solitary

The kids have been gone for three nights. Three little nights; that’s it. It weirdly feels like a long time in ways, and I have a to-do list a mile long, but it’s hard to focus and get it done.  Truthfully, I think the lists and the busy tasks are all to keep my mind off the idea of solitude and the quiet house.

I play music all the time. I’m going to the gym every day and staying for an hour or more. My friends have been great about checking up on me, and my usually relaxed social schedule is actually mostly full for the rest of the week. I’m going to a concert with a friend tonight, watching the kids on Thursday during the day as their father needed help with childcare, and then I have plans on both Friday and Saturday night.  Which is not normal for me at all.  But I don’t even know what normal me is anymore.

Normal me used to be busy with work and kids and then happily on the couch with wine or knitting and Netflix at 8:30 every night. I’ve always been someone who was not scared of solitude, but I can’t explain it. A quiet house just feels so itchy and unnatural right now.

I fell off the train on Parenthood, a show I once adored, and I have picked it back up again thanks to Netlfix. Just two nights ago, I got to that episode where a recently separated Julia has to spend the first night alone in her house without her two kids, and it resonated with me so much. She’s tossing and turning and not sleeping at all and eventually moves to her daughter’s bed. The next morning, she’s up with the sun and going for a run which is pretty much my mode of operation this week as well. Her sister on the show has been a single mom for a decade and tells her it will get easier. Everyone says that, and I know it will. But I’m ready for easier. I am impatient for an easier time to be here already. But I know that’s not how it works.

I’m doing so much better than I was in November when I couldn’t eat or sleep or even talk about my life without anxious tears.  As I said before in this space, I am not sorry anymore. I know I have the core to push through this.  And I can’t explain it, but I even know somehow that there is something really good down the road waiting for me. I wish I could see it more clearly, wish I knew the time and place and had the foresight to see exactly how things will unfold for me. I don’t, of course.  And I can’t see the future. But I have this tiniest space of peace inside me, and it’s covered often by a yearning and a list of worries.  But sometimes in the still moments, I can feel it just the littlest bit.

I have a sign hanging on my wall in the kitchen, just next to my coffee maker so that I see it as I begin each day.  I found it for cheap the week I moved in this house, and I hung it immediately. It says simply “Joy comes in the morning.”  It’s a reference to Psalm 30:5 which says “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  There is an echo of this concept in every major religion.  Yin and yang, life and death, pain and rebirth. I know my morning is coming, and that, more importantly, you don’t grow in the easy seasons of your life. It’s the trials that give us substance. I know that transitions are important, and when you skip them and move straight forward to some false kind of happy or distraction immediately, you have a major price to pay years later.  I know the internal work is the most important part. I know all of this.  But just when I think I am moving forward and making major strides on any internal wreckage, so to speak, I see that the kids have shielded me a bit from the loneliness that people experience after divorce.

And I have so many friends checking on me all the time. (A huge THANK YOU to you guys if you are reading this.) I had lunch with a good friend yesterday followed by book shopping and a sunny stroll. And so many fun plans are lined up for me this summer to fill my time away from the kids. But this is work, y’all. The knowing yourself, the moving forward with real purpose and intention and thought so that the next chapter will be the bright morning light I know it can be.  It’s just hard. That’s the simple truth as I’m feeling it now, so I’ll just say it.

I’m listening to lots of good new (to me) music to fill the time and the silence in my house. Redbird has been an obsession lately, and there’s a particular Gospel Whiskey Runners song that has been on repeat a lot.  Isn’t it weird how art – whether it’s visual or literary or musical – can echo your own thoughts sometimes?  It’s that human moment of “Wait, you feel that, too? I thought I was the only one?”  And that’s why I write, friends. You get it out and write it down and see it on a page or screen and know that it’s the human experience. Pain and joy, crying and smiling, death and rebirth, dark and light.  It’s all here for us, and at least when you’re in a season that stings, you know the next one is around the corner.

Anyway, here’s a little listen for you if you want.  “My bones are tired but they’re still shaking, and my heart is torn but it’s done breaking, and my hope is set on things unseen”  Amen and amen and amen.

all things new

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

redefinition

I’ve missed this space so much in the weeks that have passed. I’ve wanted badly to come here and string words together in this familiar spot and gain encouragement from those of you who read. But because of the details that exploded in my life last fall, I’ve resorted to an old pen-and-paper journal until I felt ready to come here and strong enough to begin to tell my story. I feel like life during these past few years has been one reinvention after another. From grad student to young married. From high school teacher to motherhood that consumed me full-time.  Then to college professor with one foot in the working world and two preschoolers to look after. And now to single motherhood. I read Anne Lamott’s Small Victories this past December, in efforts to make sense of anything that was happening and to link together my fumbling attempts at reframing my whole perception.  As always with the written word, the perfect thought was trying to find me, and a beacon was shining already on page ten when Lamott explains the process of forced change that happens in our lives:

“Redefinition is a nightmare – we think we’ve arrived in our nice Pottery Barn boxes, and that this or that is true. Then something happens that totally sucks, and we are in a new box, and it is like changing into clothes that don’t fit, that we hate. Yet the essence remains. Essence that is malleable, fluid. Everything we lose is Buddhist truth – one more thing that you don’t have to grab with your death grip, and protect from death or decay. It’s gone. We can mourn it, but we don’t have to get down in the grave with it.

I’m here to finally tell you, friends, that in the weeks of my absence from here, I was in the grave, so to speak. In the darkest reaches of a grief that gripped me so completely it sickened me from the inside outward. I wish I had words to explain what it feels like to have one perfectly sculpted idea of your future, and in a matter of days, that image disappears completely. But I know so many of you know exactly what I mean by that – whether it is a wandering husband, a scary diagnosis, a death of someone you can’t live without, a change in your life or career or family that is irreversible …. We all encounter it at some point.  And after that initial heaviness of grief, I’ve seen women emerge stronger and better and wiser because of it.  But how they get to that new place, I am not really sure yet.

I won’t be the same me I was before. It’s weird to look back and hardly recognize who you were in your last life. I’m embarrassed in ways – of how I loved without question, married at 24, so sure that I would never be in this position.  Of how unbelievably hysterical I was for weeks when this erupted. Of how I made excuse after excuse of all the things I found last October and November and blamed myself for someone else’s actions. Of how I still wonder what I could have done differently or how I could have been better, and I know that list is long.  Marriage is a partnership, a work in constant progress. And I think anyone in my position tends to look back and wonder when it all started to unravel, how I could have predicted the future and intervened sooner.  Why I didn’t see it coming. Sadly, you reach a point when these questions don’t even matter anymore because what’s done is done. Irreversible. The only place left to go is forward.

I wanted so badly to believe the best, and I think I also feared what life is like on the other side. And I am still a little scared, to be honest. But I’m flailing – ungracefully but purposefully – to make it to the next shore.  I lost my center and my backbone in the mess that was left when it all fell apart, but I’ve found it now.

A new adventure awaits, and I’m losing my death grip, as Lamott calls it. Piece by piece, I’m letting go of what has no place in my life anymore.  It still hurts, and I know I’m gripping some of those pieces a little too tightly even now. But I’ve heard it said that “Ruin is the road to transformation.”  I’m ready.