For Today.

“There’s a Power that moves everything. It pushes the river to sea, and it takes all the years and makes regret into peace. You can’t die alone if you are free. You didn’t mean to, but thank you for showing me.” – Tyler Lyle, When I Say That I Love You 

I officially filed for divorce today. The process itself is incredibly sterile and detached. You basically gather all the paperwork, and sign them in front of a notary, and then send them in the mail to your spouse. Then they sign them in front of a notary, and send them back. Next you get the joy of heading down to the courthouse, which is sort of a special version of Hell. I had the pleasure of walking to the courthouse in the rain, which felt fitting. Then you stand in line with really bored, or sad, or angry people who are similarly ending their marriages, or fighting for their children, or suing someone. The entire time I was standing in line I thought “What a bizarre thing this is. Five years ago I stood in a similar line for a marriage license and was surrounded with people who were downright ebullient, and a large percentage of those people will end up in this line at some point.” I don’t say this to sound jaded; it was just a bit of a revealing moment.

I can remember the Sheriff standing guard at the first courthouse joking that they made things easy and put marriage licenses, divorce filings, and gun registrations in the same office. It was a ridiculous joke to make, but I chuckled to myself over it today. Well done, sir. That one really had some mileage. 

I did my best to keep it together as I handed my paperwork to the clerk, but didn’t quite manage. I had a decent shot until she noticed my eyes filling up and reached into her purse and handed me a Kleenex; that was my total undoing. I stood there silently and cried as she stamped and organized my paperwork. She handed me a form that told me when I needed to show up in court, and told me that since nothing was being contested I didn’t need to bring my husband. And that was it. Tens of thousands of dollars for the wedding, and the band, and all the guests, and the wine, and the gifts, and the honeymoon, and the house, and all the holidays, and the dog. Reduced to this line, and this paperwork, and a piece of paper that told me when to show up so a Judge could rule that my marriage has been invalidated. 

The reason for the divorce, in legal terms, is that my marriage was “irretrievably broken.” When I sent that verbiage to my best friend, she agreed that the language felt a little…stabby. Like, is there a different shade of broken? Where it could have been fixed? 

Here is the answer to that, resoundingly: No. And here is a thing that I am doing my absolute best to remember – I made a mistake. A rather large one, I guess, on the scale of mistakes. But I learned an unbelievable amount about myself in the course of my “irretrievably broken” marriage. I am stronger, and bolder, and just downright better because of that marriage. Actually, I guess it wasn’t because of the marriage. It was maybe in spite of it, but the point is that it was my vehicle to becoming better. It forced me to own my stuff, and to own myself, and to love myself so that I could in turn love my world and everyone in it.  

When I told my mom I’d filed, she cried, and told me that she’d had a dream last night that he and I reconciled. And then she said something pretty surprising, given that until now she’s been fairly mum on the topic, so as not to persuade or dissuade, I think; she said that it is unbearably distressing to watch your child go through the pain that comes along with this sort of thing, but that it was actually more heartbreaking for her to watch me be so sad for so long. That sort of sums it all up for me, I think. 

It’s really difficult to remember when you are mired in the total bullshit that comes with a dissolution of your marriage – dividing stuff up, and selling your home, and moving, and signing paperwork, and trying not to rip your husband’s face off when he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to log into any of your shared accounts because you handled all of that for him, but it’s critical to remember – life is one really long learning experience. Absolutely everything that you do, and encounter, and read, and watch, and laugh about, contributes to that learning, and you can either shut yourself off to shit that is scary and awful and thereby stunt that growth, or you can embrace it, and realize that sometimes things are just going to be fucking terrible, and allow yourself to grow. 

This is all I can do right now. It’s a mantra that I repeat to myself when I forget. I learned. I lost some stuff. I was sad for a long time. I laugh a lot more now. I am open, and loving, and growing. 

I walked out of the courthouse and it was sunny. Gorgeously sunny, as a matter of fact.

It’s enough for today. 

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For N, with Love

On account of me having, shall we say, some shit happening in my life, and also on account of me being fairly awful at ever buying all the stuff I need to buy at Target while I’m there, I never got my best friend a birthday card. I also never wrapped her birthday present and drove around with it in my car for a month until finally just handing it to her while driving one day and demanding she accept it unwrapped. I am phenomenal at all relationships and generally being a good person, is the point.

The other point is that she reads this blog, and I realized I could just write an open letter to her here. That is probably better than a birthday card, anyway. Because…the environment (?).

Here are some things I could have written in your card if I’d gotten one, N. I could not have gotten through this without you. Bad news – I don’t think you’re off the hook yet, so…maybe bookmark this page and just re-read it periodically.

Thank you for the hand holding – literally and metaphorically.
Thank you for inspiring me to be brave, and then reminding me that I promised to be brave.
Thank you for the real talk, but thank you for being gentle with it.
Thank you for crying with me.
Thank you for laughing with me.
Thank you for walking me through the aisles at Target and helping me begin a new life.
Thank you for sitting on the floor with me and allowing me to feel like I was dying.
Thank you for assuring me that I would not die.
Thank you for taking me to dinner on my first night alone. Thank you for encouraging me that night that I’d be in a dramatically different place mentally in a year.
Thank you for allowing me to tell you the same story for years, and thank you for finally helping me realize that I was strong enough to change the ending.

You are a true soul mate, and you are one of my favorite humans.

I love you dearly.

L

On Seeing

“There’s a world that was meant for us to see.” – Lord Huron, Ends of the Earth

I had a very full weekend. I went straight from work on Friday to my college town to watch a bluegrass band play. The band was a friend-of-a-friend situation, and it was at one of my favorite local breweries, and it was a lot of fun. As it turned out though, the friend-of-the-friend had a lot of other friends who I know in a nebulous kind of way, and all of those other friends are married and most have children. As someone who is very freshly un-coupled, and very much does not have children, this was sort of a lot to take in. Particularly at a brewery, because who brings their children to a brewery? Long story short, it was all okay, as I’m beginning to understand things typically are, and my non-childbearing friends and I went to have some dinner and make a lot of jokes about people who bring children to breweries.

The next morning I woke up and went to buy myself a bike, which was a critical component of my new plan to be happier. And then I met some friends at a festival, and sat on a hill and had a beer, and saw an impromptu brass band playing beneath a really huge tree, and went to a crawfish boil. The crawfish boil ended up being sort of similar to the night before, with the excessive coupledom. (Fewer children, though, so that was a plus.) Not being overly enthusiastic about spending my night with twenty-four happy couples, I called it an early night to come home and watch a movie.

I talked the other day about spending time alone, and being okay with it. I decided today that I was going to put my money where my mouth is, as they say. I committed to spending the entire day by myself. So I walked to breakfast, and read slash people watched at a coffee shop, and got my nails done, and antiqued, and watched some of the Masters, and went for a bike ride. And an amazing thing happened – I had the best time.

An interesting thing has been happening to me for the last few weeks. I’ll read something, or hear something, or see something, and it will strike me. A million things a day strike me, but some strike more fiercely than others. Some of these fiercer things will wiggle their way into my brain and will surface again days or weeks later with renewed intensity. I was flying a few weeks ago, and read something that struck me, but I had a lot on my mind and it didn’t fully resonate.

I was reading “One More Thing” by B.J. Novak, which is a collection of short stories that is absolutely hysterical, and something you should read immediately. Anyway, I’m on a plane, and I’m reading one of the stories that happens to be about a sex robot. This is probably a good time to stop and note a couple things: 1. If I am at a stage in my life where I am gaining insight from a short story about sex robots, we can all safely consider this a low point. 2. We can also concede that if God, or the Universe, or whatever you choose to believe in, wants you to understand and accept something that you seem unwilling or unable to accept, He / It will do ANYTHING NECESSARY to instill this wisdom in you, up to and including using STORIES ABOUT SEX ROBOTS to impart said wisdom.

So, back to the sex robot. There’s this part of the story where the character is talking about a recurring “romantic fantasy” he has, where he suddenly notices that there’s a head on his shoulder, and it belongs to someone he loves, and he isn’t sure how long it’s been there. Here is what he says about it:

“I suddenly feel this surge of something like the combination of safety and elation knowing that every sight I see, no matter how small, is now important, because it’s shared. I don’t need to look at the head on my shoulder, and I never do, because what’s so important to me is not what the person looks like, but that we are seeing the same thing.”

This passage burrowed its way into my overactive little brain, and settled in there for a bit, and then popped back up today while I was sitting at the coffee shop people watching. I have always loved people watching. Adored it, even. I like to think about people’s lives, and craft stories for them, and create happy endings for them. My husband did not understand this. We’d travel, and we’d be sitting somewhere, maybe a cafe, and I’d make comments on people who were walking by, and while I think he tried to understand, he never could.

We weren’t seeing the same thing. We never could be. Our brains simply did not work in similar fashions. He and I could *look* at the same thing, over and over, every single day for the rest of our lives, and we would never *see* the same thing. I saw stories everywhere. He saw exactly what was in front of him. It was literal versus lyrical, and it always would be. I fought it for a long time, and then I stopped fighting it and just accepted it. After I accepted it, all of the stuff I have written about before started happening – the malaise and general unhappiness.

Today, when I decided to spend the day alone, and to enjoy it, I didn’t have to worry about seeing the same thing as anyone else. I got to see what I wanted to, and do what I wanted to, and I loved it.

One day, who knows when, I’ll find someone who enjoys doing the same things I do, and he’ll do some things I want to do, and I’ll do some things he wants to do, and we’ll both make some compromises, because that’s what you do when you find someone who’s worth it. Here’s what I won’t compromise on though: I won’t make the mistake of choosing someone who is fundamentally incapable of seeing the same things as me.

 

Some Days are Better than Others

“Times like these, so sad but so true. Thinking’s the last thing that you wanna do.” – The Wood Brothers, The Muse

I have not spent much time alone in the last few weeks. This is for a couple of reasons – I have tremendous friends who want to make sure I’m doing okay, and I have been hyperaware of filling up my days and nights. While I think it’s probably wise to surround myself with people who love me, and bring me happiness, I am also aware that part of deciding to leave your husband involves accepting that you’ll need to get used to spending time alone.

Historically, I overthink things. I get lost inside my head frequently. This is an alright thing to have happen when your life is going marginally well. When you have your shit relatively together, it’s okay to get stuck in your head. There’s not a ton of harm that can be done, particularly when you will discount or explain away anything that you don’t want to accept anyway.

Conversely, when you make a really scary decision to admit that you do not have your shit together at all, and have actually made some fairly terrible life choices, and that you’d like to now reverse those choices, you’re basically signing up for some nights alone, spent thinking about a lot of things. If I had to rank all the stuff I’d least prefer to do in my life, sitting alone and thinking at this current juncture would rank very highly on that list.

I don’t do well with absorbing and processing sadness. I am best at joke-cracking and acknowledging sadness only at its most basic level – my previous M.O. was somewhere along the lines of: Hmm, I am feeling a little sad right now, and I’d like to not feel sad anymore, so I will just ignore this feeling until it goes away, okay? This is clearly not a real healthy way to live, but is a highly effective way to avoid making tough choices. Self-preservation at its very finest.

Oddly, in the midst of a complete life overhaul there is sort of a lot of sadness. It is a prerequisite to getting past this that I feel all of the sadness very deeply. And that makes me really, super-duper angry. And I think that’s ok; I’ll just need to feel that anger too.

I told one of my friends recently that it seemed categorically unfair that I had to keep dealing with all of this stuff for an indeterminate amount of time. This friend looked at me and said, very kindly, that I was a little broken right now, and that it was okay that I felt a little broken right now. In my perfect world, I’d feel really terrible for a little bit, and hate my life, and then I’d move on. This is evidently not how it works. I’m paraphrasing here, but Elizabeth Gilbert compares divorce to getting in a car accident every single day for (a longer period than I want to admit). You’ll feel alright for a day, and even for some of the night, then suddenly you’ll realize something that five minutes ago would have seemed completely insignificant but now seems insurmountable in its importance. It feels a little bit like someone walked up to you, looked you square in the face, and then punched you in the stomach as hard as possible. It sucks. Sucks so very much.

It’s a bit alarming to me the tricks my brain can play on me. I can go from absolute confidence that I’m making the correct decision, and that things are going to be significantly better once I get through this season, to thinking that I’ve made a terrible mistake and that I need to go back to my old life immediately, as quickly as possible, RIGHT THIS SECOND, oh my God. This train of thought typically follows one of the aforementioned moments of panic. My brain is capable of *almost* convincing me that I can go back and that no one will even notice. And things will be alright, and that somehow none of the myriad issues that compiled and forced me to take action will even matter. In other words, my brain is a sneaky little asshole.

To be clear, I am fully cognizant that I’ve made the right decision, and that eventually I’ll be able to sit alone and I won’t even be forced to combat those thoughts. The in-between part is a little rougher than I’d anticipated, is I think what I’m getting at.

So, I am trying to be very, very patient with myself. I am forcing myself to recognize every single thing I feel, and I’m forcing myself to admit that some of these things will be irrational, and that I’ll have to just feel them anyway. It’s sort of part of the decision I made. I’m spending a lot of time with friends, but I’m also accepting that I’ll need to spend a lot of time alone, listening to The National and crying.

Great news, though! I am also going to spending a lot of time alone, not crying. I’ll be spending time alone finally, FINALLY learning to play my twelve-year-old guitar, and riding my bike, and drinking wine. I think I’ll be okay with the trade off – I am the only one who is going to be responsible for my own happiness, but I’m also the only one whose happiness I’m responsible for. I get to wake up every morning and ask “What, specifically, would make me happy today?” And then I get to answer that question very honestly, and very specifically – and here is the amazing part – I get to go and do that thing. No questions asked.

I’m working on balancing the melancholic thinking and the hopeful thinking, and I think that is going to come with time. Some days are just going to be better than others.

Eventually, I’ll look back and realize that my worst days living this life I actively chose are better than a lot of the “best” days I spent in the life I stumbled my way into.  So I’ve got that to look forward to, and I think that is going to be pretty sweet.

On Reality Shaping

“So now I have started living my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love.

This seems like as good a place as any to start. The thing about sitting down to tell a story that began nine years ago, and still isn’t really fully done, is that it’s hard to understand where to begin. There is no clear and logical arc, and I could probably start from multiple places and end up at the exact same point. Since the end point is the one I’m most certain of, let’s just start there: I’m divorcing my husband.

The other thing about telling a story that began nine years ago, and still isn’t really fully done, is that you have to decide what you want the story to actually *be about.* Because it could be about a lot of things: it could be about his mistakes, or it could be about my mistakes, or it could be about anger, or sadness, or pure, unbridled terror. And all of these things would be perfectly appropriate, and perfectly relevant to this stage in my life. But I think I want it to be about joy. Not to spoil anything, I guess, because there is more here to read, but if you stop reading now I’d like you to know that this is actually going to be about joy.

The last thing about telling a story that began nine years ago, and still isn’t really fully done, is that once I get the story down, that part is over. This is the pretty phenomenal part, in my opinion. In thinking about the story, and in talking about the story, it’s easy to continually replay certain scenes and try to force them in to submission – to try to muscle them into telling a different truth, or to beat yourself up about why you didn’t see things the correct way the first time around. In writing it, though, it’s out there. And once it’s out there, it can be released. This can be the truth, or at least my truth, and I can begin to move on from it.

I spent a lot of years in the reality shaping business, and it was only recently that I gave up. Because here is what I know: I can discern the truths that I want from my own reality, certainly, and I can even attempt to shape other people’s perception of reality, but it’s all just so futile. Life happens, and that is the reality of it.

The most common question that I get asked when I tell someone that I’m leaving my husband is one that you might guess: “What happened?”. Here is the thing about that question – it is dumb. There is no way to answer that with any sort of coherent thought. Nothing happened. Everything happened. I don’t know what happened, but it happened, and here we fucking are.

Here is a brief synopsis of the things that have happened over the last year that have stretched me, and pained me, and straight up FORCED me to accept reality: I’ve had a lot of experiences with truth tellers, some expected and some not.

I’ve had people on airplanes who don’t know me and have not talked to me tell me that they’re praying for me, and make profound proclamations about fulfillment in life. I’ve had a TSA agent look me full in the eye while I was in the process of extracting my life from my husband’s and say “Be strong, ok?” while winking at me. I’ve had an old friend unexpectedly hold up a mirror I didn’t want held up but I had no choice but to look into. I’ve had my best friend sit on the floor with me for hours and help me make plans while I laid there and sobbed like my life was ending. I’ve had countless hours spent flying, listening to music, gazing out the window, to think.

Brené Brown happened. Elizabeth Gilbert happened (again. And this time I was ready for her.) This article happened. (Brief aside: I am not an expert on marriage, clearly, but I think when it’s done correctly it can be beautiful and maybe downright miraculous, and I think that everyone who is ever going to be married should be forced to read that article, because he boils the entire concept of picking someone to marry down to the most perfect and simple thing.)

None of that is incredibly coherent, but here is the gist of it: too many things happened to stop pretending like everything was ok. And the absolutely mind-boggling, inconceivable thing about all of it is this: once I stopped rejecting these things, and stopped attempting to shape reality, it was all just ok. It was all just great, actually. I spent so many years willfully crafting this reality that I wanted to put out in the world. I cultivated the way I dressed. I bought a large house in one of the best towns to raise a family in America. I made that house look like it was in an Anthropologie catalogue. I learned how to roast a turkey, and set a table that my mother-in-law would die over, and then I hosted the most unbelievably perfect Thanksgivings ever. I looked put together all the time. I laughed at the right jokes. I got promotions, and more promotions, and my husband and I took trips to Europe, and Wine Country, and Mexico, and took perfect Instagram pictures of our perfectly Instagrammable life.

And I was absolutely, without a doubt, 100% completely miserable. I want to pause here and note that this is not an indictment of my husband, or an attempt to insinuate that he was responsible for that misery. He was not. I was responsible for making the decisions that led directly to that misery, and once I stopped trying to blame him, and change him to prevent my further misery, things just got significantly clearer.

I spent a lot of time over the course of my marriage (it was 5 years long) going to Target. Here is why I mention that: I feel strongly that everyone should have something they want to do when they’re not doing “something else.” Everyone will spend a large percentage of their time hanging out with their friends, or spending time with their significant other, or going on trips, or working, or doing all of the stuff that everyone does. Then there will be another part of their life where they’ll have nothing to do, and they should have a thing they want to do when they have no other obligations. My “thing” was to go to Target. Are you understanding just a little bit how ridiculous I was? Target was a safe place for me. I could buy paper towels, and new rugs for the kitchen, and new adorable things to set on my coffee table. And I could do all of this under the guise of “running errands,” so no one ever thought anything of it.

Here is what I wanted my “thing” to be: I wanted to get on a bike, with a basket on it, and I wanted to ride that bike to a park. Then I wanted to lay out a blanket, and lie down on it, and read a book. Then I wanted to get back on my bike to head home. On the way home I’d stop for a coffee maybe, or a bottle of wine, and I’d go sit on my patio and watch the sun setting. But this did not jive with my reality. One might say it was completely contradictory to my reality, as a matter of fact, so I rejected it. I rejected absolutely everything that in any way required me to change my life. Because changing a life is fundamentally hard. It is the exact opposite of existing in a life that might not be the one you want but is one that is easy, and safe. Easy and Safe had become my way of life, and I would kick and scream at anyone who wanted to change that way of life. I spent a lot of time kicking and screaming at people and things and situations over the course of my marriage.

It’s so odd to me, looking at all of the things that happened over the course of the last year or so, that my breaking point happened in a really generic chain restaurant in suburban America. Such a seemingly innocuous place for a total life shift, right? I didn’t even understand fully that this was my breaking point until I forced myself to sit down and work through all of this. A slight backstory is that I had been out of town for a solid week the week prior. I’d never been away from my husband for that long. And the most succinct way to put this is that I’d had a lot of thoughts that week. My husband and I were in the process of making some life choices that were going to ensure that he and I were in it for the long haul – namely, we were trying to have a baby. So, anyway, I’d been away for a week, and I had been having a lot of thoughts that week, and various serendipitous things had occurred that had forced me to be real, and honest, and authentic. And I was sitting at a chain restaurant in suburban America on a Sunday afternoon having lunch with my mom, and my two sisters. And here is what happened:

We were having a seemingly normal lunch date, and chatting, and I had noticed a family in my periphery. They seemed relatively unoffensive, I guess; they looked like every other family in suburban America. Mom, Dad, son, daughter. The daughter and mom had on matching neon shirts emblazoned with the daughter’s cheerleading program, and the father and son had on wrestling shirts. They were all very tan, and clearly very involved in extracurricular activities. I began to hate this family. Bear with me, here, because I understand this is veering quickly into illogical territory. I’m certain this family was perfectly lovely. But it happened nonetheless. Anyway, so my mom says, after a few minutes, “Look at that family. They’re adorable.” And I muttered something to her about how everyone in the suburbs was so homogenous, and disingenuous, and that I absolutely hated when people wore matching shirts, or some variation of that – whatever I said was completely insufferable and really pretentious, and a little bit crazy. She gave me an odd look but attempted to ignore me. This was strike one. I didn’t stop there, though. I began to talk about how bored I was with my existing life in the suburbs.

Well, luckily, said my mom and sisters, my husband and I were getting ready to relocate closer in to the city, and were also going to have a baby! Two birds with one stone, yes? No more suburbs and no more boredom! You can NOT be bored with a baby. Here’s strike three, henceforth known as “The Time I Completely Lost My Shit In A Chain Restaurant.” I looked directly in my sister’s face, and said, with full conviction, “Oh my God. I don’t WANT to HAVE A BABY.” You should know, I guess, that this baby was *exactly* what I wanted, according to everything I’d been telling absolutely everyone who would listen for the last year. I had it all – I had the perfect life, my husband and I had firmly established careers, now it was time for the Pièce de résistance ! The baby!

In the effort of being kind, and not delving too much into the specifics of what happened between my husband and myself from that point forward, I’ll summarize the next few bits – there was a lot of shock at the table, we paid our bill and left, and I told my husband and mother both the next day that I was going to be separating from him. Then began all of the crying and wailing and general terror that I mentioned earlier.

And…here we are. This blog is not going to be about the divorce, though. This will (hopefully) be one of the only stories about that. Because here is the unbelievably amazing part of all this: in between the fear, and the sadness, and the not sleeping, and total and absolute sheer terror, I am beginning to experience these snippets of what my new life is going to be like. Those snippets are completely overwhelming to me in the amount of joy they contain. There’s been far too little joy in my life for the past few years. I’ve exerted a lot of energy dampening my feelings, and my thoughts, and making my authentic self generally smaller to force myself into this construct that I thought was more appropriate. And that was a pretty shitty way to live, to put it as mildly as possible.

This new thing I do is just laugh, all the time. There is so much laughing it verges on annoying. I truly can’t get it together and friends and family have been forced to just sit across from me in public places and wait while I try to stop giggling. It’s like I just shoved all of these things deep inside for so long — sadness, and anger, and pain, and every other emotion in the spectrum, and now it’s all just bubbling up as total mirth. And it is so amazing.

I want this blog to be about that mirth. And hopefully a collection of those snippets I keep seeing, so the next time I sit down to tell my story, I’ll have a logical starting point.