Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Deal Has Been Unsealed - Temple Sealing Cancelation

Photo Attribution here

Today we're going to talk about something that nobody likes to talk about: temple sealing cancellation.

I mentioned a couple posts back that The Mr. has gotten engaged. I received a phone call from his bishop asking me to write a letter addressed to the First Presidency of the church explaining how I felt about the idea of him getting remarried in the temple. The letter went something (a lot more formal than, but in essence) like this:

Dear awesome leaders of the church I love,

I'm supportive of The Mr. taking a second chance on love. While the speed with which he is pursuing marriage is concerning to me personally, I recognize that this is no longer any of my affair. I sincerely wish he and his fiancé happiness in their new life together. The prospect of being in what essentially amounts to a polygamous sealing with my ex-husband and his new wife against my will, however, is a concept that makes me more uncomfortable than I have words to express. May I please have a sealing cancellation? Thanks.



I wasn't really sure why I asked them for a cancellation in that letter... I mean, it's not as if I expected them to write me back saying, "Sure thing, doll. Would you like fries with that?" But The Mr.'s bishop asked for my feelings on the matter and feelings he received.

I was then instructed that the proper channel is to go through my bishop here to start the process of officially requesting a cancellation, which I immediately did. He's a very nice guy, my bishop. He's got that simple, clear cut, straight forward thinking I admire so much. I explained my situation to him and he agreed. Why stay sealed with someone who you aren't married to anymore? Being a singles ward bishop and somewhat unfamiliar with procedure he went to the Stake President to ask what to do next and came back a couple weeks later to let me know that the Stake President had put the kibosh on the whole effort, saying, "That's not what we do."

There seems to be an idea floating around out there that there are blessings afforded a woman for staying sealed to a man in the temple, regardless of the state of their marriage (or non-marriage) and who did what to whom in the divorce. This has always struck me as absurdly illogical. The blessing I wanted was to have any and all ties with that life cut, quick like a band aid, the sooner the better. Being free from any other process I would have to go through to distance myself from him at a later date, knowing I am in absolutely no way connected to him and his damaging influence on my life, that's a blessing I understand. That's something I can sink my teeth into. That was what I wanted, and last week, aforementioned kiboshing of the Stake President notwithstanding, that's what I got. It was a letter in the mail. Unexpected. Maybe that's why it affected me so.

Dear Frowfrow,

The Mr. contacted us asking for a cancellation. Would you like fries with that?


Tommy Monson

Captain Amazing sat across from me, dumbfounded at why I was crying, saying, "But I thought you wanted this...? Why are you upset?"And the truth is, I was a little dumbfounded too. I did want it. I was grateful for it. I was relieved and happy and free and... alone and devastated and sad all over again.

It was supposed to be permanent. It was supposed to be serious. It was supposed to work out alright in the end, but this is the end...again. Yet another element of ending, and it's not alright, not my marriage to the Mr. And it never will be alright.

Today I'm grateful. At least in my mind I'm grateful. Logically grateful. Mind made up to be grateful. Feet set on a grateful path. I do not miss being married to The Mr. That time was so unexplainably painful. However, I do miss the person I thought he was and the husband I thought he would become. I miss our home in Long Beach. I miss being a wife and not having to sleep alone and knowing I would never have to date again and having a permanent buddy all the time. Most of all I think I miss the concept that something in life could ever be completely stable, safe, secure. I miss the feeling that I could be a part of a functional family, and that something and someone in life could be trusted.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Best Worst Day of My Life

Somewhere in the early days when all I could think to myself was, "When will this feel less like a semi just hit my life?" I was consulting the all powerful Google and found this admittedly arbitrary formula. Recovery time from a divorce averages about one half the length of the marriage. 10 years marriage = 5 years recovery and so on, so I planted the seed in the back of my mind that I would give myself the first full year to focus almost entirely on healing myself up, and I have.

This is the year I will always remember as the year I slept just as much as my body asked me to, which sometimes meant going straight to bed at 6pm and waking up 14 hours later. I ate any and every thing I wanted and I let myself talk about my experience endlessly, processing it out of me by virtue of sheer repetition. I bought myself presents --nice dresses and red high heels, jewelry, and a guitar. I took myself on weekend trips, road trips, trips to the theater and movies and beach. I bought myself a reliable car and moved back to the home I'd left in a hope to appease The Mr. Then, I allowed my soul to let go of 9/10 of my earthly possessions to pursue my education (another luxury out of reach to married Frowfrow) in the two things I love most - art and Hawaii, and when a beautiful African man said to me, in his adorable accent, "Come outside, I'm going to kiss you." I said, "Okay."

To some this year may seem overly indulgent or self centered, but it has been exactly what I needed to get my sea legs back.  I had to learn that I can take care of myself. I can meet my needs. There isn't a man alive that can fix the broken parts of me, and I can stop looking, because Jesus and I are enough. My poor little terrified, broken heart and soul have been quieted, soothed, cradled and nurtured back into functionality, and I must say, today, 365 days after the best worst day of my life, I am thankful for what's happened.

I was making up a whiteboard for the students at work the other day and came across these wise words from the mouth of Oprah. "True forgiveness is when you can say, 'Thank you for that experience'." I cannot say I am grateful for every aspect of what the past three years of my life have been like, but last night when I was talking to God about the whole thing, this is some of the list we were able to come up with:

I'm thankful that I learned so much about myself through this experience,  that I now have a much deeper understanding of the importance of my own needs, hopes, dreams and establishing boundaries. I'm thankful that I get another chance at life, and that being in an unhealthy marriage helped me to see more clearly the things that are most important to me in life. I'm thankful that I know how much I love being a wife and how much I love having a husband. I'm thankful that I was married -- that someone, at least at some point, loved me enough to ask me to be his wife and that I had the time I did in Long Beach as a newly wed. I loved that short season in my life so immensely.

I'm thankful that dating again has opened my eyes to the things I did to contribute to the problems in my marriage and that I have all the time I need to work through those issues and becomes a healthier individual. I'm thankful that The Mr. had the courage to put a final stop to everything, and that he has been very respectful of my request that he not contact me again. I'm thankful for the new world that has opened up to me with possibilities that were once completely off the table. I'm thankful for all the long hours those who love me have put in with me--helping me move, inviting me over, flying me out for a visit, taking me out for an adventure, sitting in with me for the night, all the talking, all the prayers, all the hope and all the love. I'm thankful for the incredibly cathartic, healing experience writing this blog has been for me, and ultimately, beyond any other blessing to come from this experience I'm thankful that I have new understanding of exactly what my Savior is willing to go through, just for me.

So thanks for being a part of this first year of recovery. Thanks for reaching out to help me know I am not so alone in this unexpected stage of my life, and thank you, thank you, thank you that the first year is finally over. : )

Monday, November 4, 2013

Skinny Love

Photo attribution here

Oh, hello there blogging world. I've missed you so. : ) Where was I? Ah, yes! Captain Amazing. It's been about two months that we've been dating now. Here's a time lapse recap of the roller coaster we've been on in the form of a short list:

-Intercultural romance and all it's glorious gaps in communication.
-My neurotic fear of being abandoned and the way it manifests in destructive ways, right before my very eyes as I'm watching, thinking, "Stop it, Frowfrow! Stop it! Stop it!"
-His views about how public my divorce should be and why which happen to conflict with my views about how public my divorce should be and why
-Learning to balance time together and time apart, how we act in public and what each other's pet peeves are
-The endless inquiry, almost from day one of our time together, "Are you two getting married?"
-The bliss of a first kiss
-The bliss of many, many more kisses after the first ; ) I did mention how very much I love kissing, yes?
-The hormonal deluge that ensues post many, many kisses, and the havoc it wreaks on the mind and body, plus the added bonus of negotiating how to handle that, having tasted the forbidden fruit in my marital days of yore
-The beautiful, powerful, healing blessing of being with someone who will hold my hand when I'm lonely, kiss me when I'm happy, make me laugh when I'm too serious or sad, listen when he's tired, talk when he's mad, and tell me I'm beautiful, just because

I'd be lying if I told you it's an easy experience. There are so many triggers, so much to wade through. The communication it takes to keep us going is fairly intense. I freak out and tell him we need to break up every couple weeks. Sometimes I tell him I just want to kiss him and punch him at the same time. Once or twice I've cried so hard I think he thought my eyeballs would pop out, but the man is kind, calm, stable and supportive. He's a tender mercy, straight from God to me via Africa, all with a backdrop of Hawaii.

And by the way, Hawaii is every bit as magical, beautiful and lovely as they say, and Art Education is my soul mate in the form of a major. My depression and anxiety are at a very healthy low, my stress is managed, my family is positive and supportive, and my boyfriend is hilarious, hardworking and handsome.  Also, I get to teach Gospel Doctrine every other Sunday, which makes my life complete.

There's not really much of a moral to the story this time, just a basic update. We're coming up on one full year out of divorce now, so the stories are likely to become a lot less epic or dramatic in terms of being directly related to divorce. It is kind of nice to see the way life is evening out emotionally, just like they all said it would. I'll keep posting here, hopefully about once a month. This would be a perfect time for some guest posts as well. How is life as a Devout yet Divorced treating you? What issues have you been facing? What issues would you like to have addressed in a post?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Life Goes On

Photo attribution here.

So, whoa.

Imagine a whirlwind, a tropical whirlwind that smells like plumeria and glows with never ending sunshine that heals everything that it touches. This magical whirlwind came to the San Diego airport, picked me up and lovingly set me down in the most heavenly, beautiful, perfect, healing place imaginable for me. It quickly rearranged everything in my life and then laid me down in a bed, in a dorm, on a campus in Hawaii. I now live half a mile from the ocean in a land where there is one main road that circumnavigates the entire island in a meandering, swooping motion along the beach, with a speed limit of 35mph. There is a breeze that constantly rustles the leaves of palm trees and I am serenaded by tropical birds everywhere I go. The student body is the most culturally diverse in the whole of the United States. My days are filled with art classes. My afternoons are spent working and studying--during which time, I am still in a tropical paradise. I make new friends and learn new things every day, and there's a gentleman we'll call Captain Amazing that I met the day before classes started. The first time he kissed me, there was a rainbow around the moon. Rainbow. Around. The moon

Life, my friends, is beautiful. 

Also, The Mr. is engaged. 

I suppose it's serendipitous (or perhaps a little more divinely orchestrated) that I should be in such a lovely place in my life when I found out this news. In fact, I was on a date with Captain Amazing who happens to be a Bio Psychology major and an advocate for the power of training the mind not to focus on things that will only hurt you. "That's so crazy! It's okay though. You'll be fine." Was all I got from him. 

When I balked at that and said, "Don't you think this is a big deal? I mean, it's totally nuts!"

He said, " I don't want you to be hurt. Thinking about it will only hurt you. Let's talk about tonight." 

And that was that. 

So, a brief recap of lessons learned from my six week hiatus from this blog:

1. Don't ever give up the search for your happy place. There is balance and beauty in the world that is yours for the cultivating. 

2. Sometimes when you think it's really, really, really important to wait one full year after your divorce to date anyone a handsome philanthropist comes along and changes your mind, and that's okay. 

3. There is no telling what your ex will do, and some of it will likely piss you off or make you crazy, there's nothing we can do about that. We most certainly can, however, choose how we respond. Choosing to cultivate healthy thought patterns and avoid rumination is a good choice. 

Upcoming posts will undoubtedly cover the blissful, terrifying madness that is trying to find the balance between protecting oneself and allowing oneself to be loved post traumatizing divorce, and more details about dealing with an ex getting remarried in all its glory. 

For today, happy sabbath, and aloha. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Part Three

I know I've written before about the importance of breaking all contact with an ex if at all possible, but I have an update for you on this topic. About a month ago things with The Mr. were in a place where we weren't talking, really just because there wasn't anything left to say. All the finances are sorted, possessions divided, words spoken, papers signed. But when you have been in such an intimate place with someone closing the door completely somehow seems caustic-- even while rationally acknowledging the trauma leaving the door even slightly ajar brings.

I was driving--windows down, sun shining, so I didn't hear the phone ring the first or second time. When I checked the message it was something I would have swallowed as sweet in days gone by. The Mr. wanted to know how I was doing. He wanted to know if I was happy.

There's a voice inside me that never lies and is never wrong. When I met The Mr. that voice said, "No thank you." But I kissed him anyway--a lot. When he proposed that voice said, "You do not know this man. How can you marry someone you don't know if you can trust?" But I told the voice to be quiet or we'd never find love. When The Mr. and I would sit in a room together, 15 months into our mistake that voice would say, "He's not here in the room with you. He's already gone." I would tell the voice, "No. He's the one who loves me."

So when I heard The Mr.'s voicemail I stopped for a moment and asked the voice what she thought. Two days later she replied in the form of a text message I sent The Mr.

I got your message. Thank you for your concern. How I'm doing is information I no longer feel comfortable sharing with you. I know you feel guilty for things from our past, but that's between you and God now. I wish you the best of luck in sorting it out and sincerely hope you find peace. Please do not contact me again. 

It wasn't easy to send, but it was easier than all that work it took to smother out the voice for those two years. My mama says that you don't have room for good things in your life when you won't let go of the bad ones. Mental energy is finite, after all. Since I calmly but firmly closed the door to all that pain, beautiful things have started happening. Or perhaps the more likely truth is that beautiful things were happening all along, but in closing the door I finally was able to look up.

My life is in the process of changing in big ways this week, not the least of which is where I reside. I am moving... again. But this isn't one of those little hopping around moves I've done every six months up until now. This is a mega leap of faith move from my seemingly eternally cyclical existence betwixt a few west coast states-- to a distant tropical island. 

I've never been to Hawaii. I've never rented a car or bought a one way ticket without any idea when I'll be coming back or really any desire to find out. In nine days I start part three of my Three Part Plan to Get on With Life, and I just want to say, it's coming together shockingly well. 

I bring this up, not to rub it in your face that I'm finally getting healthy when you likely have come to this blog in a state of profound grief or concern. I bring this up because I remember vividly the days that I was incapable of believing that things could ever, ever, ever get better, and I remember the day I started listening to that voice in me that never lies and is never wrong. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Letter to Singles Ward Bishops

Photo attribution here.

I remember one Sunday I was at BYU in Provo. I was standing in some line with a few kids I had just met in my ward, pretending to be excited about the ever enticing "free food!" gimmick we Mormons are awfully fond of.  I was making chit chat with a reasonably attractive, nice young man when one of the counselors of the bishopric walked by and said, "Now remember, enjoy the food, but don't forget to look for your eternal companion!" The kid and I smiled at each other awkwardly, made some joke about how we should get married, made it through the lunch line, then never spoke again.
Elder Boyd K. Packer once taught a lesson to a group of missionaries at a zone conference. (Full account  here.) The true story goes like this: Sister Packer bakes a beautiful cake. Elder Packer asks if anyone would like a piece. An Elder volunteers. He serves the slice of cake to the Elder on a crystal plate in a dignified manner and asks for another volunteer. While the next Elder is anxiously awaiting his slice Elder Packer rips the top off the cake with his bare hand and hurls it at the unsuspecting Elder, memorably proving the point that it's not what we do but how we do it.
There seems to be a great sense of concern over my demographic in the church of 18-30 and unmarried, and rightly so. We are tragically turning away from God at an alarming rate. Somewhere along the line, however, someone decided the way to fix this issue is to get us all married off. My feeling is that this direction comes from high up in the chain. I say this because most of the "get married" talks I've sat through come across to me as inauthentic and contrived, as if they were mandated by someone in authority. Even as a divorcee of 8 months I can say without hesitation, I believe in marriage. I believe it's Godly, I believe it's necessary and I believe it would help our inactivity rates in many instances. The doctrine of marriage and I are cool, but if I get one more piece of cake thrown at me when I didn't even volunteer for the object lesson, I'm going to become a lesbian and marry a woman, just to spite you.
Speaking generally for the body of LDS young single adults today (I've attended 11 singles wards over the course of 10 years, so I feel I can do so with some degree of authority) there are a couple things you should know.

1. Most of us want to get married. It's not because of, but in spite of the pressure put on us.
From what I can gather from the myriad of "get married" comments, talks, looks, jokes and jabs, the idea that my generation would rather play video games or travel or buy something unnecessarily shiny than get married seems to inhabit the consciousness of those in leadership. This is not true. We may enjoy video games or traveling or be pursuing school or career, but this is not why we aren't married. The majority of us want to be married because for most it's a natural part of the human experience to seek companionship. Also, we know it's one of God's greatest tools for cultivating divinity in His people. If we're attending church in this day and age as full grown adults we have our hearts set on Godly things. Give us a little credit. The pressure you're adding is doing nothing for us. Between the age appropriate, God given, biological drive for sex and the nearly palpable social pressure to take the plunge, not one of us will ever benefit from your, "Cowboy up and get 'er done" rhetoric. I don't need a Sunday school lesson to remind me that I'm behind in the race to familyhood, I have Facebook. As for those of us who aren't interested in marriage, no public pep talk is going to change that, and the reasons we have are pretty much never as shallow as you seem to think. 

2. There was a caveat in that infamous Kimball quote.
It was 1976 when President Kimball said, " is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price." (Ensign, March 1977, First Presidency Message.) This got a lot of play wherein it was paraphrased as, "You can be happily married to anyone, so stop being so picky." If you read the article in its entirety, that's actually exactly the opposite of what he was saying. My generation has the internet, so we can read the full quote that talks about being willing to, "pay the price", and we are all too familiar with the price of a poorly chosen mate, which brings me to my next point. 

3. We are traumatized by divorce.
Our parents are divorced, our siblings are divorced, our friends are divorced, and some of us are divorced, so you can't tell us, "Marriage is the most beautiful, celestial, Godly blessing that can be known to man," without reviving in at least 50% of us sharp edged memories that fly in the face of that statement, even if it is true in some cases. Even if we desperately want it to be true for us.

4. You're giving us all a complex.
"Are you dating anyone? Why not? That's really something you should be thinking about," is a direct quote from my singles ward bishop's counselor in a private interview in Provo. I was 19 at the time. There are two possible reactions to this kind of intrusion in our lives. We either walk away thinking, "I hate that guy" or "He's right. What's wrong with me?" Either way the thought is most certainly not, "Oh yeah, I hadn't thought of that!"  In one of my more recent singles wards there was a girl who we called the, "27 and not married girl" because it was like her catchphrase, always worked into conversation somehow, always spoken like it was one, long, burdensome word. I don't know how things are on the male end of this, but I have extensive, first hand experience as to what this kind of overt pressure is doing to the beautiful, faithful, humble, dying of frustration single women of the church. It's making us doubt ourselves, dis ourselves and decrease our lists of marital "must haves" 'till we settle for sub par.  

5. We are isolated, lonely and insecure. 
We need the refuge of church. In America we believe in being fine. Don't believe me? Next time a cashier asks how you are, tell them the truth. Let me know how that works out for you. Church is designed to be a home away form home. Singles wards especially are designed to be families. When the three hours set apart that week for God are riddled with comments like, "Are you dating? Why not? You really should be." or, "Cowboy up and get 'er done!" or, "Make sure you've got your priorities straight, " we start thinking about our hair and stop thinking about our neighbor. It's about as helpful as a glass of water for a man who is drowning. Please, please, please, stop it. 
In keeping with Abraham Lincoln's counsel, "He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help," I have some suggestions to help this problem. Actually, President Kimball has some suggestions for you, straight from that massively misinterpreted talk from the 70s. I was pleasantly surprised to find some of the best straight shooter advice I've received regarding marriage in the text as I reviewed it tonight. It's worth the full read, but the one point I'd like to highlight is from his "never failing formula" for a happy marriage, and it's exactly what we need. Are you ready for this?

Teach us to be unselfish, to forget ourselves, and to focus on the good of the family, our ward family. 

What we, the endangered demographic have been taught is to take care of ourselves. We need to be taught to receive kindness graciously and look out for our brother. We've been conditioned to approach church as a soiree. We need to be taught to commune with God intimately for three sacred hours on Sunday and then spend our week days and nights with those who uplift us. We've been taught that we need to be sexy and/or rich if we want to be worth anything. We need to be taught how to find the beauty and value in every person we interact with at church. This does not happen when we are perpetually being counseled, "Don't forget to look for your eternal companion." 

I can personally and emphatically attest that the effect that a righteous bishop who listens can have on his congregation is profound. What if every Sunday instead of, "Get married" we heard our ward father say, "In this ward, we're a family, and in this family we don't leave anyone out." What if, instead of wondering how we look in our jeans and if he will notice, we were taught to pick up the ward list and call every name on it to make sure they'd gotten the invitation. What if we were encouraged to look at each other as sources of support and security instead of someone who will ultimately accept or reject us for the remainder of mortal existence and beyond? 
Help us. Teach us. Show us the way to break free from the vicious voices of the world who relentlessly, infectiously declare, "You are not good enough. You are not strong enough. You are alone." Show us how to love ourselves for who we are. Then, teach us to love something and someone more than we love ourselves, because I want to be someone who loves selflessly, and I want to marry someone who lives in selfless love. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

That's right. A mother-effing ninja. (Thoughts on Mormon spousal abuse.)

Photo attribution here

I've written and re-written this post several times over the course of multiple months. I sent it to a friend, had her edit it, then scrapped it again and started back at square one. I finally have settled on this approach to addressing the incredibly sensitive issue of spousal abuse within the church.

Elder Holland states, "Physical abuse is uniformly and unequivocally condemned in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If it is possible to be more condemning than that, we speak even more vigorously against all forms of sexual abuse. Today, I speak against verbal and emotional abuse of anyone against anyone... these things ought not to be." ( Tongue of AngelsApril 2007) 

This quote serves as a direct, authoritative declaration that God does indeed want us to knock it off when it comes to treating each other badly. One who has not traversed the dimly lit, maze-meets-haunted-mansion halls of an abusive relationship would likely consider this advice sufficient for those faced with serious decisions to make in this arena. If he's a jerk, he should shape up. If she's hitting you, she's out of line. Be nice. The end.  

But domestic abuse is a mother-effing ninja that specializes in making origami soup out of what once served as your framework for interpreting life. Most especially this ninja attacks concepts of what is safe and what is not, what is good and what is bad, what makes you special and what makes you terrible and how much you're worth and why. Like many aspects of the complexity that is the human experience, adding the social construct of belonging to the amazing Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints further complicates several issues relating to abuse within the family. Allow me to elaborate.

The Mental Ninja who double majored in Mormon Psyche is capable of taking the very doctrines that grant us security in this world of "shafts in the whirlwind" (Helaman 5:12) and twisting them, distorting them just enough so that they lose their structural integrity. Then he stealthily weaves them into Sunday school lessons and the subconscious minds of many members of our faith. 

When the inevitable collapse comes, he has done what ninjas do best: disappeared without a trace leaving us utterly alone. We then look around for an explanation, only to find the God that we hoped would prevent just such a tragedy doing what He does best: sticking around no matter what. This can be inexpressibly disorienting, not to mention life alteringly disheartening. This is one of many reasons some choose to turn away in the moments we most desperately need to turn toward Christ. 

Walk with me through this list of just three of many doctrines and their related harmful, unsubstantiated extrapolations that can so tragically serve as Mormon Psyche Ninja's double edged sword as he makes origami soup out of the lives of the unsuspecting faithful everywhere. (I think I like this ninja analogy a little too much.) 

God: Marriage is a commandment. It will bring you closer to me.
Ninja: If you break this commandment you will not be able to live with God again. He hates sin and will never be able to look at you the same if you leave your marriage, no matter how bad it gets.  

God: I give unto men my Priesthood. Serve one another. Love one another.
Ninja: (to men) A righteous priesthood holder doesn't leave his wife. Your relationship is the way it is because you're not fully fulfilling your God given duties as a husband.
Ninja: (to women) To be a good wife is to respect your husband's priesthood authority. He has a special connection with God that you cannot understand. To disagree or disobey your husband is to disobey God.

God: Endure to the end.
Ninja: Don't you ever give up, no matter how miserable or unhealthy. If you hold to the rod and be faithful God will make everything right in the end. Your spouse will be the person he or she was when you two fell in love once you cross over into the next life. God will change him or her to reward your good works. You just need more faith. Pray more. Read more scriptures. Fast more. Give greater fast offerings. Magnify your calling more. If you can be perfect in these things it will change the nature of your spouse and your relationship. 

See where I'm going with this? 

The thing about unhealthy relationships is that the way things are in daylight is often not the way things are behind closed doors. When everything you see looks sideways and everything you wanted and worked for is somehow upside down, how do you pull apart all the blurred and badgering voices, the opinions and interpretations and excuses and explanations to discern what is right for you in that moment of time? 

How do you know when you can rightly say, "Enough is enough" in a marriage sealed by God?

Because intimate relationships are infinitely unique and complex, I cannot answer this question for you. What I can say is that I stayed in a marriage that was detrimental to my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing for too long because I was determined not to fail God. I was certain that if I was faithful and kind and good enough that He would make it work for us. We all make choices. Sometimes we or our partners make good choices. Sometimes we make bad ones. Sometimes leaving is the right choice to make. 

In a conference address Elder Oaks, true to his nature,  directly declares, "There are many Church members who have been divorced... We know that many of you are innocent victims--members whose former spouses persistently betrayed sacred covenants or abandoned or refused to perform marriage responsibilities for an extended period. Members who have experienced such abuse have firsthand knowledge of circumstances worse than divorce. When a marriage is dead and beyond hope of resuscitation, it is needful to have a means to end it." (Divorce, April 2007)

I'm fast approaching my eight month mark since my divorce was finalized. Every day it gets a little bit clearer that God didn't want me in that marriage any more than I wanted to be in that dimly lit, maze-meets-haunted-mansion marriage. The thing I know bone deep is that God wants us to be well. Sometimes that requires us to do the hard thing, but that's different than thing that kills our souls. 

If this --should I stay or should I go?--question is the question in your heart today, this is my unsolicited advice for you. Find a quiet moment and just breathe. Let whatever is tangled up inside you float to the surface and work itself out. Whatever the next step in your path with God is, there's a place inside you that already knows the way. Staying, separating, counseling, leaving, implementing new plans, books, establishing new ground rules, changing, whatever the path is you need to take, Jesus Christ knows it. He knows the lonely and misunderstood roads best. Wherever you go from here, know that when you walk with God, you walk tall. Regardless where that road leads He will not reject you. He will always love you. That's a concept that can be foreign and untrustable in a troubled marriage. Trust it anyway. He will guide you to health, to happiness, to peace. He will guide you home. 

To share, or not to share?

Photo attribution here.

So, the other day this thing happened. I started attending Institute here, which I've really been enjoying. The first time I walked through the doors (thank goodness I was early and the class was pretty empty) this senior couple who had served in my singles ward here three years ago was setting up the class and they totally remembered me. They walked up with slightly puzzled looks on their faces and said, "Wait, didn't you get married?"

When I was in phase one I was very, very open about my matrimonial history. One, I'm an almost absurdly open person to begin with and two, the beast that is divorce had overtaken my body, mind and soul to such an extent that it really felt like I didn't have a choice. It was the only thing in my head to talk about. No matter how uncomfortable it got I just kept opening my mouth and out would topple comments like, "Oh yeah, my husband did that too," or "Yeah, well the first time I got married I wore a vintage dress, but I don't know what I'll do for wedding number two," or, "Oh my gosh, I know. Making out is my favorite. I love it, even more than sex!" As you might imagine, this lead to many uncomfortable moments in my small, young singles ward.

During my epic road trip down here which transitioned me from phase one to two in my Get On With Life plan, I pondered extensively the pros and cons of going public with the fact that I was once married. When an LDS person finds out another LDS person has been married and divorced, it changes the way the once married person is viewed; there is no way around this. Eternal marriage is such a deeply integral aspect of our faith that, especially while one is single, everything seems to be viewed through this three part lens of married, single or divorced. Once divorce is admitted everything in the life of that person assumes a new hue.

We divorcees can feel this shift, which is why so very many of us remain silent. The righteously indignatious part of me wants to buck this system, which is another reason I was so loud mouthed about my divorce in my last ward. It's kind of a shock when people first hear it, the "D" word, but my theory was that the more people I could expose to a real live divorced Mormon, especially a devout one, the more stigma would dissipate.

However, in  order to achieve this noble aspiration, one would need to take upon herself every awkward moment she could in order to break the ice, again and again and again. In truth, I'm just not strong enough for that. Also, through my deliberation on the drive I decided such an "in your face" approach is probably not the most effective anyway to change perspectives or break the stereotype of the bitter divorced lady. Better to let a person discover the elements of me as they come and allow my divorce to be just one more layer of my fairly complex life story. In the early moments it was impossible to believe, but the truth is, I'm a lot more than my two year relationship to a man with whom I no longer speak.

Having settled on a "need to know"policy for when to speak about myself,  I have also settled on the decision to anonymize the blog. You may have noticed. Many of you know who I am and mostly I advertise this blog through facebook, but we're at about 5,500 hits now and coming up as #3 in Google search for "divorced mormon blog". I'd love to see us continue to grow. I'd also love it if we could just go with my nom de plum Imogen Frowfrow (there's a funny story here, as you can imagine) as my name. Sometimes it's hard to have strangers know your story.

As for your decisions, because you will have many to make about how much to say about what and when, here's my advice (since you so clearly asked for it). When the moment is right, do not be ashamed to admit your experience. Shame and guilt are tools of the devil if they are not motivating us to change. We cannot change what has happened, and we should not allow ourselves to be shamed because of it. Hold your head high when you speak about your divorce. It (hopefully) has changed you, ultimately for the better and brought you closer to Christ. It's an experience many of us share in silence. Sometimes breaking that silence can be a powerful and right thing to do. Also, you have every right to protect yourself, to establish boundaries, to decide how much of yourself to share and how much to keep. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a clean slate, and in moments it will be right to stay quiet, omit, or even mislead. Your experience as a married person does not have to define you. There is more to you than this. God will let you know which moment is which.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pick Up Your Pen

Photo attribution here.

I remember going in to work the day after The Mr. made his official declaration that he was done. I could have called in sick, but knew that if I stayed home that day I would just lie motionless on my bed, staring into the great black abyss of my future stopping only occasionally to wail like a banshee, useless phrases like, "Why don't you love meeeeeeeeee?" I chose door number two, behind which was an incredibly challenging five year old boy with behavioral issues out the wazoo with whom I was to spend hours playing pirates.

The memory is of me sitting on the floor in his living room. It was day one of Operation Don't Die of a Broken Heart. I listlessly watched the clock and congratulated myself every time 10 minutes passed. Minutes became hours, became days, became weeks and as the months crept on I began to formulate plans. Plans to get away. If I hadn't been completely broke, with an unreliable car, a year lease I'd just signed in a place chosen due to proximity to his work, and a commitment to stay at my nanny gig through the school year, I would have been gone faster than an ice cream sundae from my fridge at that time--which is essentially faster than the speed of light. And let's be honest, if even one of the above inhibiting factors had been absent I would have high tailed it to my beloved California directly following his "I don't"s.

To be brief regarding my love affair with California, it began in February of 2010. Knowing only that I had had quite enough of BYU for the time being and that I loved Sassy McLadyBoots, my friend who so brilliantly decided we should room together in our adorable apartment mere miles from the ocean, I embarked upon the 17 hour journey and immediately was smitten. When The Mr. and I married we moved up the road to Long Beach and lived in what I can only assume will always be my favorite apartment. Hardwood floors, big windows, Spanish style building built in the 1920s, crystal doorknobs, all just blocks from the beach and 1/2 an hour from anything we could ever wish for. Anything, that is, besides the broken bits of our dysfunctional families.

This fact was more than awesome for me, but as time went on The Mr. became more adamant that we return to his comfort zone. Under duress I complied, which ultimately left me where this entry began; broker than broke, utterly defeated, a soulless shadow of my funky, artful self and dying to get away. Back to the sunshine. Back to the ocean. Back to the place where I didn't spend my time wondering how I could make things even slightly less hellacious, but still not break a covenant.

Myself at 19 years old would have jumped ship and made the move on day one, but Lindsay of today has jumped ship enough times to know that a sinking ship is still drier than the ocean and strategy is far more likely to begat success. I saved my pennies, paid off the debts, worked my ass off and waited for the minutes, hours, weeks and months to pass. Get up. Go to work. Come home. Eat mind numbing food. Sleep. Repeat.

With the exception of a few beautiful souls sent to me from God, it was not a happy time. But it served its purpose because today, my friends, today I write to you from the living room of Sassy McLadyBoots herself where I currently reside. The sun is shining, the pool is clear and inviting, the streets are familiar, and the cells in my body feel like they're making that noise that Wally makes when he charges up in that weird movie about how technology makes us obease... you know the noise I mean?... I'm a nanny. Don't judge me.

From this glorious new place of rebirth, these are the things I have to tell far.

1. Getting "away from it all" and "following your heart/dreams/passions/something shiny" are beautiful, important concepts imbedded deep in the human psyche for survival and while the grass may be greener here--or really there are just more palm trees which totally trumps grass anyway-- my second day here I nearly had a panic attack and the third day I cried like a baby and for twenty minutes thought The Mr. was my soul mate.

2. Seasonal Affective Depression is real, and one should never forcefully remove another from her ideal climate.

3. I spent the week long road trip down here and the last three days shopping in thrift stores with awesome friends and sewing my acquired purchases into fabulousness. This only solidifies the lesson God has been trying to teach me through the incredibly painful medium of a failed marriage that He made His kids the way He did on purpose. The things I want and like, the things that make me laugh or sneeze or nauseous are essential characteristics of His creation. Minimizing, ignoring or attempting to remove these seemingly insignificant or incidental elements is insulting to Him and only brings me down. Others who minimize or attempt to eradicate these elements also offend God. I'm His piece of art. It's no one's place to shape me but His.

4. When the moments come that bring up old (or perhaps very recent) stuff, that's okay. Here's what you do about that; you notice it, you take a deep breath, and you let it go. My mama taught me that, and you know what? She's right.

5. While not every Devout Yet Divorced Mormon can pack up and haul herself off to a sunnier destination-- I do recognize the intensely blessed position I am currently in-- I whole heartedly believe there is always, always, always a way to change things for the better. Always.

So keep your head up. Find what it is you look forward to and walk towards that, big or small. Be especially forgiving, loving, kind and generous to yourself during this time. Pick up your pen and start filling the pages. You are the hero of this story.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

I don't mean to seem overly inquisitive, but are you alive?

Photo attribution here.

If that is what you have been thinking in regards to where the crap I have been for the last bit, I am here to tell you, I am, in fact, alive. Quite alive, actually. And well. Thanks for asking. Here's a glimpse at my to do list for the last and upcoming week.

1. Sort, price and sell off every one of my adorable possessions but my laptop, clothes and guitar.
2. Plan an epic road trip that includes (so far): an elephant, Shakespeare, a teepee, wellsprings rumored to hold nigh unto magical healing properties, two beach towns, one of which is Santa Cruz which is on my bucket list, a real live California Mission (I've never seen one), a visit with a life long besty and her baby boy, all in the company of Mr. Fabulous, another life long besty.
3. Creating a new wardrobe that consists of 25 summer dresses and one light weight raincoat.
4. Securing employment in California.
5. Securing hosing in Hawaii.
6. Writing a lesson for Relief Society about how we cannot fail if we do what God asks. (It's not as bad as the time I had to teach a lesson called, "Sacred Family Relationships" on Mother's Day, but the lesson has its inherent challenges.)
7. Rehoming my Siamese. (Sniff! Sniff!)
8. Celebrating a bazillion birthdays, all of which require gifts.
9. Getting a blog called Cookies and Punch (which you will love) up and running with Lady Chief Editor Pants.
10. Crafting goodbye gifts for the families I work for.

Why, you ask, are you doing all these awesome and crazy making things?
To which I am happy to respond, Oh. Because I'm moving, first to Southern California for the summer, then to Hawaii in the fall. See, I'll be finishing up my education in massage therapy and then pursuing my BA in Art Education, proving to the world once and for all that you can have your cake and eat it too. Because really, who's going to get cake and not eat it? Not this girl, no sir.


Monday, May 27, 2013

The hardest part is over.

Photo attribution here.

Six months ago today I came home from work to a cold, empty, dark apartment where everything I had left that morning was in the exact same place that I'd left it. The stillness that had at first comforted me because of its stark contrast to the chaos that had overtaken my married life was then a resounding, deafening hollowness. Sitting at that silent kitchen table I tore open the notice from the courthouse. I stared at it for a few full minutes. Final. Eight short days after filing the paperwork my divorce was final. My face was like a garden hose with a few pinholes in it during those months. I hardly noticed when the tears were streaming out anymore. Two small, slow, uneven streams raced down my cheeks once again to see who could slip and splat down onto my chest first. I stood outside myself for a time and took a mental snap shot of that moment, then sighed and went straight to bed.

Those days I was like someone on the brink of dying of thirst who had fashioned herself a contraption of leaves to collect enough rain water to take a gulp, distancing herself from moment at a time, one drop at a time, one gulp at a time. I didn't think I had it in me. If there had been an escape button I would have hit it. I would have cried "uncle", called in sick, lied my way out of it, quit, gotten a doctor's note, anything I could think of I would have done in an effort to excuse myself from the living hell that was collecting moments to test the hypothesis that "time heals all wounds". But that's the thing about healing up from tragedy. We can't go over it, we can't go under it, we can't go around it, we have to go through it.

To all those who are going through their own personal "it"s, know this: I wouldn't trade beautiful little ordinary old today for any given day of my married life. It does get better, drop by drop by drop.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I like banjos.

Photo attribution here.

Something magic started happening recently. I was sitting around by myself one day, as I most often am, thinking, as is always the case. A happiness monster was sitting in my heart, chewing her happiness gum. She slowly blew a big fat bubble of joy and it rose up in front of me, getting bigger and bigger until it stood in front of me, equally as tall and twice as wide as me. The bubble of joy then burst and covered me entirely in a sort of a sticky bliss, as sweet as pie and twice as enjoyable.

That's the best I've got for describing what life's been like lately. Highlights from today so far: 

Sleeping in (that would be enough, but the list goes on!)

Some yoga and meditation in the morning and a breakfast of homemade carrot ginger juice.

A trip to the farmer's market where I purchased myself fava beans, sugar snap peas, a small bunch of asparagus, the most sumptuous salmon you will ever lay eyes on and a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, just for me, not to mention the most adorable jar of honey for my boss's birthday on Monday.

A trip to Target where a very cute employee (bearded, of course) offered to help me discern the price of my new adorable Important Things folder I've purchased in preparation for my move to Hawaii.

A delicious lunch of asparagus grilled with apples, pine nut couscous, water with mint leaves and the salmon from the market. It was every bit as delicious as anticipated. 

(This one is part of the meal, but was so freaking delicious that it gets its own bullet point.) Banana chocolate swirl Talenti gelato for dessert. I am pretty sure that half pint I just consumed was better than most of the sex I've had. All this to a backdrop of William Elliott Whitmore and various musicians provided by Pandora, all quite adept with a banjo and/or harmonica. I may or may not have done a hillbilly, knee kicking dance while I was grilling my apples and asparagus.

This is kind of a new thing for me-- being able to enjoy myself. At least it was submerged for quite some time in my recent past. The way it all started was that I began letting myself dream again. 

At first I just had this assumption that The Mr. and I would have the same dreams. A few love drunk conversations we'd had while cuddled up and cozy between kisses before he left on his mission had sprouted within me the idea that we wanted the same things. Part of The Mr.'s charm is his odd and fragmented way of speaking, especially in his letters. While they were chalk full of phrases like, "You are the apple of my eye and the reason some people think I'm asthmatic," they were essentially void of much that I could build on. So, being the romantic, creative, hopeful, optimistic girl I am, I started building ideas and expectations all on my own. I'm a dreamer, a planner, a romantic and an adventurer. Somewhere along the line between, "I met this cute bearded guy," and, "He says he doesn't want to be married anymore," I came to the heartbreaking realization that absolutely none of what we wanted out of life was the same. My attempt at resolving this during those years sandwiched between the aforementioned statements was to start tossing cargo out of the sinking ship. I didn't really need  to travel, did I? Maybe it was okay for me to get pregnant before I was done with school. Who really needs a bachelors degree? Or a husband who understands her sense of style, her jokes or her intense devotion to all things retro?

I often use the term, "ghost of myself," when I describe me at that time. It's the most accurate description I've got. Now, there's got to be some level of compromise in marriage. Two separate beings becoming one is a process, to be sure...but how far is too far?

Today the pendulum has swung as far back into Frowfrow Land as it can possibly go, and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. Somewhere between today and the moments I experienced in September of 2012 there is a happy medium that I hope to find again someday, but today I want to say this. I believe it is the nature of certain individuals to give too much. It's a hard thing to be in these shoes, because we live in a religious culture that champions charity, sacrifice, service, selflessness, submission, obedience and devotion. I believe in cultivating these virtues, but today I need to say, God wants us to stand up for ourselves as well. He wants us to be treated well. He wants us to be healthy. He wants us to be kind and loving and helpful, and He wants us to be unrelenting in our stance that we are worth it too. What we want, need, love, learn and laugh at is just as important as the next guy. We don't have to be second citizens to be in God's good graces. There is a balance there, and God wants us to find it. Too far to the selfish side is no worse than too far to the giving side. God wants His babies souls intact. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Photo attribution here

I have long been prone to bouts of melancholy. When you deal with depression people like to give you to do lists and things to try, or maybe you make the lists yourself. Being depressed is miserable, so I understand the inclination, but this pattern inevitably leads me to a place where I personify a defeated lump of guilt. I am left void of inertia and worse off knowing what I should be doing and still somehow am not. More often than not I spend my days swimming through a sea of tentative anxiety while making efforts to appear as though I am just another one of the kids with nothing more to stress about than my phone bill. This has been life so long for me I cannot discern when it first began. However, despite this component of my existence and the challenges it presents, I do pass through times of great happiness. Today I'd like to briefly describe one for you. Once upon a time I was fresh out of high school... 

Eighteen is a beautiful age. I was off on my first adventure as a newly christened adult at Southern Oregon University. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or really much of anything about what I liked or needed or wanted or didn't want, but I didn't care. I spent my hours meandering along the streets of the charming town of Ashland, Oregon relishing in the uniqueness of the cranberry hazelnut bread I'd discovered at the local bakery, or the sun soaked beauty of Lithia Park, complete with monologuing thespians and dread locked nomads who only ate organic. I had no money, I had no car, I had no idea what life would bring, but I had a profound appreciation for the freckles God put on the skins of apples just for me. Despite the troubled waters running deep within, there remained in me a relentless wellspring of hope. 

There are times in my world of slow moving blues and greens like that year in Ashland that afford me a brand of solace and joy I believe to be uniquely mine. I cannot say I leave the sea of overwhelming emotions completely, but I have intense moments of illumination and peace, melancholy notwithstanding. In my marriage, however, that light nearly died in me. So desperate for the healing affection that I was sure The Mr. possessed in some hidden corner of his ever increasingly distant soul, I offered him piece after piece after piece of me as a sacrifice. Without him asking I would hand him this peace offering, praying that there could be some way that we could be compatible, that he could love the me I was killing off in the effort to save us.

There's a day that stands in my memory as the day of last date we attempted. Dates were always hard for us. Turns out it takes more than chemistry to enjoy an afternoon together... or evening... or dinner at home... or a birthday. He was doing some work on my car before we headed out and I'd slipped away  to the local sandwich shop. I was enjoying a lemonade and the sunlight as it shimmered through some orangey red leaves canopying my table. Somewhere in that stolen hour the realization shimmered down upon me that for the first time in quite a long time I felt just the slightest bit like myself. For long stretches of our marriage I could not see the light in the trees. Beautiful blossoming Oregon unfolding herself just for me that spring was masked in kind of a hazy smog of confusion and panic. It wasn't that I didn't want to see it. You have to believe me that it wasn't for lack of trying. More than anything I wanted things--every day things, work things, marriage things, family things--to be normal. Healthy. Just to be okay... but they weren't. That day late in September I caught a glimpse of the happiness I once could conjure up within myself, even in times of distress. It giggled up from some unknown spot in my soul, fluttered about my face, close enough to see but just out of reach, and then disappeared into the leaves. The sun began setting and the Mr. and I headed off into what would be one of the more heartbreaking days of my life. It was ending. I could no longer deny that it was ending. 

That little glimmer of happiness went to some mysterious land to hibernate, not to be disturbed through the darkest months of winter. As it did I was swallowed up in the black abyss of my existence for the next several months. There's a reason this blog didn't start in November 2012. In those early months I retreated into the darkest, most terrifyingly lonely places I hope to never see in me again. In a stupor of heartache I spent my days dragging my body from one obligation to another hoping time was passing, but too discouraged, disoriented and afraid to count days or weeks. I was half drowning in my own personal rivers of sorrow, neither able to succumb nor escape.

This is depression. This was my reality. 

The writing I do is primarily what I call "vomit up your toenails" writing. I sit down and spew out whatever thoughts have been chasing each other around my brain all day in an attempt to get some peace. As I write this post I've been asking myself what the value in it is. Doesn't the world have enough stories of soul slaughtering blackness? You will only bring people down, telling them about those days, I think to myself. But I am choosing to record this despite those thoughts. I record this for you and for me. 

While I never want to relive those days, I also don't want to forget them because the contrast they strike is so stark to the way I feel today. In those dark moments the voice inside us says, "It will always be this way. No one understands you. There is no hope." But the voice inside us is a liar sometimes. I record the pain in its blackness so that no one has to feel alone in it like I did. Some posts I write here scrape the bottom of the barrel of my capacity for levity, but today it feels right to make plain that my marriage and my divorce have sent me unwillingly through a refining process where I felt turned utterly to ash; a shadow of myself floating away and disappearing into the wind. Just as involuntary as that experience was, a new wave is crashing. It's washing away the charred remainders of my miserable failure, satiating the parched and barren wasteland of my uninhabited soul, and reviving all that's best in me, teaching me something surprisingly beautiful and comforting. 

In those incomprehensible, disorienting moments where life went for the knockout, I lost hold of what I  thought was making me good. For a season I couldn't achieve the way I used to. I spent inordinate amounts of time sleeping, crying, lying around, begrudging, loathing, sobbing, swearing, wallowing and letting go of hope. I lost the ability to prove my worth through works, only to discover when the disillusioning fog dispersed that the goodness remains. Faith without works is dead, we are told, but like a submerged buoy this goodness, with a force outside my active will, burst through the surface of my rivers of sorrow. I didn't pray it that way, I didn't exercise it into existence, I didn't bake someone a pie or ask anyone their forgiveness. Having exhausted every other option I could think of, I got so sick of myself that I made a search of the house for all the shards of my broken heart. I packed them up and I took them to my bishop. I showed him the mess I'd made and I cried and cried, not knowing what I wanted him to do about it. That beautifully imperfect man of God smiled at me and put into words the things God had been trying to tell me during all the gnashing of teeth. Though these aren't the words he used, that day my bishop taught me this truth.

That goodness, the light, the hope and the very best essence of ourselves isn't something we can make appear or force into existence. The goodness burns brighter in and after the fire. It is driven relentlessly upward to float on in the river of life past the season of sorrow to show us that life does go on, even when we can't contribute. There is no mistake we can make, no covenant we can break, no sorrow or sadness or circumstance of life that could ever make us less to our God. Through the smog, the fear, the dwindling faith and the knockouts He sees our best selves and stands anxiously awaiting the moment we are ready to embrace the glimmer of hope once more. Sometimes that wait is a long one, but He doesn't tire of it. He stands close saying, "Take all the time you need. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere and neither is my love." They say if you're not paddling forward, your floating backward, but from this moment in time all I can see is that no matter where I am in this ever changing, exquisitely beautiful river of life my God is there with me, and today that matters more. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Somebody Looks Fabulous

Yesterday was my friend's birthday. Over the course of my early healing I have had the occasional invitation to some sort of activity that the general public considers fun, but when a chronically depressed person is also in the throws of mega grieving, social interactions can become somewhat ridiculous. The brilliant blog Hyperbole and a Half describes the experience of trying to hang out with people unaffected by such tragedy perfectly with this cartoon.

I could no longer rely on genuine emotion to generate facial expressions, and when you 
have to spend every social interaction consciously manipulating your face into 
shapes that are only approximately the right ones, alienating people is inevitable.

Because of exactly too many of the experience described above I generally find a way to eschew social interactions that require any form of genuine positive emotion displayed on my behalf. It's really best for everyone. But it was Mr. Postman's  birthday, and I love Mr. Postman. He's the husband of the girl I spent my first magic summer with, swimming endless hours in The Padre's pool, cruising around my small home town in her mama's Astro, listening to mix tapes of Weezer and The Weakerthans, sewing, painting and thrifting with the occasional round of laser tag. Her baby and I share a middle name, and this is not happenstance. Furthermore, for a reason inexplicable to me, people are always bailing on them. I couldn't flake on Mr. and Mrs. Postman. I just couldn't. 

And still, the morning of the party I woke up already inventing ways I could excuse myself from this terribly intimidating thing of going out to enjoy myself with people I love. "Maybe I could offer to watch her kids for her. That would still be nice and I wouldn't necessarily have to do any smiling... or I could just tell her I'm having a panic attack, which really isn't far from the truth. Alright. I'll simply explain that the idea of meeting a few friends for dinner and drinks is the most fear inducing concept known to my brain right now. She'll understand that. No problem. Where's my phone. I'll send her a text..."

But a text had already come. "Lady Lame Pants just canceled on us. Looks like it'll just be us 5." It's just like Lady Lame Pants to take my out off the table. Okay. I'll do it, I thought. I'll do it for Mr. Postman. 

I spent my getting ready time practicing my faces that I thought might be expected of me and doing the usual cavity search of my brain for anything I might say about myself other than, "I'm a divorced cat lady, nice to meet you." I finished tying my bandana, Rosie the Riveter style, and buttoned up the new blue polkadot shirt. Red lipstick. Last bobby pins. Deep breath. Practice smile. Well, the eyes are still stuck in sad land, but I've made a valiant effort. And out the door I went. 

The night progressed pleasantly. The practiced smiles seemed to be enough to squeak through the dinner conversation, and I lasted a full six minutes before letting some comment about my divorce slip out; possibly a new personal best. I wouldn't call it fun... what I was doing... but it was admittedly much less terrifying than I'd imagined going out into the world of the living would be. 

With dinner done we headed over to a trendy Barcade down the street. Now, a word about bars. Admittedly I am currently in the worst place to defend myself from titles like "stick in the mud", but the truth is,  I haven't really been interested in hitting a bar since I was about 21 and one day old. The thrill of surrounding myself with inebriated individuals was short lived, but tonight was Mr. Postman's birthday, so with that same sticky smile I diligently took my Shirley Temple to a Pac Man machine. The first few rounds I spent the minutes pondering the existential crisis of a society deriving joy from a deranged yellow dot chomping at other less deranged looking, smaller dots, then ultimately (in my case rather quickly) being overtaken by cartoon ghosts and dying a pseudo death, all in an attempt to get your money. Other people seemed happy though, so I mirrored that whenever it seemed like someone in our group was watching. But then something started to happen. Mr. and Mrs. Postman were playing a round of Dance Dance revolution and there was something so endearing about the way they were jumping and spinning in unison with such focus. It made me smile. A real live, from the inside smile. 

Photo attribution here.

When the barcade had served its purpose we hit the street once more to take our chances with another bar. Russian roulette lead us to a magical land where the people were smiling, the bar top was an aquarium, and the entertainment was several gentlemen in heels higher than Bob Marley and enough glitter to outfit an entire cheer squad. Yes, we'd stumbled (some of the group more literally than others) into my very first gay bar with a drag show. 

Now, a small confession here. The first boy I ever fell in love with is queerer than a two dollar bill (and still my favorite), and both he and The Mr. grow a beard in three days that could punch your dad's best beard in the face. The Mr. also rides a Harley almost exclusively. I guess you could describe my ideal man as kind of a metrosexual lumberjack, and lately I've been severely lacking in the metrosexual (or just plain homosexual) companionship department. Imagine my delight, then, as the following conversation unfolded. 

Sitting at the bar, inconspicuously sipping at my water, a tall, slender man approached me, and in a tone not unlike Jack from Will and Grace said, "So, my friend over there (who was bearded, for the record) and I are gay, and we just wanted to tell you, you are FABULOUS. We love you. We love your hair, we love your outfit, we love your lipstick. We think you are beautiful! Your whole look! You are like something off the silver screen, a 40s Starlette! We just can't get enough of you, and we thought you should know."

Now, spending time with such beautiful people as Mr. and Mrs. Postman and company, watching a fully grown black man shake his money maker in a hot pink mini and enjoying the magical experience of tropical fish swimming beneath my fingertips were all elements pushing me closer and closer to an authentic experience of happiness, but this sassy, happy, lisping doll of a man loving me up like he'd just rediscovered his favorite teddy bear was what finally put me over the edge. An authentic smile bubbled up from the belly of my sorrow and unforgivingly slapped itself across my face, bringing with it several traces of the girl I once was. The girl that laughs and smiles, sometimes for no reason, and gets out of bed in the morning without having to slay the demons of panic and despair on her way to the shower. The girl that gets pleasure out of the way sunlight looks as it filters through leaves in the afternoon, and repeating the word "elongated" in her mind over and over when she's otherwise unoccupied. The girl who can be happy.

Photo attribution here.

I made a kind of involuntary squeal noise of joy and hugged this man I'd never met. He gave me the biggest, fattest kiss, right in my ear, and disappeared into the night, leaving me glowing with a full heart, good company and the slightest recollection of what it's like to be me. 

I'm happy to say, this magical moment seems to have cracked open my crusty exterior just enough to let in some sunshine and boost me up to a place where I feel fairly prepared to get my "six months divorced" gold star and enter a new phase of healing where things are a fair bit lighter, freer, less tormented and (dare I say it?) hopeful. Now, I'm not recommending you find yourself a gay bar and wait for someone not attracted to you to hit on you, but in this documenting of my journey through the unknowable path of Mormon divorce recovery I will venture to suggest that moments of healing may come in unexpected packages, at moments you don't feel ready for them, while you're doing what you do out of love.