We’ve been in this house 17 days, and I am – as expected – still tripping over boxes occasionally and looking endlessly for things I remember packing but can’t quite remember where they ended up. I moved in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2013, and now again in 2015. Frankly, I am really tired of it. That said, at least this is a familiar dance for me. I can remember having that feeling that I’ll never be settled or never have things looking the way I want them only to find things exactly as they should be with the passage of time. Time. The answer to everything lately it seems. It all takes time.
We are getting settled little by little. I’m using what is, I’m assuming, a formal living room space at the entryway as a kids’ reading area. They are loving it. (Yes, I’m careful to secure bookcases as best I can with this little monkey.)
It’s funny how liberating some of this feels. That I get to set the tone of the house, for instance. I don’t have to get anyone else’s opinion or approval before making decorative choices. I have been veto’d in the past when I wanted any sign of kids’ and play spaces near the common areas of the house. So it feels good to have this little space greet us as we walk in the door. Yes, children live here. Yes, you can tell. It feels authentic and lived in and comfortable that I am not trying and hide that. I want this to feel like their space as well.
Their rooms have a lot left to be desired. But beds are there. Clothes are in closets, and as of this weekend, I began putting a couple of things on their walls. I am hoping to paint a bit this summer when I have the time. We shall see.
We settled in earlier tonight with a movie and a huge bowl of popcorn after their bath time. The comfort of old routines feels good, and this rainy weather we’ve had all week has encouraged some cozy indoor hours anyhow.
I’m also finally feeling my kitchen motivation emerge again. Moving is so terrible on dietary habits. I hated that we went a good 7-10 days of mostly eating out as we packed away anything left in the old house and took a day or two to get unpacked here. The kitchen is always the first thing I unpack when I move. I feel like the moment I can cook a meal and sit at my table to eat is the moment the house really starts to feel like home, you know? My fridge and pantry are stocked now, and I shopped today for some really great meals I have lined up this week. It feels good to eat and cook like my old self again. I’ve also got two lettuce pots on the patio, thanks to my grandparents and their gardening expertise, so we’ve got salad for days and days ahead. I love spring and seeing all the fresh food return to my table.
A new house is like any other new relationship. It takes a while to see what you value most about it and what annoys you or drives you crazy. The eccentricities and sounds and details aren’t apparent yet, and for that reason, it still feels a little foreign here. But we’ll get there. I’m learning its patterns and quirks a little already. The best light is late morning through the back side of the house, especially the patio door. The laundry room is my favorite of any house I’ve ever lived in. My bedroom feels perfect and safe and cozy, even though it’s hardly got any furniture in it. The kitchen window makes washing dishes tolerable and even a little pleasant. Most notably, the neighbors are kind and showering us with gifts and hellos already. I have absolutely no idea what the future holds, but I think I want to stay here a good long while.
These past few weeks have been so hard, grueling really. But this past few days, I feel a shift. The slightest opening. More light coming in places it hasn’t been in months.
The kids were with their dad last week because the custody agreement gives us the opportunity to share school breaks 50/50, and I got the February week off with them when we went to Disney World, so he wanted their spring break. I’ve never been away from my kids for 7 solid nights, not once. So it was hard as I knew it would be. But the timing was good at least. I had (and still have) loads of unpacking to do, and I was working given that the university calendar is different than public school’s, so I had plenty of things to busy myself with.
I also have amazing friends who joined me Tuesday night for the distraction of Greek take-out and a bottle of wine and lots of chatter that, as always, extended to weightier topics. Thursday night, I headed out with friends again to catch up over beer and pizza. Then Friday came with a long day at work in the midst of grading pressures and term paper deadlines, and I got home to an empty and quiet house on a Friday afternoon. I turned on Pandora and got to work unpacking books in what will soon be my reading and writing room. It was raining outside as a soundtrack to my own music, and I felt the exhale of a long week with dissolved tensions. Me, alone, in my own home, with my own agenda and my own music. And that content and promising feeling of a Friday evening. It was the simplest of moments but the one I threw in my happiness jar at the end of that day. I’m feeling less and less frightened by the idea of solitude and independence these days. It seems promising instead of scary.
Saturday brought one of my favorite traditions with old friends. I expected the day to be potentially rough seeing a few faces I haven’t seen since life changed for me. But it wasn’t difficult at all. It was another reminder that I’ve had a solid self buried inside all the other titles I’ve worn in the past decade, and those who have known me closest and longest still see me as that same person.
As the days are progressing, the light is leaking through again in the smallest of ways. I’m starting to feel a new normal arrive, and I shed the old skin a bit more everyday. I think this might be happening in bigger ways, too – but I’m not ready to share all the pieces yet until I see how they fit together. For now, I’m watching things happen and seeing what I’m creating in this new life, and it all feels much less strange than it did only weeks ago. It felt itchy and ill-fitting, but it’s starting to feel like it’s simply the skin I was born in, the path I was meant to walk.
There are lots of reasons for this – time helps, friends help, new perspective helps. But as I’ve been thinking about what creates this change of lenses, so to speak, what dissolves the pain and fear, I’m realizing the main difference is that I’m not sorry anymore. Am I still sad this happened? Sure. I probably always will be. But I spent so much of October through February apologizing – often frantically and aloud in those first moments of discovering things I never expected to find. (Embarrassingly, I remember an early and raw moment when I was sobbing I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry on the phone to someone as it all erupted, and she told me to stop apologizing.) Then it became apologizing in softer ways or silently to myself or my kids, feeling heavily responsible for mess I was cleaning up.
To be honest, I’ve carried blame for so many aspects of myself – I wasn’t prioritizing him. I wasn’t fun enough. I wasn’t sexy enough or interesting enough. I wasn’t smart enough, or not about the right things anyway. I didn’t make our home easy and comfortable enough when he returned from travel and let the stress of two pre-schoolers and the daily grind infect our weekends. Perhaps I didn’t choose well to begin with when deciding to embark on a life with someone. I didn’t see signs of what was bound to happen. I didn’t fight hard enough for my family to stay intact and listened too loudly to the burn and brokenness that resulted from the transgressions I discovered. … I was just sorry about it. All of it. And I’ve spent months in a perpetual state of apologizing to others and questioning myself.
I’m reading Amy Poehler’s book (like everyone else has recently), and she has a chapter on apology and guilt. She explains at the opening of that chapter that “It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.” And I ran across that line at just the right time in my life. A moment when, finally, the guilt and shame is starting to melt away a bit. I’m realizing that I’m only capable of changing my own reactions to a situation. I’m finally starting to take things a lot less personally. As a friend said to me recently, you have to finally realize that whatever issues someone else has don’t dictate your own self-worth. It’s not all about me, and it’s not certain that – even if perfection was possible and I was a perfect wife 100% of the time – my outcome would be any better.
And the most important part of this equation is that I am not perfect and was not created to be. I was created to be real. To be vulnerable and to talk about my own perspective and my own pain when I feel led to share. To connect with others and to know myself. None of those things align with perfection. I’m not perfect, but I’m realizing I am enough. I want to simply rest in that for a while and climb my way out of the blame pit, so to speak, that I’ve been drowning in for these past few months.
I have to answer to my own calling and my own conscience and my own voice. That’s it. This is who I am at the moment. This is my story as it happened to me, and this is how I’m taking the pen back on that story, so to speak. I’m not apologizing for anything anymore pertaining to my life state. Truthfully, for every word I write here, there are a million other words and a thousand sordid details dancing in my own head and shared among my closest of friends that I don’t write here because my purpose is not to rehash all the pain and embarassment. I simply scribble notes here on my story as I’m living it with a focus on my own piece of the journey and not an explanation for someone else’s actions because, truthfully, I will never understand that explanation. I will never know that piece of the puzzle.
That’s my present calling – to sort out the messy details in my own heart, to share with people who care to read, and to shed light on where I can move forward and illuminate the moments of gratitude that shine through the mud. The act of writing fulfills that purpose – it’s what has helped me move past apologies and wade through the mess and confusion of my own mind as I move forward to where I’m meant to be next.
Happy Easter, friends! I hope you enjoyed some time with your family or friends this weekend, and I hope you are looking forward to all that spring brings. This year, the holiday has special meaning to me as I celebrate new life in so many ways.
Last week was a blur of moving boxes and a lot of cleaning up at my old house. By the end of it, I had a truckload of things donated to a local charity and another large truckload of things sent to a junk service. All abandoned remnants of a shared life. And the English professor in me has to work very hard not to see metaphorical significance in how a few things played out last week, but that is neither here nor there. And I refuse to dwell on the exhausted despair today. Not now with so much newness greeting me on the road ahead.
I loved that house so much. I loved my neighbors. I loved what it felt like to make dinner in my big beautiful kitchen. We built it from the ground up, and we had so many dreams and plans there. I cried like a baby the February afternoon the for sale sign went up in the yard.
But last Monday, as the kids and I slept on a mattress on the floor surrounded by boxes of my own and items left behind, I had a moment – not of sadness really – but of sweetness. One of those moments you feel heavily like a graduation or a wedding or a birth of a baby. When you know you are standing at a threshold, and it feels like you are outside looking in on your own self, knowing that this is it. The moment that you won’t return to because your life is completely changing. The dividing line you will reference when you see your story in retrospect with all of its “befores” and “afters.” I will have more moments like this in my life, I’m sure. But I will never forget what last Monday felt like, cuddled with my kids on that mattress on the floor in a big dark house that didn’t feel like home anymore. Waiting to close the door on that chapter.
And perhaps it is my brain protecting me a bit, but I was not one bit sad to leave that house when moving day arrived. It felt vast and large and haunted, more like a museum than a home. Frankly, it felt like a museum of my own grief these past few months. The elbow grease required to get rid of things left behind and fill holes, paint, etc. worked as a way to process the end of that chapter, I think. When the moment came and it was time for me to close that door, it was not bittersweet in the least. Grief is part of this process. I have to feel it. I have to cry. I have to push through. But I don’t have to build a monument to it. I was so grateful to leave it behind.
I moved into my new place on Wednesday, and I really started to unpack this weekend. My garage is full of boxes, and my own closet is a mess of half empty bins, but I am getting there slowly but surely. It is such a perfect space for us, and one that feels like home already. I hope to post photos soon. The kids are loving it, and so do I. I feel certain that divine intervention landed us here, and the string of unlikely coincidences that put me in this house is a very long list. I’m right where I’m meant to be. I have no doubt.
We celebrated Easter with my family yesterday afternoon. The kids hunted eggs with cousins, and one little girl was determined to climb a tree, even in her Sunday best.
These two bring me joy everyday. I have moments where I step outside of myself for a minute, remembering this is real and I am a real grown-up dealing with grown-up matters I never predicted and that I’m forever tied to these two little people who are growing and learning everyday. My only prayer at the moment is that I model what I want them to know – curiosity, kindness, honesty, vulnerability, self-reliance, and a joy that comes from knowing what matters most. A joy that is not reliant on circumstances.
That last part has been HARD lately as I deal with things that, quite frankly, leave me feeling sad and inferior and even broken at moments. But true joy and peace cannot depend on what changes in the peripheral of my life, what changes outside of myself. It is a lesson I have learned in these past few months in the hardest of ways, and a lesson I am learning still.
To new life and new joys and unforgettable moments that are waiting for me down the road. Celebrating spring this week and all it means, especially this year.
It has been a crazy couple of weeks over here. I am moving to my new place in 3 days, and I hope to write more on that process soon. There is SO MUCH that I’ve learned about the post-divorce real estate process that doesn’t seem to be written anywhere. Important things that can help women avoid headaches I’ve endured. I hope to write those down here soon – if nothing else so that I don’t forget them. When you’re in the fire and it’s all happening at once, it is intense. Then I think people look back and smooth out those rough edges, and we forget the details.
Truthfully, there are details I hope to forget.
This week, my ex informed me that he’s engaged (via text message, no less), and I didn’t expect it to be such a hard pill to swallow, but it is. My kids. I hate this all so much for them. I don’t know what to say or do when they ask questions. I, frankly, know very little of the situation or the person involved, except that the relationship began before my marriage was over and that it is moving at lightening speed with an engagement already and a shared home my kids will visit twice a month.
This process of relinquishing control of my kids in light of a troubling situation and immense heartbreak is unbelievably hard for me. I felt like the dust was beginning to settle a bit, but now there is new mess to clean yet again. I feel frayed. At loose ends. Open and raw. I hope to dig into some books this summer about kids and divorce and remarriage, but time is so precious right now as I pack a house, do the daily duties of mothering them, and then also manage to carve time for my paid job at what is undoubtedly the busiest time of the semester. I haven’t read much yet on how to ease this transition for them or get them to feel secure in the midst of marriage and cohabitation.
But the big hit came with an email I received on Friday night that I guess was supposed to be some sort of consolation or comfort. An email that explained that she hopes one day I find someone who “completes me.” I can’t fault someone who is ten years younger than me for saying something like that, I suppose (especially someone who has been engaged since she was 21 – minus a 3 months break before her engagement again last week). Age teaches us so many valuable lessons. What is it Maya Angelou says? “When you know better, you do better.” … But her “completeness” comment is still itching, still crawling under the surface of my skin, and I can’t get it out.
When I was married, I never viewed my husband as someone who “completed” me, and who knows… perhaps that is why we didn’t work and he found someone who fills that hole. But to need someone else to fill you up is such a dangerous place to be as a woman. For men and women both, really. But especially as a woman when we receive so many messages about what we should or shouldn’t be, that lone voice inside has to guide you and complete you. People are not half-broken pieces looking for a fix. People are not half-empty vessels who can only be filled through a particular man (and then another particular man, and then another one). Or perhaps some people are, but I refuse to be.
But even though I say this, the comment still stings so much. The announcement of their engagement still stings so much. And here is the ugly part, friends, as I pour the rawness out here like I always do. The ugly part is that I need to ask myself why it stings. Why her comments succeeded in hurting me. Why I began to heal, but now the wounds are raw again. I am the one who can control that hurt and reaction. The words aren’t rolling off. They are sticking and stinging. The message that I am less than she because she has someone whom she feels “completes her,” and I am alone and somehow broken and inferior as a result. That message succeeded in reaching me, and I’ve given it far too much space in my head these past couple days.
I’ve been reading here and there when I can – which honestly is pretty seldom these days. And I’ve flipped a bit through my old copy of Eat, Pray, Love remembering that I read this long before I divorced, but it begins with that rock bottom moment of Liz Gilbert leaving her marriage. Some passages are catching my eye that went by unnoticed before.
The only way to get through is through. Could I find someone to put a band-aid on the wound? Absolutely. It’s not hard. Brokenness typically tends to attract similar brokenness, and two wounded people come together like magnets. But where that would lead frightens me, and more than that, I have been through enough pain with this, and I don’t want it to be wasted. Pain is senseless suffering if you don’t grow from it. The only way through is to keep trudging, keep moving, not cling to someone else’s body or emotions or flattery as a means to escape my own pain. But I’m going to be honest that this is hard. It’s hard to swallow the feeling of being alone when you haven’t been in quite some time.
I’m learning there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. A major one. But sadly, this week I also learned that no matter how comfortable you are with your own solitude, it still stings when people ask you questions, when you see happy couples, when you receive a consolation message from someone who wants to wear her relationship like a badge.
Completing yourself is hard work. But it is THE work. It’s why we are here – to know myself, to feel whole, to fill myself up, to know my purpose and the role of the divine in that purpose. To stand on my own feet and hear my own voice as I guide two little people as best I can to hopefully one day teach them these same lessons. I hope to reach a point one day when that voice inside is loud enough to drown out the others, but I’m not there yet.
I celebrated a birthday this week, and as always with milestones and big occasions, it makes you realize where you are and how far you’ve come and reflect on the year behind as well as the one in front of you. Remember when I posted a list of 33 goals last year? That list got abandoned in the chaos of my past 5 months, but I had no idea when I wrote that post that life had bigger plans on what I needed to learn in my 33rd year.
Last year on my birthday, we ate dinner as a family on the back porch to inaugurate daylight savings time and spring and another year for me. I posted a photo of Norah and me on Instagram, and I captioned it with a quote by Jarod Kintz that I’d run across which says, “The year of your birth marks only your entry into the world. Other years where you prove your worth, they are the ones worth celebrating.” I intended that as a reflection on the previous year and the challenges that I faced in motherhood and work and the whole work-family balance I began that year. It’s so weird to look back on that now – knowing I had no idea the challenges that lied in front of me.
But this year, friends, I really proved my worth. I’ve got a mountain left to climb in the coming months, but I’m on the way. I celebrated this week in a big way. Lunch with a friend on my actual birthday (with cupcakes!) followed by an impulse buy to a concert on Friday night with some former coworkers who have become like family to me. (For Hozier, and people, if you have not heard that album go buy it NOW. I have been obsessed for months.) The setlist was just what I wanted it to be, the venue was great, and he closed with a couple of my favorites as the audience sang along. I love those connected moments you get with strangers at events like plays and concerts. It felt like church in the most real way.
Then Saturday afternoon my closest girlfriends of 16 years treated me to a facial and a private spa party at our favorite place to chat and treat ourselves. The older I get, the more grateful I am for my truest friends. I cannot begin to explain the struggles we’ve encountered in the time we’ve known each other – and I won’t because some of those struggles are closely held and deeply personal for us. But it has all shown me that life is so scary and unpredictable and that most importantly, the human spirit is stronger. The strength I gather from these women and their perspectives and stories is like no other. I’m so lucky to know them and to be loved by them. After that, we went out to dinner and met up with my other closest group (whom I saw Friday at the concert, so it was a double treat). I could not have made it through year 33 standing on my own two feet without this crew. And I mean that with absolute sincerity. There were days, weeks even, that I really just wanted to roll over and cry a river and did not understand what the next step would be to move forward. But these girls and their constant contact and honesty with me, their acceptance of me and their listening ears when I poured everything out in all its ugliness, they are the force that pushed me forward. It’s such an irony that the year I learned I was so dearly loved is the year that I lost the person who was supposed to love me, so to speak. He was expected to and bound to by vows and legal trappings and societal expectations, but these women emerged as my tribe this year. My people and my family. I cannot write enough words of gratitude to express what that has been for me, the way it has healed me. I am loved and valued, and I truly don’t know that I would feel that without so much support from so many people this year.
We followed up dinner with a spontaneous decision to walk around a bit and stop for cookies. Can’t help but laugh at the deja-vu of a mall cookie experience with a group of thirty-somethings. It was in an outdoor shopping area, and we saw groups of middle schoolers walking together. We struck up a conversation with a few of them and reminisced on what those early days of independence felt like for us, when parents would first allow you to go on an outing alone with friends and the thrill of possibility it brought to you. And now, at 34, my life is so different than it was at 14, of course. But I feel that sense of possibility emerging a bit despite the pain. My perspective is shifting in the slightest way, and I am realizing that a whole world lies ahead and I don’t know what it holds, and that is both terrifying and thrilling. But it is mine. All mine. With my decisions and my own ideas and my own future waiting. I don’t know where or to whom it will take me, but it is a blank canvas right now, and I think I’m ready to start painting it as I begin year 34.
Another birthday treat came last weekend with a handwritten card (oh, how I love real mail!) from a graduate school friend who knows my love for Mary Oliver and reminded me of the joy in the journey, so to speak. The joy of possibility and self sovereignty. There is another line from that poem that I adore which says, “there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world.” And I’m hearing that voice now. When I am still and quiet and allow myself to listen to it, I’m hearing my own voice.
It sounds like an old friend.
The kids and I enjoyed Disney World last week with my mom as my university was on midterm break. It was a trip planned and paid for ages ago before everything changed, and I feel grateful that we got to enjoy it together.
Disney is not a vacation for parents. (I’m not sure how many ways I should say that to make it clear, but really and truly, it is exhausting.) But there is something magical about seeing it all through your kids’ eyes and watching them get lost in all the fantasy. These two had such a great time.
It was a good lesson for me to live in the moment. I didn’t take as many photos as I “should” have – not one single picture of all four of us together, which I kind of regret. (Remember the days when we were little, and our parents would take a handful of pictures on vacation and that was it? Expectations are so different these days.) But at the same time, there’s something to be said for just throwing your things in the car and hitting the road to forget everything else for a while. It’s liberating in our current world of Pinterest and planning and iPhone sharing.
I booked a few character dinners for them ages ago, but that is all the planning I really did. Other than that, I just let them hold the reins on this one, and we followed along – which meant riding Buzz Lightyear too many times and walking most of Disney World with my almost-three-year-old strapped on my back in the Ergo, but it was worth it. It was a good reminder to live in the moment and enjoy what is right in front of you without thinking ahead to tomorrow or next week. They are growing into such incredible little people these days. It makes my heart beat a little bigger to see them interacting and growing and learning.
As we arrived home, we were in negotiations with some potential buyers on our home, and it looks like we are officially under contract now. It’s both exciting and terrifying. I have no idea where I am going with the kids, but I’m trusting something good will fall in my path. Send good thoughts our way as the kids and I begin the next chapter in this journey.
I’m finding so much comfort in the little things lately. My happiness jar is a fun way to reflect on what makes me feel joy. But another great distraction lies in my kids. The funny things they say and do, the way they interact with each other. Every little bit of it heals me lately.
Atlanta weather, as usual, is nuts. It’s icy this week with school closings, and a couple Saturdays ago, we were at the park with a sunny 68 degrees. I take what I can get these days though.
Jude’s class also celebrated 100 days of school earlier this month with “Dress Like You Are a Hundred Years Old” Day. He loved it. Such an old soul, this one.
And Norah is pretty much always my shadow lately. Never a private moment away from her, but I do love this stage. So much curiosity and observation. And a lot of joy.
I’ve always heard that the divine is felt most in everyday moments, and I’ve written before about how I’ve known that to be true. I’m finding healing begins with these everyday moments, too. Perfection is never found when I think too much or look around. There is so much chaos and disappointment happening in my life right now. But in these little moments here and there? A glimmer of peace and contentment.
I’m working very hard to trust the timing of my own life and know a bigger plan is in store with brighter things ahead. I don’t feel it all the time or everyday. But sometimes it’s the slightest little tug, like a knock at the door. A whole new world on the horizon when I get there.