**This was written in March, but all still true.**
We’ve talked about this before, about how the Eskimos have 13 words for snow. And how, in the same vein, we need a thousand words for love. Because every love is different, every person we meet and every person we are requires a new and different kind of love. And we only have one word, one small, four-letter word, to describe a thousand different ways to feel and act and give and take and breathe in another person and breathe out something better of ourselves.
I haven’t wanted to write much lately, I haven’t wanted to write at all about what’s going on in my life until suddenly, today, the second day of Spring, I do.
I’m getting divorced.
I have rediscovered who I am and what makes me happy and I feel like I am unfolding myself out of a box I have lived in for…well, for a very long time.
And I’ve fallen in love.
The divorce story is like every divorce story, except for the ways it isn’t. The story is only half mine, so I will give it to you in broad strokes. Everyone who knows us thinks they know already, and maybe they do. But basically, two people can only be so far apart for so long before big and little things, done and undone, take a toll. I will take the fall, I am the bad guy here. I did the leaving, the calling off, the filing, and the telling.
I dated last summer, using dating apps. I went on a lot of first dates, not a lot of seconds, and only twice did it progress further. I spent a lot of time and data getting to know people who, while lovely, were broken in ways I couldn’t mesh with, gave love in ways that didn’t resonate with me, needed things from me I couldn’t give, or were just not the one, in ways I still can’t articulate but I can decisively say no, not at all. And I believe they would say the same thing, should we all show up at a cocktail party or some live music venue together. She was fine, she just wasn’t the one.
Until one day, I was. I am the one. And lucky for me, he is the one. My mom likes him, my friends like him, my kids like and respect him, and my dog obeys him.
I call him That Amazing Boyfriend (TAB), because he is.
All of the things around my house that have been broken and neglected and unloved for…awhile…are suddenly fixed, and used, and loved, and spruced up, and shiny. Projects I have wanted to do are done. Hanging curtains, which seemed like the hardest thing in the world, took less than an hour. Fixing the deck, which I was sure would require many hundreds of dollars, required a man with a hammer and a goal. And it’s done.I could go on and on, telling you all of the things TAB has done around the house in the last few months, but it’s an embarrassment of riches, really.
Just know this: every time he makes something around the house better, he makes me better. He puts the little shards of my broken heart back together, and makes them beautiful again.
So I don’t know the word for this love – this thing where two tarnished and bruised up people come together and see the beauty and the possibility and the strength in the damage, but I can tell you that living it is like finding a sunny clearing in the woods when you didn’t even know you were walking in the dark…then discovering that the clearing has a cool, clear spring and you hadn’t even known you were thirsty, and then discovering someone had caught up to you and they had a delicious sandwich in their backpack, and it was made just the way you like it, hot peppers and all. And then discovering that the guy with the backpack likes your music and you both love the beach and he doesn’t care if you take ridiculous selfies with him and he also grills.
And when you’ve had a bad day he holds your hand till you fall asleep.
And when you’ve had a good day, he’s thrilled for you.
And when he’s had a bad day, he knows you will listen.
And when he’s had a good day, he tells you first.
And when he’s your last first kiss.
And when you look back at your life and know that getting here, reaching this place, is a result of everything you have done, endured, walked through…and that it was all worthwhile.
It’s the kind of love no one word could do justice to. But one word is all we have.
And so we use it.
**Please note, this was written in 2015, at the end of last summer!**
I love Labor Day, because it is the end of summer. I despise summer. I hate the heat, the humidity, the languid weekend days spent staring at the fan hoping that someone else will come trim the shrubs and weed the flowerbed and run for me because honestly it is just too damn hot.
This summer, particularly, is one I am not sad to say goodbye to.
My husband and I, you may have seen elsewhere, separated on Memorial Day. I believe, at the end of the process, we will both be happier. But this first three months or so have been emotional. I have faced things about myself that aren’t particularly pretty. I have watched our children struggle, a little, with knowing this is just how it is now. I have spent some time taking stock of what happened, what I needed that I didn’t get and what I gave that wasn’t needed and what was needed that I never had to give and why, oh why, couldn’t I just suck it up again, this time, and smooth it over and make everything ok and ignore the glaring problems. There was a part of me that wanted to. But there was a small voice in my head that said “absolutely not.” So I didn’t. I let the thing happen that I was always most afraid would happen, and I am still alive, still breathing, still here.
So we are adjusting. Since he has been living in another state for awhile now, the adjustment is more mental than physical. The kids aren’t going to come home from school and notice that the couch and the 2nd nightstand and all dad’s clothes are gone. We didn’t have to change the school drop-off schedule or the dinner plan, because we did that long ago. Mostly it’s just knowing that it’s inappropriate to text him the small, funny things that happen each day. We had so many inside jokes, so many artifacts of a shared history, it’s hard to accept, sometimes, that he will never again call me and say “She got off the plane!”
But it also means I don’t have endless lonely days and nights stretching in front of me, a lifetime of texting someone else’s words to him or hoping that this birthday, this mother’s day, this Wednesday would be different. I know they will be different – and that what they look like will be up to me. No surprises, but no disappointment either.
What I have now is the opportunity to heal. I have the opportunity to figure out who I am now, at 43. I’m a single mom. I never imagined this would be my life. But no one imagines being divorced. No one wears a white dress and does their hair and takes vows in front of friends and family and God and imagines that one day, they will sit in a conference room on the eleventh floor of a swanky downtown building and tell a stranger all the reasons why they need to be released from those vows, absolved of those responsibilities, relieved of those burdens. When we had the conversation, and came to the conclusion…even though I knew something bad was coming, no one was more surprised than I was that it was me sitting in that conference room.
Every man who has ever loved me, has left me. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that only the right one has to stay. And I also know, in my heart of hearts, that one day, he will.
I wake and my covers are twisted and tangled.
I dream of odd things, forgotten people, real places.
I cannot fathom what my mind is trying to work out, what relentless riddles have nested there.
I almost feel someone breathing beside me, though my bed is empty and the other side is cold.
I flip and I flop. I turn the pillows over and over,
looking for cool, for warmth.
I cover up with the sheet, then the comforter, then both.
I look at the windows, both hoping to see and dreading the light.
I contemplate reading, writing, watching television, cleaning, running.
But I do none of those.
I untangle the covers. I remind myself that I am alone, that morning will come sooner or later.
I hug my pillow, I make myself breathe slowly, rhythmically,
and I will myself to try again.
Break a bad habit.
Learn a new skill.
Do a good deed.
Visit a new place.
Read a difficult book.
Write something important.
Try a new food.
Do something for someone who can never pay you back.
Take an important risk.
These were my goals for 2014.
How did I do?
Well, I intermittently did better on some bad habits. Clearly I need to work harder here, or get some help. I do plan to read Gretchen Rubin’s new book on habits as soon as it’s available.
Topsail Beach was my new place. I fell in love. It was perfect in every way. I also went to San Diego, which was fabulous!
I have learned a new skill at work – well, maybe not a skill. I have learned a tremendous amount about the world of low-income housing. It is not a pretty world. It is gritty and heartbreaking and probably the most difficult thing I have encountered, career-wise. There just isn’t enough safe, decent, affordable housing available. Not in Charlotte, not anywhere. Learning ways to improve that is an ongoing struggle.
I tried to do good deeds. The one that stands out the most was paying for breakfast for an older veteran who was eating alone near our rather raucous family. I just took his check and we paid it, and I told him “thanks for your service, sir. Breakfast is on us.” I think it made me cry a little.
I read The Goldfinch. I read All the Light We Cannot See. I read If I Stay, and Where She Went. I read The Fault in Our Stars, Life After Life, The Signature of All Things. I am not sure if these are what the author of the original list meant by “difficult” but for me, some aspect of each of these books was difficult.
Write something important – yes I did that. I don’t want to say any more than that. But yes. I did that.
I tried sponge candy (no), I was able to eat shellfish again.
I don’t know if I did something for someone who can never pay me back. Does my work count? I got a dog, but he pays me back with love…and fur everywhere.
Take an important risk…yes, I did that too. No further comment.
So I guess I did ok. I think I will continue the tradition and keep these as my resolutions again!
Happy New Year, everyone!
Dreams, constant dreams
Dreams of places we used to live,
of carpet pulled up to reveal hardwood floors
of refrigerators reorganized with
drawers and no old condiments in sight.
Dreams that persist through the night,
Through the cold
through waking up and taking the dog out
Dreams that mean something
Something that I can’t quite articulate.
What am I missing?
What is the lesson I am meant to learn?
Where is the epiphany I am obviously chasing?
I awake tired from running, tired from wondering.
Tired from figuring it out.
Enchanted by flames,
even those reluctant to spread,
to make the jump from paper to wood.
I cannot walk away, cannot stop watching, trying.
clings to my skin,
scents my hair and my clothes,
invades my imagination for examination later.
Ash, too, settles on the flyaway
wisps of my hair.
At first glance it could be snow
but it is still, for the moment,
too warm for snow.
I dreamed that night of death,
I dreamed of peace
and quiet for friends; for old, dear friends
and I dreamed of, saw again, the smoke and spirits heading for the sky.
And now my pillows smell of smoke,
though the wood is wet and the
chiminea is put away,
and the dead in my dreams are alive and well
and the driveway is not on fire.
I want to eat peaches,
sweet, chilled peaches
stained red by the leaking juice
I want to eat BLTs by the ocean,
only no L but add some avocado
I want to drink lemon martinis
that sparkle in my mouth
and pucker my lips
and soften life’s harsh edges.
I want to dare the sea
to come to my chair,
to wet my towel,
to swallow my feet in its foamy embrace.
I want tank tops and flip flops
beach bags and the smell of Coppertone
and sandy children
laughing and squinting into the sun.
I want to listen to music
made by actual living, broken people…
drifting to me, my eyes closed
my heart open.
I want to read your true story
I want to hear your deepest darkest
I want to hold your hand
I want peaches, stained by berries, sweet and juicy in my mouth.