Saturday, November 15, 2014

She Ain't Heavy, She's My Brother

Photo attribution here

Two weeks ago I was sitting in sacrament meeting, sketching, minding my own business when God asked a favor of me. In a very polite, yet insistent way He said, "Will you please go out yourself as a divorcee by bearing your testimony in front of your entire ward?"

I have made a lot of progress in being open about my relationship history. All my close friends know and I discuss relevant details when they come up, but any time I'd considered sharing the facts in one of my Sunday School lessons, I had always gotten the feeling that I would be doing myself more harm than good. Then, pretty unexpectedly, there I was--sitting in the congregation of my BYU--Hawaii ward with my hands shaking so harshly that I had to stop sketching. That's how I know, by the way. That's how I know He wants me to get up and say something--jitters in my belly and my limbs. Makes for kind of a funny moment for me, but who am I to complain about the way God chooses to speak to me. I asked probably three times, "God, are you sure?" And He was.

So, I did it. I wasn't very happy about it, but I did do it. At the time I thought it must be for the sake of someone in the congregation. I thought it must be pretty important if God was going to go to all the trouble of outing me for it. Maybe there was someone out there who it helped, but now I am not sure.

I have one real guy friend here. He's a musician, a thinker, a talker and a tender lad of twenty-two. We are perfectly content to plant ourselves somewhere on campus and talk each other's ears off until security finds us and reminds us that it's well after midnight curfew and we need to be on our way. A couple nights ago we were engrossed in just such a conversation. I was explaining to him about my guts and how deep down inside them I feel like being transparent about the things I deal with (my divorce is just a drop in the bucket of a dysfunctional family) would be an unbearable burden and nuisance to anyone I opened my mouth to. "So you feel like you're inflicting yourself on the people around you?" he asked. And I had to admit--yeah, I really do. And it occurred to me in that moment that that mentality is at the heart of my deep seeded loneliness. I feel so alone often in my life. I feel misunderstood and undervalued and mostly I feel like all that I have gone through and am going through is just too much for any acquaintance to take in, so I don't show it. And this is what my friend, we'll call him Brown Pants, has to say about that.

"Well, that's a load of shit." Which was followed by, "Sharing experiences from your life with your friends makes the relationship better, not worse. I can't fix it and I can't completely understand the experience, but I can empathize with you. It's good to know--the things you go through. It helps me understand you."

I went on to tell him about how I had already burdened him enough with stories about my life (my divorce, depression, family problems etc.) and how everything I disclose is so heavy and I don't want people to think I am just drama, but also how it's not fair because this is just the hand I was dealt and I can't do anything about that and I try so hard to be healthy and happy, functional and progressing but no matter what I do I will always be divorced and that separates me from the rest of the crowd and makes me a heavy load to bear as a friend so I need to compensate for all the issues I have by being an especially excellent friend and... (Yeah, it all came out as a rapid fire run on sentence, just like that, but it ended with...) Don't you feel burdened by all that I tell you about my life? It's just so heavy.

To which he responded with a very simple but sincere, "Not really, no."

If the atrocity that was my marriage had continued the other night would have been my four year wedding anniversary. My aunt just got diagnosed with an especially aggressive form of cancer and my mom was recently served divorce papers, so I was a little emotional. I called Sassy McLadyBoots, and like the rockstar best friend she is, she snatched me up and fed me gelato 'till I felt better, but there was something in that exchange that was, like the Brown Pants moment, surprising to me. I've always considered myself a particularly socially savvy person. Not that I am super popular or do any kind of networking, but that I understand people. I am absurdly empathetic and have always been able to pick up on the moods of others. So the other night at Sassy McLadyBoots' I was perceiving that it was getting later and she wanted me to go home. I'd been venting at her, so I was sure that she had had enough of my emotionally heavy banter and said told her I would start heading home. She looked at me, totally confused and said, "Why? I thought we were having fun."

When you have been hurt by someone, I mean really, intentionally hurt by another human being, especially if it goes on for long, it alters the way you perceive yourself. I consider myself very healed at this point in my recovery. I have done the work, seen and paid my shrink, written my blog, talked it out, and moved on in my life. But here we see it clearly--my misinterpretations, the way my views of life have been skewed by destructive influences remain.

I think God wanted me to let other people see this horrifying thing that's been lurking in the depths of my belly, riding my shoulder, whispering in my ear, "Fake. Liar. Burden. Worthless. You have no right to ask for help." He wanted them to see it so that when I watched their faces for the shock, disgust, repulsion and pity I would see, it's not an ugly thing at all. It just is, like a red sweater or a tuna sandwich. It's one of the many building blocks that make up me. To most it's largely insignificant to their daily lives. To those who care it's a way to understand me, relate to me and hold a space of love and acceptance.

Realizing these things is a strange mixture of painful and alleviating. I am more broken than I thought, but I am also a lot more whole. I'm a lot more lovable, more acceptable and valuable than I had apparently thought. So goes the journey of divorce recovery. Two steps forward, one step back--but we keep walking.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sneaker Waves

One time, I got hit by a car.

It was over a decade ago now, so it's nothing for you to worry about. It was really pretty minor actually, albeit somewhat traumatic for me. I had just stepped off the bus and was on my cell phone with a friend, walking home after class. It was evening and chilly and wet in the early Northwest springtime. I came to a four way stop and, since I had the right of way, proceeded to cross at the crosswalk. A Bronco came directly across from me and maybe tapped his breaks, but rolled right through. I put my hands out in front of me, instinctively. The phone flew out of my hand and a slid back on the pavement on my stomach. The grand total of my physical injuries amounted to a sprained ankle, but then there's the part you can't see.

I didn't have (or really need) a car at that time. I walked everywhere I went. I didn't mind the adventure of public transportation, but after that accident I had a problem. Every time I heard an engine rev the way that Bronco's engine revved just before he drove into me I panicked. I'd be walking roadside to get to work and big trucks would roar past and I would feel my hands shake for a minute or two. An SUV across the parking lot would be accelerating to the ridiculous pace of 2 miles per hour and I would run for my life to the nearest curb. The response was not a logical one and the humor in it was too much for my friends and family. They couldn't understand it. I couldn't really be mad, because I couldn't understand it either. All I knew is that's how I felt.

That last post I wrote was a total downer. If you're here, you are familiar with the days that make you feel that way. I've been meaning to write a follow up post to it for some time now so you know that I don't feel that way indefinitely every day. It's a combination of school, a school newspaper I started and the fact that I am really in a new phase of my life at this point that has made this post so slow in coming, but I just wanted to take a moment today to talk about the moments like the one that caused me to write that last post.

It's probably only about every three months now, but there will sometimes be a night where I somehow work myself into a spin about my marriage. Instead of the sleep I so desperately need I find self remembering, reinterpreting, reliving the moments that once made up my life. I told Sassy McLadyBoots about this one morning when she picked me up and I was in a total grief hangover. She didn't understand. That time seemed so long ago to her that the idea that I could still be reeling in it from time to time just could not compute. I called my sister in law who has been in these shoes and she explained. When we've been through trauma our brain has to sort out the things that don't make sense. It takes time. It will get better. In the mean time, don't let the sneaker waves get you down.

That last post found its genesis in a link on Facebook. A good friend of mine had posted an adorable link of Dorris Day singing it and that was it. I was instantly lying on that sterile hospital bed, paralyzed with fear while simultaneously overwhelmingly aware that I had to get out of there. That memory is a strong one and it took me a little by surprise. I spent that night writing a post about it to process how I felt, and then I let it go.

In our recovery process we will all have moments like that one. They are usually unexpected and can be triggered by the things that seem the most insignificant to those around us. Others may not understand. They may think we are being too self pitying or living in the past, but after I was hit by that car, when I heard an engine rev I jumped before I thought about jumping. We have emotional responses to the trauma we've lived through. We don't have to be victimized by them. We don't have to dwell in them longer than the time it takes to fully process them, but we will experience them from time to time, and that's ok.

Life on the island is so beautifully balanced. It's incredible to me the difference in my soul from almost exactly two years ago. I still feel sorrow, yes, but today I know what to do with it. I know that it's not a permanent part of my identity, and I know that it will pass. I know that feeling it is normal and that I am entitled to choose my own way through. I know that I am strong, that I will make it, and that with God I can do hard things. When the pain comes, just remember--even if no one else seems to understand the why, even if you feel like it will never stop being there, even if, in that moment, you feel like it can't possibly get better--it does get better. You've just got to keep your face turned to God and your feet on the path of faith.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Failing Marriage

Photo attribution here.
I was only eight weeks pregnant. It was almost as soon as I knew that I also knew there were complications with the pregnancy. Spotting. Slow heart beat. Bed rest. I can't blame the baby for not sticking around. I wouldn't have. No one deserves that kind of home life. I was lying to myself about as hard as I could, but all that the stress I carried in my body was absolutely unbearable, even for me, a 27 year old woman. That's no place to keep a baby.

Before it all ended there was a night where I started bleeding. I called the emergency medical line phone number they had given me when it was confirmed that I was with child. The friendly male nurse on the other end recommended I head to the emergency room, so I did.

The Mr. came too... at least his body was there. He was playing a game where he was acting as happy as he could about the whole pregnancy thing, despite the fact that he had told me moments before I showed him the plus signs (three, just to make absolutely sure) that he was essentially on his way out of the marriage. Let it be a testament to the power of stress on a human brain that I somehow avoided allowing what he had told me before the big reveal to even compute. I couldn't believe that he would be leaving. I literally would not let myself. It's a defense mechanism used in the worst of times by the most desperate people.

When we got to the hospital, everything happened very slowly--not like a slow motion sequence of something significant-- I mean really, actually slowly. It was the middle of the night so it took hours to even get an ultrasound tech to show up. While we waited The Mr. fidget and played with the ER room equipment like a 12 year old boy despite my stress laced pleadings for him not to touch anything. When the ultrasound tech finally arrived it took an incredibly uncomfortable extended period of time with an instrument inserted in me for him to ascertain with extremely shaky hands, that the heart beat was slow and I should go home. Nothing we could do but wait.

That night I spent in the hospital I was racking every crevice of my brain to find some method of comforting myself. Ideally in this situation, of course, a woman would feel secure enough knowing her partner was there, but regardless of how hard I suppressed the knowledge that The Mr. was on his way out, my body still knew and would not allow me to relax. I suppose if a partner isn't available for emotional support then a girl might think back on her childhood--tender moments with caring parents, but either my childhood or my memory failed me that night. I could find nothing to grasp in an attempt to cling to hope and stability in the eye of the storm of the demise of my marriage--until, I remembered.

I was in my third transfer of my mission. I was with my follow-up trainer that I always called my fairy godmother. She had taken my by the hand and lead me into the mystical world of the terrifying and soul expanding life of an LDS missionary. After two transfers of her holding my hand and walking me through, I was getting transferred--to Kansas. Away from the Visitor's Center where I knew and loved 15 other sisters. Away from the house we all lived in together-- sharing stories, giant vats of lasagna and clothes. Away from the spiritual powerhouses I had come to know and love and the streets I recognized, I was being sent to an area far away with a Sister I didn't know to ride a bike in a skirt in a college town and talk to everyone about Jesus.

I cried.

I didn't just cry, I cried my eyeballs right out of their sockets. The newly formed friendships I had made there in those short months were and are life-alteringly important to me and in that moment I felt like I was leaving them behind forever. Crying like this is not uncommon for me, but crying like this in the presence of another person, for me, is almost unheard of.

My fairy godmother companion-- born and raised in Utah, runner of marathons, setter of goals, maker of plans, product of a stable home--knew what to do. You do what any good mother does when her baby cries. You sing to her.

So as I laid there and sobbed my little shortsighted eyes out in my twin sized missionary bed, this Sister, with no concern of her image or the awkwardness I felt playing the role of a child so aptly, sang me the song Que Sera Sera.

Que sera sera 
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera sera
What will be will be

I think it was the most motherly thing that ever happened to me. It must have been, because in that dismal moment where my marriage, my life and the life of my unborn, unplanned, unprotectable child hung in the balance, that is the memory I finally found to cling to. My most salient memory of that night in the hospital is lying on a sterile bed with an IV in my arm, conscientiously monitoring my breathing in an absolutely futile attempt to abate my stress, The Mr. in my peripheral, and I'm singing myself that song.

Que sera sera
Whatever will be will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera sera

Two nights ago I had the experience once again of sharing my marital history with a friend who had not previously been aware of it. This is a lot more common for me these days. I find sharing the story lightens the burden of carrying it for me, and so I do--much more often. The question came, of course, as it always does, "What happened?" And I had that moment again where I felt a need to justify myself. I wished again for a way to encapsulate the bitter essence of that era into an easily distributable sentence, so that everyone could have a small taste of what that time was like and no one could hold my decisions and actions against me.

But there is no easy explanation. It just was.

It was horrible.
It was traumatic.
It was emotionally scarring.
It was more painful than anything I had previously fathomed possible.

But he didn't hit me.
He didn't cheat on me.
He didn't turn to pot or porn or develop a sudden affection for Neil Patrick Harris.
He just wasn't kind, and the story above is a 6 hour glimpse into the two years that caused me to draw such a conclusion.

I'm sharing this story for two reasons.
1. I feel a need to reiterate that it is acceptable, justifiable and important to place a premium on personal wellbeing. If you have a story like the one I just told, you are entitled to seek and find higher, safer ground.
2. If you know someone who has been through it, consider the possibilities of the vast realm of experience he or she may have endured before "calling it quits". There is more than one way to hurt a person. There is more than one way to die.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Another Friend to Talk to

I suppose there are a few reasons for the lull in my writing, but the most interesting one is this: I no longer strongly identify as, "a divorced person". A quick read through these posts would help you understand how significant this is. There have most certainly been times where that was the only thing I could think of to talk about with any person who entered my life. Now... now I just feel like...

I don't know.

A woman. A student, an artist, a friend, a human. I feel funny and happy and dynamic and compelled to do important things. I feel more healthy. I feel more normal. I feel more whole, and for this, I am extremely grateful.

I am 100% certain this is becoming broken record irritating, but I want to reiterate once more how very much time helps with healing. It does get better, with time.

All that is to say... I don't actually find myself ruminating on thoughts integral to divorce recovery of late, and I think that's ok. I do want to stop in and say hello and that I hope everything is going well, and I also want to provide a link to the blog of a friend of mine. He discovered my blog one day while in the worst moments of this road we walk and reached out to me. I am very glad he did. He too has started a blog chronicling his navigation of divorced LDS waters. The bonus is that his perspective covers so many things I don't and can't. He's more mature than I am, was married a lot longer than me, he has children and therefor still has to maintain a working relationship with his ex. Also, like the majority of my readers, he doesn't have the luxury of the option to pick up and move to Hawaii in order to nurse his broken heart back to health. I highly recommend his blog, and you can access it here.

In the mean time, I'll be checking in periodically and have a few posts forming in my mind. Keep walking, my friends. I get emails regularly and know there are so many more out there who do not write. Even on this lonely path, you are not alone. We are all in this together.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Take my hand, we'll make it, I swear...

I'm in Oregon, as I occasionally am; eating ice cream, as is often the case; in a giant floral muumuu, which is a special treat bringing me inordinate amounts of joy.

I just drove from San Diego to Portland and stopped at nearly every thrift store for the entirety of that stretch. The muumuu was purchased in the last thrift store on my last day of this endeavor to collect clothing for a vintage one-layer-modest clothing line, and it will always be a treasured memento.

As for the trip, north of San Fransisco I drove almost exclusively on the 101--which is gorgeous and quirky and I highly recommend it for road tripping fodder. South of San Fran it was the 1 (or PCH) for as much as I could manage. What that means is that I basically just spent the last two weeks careening my way along rocky cliff sides overlooking a vast ocean, then popping into the redwood forrest, then hopping back out to the Oregon coast in time for sunset lit lighthouses and blustery evenings of cold noses. Oh, Oregon. You're so silly. Don't you know beaches are supposed to be warm? : )

Anyway, I just wanted to check in to say:
1. I'm alive, and quite well, thank you.
2. I haven't forgotten you, or my divorce, but...
3. 18 months divorced (oh my gosh, almost 19 months! I didn't even realize that till I looked at my calendar just now) feels pretty dang amazing.

I am pretty sure it was the 18 month mark for me where I really broke free from the captivity of my post-divorce pain processing/wallowing. I hesitate to even call it wallowing because that word has such a negative connotation and processing is highly personal in its nature and time frame--but a girl knows when she has transitioned from sincere grieving and processing and into purely unproductive wallowing. Wherever I was at 17 months, I am not there now. In all honesty I feel like a completely different person. I don't miss him. I don't hate him. I don't think about him much. I don't wonder where we went wrong or wish we had only… I don't think we could have made it work and I don't wish I had never met him. I just see what happened, and I accept it for the absolutely soul killing adventure it was.

And I see it as over.

That chapter is complete. I've tried to close the book before, force the chapter to end, but there is a difference between slamming a book shut because you are sick of reading and naturally completing the chapter. I've finished up that section of my life by living one day after another. Some might congratulate me for getting to this better place, but the truth is, all I did was keep living one day at a time. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. Some of those breaths were laborious. Some were filled with spite and regret. Others were zoned out and disconnected, but I have accumulated enough of them now that I have arrived at nearly 19 months divorced. I did it! I existed through that time, and now, here I am in my floral muumuu eating ice cream and not thinking about how sad it is to be a divorced lady. I'm excited for what the next chapter will hold. All the foreshadowing in divorce recovery chapter seems pretty promising. I can't wait to see what is about to happen. There are so many ways the story could unfold from here.

I know this process is highly personal, but I do want to offer every reassurance I possibly can that things do get better. I remember people who had come through it telling me that and how I didn't feel like I could believe them because they seemed so healthy and lighthearted. How could they ever have experienced what I had and come out the other end like that? There was just no way in my mind that could happen. No heart could ever recover that destruction...and yet, here I am--a surprisingly lighthearted Ghost of Christmas Future, to tell you this:

Don't you give up. Don't quit! Don't you turn your back on God. We need you and the faith and fortitude you are cultivating even now in the world and the church far too desperately. My brother, Jesus, is real and He is there--for and with you. He has been the whole time, even and especially the times you couldn't and can't feel it--He is, because He loves you and He always will. He will help it get better. He won't let it stay like this forever. He loves you too damn much.

Keep your chin up. One foot in front of the other. If it's a lay in bed kind of day or week, then let it be. It won't last forever. The sun shines down eventually. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Bottom

Outside the door of my dorm room apartment there is a drinking fountain. It's not just any drinking fountain. For reasons apparent by clicking here, Sassy McLadyBoots and I affectionately refer to this drinking fountain as The Magic Fountain. Unlike any other fountain on campus it endlessly brings forth the most soul quenchingly refreshing water--crisp and cool in the palpable plumeria breeze. Every morning when I wake up, and usually before I go to sleep I fill up my water bottle from The Magic Fountain. This is to say, I slip out from between my sheets in my vintage sleepware, put on my lightweight robe--the one with the big flowers, and open the screen door (because the front door has literally never been closed in my almost year long stint here) and step out onto warm cement and into sunshine. Sometimes there is a rainbow. Usually there are tropical birds. Always the temperature outside is exactly the same as the temperature inside, and inevitably I have this thought:

I freaking love living in Hawaii.

Every. Single. Day.

I have been aware of this state of being for quite some time, but today I am especially cognizant. I am leaving Hawaii tomorrow. The reason I am leaving Hawaii is a really happy reason. It's a cause I created myself and have spent months preparing for, even years dreaming of. With the help of one of my closest and most amazing friends I am launching a vintage inspired, modest, women's clothing line--dresses that can be worn in just one layer. I will be on a sumer road trip, (which may make me less available for a bit--don't worry. I'm coming back!) driving through California and Oregon, visiting people I love more than my own kneecaps, stopping to thrift in every town I come to, and blogging about it. Apart from the addition of a VW Van, this adventure could not be more packed full of my happy making-est things in life, but here's the thing.

I don't want to go.

I'm going, and I am certain that I will thoroughly enjoy the experience, that it will be even more fun and adventure than I can currently wrap my brain around, but in this exact moment and in the moments I spent this evening breathing in a little ocean air… I don't want to go.

This is a really exciting development.

I am 29 year old. I spent a five year stint living in one place and a seven year stint living in another, and still I have moved 30 times. Throughout the entirety of my adult life I have decided after about six months of living somewhere that the unhappiness/uneasiness/discontent/frustration I feel is because I need to try living somewhere else. Now, I know I live in Hawaii now and everything, but hear me out. I don't think this wave of contentment I have been basking is entirely about the sun and the breeze… and the plumeria… and the… WAIT! Those aren't the only things. I have a different theory about why it is that for the first time in my life I am content.

I've struggled with depression my entire life--long before I knew what to call it or that everyone didn't feel the way I almost always did. I pull myself together well. I get things done. I find things to be happy about. I find people to love and project to be involved in, but up until recently I lived with a persistent nagging at my heart. It was like a four year old that you are trying really hard to ignore because you are on the phone getting important information from a fast talking banker. If you can plug your ear hard enough and close your eyes tight enough (or move from place to place enough) maybe it will go away.

Then, one day about 15 months into my marriage that nagging four year old had an absolute melt down. No--he morphed into a vengeful, demonic, fire breathing dragon twelve times the size of my house. He scared the crap out of me. I hung up the phone with the banker, sat down and stared for a good long while. Then, I started taking an anti-depressant, seeing a counselor, and divorced my husband, in that order.

I think it was that terrifying, fire breathing moment that did it. I mean--ok. I know. I can't lie, the melona soft serve at Country Rides and Grinds is off the hook and the papaya that grows on the tree in my courtyard is ridiculous. The art I get to do daily is deeply healing and sometimes I can feel the sun frying anything you might call, "the blues" out of me. But I tell you this now, I have had delicious food, fresh fruit, art projects and sunshine all before, and I have never felt like this. There is something about bottoming out that changes a girl. The sadness I lived with before was legitimate and warranted, to whatever degree, but the fire breathing dragon moment is what changed my life. I had to decide--do I stay this way? Or do I make a new path? How much do I want to change? How much am I willing to sacrifice to get to a healthier place?

I let go of my pride and got on some medication. I released preconceived notions and judgements about who gets divorced and why. I sold every possession I owned for peanuts from my adorable two bedroom apartment with the hardwood floors, checkered kitchen tiles, and big windows. I set aside all my fears about what it would be like to start completely over… again. (I cannot adequately explain to you the depth of my emptiness at the end of my marriage. I gave the endeavor the marrow in my bones and walked away with nothing but a broken heart.) And slowly I began to risk involvement with your average, everyday, flawed human beings again.

I've seen the bottom now. I know the ugliness of it. I know the lonely and the empty and the hollow that live there, and I'm not afraid of them anymore. I let them and the fear of them go too, and because I did, my melona soft serve tastes a little more melony. I spend more time in that gorgeous sunshine. I second guess myself less and can make new friends with fun stories to tell and moments to share. I see a little more clearly the goodness and the beauty that exists in every day life around me, and when sad or stressful things happen, they hardly register on the Richter Scale. I just pause my conversation and tell the panic rising in my throat, "I have seen the bottom. I know the fire breathing dragon, and you, sir, are not it." Then I go back to my plumeria and papaya, my deadlines and projects,  my homework and hard work--invested, present and appreciative. I have seen the bottom. Jesus is down there. I don't have to worry about being alone anymore.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Losing What We Call Lovely

Photo attribution here.

The day before I started packing up to leave my Long Beach home I went for a walk on the beach. The Mr. had already taken a job in the next city over and was staying there, so I was alone. Of all the things I loved about that city, the lifeguard towers were one. There's something so iconic about them. They symbolize the best things in life--summer, sunshine, ocean, bare feet, vacation, spontaneity, freedom. But the summer was ending, and so was my marriage. I was a year in, but there was a part of me, just below consciousness, that feared it even then. It was a long and slow beach walk, and towards the end I climbed up on a tower and sat and stared.

Rusty metal. Chipped paint. The smell of salt. Cityscape to the right. Slow, lapping ocean. Gritty sand. Sunset. Losing light. 

I took a picture of myself in the lowlight, trying desperately to hold on to what was already, in a way, gone. I remember sitting there, trying very hard to be brave and positive, to have faith in God, in my husband, in my ability to pull it together, but in a place so deep I couldn't let even myself be aware of it I was terrified. Terrified of loss and terrified of the future. Terrified that I would never have anything so lovely as the early days of my married life in Long Beach, ever again. 

Last night I went to Waikiki with some friends for--are you ready for this?-- Spam Jam. Apparently Hawaiian residents consume some ridiculous number like 3 million cans of Spam a year, and just to prove we're proud, we have a whole food festival to honor this strange canned "meat". It was a group of girlfriends and I driving down together, busily chattering on about internships, secret crushes, embarrassing moments and frustrating school policies. When we got to "town", as we countryfolk refer to Honolulu, we disembarked and weaved our way through drum circles, fire dancers, a mime, a Michael Jackson impersonator and every Spamtastic abomination you can fathom. Spam tacos, Spam ramen, Spam burgers, Spam T-shirts, sports bras, hats, an entire wave constructed in cans of Spam, a Spam impersonator and the world's most unlucky puppy sitting with a can of Spam strapped to its head, victim to endless photos and an adoring public. 

It was fantastic. 

When we'd had enough of that we headed over to a frozen yogurt place. Here I purchased my first treat in one full month. On my list of thirty was the task of giving up sugar for one month's time, and it just so happened that the four weeks came to a close last night. Coconut and caramel flavored frozen goodness with fresh strawberries, toasted coconut flakes and a slice of waffle cone on top--heaven

I took my treasure across the street and the five of us lady friends climbed up the steps of a lifeguard tower to bask in echoes of Waikiki nightlife, the smell of salt and the familiar feel of grits of sand beneath our feet. A quick glance at the cityscape to my right and I was instantaneously transported to my Long Beach lifeguard tower. I was nose to nose with my old self. She was hesitating on the precipice of her headlong dive into the brutal years ahead. I looked back into the eyes of my pre-divorce self for that brief moment, and saw how desperately she was trying to peer into her fate. I saw so much fear in her eyes--fear that all the beautiful parts of our life had already come and gone. I realized that the Waikiki me was an absolutely unimaginable figment of a possibility to that scared little Imogen in Long Beach. That Frowfrow wanted her Long Beach life. She wanted her cranky, ill suited husband, half working cars, dead end jobs and a lifetime of bending herself in half to force a square peg into a star shaped hole. She clung to the life she was losing so desperately that she could see nothing else. She couldn't believe in anything better than the dismal path that lay before her, so she lied to herself and told herself it was all ok. It was what she'd always dreamed of. 

I've been addicted to sugar pretty much my entire life. (Stay with me, this is all coming together, promise.) I know it's not healthy. Sugar causes cancer, diabetes, heart disease, jacks up my blood sugar, is clinically proven to be addictive, messes with my depression, and is in no way an adequate substitute for human affection, no matter how much I lie to my subconscious. Did any of this matter? Not at all. Why? Because throughout my life I was scared. I didn't want to let it go. I needed it to numb and distract myself from all the turmoil incessantly churning in my stomach. If I have a stomach ache over Swedish Fish or Ben and Jerry's then I don't have a pit in my stomach about my parent's divorce, the homework there is no one to help me with, my relationship with my mama, my unanswered questions for God, the way I can't seem to choose a life path, a major or a career, my failing marriage or the lurking possibility that now that I am single again I will die a lonely cat lady weaving dream catchers out of my own hair to take to market. (That one was for you, Sassy McLadyBoots.) If I abuse sugar I can blame it and my addiction for my problems. I needed that distraction, at some points of my life more than others--the years before and after my divorce most especially. I didn't want to let it go, just like I didn't want to let go of the fantasy that my Long Beach life was all I could ever dream of. But then... I did. 

The one month of living sugar free came as easy as a wave crashing on the sand. It just was. I didn't even really have to try. I just let myself acknowledge, I don't even like this stuff. It makes me feel like crap. I let myself eat an occasional PB&J, some yogurt or a granola bar, but the cookies, cakes, chocolate, ice cream and late night trips to the vending machines disappeared all on their own, and so did my obsessive desire to eat at every convenience. I just let it go, and when I did, everything was fine. 

I want to pull all this together now to say this: beautiful things will come. Sticking with something because we think we need it to survive, unhealthy as it may be; keeping a death grip on something out of fear that it's the best we will ever get; believing nothing else will come along for us and we will be left miserable; all of that is a lie. All that grasping, in the end, doesn't help. It doesn't make the good things stay, it just invites fear, and fear taints the lovely we do have in our lives. It paints it, so we don't recognize it for the glorious little moment of kite flying, balloon holding, baby smiling, first kissing, new learning, big laughing that it is. We miss it. So when we find ourselves panicked, desperately grasping, strong faced, but terrified in the soul, let's just remember this my brave friends: nothing we need ever dies.


And there is lovely in store beyond what you now see as possible. There will be more lifeguard towers. There will be new friends laughing, fresh flowers waiting, brand new favorite foods, hands to hold, freckles to kiss and lessons to learn, but we've got to learn to look for and see the good, not hunker down and brace ourselves for the next tragedy. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

"You're divorced? What happened?"

Photo attribution here

On the issue of telling people I am divorced, I have two opinions:

1. The incredible shame of going through a divorce in the church causes many to clam up about it. I believe it's because we're not talking about it that those not touched by divorce are not thinking about it, therefore they stand in judgement by default of our culture, and the shame remains. Opening up about what life is like in the post marital world is the only way to open people's eyes and hearts to empathizing with us. It's hard, but we can do it.

2. It's none of your damn business. Leave me the hell alone.

I often feel these both, simultaneously.

When you tell someone you're divorced they always want to know one thing--what happened? The reason I don't like this question isn't what you think. I have no problem talking about my experience. I find it pretty cathartic--as is evidenced by this blog, it's just that I have no good answer for the question that can be conveyed in a 20 second window. This is because when you are a Latter Day Saint, there is an unwritten rule that there is a short list of reasons that make it "okay" to get a divorce.

1. Your partner is beating you black and blue.
2. Your partner was unfaithful.
3. Your partner has an addiction - usually drug or pornography - that is negatively affecting your family.

And really, with the exception of number one, these issues are not a hall pass to the courthouse to file. As a people we favor reconciliation in pretty much every case, and while no decision regarding a marriage and family should ever be taken lightly, I think this, "There are three people in my marriage and as long as God and I are two of them we can get by," mentality is doing long lasting damage.

I need to reiterate to you here that I deeply respect the marriage covenant. My relationship with The Mr. would have passed its expiration date six months into the marriage if we had not been sealed in the temple. Three quarters of our time together was spent turning myself inside out to avoid the inevitable. In the end there was no other way to retain even a shred of my self worth or identity than to let it go, and still somehow I feel guilty for finally releasing the long dead weight of the relationship.

When people ask me, "What happened?" I have no concise answer. I have spent days and weeks of concerted effort trying to encapsulate into a simple phrase the kind of life it was being married to The Mr. "We got married too fast." "He wasn't kind." "He changed when we got married." "We were just too different." But none of it covers it, and I know--because before I crossed over into this no man's land I would have done the same thing-- that while people have sympathetic feelings and faces, many of them are ultimately trying to discern what I would be like to be married to and if the break up was my fault or his. Ultimately they want to know if I "tried hard enough" and if the break was justified. It's not really the individual's fault. It's a product of a religious culture that honors lists of dos and don'ts. Divorce is a don't. I know that, but to convey the nuance of all the different layers of hell that I lived for those two years is impossible in a 20 second window, or even 20 minutes. Knowing that someone could think I would tap out because I was too tired, that I would walk away when the going got tough, that I don't have it in me to be in a healthy relationship, that I made this choice out of selfishness, or that there is any part of my soul that feels okay about breaking a covenant with God is extremely painful and insulting to me. It leaves me feeling unknown and completely misunderstood.

One of the hardest and most heartbreaking aspects of the end of my marriage was when I would show up at The Padre's house, completely distraught, bawling my eyes out, trying so hard to convey what was going on. The Padre and Lady Pants are sympathetic people, but they are (fortunately for me or I would be the last one standing in the family) very active in the church. While they have both gone through divorce, the counsel they gave me was essentially--So sorry this is happening to you. He's just a young guy. He shouldn't treat you like that, but he is your eternal companion. I hope you two can work it out. And off I would go, back to the vortex of my marriage to see again if I could make sense of it. I can't really blame them for not being able to give me what I needed in those moments. They were doing their best, I'm sure, and couldn't know the full extent of what was going on behind our closed doors, but what I needed was for someone to tell me it's okay for me to think of what's best for me. It's okay to own up to how horrible things had gotten. It's okay to put myself first this time. It's okay to say enough is enough.

Because my relationship didn't fit into scenarios one through three, there is a small part of me that refuses to die off that still says, "It could have worked out. I should have tried harder," and I don't think that's fair. I don't want anyone else to have to live with that feeling. My life with The Mr. was full of half working cars dangerously jerry rigged, camo shorts and black socks, beard hair trimmings left in the sink, a tragic lack of social skills or understanding, his inability to settle on a career path, a constant fear that he was going to get fired, pressure to have a baby when I wasn't ready, discontent at my desire to complete my education, lack of spiritual connection or involvement, and a complete dismissal of any element of me that slightly resembled an artist. In the last couple months I've seen three plays, started a student activism blog, joined the music club with a trip planned to the symphony, hand crafted a pitcher that looks like a whale, made the perfect salad bowl in ceramics, started juicing, planted an herb garden with fresh mint, made plans to launch a vintage inspired clothing line, and learned to properly capture a human likeness in charcoal.

The Mr. and I do not belong together.

He didn't hit me, cheat on me, turn to porn or pot or suddenly develop an affection for Neil Patrick Harris, but when I was with him, all that I loved about me hid itself away in a deep, dark corner of my soul for fear that it would continue to go unnoticed, unappreciated, dismissed and rejected. He was not good to me and I was not right for him. We are better off apart. As clear as God speaking to Moses, night following day or the human body needing oxygen, that is the truth. Can't that be enough?

As a culture we are endlessly looping through this idea that a list of dos and don'ts will be what saves us-- that it's somehow an all inclusive package to salvation. This mentality is how we end up criticizing those who drink coke but have no qualms serving brownies with every meal. It's why we can feel justified telling ourselves that home and visiting teaching members of our faith alleviates us of the opportunity to better the world at large or to reach out to our non-LDS community. This mentality disconnects us from the Sprit and our core knowledge of what is right and wrong. It creates a blinding hyper focus on a fear that we are somehow deviating from the list.

When we do what we do out of fear--fear of losing, fear of disappointing, fear of punishment or falling short-- it is not the same thing as when we do it out of love. The point of this existence is to become changed beings. Fear does not transform us for the better. The right thing for my parents to do in that time was to reiterate to me that the destructive elements of his behavior were absolutely unacceptable and help me remember to value myself while I was married to a man who couldn't find anything about me to love. The right thing for me while I was in that relationship was to say, "I will not allow you to treat me or anyone this way. You are not being a good husband and will not make a good father to my children. If this is the life you choose, you choose a life without me." The right thing for any of us to do in the myriad of situations life throws at us is to look inside, connect with that voice that never lies and is never wrong, and follow it--end of story. The dos and don'ts are guidelines. The voice is a lifeline. Pushing it aside for the sake of the list doesn't bring us closer to salvation, it alienates us from direct revelation. It separates us from God.

Monday, April 7, 2014

I want to go home.

Photo attribution here

My parents divorced when I was eight. My mom took my siblings and I out of school early one day after they separated and we left on a "vacation" never to return. We stayed in California for a bit with family, then moved to Utah for a year or two. After that, the siblings that hadn't chosen to move back to my dad's house, my mom, my step dad and new little brother along with two of my five step sisters moved back to California into a place where there are three types of people. 1. The law. (Cops who don't want to raise their kids in LA so they make the 2 hours commute daily) 2. Those hiding from their past or the law. (Can't tell you how many kids from my high school there have died of an overdose. So sad.) and 3. Members of the witness protection program. I wish that was a joke, but it's not. Rural and isolated don't even begin to describe the bizarre universe that was my home for seven years.

By the time I hit my late teens I decided I would be better off living with my dad again. On my 17th birthday I packed up and transferred schools in the middle of my junior year of high school. It was not a smooth transition. I kept telling myself that I was just going to leave for college soon anyway, so I didn't want or need to make any connections there. After that phase there has been ten years of bouncing from one idea, one place, one school, one beach to another. 

Being quite unlike most Mormons I know, but loving the gospel with gusto, I have always felt an intense longing for my people. This coupled with my transient past made for an intense desire to find my place in the world. The long story short of that saga culminated (or so I thought) in my marriage to The Mr. and moving into our apartment in Long Beach, CA. I had finally, finally, finally found my place in the world. For a short time I lived this moment where I was satisfied with the life I'd created. I had found my home. 

Part of grieving my divorce is reconciling the loss of that brief moment of my place in the universe being found. I spent last summer in California with Sassy McLadyBoots and, after my first day of work as a nanny for the summer, felt this intense urge to drive "home" as I had hundreds of times after my nanny job in the neighboring city during my married life. I braved the traffic and spent the 45 minutes in the commute I made daily as a wife. I pulled up and parked next to the apartment complex I left my heart in and sat for a time. I then spent an afternoon walking the streets of the abandoned foundation of my marriage. After that, I wrote this:

July First, Twenty Thirteen
I am in love with the city of Long Beach

This one time I was married to a man who couldn’t see me. I’m tall and bright and was standing right there, so by all accounts it doesn’t add up. When we married we settled in Long Beach, California. To him it was rough enough around the edges and equidistant from our places of employment. To me it was everything that’s right with the world. The third day of house hunting he told me to make up my mind already. God picked me up that day after work and set me down on the corner of 3rd and Junipero and in that moment, I knew.

Constructed in the 1920s, Spanish tile roof with hardwood floors, crystal doorknobs and quirky neighbors. When I brought him to it that night in spastic adoration the courtyard was lit with twinkle lights and inhabited by lovely lesbians sipping a red wine over cigarettes.

After moving in I at first mistook my enthusiasm for the city as just another element of the blissful sneaker wave of matrimony crashing down around me and turning everything upside down. This satiated longing in my gypsy soul explains at least partially why it took me so long to notice and accept that in the beginning he was just “tired”, then distant, then angry, then mean. He moved back to his neck of the woods, and in an ultimately self-sacrificial demonstration I pulled myself, kicking and screaming from the only place I could ever, in truth, call home.

Today I walk the streets heartsick and sobered, but inescapably on the verge of an orgasm of the soul at the sheer perfection that is my city. Ocean waves, calm and gentle lapping at the shore; kiss after kiss after caress the sea makes endless love to my city. Latin lovers have salsaed themselves into tree nymphs. Her leafy hair still holds the blossom. His skin on the branches that suspend her in perpetual elegance is smooth like glass. Stained glass in the windows of the churches of every denomination.  Tibetan Christians, Lutherans, Muslims. Thick air settles in your car, your hair, your skin – sticky, like a memory you just can’t shake.

The buildings are corporate and creaking, stable and filthy, artful and average, because here in my kingdom by the sea, you can be anything you want to be. Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles and yoga in the park, open to the public and interrupted by a pickup game of soccer. A sexy, sweaty, stinky group of dark eyed Latinos at home scoring goals in my city.

The birds of paradise and palm trees are jazzercising in fluorescent purple, green and orange; sweating it out with the rest of us. The air is dirty and the cars are clean and glistening in the sun – or they’re not. The food is unapologetic in its -love me or leave me- essence and the freeways mock your impatience and lazily roar curses in stereotypically colorful language. Even the garbage cans lining streets are purple.

And everywhere I go in this town, so starkly juxtaposed, I see him and me. That endlessly awkward night at dinner. The time he slept in the car. The long walk I took down the pier when he started to change, desperate to clear my head of early signs of warning. The alley where we both giggled and kissed for the engagement shoot, and loaded up the moving van. The place I stared while we sat in our car and he told me he couldn’t love me if I couldn’t start being happy.

These memories, these blackened, charcoal, cancer coated moments growing stale in a dying corner of my mind—these are the only things I do not love about my city. These are the only things I would change.

I was married only a moment compared to the average divorcee, but I understand at least a taste of the sense of loss of place. I went to a support group once where a woman talked about the hours she'd spent driving around in her car, not wanting to return to her disrupted home and life. That's an element of this road we walk. Will I ever return to Long Beach to build my life again? 


Or maybe not.

So much there I love and so much there I can't recover. I'll tell you what though, wherever I end up, however it goes, I'll make a life worth loving. I'll find my hardwood floors and crystal doorknobs in a brand new city full of streets I haven't walked, food I've never tasted, challenges yet to be discovered, miracles I have not yet fathomed, dust that's never settled over my not-yet-discovered vintage treasures, and people I have not yet had a chance to love, but I will love them. I'm going to keep loving, looking for and building the good and the best. Because despite the way I've been hurt, that's still who I am. That's who I choose to be.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It's hard not to have sex, said the Mormon girl.

Photo attribution here
And that Mormon girl would be me.

*Note: as you may have guessed, this post is about sex. It's not explicit, but it is direct. If that makes you uncomfortable, you probably shouldn't read it. 

Recently I got my first ever request for a post on a particular topic: post marital sexual deactivation. This is a post I've been wanting to write for quite some time because, frankly, I love sex, and it's really hard to go from having semi-regular access to it to zilch. Second, this is something every divorcee faces but no one talks about, and by now you know how committed I am to talking about the important things that make your average Molly Mormon/Peter Priesthood squirm. On that note...

First of all, I want to kick this off my saying that I know it's, like, a thing to run around saying we feel sorry for men and their ginormous sexual appetites and how it's not their fault and it's all evolution and they have a biological need to spread their seed and all, but I just want to throw it out there that there are many, many women--LDS and otherwise-- with healthy libido, and plenty of men I've met that can either take sex or leave it. So men, you are not alone in the struggle to fly solo after your companion has jumped ship. And women, you are not weird for liking, loving, missing and/or needing sex. So when we all got this letter tucked in with out divorce decrees...

Dear no-longer-married-person, 

Don't have sex anymore. Not with your former spouse, not with your (not yet married to) "future spouse",  not by yourself, not with an elf... Do not have sex here or there. Do not have sex anywhere. 

Good luck with that. 

Love, God's safe to say that men and women alike had issues.

We all have different attitudes, experiences and opinions about sex, but no matter where you fall on the spectrum, if you are recently divorced you will have to reconcile your sex life (or lack of sex life) in some way or another. We as LDS people have an interesting, complicated relationship with sexuality to begin with. We are taught to fear it, but look forward to it. We love it, but fiercely try to control it. We have rules dictating our sexual behavior a mile long and we are accountable for our actions. In fact, it is not only considered appropriate, but it's expected that our leaders will ask us probing questions about our sexual conduct at any moment. Our eternal salvation is perpetually at stake.

With that magnitude of significance and consequence lacing our biological, God given desire to procreate it's no wonder that we get spazzy about sex. As for those of us who have experienced sexual intimacy, we find ourselves in an even more complex position where we did our best to transition from forbidden to sacred and bonding (or at least just plain fun) and now, not only are our souls torn up from the dramatic shifts in our lives, stress levels high, moral compasses whacky and ideals all in question, we have the task of un-familiarizing ourselves with a notoriously relaxing, pleasurable, relieving, happy making activity we once enjoyed. Oh yeah, and we're so lonely we can't watch an insurance ad without bawling.

All that is to say, I hear you! I know. It totally sucks. I hate it, and I'm sorry. Unfortunately, this, like many other things in our lives right now, doesn't have an easy answer. God loves us, is aware of us, grieves with us and ultimately, so far as I can tell (because there really is no literature on this that I've been able to find) doesn't make any moral exceptions for us. We are commanded to be abstinent once more. That's the long and short of it.

That being said, I do have a few thoughts and tips for those of you who feel similarly to the way I do about this issue. Having made it nearly 18 months now without a gentleman caller knocking at heaven's door, this is my advice:

1. Embrace and accept it. It is what it is. No amount of suppressing, avoiding, fixating, indulging, blaming, guilting or denying will make this go away. Craving sexual intimacy is not weird, it's not wrong and while it will likely vary in intensity from time to time, it's not going to go away, and that's okay. This is a moment in time. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to step out of its way and let it happen.

2. Remember that acting on impulses will likely bring momentary relief or enjoyment, but ultimately, when that fleeting experience is complete, we are where we left off, but with less of God's Spirit. I think we can all agree, we could use as much of God's Spirit as we can get these days. Premarital sex is still (now to me, having seen first hand what the bonding power of sex can do) terrifyingly dangerous, especially in the state we're in, and pornography is a cheap counterfeit that sincerely has the capacity to dramatically distort our view of this sacred thing we crave. (Click here for a great website with more on this.) Ultimately, no matter how much emotional pain and turmoil we're in, it's just not worth it. It's just not. 

3. Closely related to #1, try not to beat yourself up about it, because things do happen. Guilt serves one purpose and one purpose only: to motivate us to change. If it's not motivational, it's just another tool in Satan's kit. Accept and love yourself, no matter what you're going through and how close you currently are to following Christ's gospel perfectly. The love of God is endless and cannot be withheld from you if you will look up.

4. Do your best not to dwell. We all have memories of the past and hopes for the future, but letting them run rampant in our minds can only bring us down. Acknowledge that there will one day again be a time and place for that, and allow your mind to be freed by any one of the following:

-Climb a tree and see what you can see.
-Dance with a child, or have her tell you a story from her imagination.
-Take up a sport or some sort of physical fitness hobby. There's more than one way to release endorphins ; )
-Look outside yourself to see the needs of those around you. Help someone in some small way.
-Read a (wholesome) book that takes you somewhere new. The library is full of cheap vacations.
-Make a bucket list and start crossing off adventures.
-Write out how you feel. Sometimes just writing it out, then chucking it will get unhelpful things out of my system.
-Make new (platonic) friends.
-Join a club - hunting, knitting, cycling, dancing, you name it. The more foreign to your regular routine the more brain capacity it takes to learn, the less brain power you have to spare for unhelpful pining.

You get the idea.

I'm not saying it's easy. Heaven knows the struggle I've had and still have with engaging fully in the present life I live. So much time missing and wishing. I am saying, however, there is a high road. In all of the deluge of confusion, pain, grief, frustration and heartache that comes with the end of a marriage, I have found that the most long lasting satisfaction comes when I do my best to take the high road. It's hard, but we can do hard things.

Keep your chin up. Like everything else it gets better with time... sort of : )

Saturday, March 22, 2014

my side of the bed

Photo attribution here.

I don't know if this is something all divorcees do, but I like to mark milestones. I still remember congratulating myself for making it ten minutes in to my first day back at work the morning after the bomb dropped. I counted days up until I hit six months and I counted months 'till I hit a year. Now, I count waves crashing, beautiful boys smiling and hours remaining 'till my homework is due. Today, however, I would like to pause to note and commemorate, as of early this month this blog is officially one year old.

Congratulations, blog. You made it through your first year!

In order to celebrate this occasion I want to share with you a post I wrote just before this blog was created on another, more private blog I'd been keeping. It describes life in the early stages of recovery. I want to share it because I was remembering today how desperately I wanted to know, in that time, how long my life was going to look so much like the seventh circle of hell. Often times when I am feeling sad I convince myself that I am the only one who could ever possibly understand or experience the pain I feel. This is just not true. While I haven't felt everything you've felt, I do want to offer you this glimpse (and believe me, it is a very small, watered down glimpse) into what life was like in January of 2013.

This is my life now.

I wake up at 6:30, fall back asleep till 7. Freak out that I'm late and jump in the shower. Eat a PB&J on my way to the car (have I mentioned I need to go grocery shopping?) before slapping some makeup on my face as I drive. I then spend 4-6 hours with a five year old boy. His mom is a stay at home mom, and does indeed stay at home while I am there, at times. I don't blame her for needing the break. He just got kicked out of his third preschool. 

After job one I head into town (a 45 minute commute) where I spend the rest of daylight nannying two considerably calmer children. After job two I come home to my apartment where it is cold and dark and there I meet some mail addressed to someone I don't know, mystifying stale smells, and my disgruntled Siamese. Everything in the house is exactly where I left it. Not one thing has changed or been touched by an outside force of any kind. All that's there is me. 

I find anything mindless to do for the next few hours, then I go to bed.

I sleep in the bed The Mr. and I bought with some of our wedding cash. That bed, my newlywed and recently divorced bed, has many, many memories. The relationship in all its extremity was experienced here. Giddy. Love drunk. Elated. Orgasmic. Exhausted. Optimistic. Confused. Concerned. Cuddling. Compromising. Talking. Fighting. Fearing. Feeling. Praying. Pleading. And oh good God, so much crying. This is where I was sitting when we decided to separate, and this is where I crawled moments after he walked out the door.

I still used to sleep on my side, in the beginning. I found that I would turn over in my half sleep and find myself alone. That's no way to start or end a night. Now I sleep in the middle. I surround myself with pillows and my cat hops up to join me, whether I like it or not. I bought new sheets and a new duvet cover. I painted the bedside tables, right over the back sides where we'd painted our initials in hearts at The Mr.'s suggestion. I put a new skin on the bones of my life, but it doesn't change that the flesh is all still missing. Empty. Quiet. Calm. Free of the chaos that was killing me, but... dead. Just a little bit dead. Painted and spruced, clean and calm and... unrelentingly heartbreakingly wrong.

And now,  a brief synopsis of what my life looked like today.

This morning I woke up around 8:00 to the sound of tropical birds and lawn mowers. Oh, Hawaii-- how you can have such a laid back attitude about pretty much everything in life, but such an affinity for ear drum blastingly loud lawn care equipment in the wee hours of the A.M. is beyond me. In ceramics I turned in my latest two creations. The teacher was clearly impressed, because I am a pottery ninja. Sheri Dew came to speak at devotional today. Sweet of her to drop by. Book of Mormon class was thought provoking, as usual. Our teacher loves a good question, and you know how much I love to ask a good question. 

I ordered some new t shirts from my favorite site because they are having a sale and then hit the grocery store with Sassy McLadyBoots. The lime Tostidos were on sale, making them almost the price they would be when I'm not shopping on a remote island. Clearly, God loves me. A woman from my mission is in town, so we met up for the night show, which means I spent a couple hours watching my adorable roommate perform the hula and countless dudes from my classes whoop and holler and slap themselves and play with fire... shirtless. 

After the show I stopped over at Hukilau beach and did a little yoga, stretched, prayed and took some deep breaths while the wind fussed with my hair and did her best to tip me out of tree pose. Then, back to my twin bed in a shared dorm room which, I realized last Sunday, is starting to feel impressively and unexpectedly like home. The Padre asked me today if I'm coming home for summer break. For the first time in my life I could truthfully say, "I don't know, I think I might rather stay."

Perhaps you're tired of me saying this, but I need you to know--things do get better. The painful things diminish and new things steal your focus. Mundane things. Scary things. Exciting things. Things so unexpected and hilarious you almost forget you ever had a no-good-low-down-rotten-or-at-least-not-ideal spouse in the first place.  Life may not be extraordinary every day, but you have within you the power to move in a positive direction. You have within you a way to make it through.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

30 Things to do Before I Turn 30

The first 28 years of my life have been eventful. I've lived in 30 houses in 7 different states, attended 4 universities and a trade school, seen Paris, Mexico, Canada, visited 20 states in the US and served a mission. I've fallen madly in love a few times and had my heart brutally broken once. I've met and made better friends than any person has a right to. I've given up and tried again, discovered talents I didn't know I had, and weaknesses I didn't want to know I had.  I've worked as a teacher, pizza maker, shelf stocker, deli slave, personal assistant to a boutique owner, campus bouncer, a special needs nanny, an RA, a waitress in a tapas bar, and now a cotton candy spinner extraordinaire. I've skinny dipped, road tripped, yelled at the ocean, stared at the moon, laughed so hard I've cried and cried so hard I've had nothing left to do but laugh. I've seen vibrant rainbows, more beaches than I can count, new babies and old ladies, big cities, small towns, gorgeous countryside and trees that tower so tall and majestic that I would dare anyone to not be overcome with a sense of awe at the sight of them.

And now, I'm almost 30. I'm 29 in fact--today.

To give you just a small glimpse of what it's like to be "almost 30" and a student at an LDS university that only offers undergraduate programs I will relate the following: A couple days ago I was sitting, sketching and a guy I'd talked to a few times around campus came and sat to make chit chat. We exchanged stories  and laughs for about half an hour. By that point I'd calculated that he was probably 21 years old and I could see he was getting curious. I always ask people to guess my age when they ask and he came up with the usual guess of 23. When I, half grinning, knowingly revealed that I was just about 29 the guy hilariously half choked, then caught himself and tried to recover with, "Oh, congratulations" and a handshake. 

When a woman gets this far past the ominous, "menace to society" label she has two options. She can either bury her head in shame and spend her days pining for a man to make her an acceptable member of Mormon culture-- a wife, a mother, an adult--or-- she can fully embrace the exceptional thing it is to be so free, to know herself so well and to have so many doors open to her and enough sense to go explore them. When put that way it's hard to understand why so many of us settle for option A. 

I've decided the best way to celebrate the year twenty-nine is to cram thirty more "to do"s into my eventful twenties. They've been good to me, and when they haven't been good to me, they've taught me oceans of lessons I benefit from daily. I want to give them the fine farewell they deserve.

I have one friend I reach out to in my blackest of the black moments. She is infinitely patient, kind, positive, and gently nudges me in the best direction-- even when I don't want to hear it. She intuitively contacted me moments after The Mr. walked out of my life for good and never seems to tire of my sometimes spastic pleas for help in moments of desperation. In recent conversation about the demise of my marriage she said, "I don't feel like it was the end of something. I don't even feel like it's now a new beginning. I feel like it's the beginning. The start of your beautiful life." I feel like I am in a place in my healing where I am ready to more fully look forward. I can feel a shift in me where the healthiest thing to do for me now is to look ahead and build, and the best way I can see to do that this year is to work my way through the list I've compiled of thirty things to do before I turn thirty.