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.

Monday, August 7, 2017


"I'll say I loved you years ago...tell myself you never loved me..."

There are days that I feel amazing. There are days that stretch before me with wonder and hope and joy and clarity. There are days with the girls that I feel full to the brim with love, that I feel overjoyed to have met Nick and gotten married and had these girls that fill every inch of my heart.

"Shatter your illusions of love..."

There are days that I feel so low I cannot begin to put words to them. They are a soft, throbbing melody of pain and regret and sorrow for the girl that I was, for the sadness that surrounds my every memory of my life for 15 years, always wondering, 'was that real? Were we happy? Is that the moment that everything shifted? If I could go back in time and not say that or look at him in that way or think a different thought, would that change everything? What butterfly wing did my life perch on that fell away when I wasn't paying attention?'

"Loving you isn't the right thing to can I ever change things that I feel..."

There are days in between. There are days of routine and habit and pushing myself to try new things and hiding out in my room and needing to be alone and feeling so lonely I could die and wishing I had someone, anyone, to talk to.

"I've been afraid of changing cause I built my life around you..."

My days are made up of everything and nothing. Over and over until I think that there surely can be nothing more to say on this topic. This beaten horse has surely died a million times over.

"Like a heartbeat that drives you the stillness remembering what you had..."

Dreary, rainy days in August make my heart ache for summers past. Make my heart wish for the grace to move forward. And the courage to live in the dark abyss that is the in between.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Lot To Handle Me...

Let me be clear: I am very, very bad at dating.

Like, painfully bad.

This has always been true. I'm not great at small talk. I talk much too loudly just in general, and I have a terrible tendency to babble on and on when I'm nervous. And if I'm talking, I'm nervous.

I didn't properly practice dating when I was a teenager. Never have I regretted anything more. Maybe if I had spent my days learning on someone-anyone-how to flirt, instead of just watching Meg Ryan movies and convincing myself that magic would just happen and that the right guy wouldn't want me to be anything but my geeky, loud self...

I still sort of think that. That the right guy will just want me, flaws and all.

It's so hard to quantify and put into words what it is like to just meet the person that you would gladly take a bullet for and have them feel the same way about you and you just sort of skip all the dating part and just start living your life together because it seems like it's always been that way. But that is what Nick and I did. We went on a tiny little handful of dates before we said "I love you," and basically moved in together. In retrospect, that seems like not the best idea I've ever had. But at the time it seemed like, how else would you do this? It was sudden and fierce and wonderful. Even if I had the sense to question it, I doubt that I would have done anything differently. I have read about studies that prove that when you fall in love, the part of your brain that is activated is the same part of your brain that is stimulated by heroin. I have certainly never done heroin, but I completely believe this to be true-I was addicted to Nick from the moment I met him. The final two years of my marriage were hard and hurtful, but I clung to him like the junkie that I was.

I know in my head that these two years alone have been like my rehab. I needed to be alone, to figure out who I am and why I allowed myself to fall so far apart over something that had clearly become so unhealthy. And it may take years and years more. It may take forever. Which is a horribly depressing thought, but a very true one.

I honestly believe that I am so uncomfortable on dates because I haven't learned everything that I'm supposed to be learning yet. The truth is, I want to fall in love like I did before, and not have it end this time. All of the good with none of the bad. And that is just not realistic at all. So I'm clearly not in a head space to really be dating yet.

In the meantime, I just write and pray and write. I'm trying to be brave about what I write on the blog. To allow myself to express my feelings, even when they really just serve to embarrass me with how little I know about what I am doing.

And hope that someday I am able to write down how I figured all of this out.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tiny Dancer...

"And now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand."

I always wanted a Betsy.

Her name wasn't Betsy at the time. Her name when I was growing up was always Brad, which eleven year old me thought was the coolest girl name ever of all time, because of a show called Hey Dude.

But, anyway, I always wanted a little girl.

When Betsy was a baby, we had so much fun together. We had tea parties and played princesses. Until Betsy could talk more, and told me in no uncertain terms that she really preferred horses (though she did love My Little Pony, so that was sort of girly) and sports and climbing trees and being with her dad. Nick was her hero, and I was that lady that was always there.

She loved me, don't get me wrong. But I was always at home, or with her wherever she was. Nick went off to an exotic place called "work." Betsy was a Daddy's girl, through and through.

My little tomboy has reached a crossroads this past year. Twelve and a half is awkward and moody and just mostly a lot of worry. All the time. About everything.

She still loves Star Wars and soccer and climbing trees. She secretly plays Barbies with her sister. She had her first boyfriend last year, and her first date, but she wasn't super jazzed about either. She understands that most of her friends are starting to be interested in boys, but she is ambivalent toward the whole thing.

I remember twelve. It seems like just yesterday that I was in the seventh grade, writing notes to my friends during class, making up secret sandwich names for boys so that we could talk about them without them knowing who we were talking about. (I loved Lettuce. Who was Tommy Werner. Just in case you wondered.)

Twelve is lots of wonderful things. Twelve is being brave enough to ride the really big rides at amusement parks. Twelve is old enough to ride in the front seat of the car and "navigate" for your directionally challenged mother. Twelve is watching all of the movies, staying up late and sleeping in, and having a room that is such a mess your mother just gives up on asking you to clean and simply requests a path to the rabbit cage.

Twelve is also hard. Twelve is not wanting to go swimming at the local pool anymore. Twelve is feeling prickly and sad and funky, all for no reason.

Add to that a personality of wanting to please everyone, and perfectionistic tendencies, and twelve can be pretty rough.

One of the side effects of my divorce is that Betsy and I are close in a way that we didn't used to be. I'm not just that lady who is always around anymore. I became her connection to the world for a while, when life was too confusing and overwhelming and sad. We were sad together. We grieved together. And we learned together, fought together, and spent the past two years growing up together.

When they handed Betsy to me in the hospital, when I finally got to look into those beautiful blue eyes, I cried and said, "I love you," over and over. I was so overwhelmed to meet this person that I had been waiting for my whole life. It was the best moment of my entire life.

I want to hold her still and tell her that I know in my heart that everything will work out, that despite her whole world turning upside down two years ago, and then all of the loveliness of puberty on top of that, life will turn out just like it's supposed to.

I don't know that I believe that anymore.

But I believed that with all of my twelve year old heart. Awkward and shy and nerdy as I was, I believed that someday I would fall in love and get married and have a beautiful little girl. And I did. Times two.

Maybe that should be enough.