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.