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. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A beautiful little video.

I've been working on some posts about such exciting topics as: loneliness, spousal abuse in the church,  the challenges of post marital abstinence and forgiveness, none of which are ready for you yet. However, it has been a week and I like to keep in touch, so today's post is this.

I  discovered this lovely little gem of a video, and now you have too. It gives me courage, hope and inspiration. #itsokaytobealone

Stay tuned. Posts of greater sustenance in progress.