Thursday, May 28, 2015

"I don't want a baby", and other lies I tell every day.

This weekend I was in California. Sassy McLadyBoots has beat all odds and found true love on eHarmony. This weekend was her wedding, and it was perfect. If I could wish a perfect wedding for one person in my life, it would be Sassy McLadyBoots, and now she has it. I am a happy camper.

Long after she and her new Mr. were off on their honeymoon cruise I was sitting in Sunday School with an old friend when the teacher, surprisingly (I'm sorry, but it's true) asked a really fantastic question. "How can we make sure that people who are struggling feel welcome at church?" to which my friend bravely offered this comment:

"In the twelve step program we learn something really important. We learn to lead with our weakness. It makes everything we say after that more accessible for those we speak with and takes the conversation to a very genuine, vulnerable place. I think we need to lead with our weakness more when we are in church, rather than pretend that we have it all together."

And, he's right. Not only in church, but anywhere heartfelt progress is to be made. For this reason, today I'm going to lead with this: I don't know what to do.

When I went through my divorce I made the decision to purge my life of any and all photos of The Mr. That's probably why it really took me off guard today when I discovered one. I'm graduating and looking for work and so went about updating my old profile on a nanny website. The photo is from our engagement shoot. It's of both of us standing in my old kitchen. He's wearing an apron and I'm holding a cookbook and we're doing our damnedest to look domestic, but really we're just on the verge of bursting out into belly laughs and, I'm just going to say it, we're adorable. Not only are we adorable, but that photo is a reminder for me.

These days, when I think about The Mr. I do not think about the happy times. One reason is that they were so incredibly short lived, but also, I don't want to give myself any reason to dwell in that time in my life. I tell myself stories like, how could I ever have been so stupid? The way we were mismatched is so incredibly obvious. I was an idiot not to notice it in the first place. Or, He was always terrible. I was just desperate or love drunk or both. I should have known from the beginning that things would end the way they did. But all that is really not true.

The truth is, when The Mr. was great, he was really great. He was funny, attentive, invested, romantic, charming and present. He was a dedicated boyfriend and our chemistry was fantastic. More than that though, he had this quality about him. It was this...openness to new things, this desire to work hard, to be good, to reach and grow. I lie to myself sometimes and say he was always the way I remember him at the end of our relationship, but that's all it is--a lie. There was a time when he was great, and I was reminded of that in this unexpected photo today.

So here's where the - not knowing what to do - part comes in. I trusted The Mr. with all my heart and soul. I invested everything in him. I held nothing back, no hour of time, no moment of energy, no resource was held on reserve in some secret corner for me, and that trust, that investment, that endeavor was shattered in such a way that nothing will ever be able to fix it. He did change, and I changed too in my own way and things got ugly and it is what it is now, and part of what that means is I don't know how I could ever trust another human being like that again.

But I live in a complicated world. I am a 30 year old, single LDS woman. The idea that my crowning glory and greatest aspiration or achievement in life would be to marry in the temple... again is so inextricably woven into the fabric of my faith and so heavily reinforced in daily life on this campus that I feel almost inexorably jammed between a rock and a hard place. Let me explain.

In my life now I almost constantly feel two things. The first is this: an intense, unabated, relentless, almost primal urge to be a part of a family--to fall in deep and lasting love, to sacrifice and invest and become a mother, a wife, an equal partner. I crave a safe place to build what I see blossoming in Sassy McLadyBoot's eyes. Not only does that come naturally to me, but it's blasting on every radio station in Mormontown 24/7.

The second thing I feel is this similarly deep and primal urge to protect myself. I was hurt on a level that is challenging for even me, woman of many words, to explain. To get me far away from that pain I've had to cultivate a lot of you're just fine on your own sentiment. When all the pieces were left shattered on my living room floor there was no one else there to clean them up. This girl won't live in a shattered life forever, so, what is my alternative? To become a strong, independent, no nonsense woman who can and will take care of herself. And that works for me in a lot of ways. It's gotten me to Hawaii, hasn't it? It's kept me out of reach of dangerous and unhealthy men, right? It's dragged my sorry ass out of bed when it needed to, gotten me to class or work or anywhere-but-bed when it needed to. But it comes at the price of a small facade. In order to keep this persona up I cannot go around expressing my equally heart felt and intense desire to be a baby mama. The one seems to diminish the other. I am either strong or I am lonely. I'm independent or craving a man. I'm capable or co-dependent. I know the extremes aren't congruent with reality, but I can't help but flip flop between the two in my public and private lives.

So I guess what I'm saying is, I don't know how to find this balance and I don't know how much longer I can keep up this dichotomous existence, and I don't think it's fair that I have to, but I also don't see any other way. While I'm writing this I can already read in my mind's eye the well intended comment of someone who loves me saying that once I meet the right guy then this will all be over. I'll find my balance of interdependence. I'll meet someone who is the yin to my yang, the peanut butter to my jelly, the Liza to my Minnelli, but just pause a moment and understand what a powerless position that puts me in. My only option then is to keep on yin-ing it up and wait--the curse of a woman in the traditional world of dating. I hate waiting. And now I can read in my mind again the commend of another helpful friend who loves me. She's saying the answer lies in being strong and true to myself. No man will ever make it better. Only I can do that. She's right too. They're both right and both pieces of advice are impossible.

I want a husband, a baby, my independence, my interdependence, my freedom and my sanity, and I want them now.

I know these are usually intentional, hopefully uplifting posts aimed at giving you a little leg up on your week, but this week, this is what you get, because I don't know what to do either, and sometimes the only thing left to do is say it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Things I have not been doing in the 6 months since I wrote last:

1. Falling in love.
2. Getting married.
3. Having babies.
4. Even dating, for that matter.
5. Writing anywhere near as much as I want to
6. Traveling to exotic places.
7. Getting enough sleep.
8. Sticking to my diet and exercise plan
9. Staying on top of my homework
10. Beating myself up about any of the above mentioned things

I just felt a need to clarify numbers 1-4 because I feel like those are the usual suspects when a person goes MIA. What can I say? I'm an original. I have to do it my way. I have, however, been doing two things you may find interesting. One is writing a book for you. It's a how-to guide for surviving divorce that takes you through the first full year of recovery. I'm revamping the site a bit and hope to have the book ready for purchase by the end of this year. I ran out of weekly updates on my divorce recovery progress, so I've been channeling my vast array of acquired wisdom into a hopefully somewhat comprehensive guide for those who walk this path.

The other thing is I've been doing is graduating from college. I'm 30, so maybe this isn't a big deal to some of you, but it's a big deal to me. One of the biggest areas of contention in my marriage was that The Mr. didn't support me going back to school and belittled my creative efforts. In two and a half weeks from now I will be graduating from BYU Hawaii with my Bachelors of Arts in Painting and Drawing, and (not to toot my own horn) I'm not too shabby at it. It's a victorious moment for me, and a very crazy time. When you grow up in a neglectful home and live through an abusive marriage and divorce, stability becomes a really key component to wellbeing. It's something I've been learning to generate for myself, but this is a time where it's inevitable. I will and am losing my footing. All anyone wants to know these days is what's next for me, and all I can say is, "I was wondering the same thing myself!"

I was just re-reading a post I wrote a while back. Blogging is my journaling. It's good to remember. I've been absent from this blog for a while. There are a few reasons why. One is I really have pretty much run out of new things to say in terms of regular updates. Life is going on. I moved to a house a few miles off campus, directly across the street from the ocean. (No joke. I can see it from my kitchen table.) I am making new friends, meeting new people, getting things done, but life now has so much less to do with my divorce than it did before. When I think of my divorce now I think of it as an exceptional challenge I went through that has shaped me in to a much, much better person than I ever could have become while in my marriage...but the aching is mostly gone. The big moments of wallowing in grief and resentment, feeling victimized and wondering what The Mr. is up to now, all that is over.

The post I was just reading has some things to say about how intensely I love living in Hawaii, how much it feels like home. I do love living in Hawaii. I have a hard time explaining to people who come from stable families why, exactly, I feel so much happier, more at peace, more myself on this extremely remote island, but you can think of it this way: there is a full sized ocean cradling me away from any and everything that has ever hurt me. If I get too caught up in my past, all I need do is go stand by that ocean and complain to it a while. She hears me out and then soothes me with her endlessly lapping waves. Shhhhh she says. It's going to be okay. I know, she says. And she's pretty much always right. That ocean, holding back everything from the world I knew and opening for me a whole new world of creativity and kindness, giving me the chance to make the world I want, exactly the way I design it, is a force for which I will always be grateful. I am now trained in the art of design and I put all my principles to work: balance, composition, light, contrast, variety, texture, color and scale. I made a world that, for a time, seemed to be the perfect safe haven from any new heartache or pain inherent in life.

And then, pain came anyway. Life is funny like that.

It's not anything serious. My parents are still alive and (as far as I know) so is my cat. No one did anything overly cruel or vicious, but in the last 6 months since I wrote I left my job on campus due to some exceptionally unfair circumstances. I was working as a graphic artist and I loved the time I spent there. I've lost some friends too. One went sour, one went home for the summer and one is moving home for who knows how long. I ran out of financial aide and every person I know is having children. Even my friends little sisters are pregnant. My situational depression likes to peek out and say hello from time to time, but I've learned something really powerful and I feel like it's worth sharing. Momentary lapses and times of what feels like regression are nothing to be afraid of. They're just a part of life, and one that I now know how to take care of.

All this is to say that tonight I am reminded that no place is immune from some degree of suffering, and that's ok. I let people in close to me and they disappointed me. I try things and they fail. I take risks and they don't always pay off. This is all really normal stuff and important to remember that that's just how God and the world work. I was incredibly blessed to be able to give myself a fresh start, and I have done that. I have taken full advantage of that "get out of jail free" card and intentionally built a life here, and God saw fit to put in the painful experiences He sees that I need. And I do need them. They aren't what I want or what I signed up for. They are hard and uncomfortable and, at times, embarrassing, but they are good.

This is one thing my divorce really did teach me - that pain is something that can be managed. It's not something we need to fear. It's normal to feel discouraged at times, and even safe havens have their drawbacks. That's ok too. There's power in accepting that as reality and moving through the times when we do get stuck, out of balance, confused, frustrated, stressed or hurt. Life is good, and life hurts. Both are true, and because both are true, life is also beautiful.