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

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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.