core. It breaks my heart. I can't take it back, I can't do anything other than heal. I hope that I have shown them that as sad and broken as I was, I have managed to grow and learn and create this new life for us.

I know that grief doesn't actually end. It shifts and morphs and becomes a part of who you are and what you present to the world.

April 13, 2017:
Life is so much bigger than me and my melodrama that only lives in my head. And yet, and yet, and yet...whenever I hear bad things, this is where I go. This is the hub around which all of my understanding of pain swirls.

That will forever be true.

It will also forever be true that I am grateful to be divorced. There was a time when that wasn't true, when I honestly believed that I was never going to genuinely feel happy again-when I believed to my soul that there would always be this hole in my heart that no amount of tears or anger or smashing dishes (at the suggestion of my therapist) would ever be able to heal.

But heal it has.

I'm not saying that I'm completely cured by any means. But I do know that I'm at a place where it no longer pains me to say that I'm divorced. Bit by bit I have released that feeling of shame that I carry over allowing my marriage to end.

January 16, 2018:
Life is so much better than it ever was. That's a blessing, Joy...if you had planted your feet and refused to move, none of these blessings would have been able to move.

And so, we pivot. We have indeed reached the bend in the road. The grief is still there, wound inside my bones and blood, as real as anything I've experienced. But it's purpose has shifted.

There are pieces of me lying inside of all I have written, seen and unseen. My goal moving forward is to embrace all of this joy for what it is. I want to continue to write my truth, but from this new perspective. From a heart changed and shifted, from a hope I honestly thought I might never hold again.

This new bend is scary and unknown and glorious.

"So this is what the truth feels like
This is more of what I had in mind"
-Gwen Stefani

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Love is an Abyss...

I used to believe in soulmates.

Honestly, deep in my bones, I believed that there was one person in the world that was created as basically my other half, the person that would bring out all of my best qualities and make me a more interesting person.

I called him Joe Garbarini.

Joe Garbarini was, of course, a character in a book that I read my freshman year of high school. He was a cool, motorcycle riding, Shakespeare loving, Catholic Italian boy, who naturally fought all the time with Debbie Lesley, the spoiled, rich girl whose parents divorce necessitated her becoming a waitress at the restaurant that Joe's family owned, The Heartbreak Cafe. Never fear-all of the verbal sparring was merely foreplay for the genuine feelings of love that Joe and Debbie discover for each other by the end of the six-book series.

Naturally, I am Debbie. Especially when I was a geeky 15 year old who hadn't quite grown into my nose (I know, I still really haven't grown into my nose).

In any case, Joe Garbarini held my heart for 6 years while I waited for whoever it was that my soulmate was going to turn out to be. For a dorky, shy girl who desperately wanted to fall in love but who had not the slightest clue how to actually go about making that happen, making up a romance in my head was as good as it was going to get.

In reality, I'm still pretty head over heels for Joe.

This is where all of my blog posts tend to delve into the shattered pieces of my marriage and how I haven't the foggiest idea how to move away from that person that I used to be crazy in love with. But that's not exactly where this one is going to go.

No, this blog post is actually about The Time Traveler's Wife, which is my favorite book that I have read as an adult. The main plot of the novel is that Clare has known her husband, Henry, basically her entire life, as he is a time traveler and has appeared to her since childhood. When Clare finally meets Henry in real life, he is this young, twenty-something boy pining over a lost love.

The plot obviously goes in many different directions than just that, but the reason that I love it is for that single point alone: she has been in love with this man her entire life, and when she meets him, he is not the man that she loves. She has to wait for him to grow into the man that she adores. She has to patiently bide her time while he grieves the loss of another love. And he is constantly leaving her, not because he wants to, but because that is the hand that fate has dealt him.

It's really no wonder that this resonated so deeply with me, reading it for the first time while my husband was deployed to Iraq, a 23 year old boy at the time, me a 24 year old military wife, thrust into a life of decisions I was ill equipped to make, buying a house all on my own, trying mightily to pretend that I wasn't scared out of my mind for a million different reasons.

I've thought a lot about that girl-that 23 year old girl who knew nothing what she was doing but who had grasped onto the idea that Nick was her soulmate, and that was her lifeline-everything else could fall to bits but she knew to the depths of her soul that Nick's jagged edges fit inside of her broken pieces and so everything would be okay.

Honestly, when you begin your marriage there, is it any wonder I fell so far apart at the end of it?

I carry these girls inside of me still-the 15 year old me with the pretend boyfriend, the 23 year old newlywed, the abandoned 36 year old woman-and I wonder what that idea of a soulmate even means.

What I do know, what I was telling myself the other day when I finished a book that reminded me of The Time Traveler's Wife and therefore started my mind down this particular rabbit hole-I know that one of the best things about who I am now is that I have no expectations of that. Falling in love-as all encompassing and amazing and wonderful as it is-is only one small part of what it is to be someone's soulmate. In truth, it's about understanding that someone is coming into your life with all their own baggage and experiences and hurts and joys, and perhaps, they will provide solace for your own hurts and joys.

It's nothing and everything more than that.

Last time I saw you
We had just split in two.
You were looking at me.
I was looking at you.
You had a way so familiar,
But I could not recognize,
Cause you had blood on your face;
I had blood in my eyes.
But I could swear by your expression
That the pain down in your soul
Was the same as the one down in mine.
That's the pain,
Cuts a straight line
Down through the heart;
We called it love.
-The Origin of Love

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Let the Words Fall Out...

I'm trying something slightly new this year: I'm not making a "resolution" for the new year.

My resolutions have always been more geared toward changing some aspect of my life for the better (and yes, that always involves reading) but this year I decided to take a different tack.

I adopted a word.

I heard about this on the Elise Gets Crafty podcast (I follow EliseJoy on Instagram and enjoy her immensely, despite the fact that she is the craftiest person ever and I am most decidedly not.)

Elise chooses a word every year, and this year her word is reach, as in getting out of her comfort zone.

I loved that idea, but I wasn't jazzed about that word. In typical Joy fashion, I pondered and wrote and bounced the whole idea off of someone who looked at me like I was loony, and I just couldn't figure out what I was wanting to say.

I wanted to say that I want to try new things, that I want to keep proving to myself that I can do things that I completely believe myself incapable of doing, I want to fall on my face and pick myself up and do it all over again.

I want to figure out how to work at this job that I love, and come home to my kids and not just collapse to the couch, but somehow still be that mom that used to occupy all of my time. That's a hard one-the girls are getting older, and while we still have so much fun together, they are completely resistant to the super fun games of clean your room and let's see how many vegetables you can eat.

I want my family to understand that I love them, that I am well aware that they make my life possible. I want to make time to spend with my friends, which has become somehow more difficult as our children have aged, which makes no sense but is still true.

I want to keep clearing out my house, shedding all of these things that we have somehow amassed, and be able to actually feel that my home is a sanctuary of things I love and cherish.

I mostly want to feel such joy in my life, I want to feel like every day is full of fun-there was such a stretch of my life that felt like existing without feeling, because feeling was just much too overwhelming-and having finally shed that weight, having embraced that grief for the healing and grace that it brought, and feeling like there is finally a new bend in this road just ahead of us-it's a bliss that I don't want to take for granted.

So, finally, after all of the overthinking that I do about everything, I came up with a word to encompass all of that.


That is what 2018 is going to be for me. Brave. Every time I think that I'm going to look like a goon, or that I'm scared because I don't know what the heck I am doing, or that I'm overwhelmed by the idea that I am the only adult in my house, I am going to be brave.

I spent the past two years living, growing, and blessedly thriving through something that took me to my absolute nadir. The next bend in the road may be full of roadblocks, but so be it. 2018 is going to be glorious. Or not. But I can promise, it's going to be full of new adventure.

"She was brave and strong and broken, all at once." -Anna Funder