I get the same message a lot - most of the time from recently divorced women wondering when they’ll find someone. Wondering how long it takes. Wondering how hard it is. Wondering where their puzzle piece is, where their other half lives.
And the simple answer is that I just don’t know.
But tonight, it was different. She said -
“You guys make it look easy.”
For Craig’s birthday, I sent him a message every day. Something new every day. Something that I love about him. Something in him that I’m not willing to ever live without again.
For my birthday a month later, Craig - a man of very few poetic words - emailed me paragraphs. Important things, sweet things. Necessary things.
And what I didn’t really tell you, and probably because you don’t really need to know is that the weekend before my birthday, we sat at a restaurant for six hours. SIX HOURS. Our bill was like seven billion dollars, and I used every single free napkin four times for tears that randomly fell throughout our conversation.
[Sidenote: I cry at EVERYTHING. Grey’s episodes, songs, when my students sang happy birthday to me last week. All the things.]
Craig held onto my hand with some sort of death grip, and my palms sweated. My lip was raw from chewing, and I am so damn certain that there are moments in life where the blood leaves all parts of your body and rushes straight to your heart in order to force it into beating again, and again, and again.
In those six hours, we stood on a hundred precipices. A hundred ledges. A hundred decisions. Two divorced people who swore to never compromise again, softly, gently, slowly learning how to do it all again.
There’s this thing I’ve known about Craig the entire time I’ve dated him - I can’t tell him what to do. Example: In Year One, towels fell off the top of the dryer, and I told him to put them back on the dryer when he went to take a shower. And because landmines, and because scarred hearts, and because of everything-that-came-before-me, those words grated on him.
And so in those six hours at the restaurant with comfortable chairs, I said flippantly, “I can’t tell you what to do.” I’ve laughingly said it a hundred times in the years we’ve been together. But. This time was different. And in that annoying way that is also the very best way, he cocked his head to the side and slowly, carefully, calmly whispered, “Yes, you can.”
I shook my head, looked anywhere but him, basketball, the waitress’s ponytail, the woman to my right in the grey shirt. I chewed my lip. I thought about three years from now. Six. Ten. I thought about those damn text messages the week of his birthday.
When she emailed me tonight and told me that we make it look easy, I was tempted to laugh. I was tempted to tell her, “Noooooo, no, no. You were not there last weekend in the trenches. That certainly did not feel easy.” That felt like struggle. That felt like walking through soft dirt, or being lost in some suffocating wilderness.
At the end - when we’d both exhausted ourselves with deep, hard conversation, it was dinnertime. We left, my hand in his. His palms were warm, and I’ll be damned if that’s not one of the things I love most about him.
His hands are always warm, and they always reach out for mine.
Showing up for each other over and over and over again - even when it’s hard, or scary, or if you’re angry - the choice.
Showing up in the nitty-gritty.
Showing up in the yucky middle - the part where you're determined to get it right this time around even if it sucks for a second, even if it sort of feels like it's taking forever, or even if you have to take deep, deep breaths.
Every single time.
Choosing each other over and over.
It takes a lot of damn work to make it look easy.
Conway Twitty crooned on our Sony CD six disc player. My parents danced together on the white carpet, their feet muffled, but their laughter boisterous. I'm from them - both of them love personified. I'm from my daddy's blonde hair and my momma's sweet, laser sharp wit. I'm from them.
I'm from the acre wide front lawn, the grass growing faster than we could mow. I'm from a painted-every-summer fence, a mailbox that was crooked on its wooden post, and gravel roads. I'm from a front porch that faced south and bedroom windows that faced the north. I'm from a farmhouse with more life in it, more history, more love in it than anything else I've ever known.
I'm from five hills away from the highway, deep ravines, windmills, tractors, the East Place, and Mile's Ranch. I'm from cats with names, rescue dogs, a circle drive, and Grandma Lois' old felt covered Christmas ornaments. I'm from a white Corvette rusting in an old shed, forgotten, and unused. I'm from a turquoise front door, an entry way that always smelled like Grandpa Jack, and clear nights where you could see for miles.
I'm from canning green beans, cherry tomato fights, "putting up corn", and the small church in a sleepy town with doors that never, ever locked. I'm from summers of Steel Magnolias, piano lessons, Grandma Bertie's sugar cookies, and the giant bell out front that rang so loud my teeth rattled. I'm from Grandpa Monte, his low, Southern accent, and spicy cologne, and Grandma Elaine - her soft hands and firm, assuring, perfect hugs.
I'm from big bowed Saturday afternoons, from cheerleading skirts and pom poms, tailgates, from Bobcat cheek tattoos and too many boys. I'm from College Station, Huber Heights, Sedalia, Falls City, and every best friend in between.
I'm from girl's nights, porch nights, nights with too much Miller Lite, nights with wide open laughter and skirts that swished around my knees. I'm from long summer days out on the lake, the wind in my hair and our red boat slicing desperately through the water.
I'm from everything - every one that has come before me. I'm from so many strong women, from so many loving, willful men ... and I am so, so glad. I'm from the people that put their hands on my shoulders - the people that lift me up so, so high that sometimes, I don't even have to worry about fear.
And that, my lovies, means something.
When you get divorced, I suppose it’s like a death occurs in the family.
And I suppose that’s why you field questions for months - people are concerned that your shoulders are visibly stooped from a toxic form of grief.
“But how ARE you?”
“Are you doing okay?”
“Are you making it through the days?”
Their brows furrow together, and the concern is written all over their faces.
They like to ask how you pass the time - as if your now not-spouse was the only thing that ever occupied you. Who you really are is as lost to them as it is to you, and you kind of can’t blame them for forgetting. Your name was even lost in the fire, and when you picked it up, the letters left your hands ashy and dirty.
Everyone talks about how hard the nights are. How the darkness descends and the quiet suffocates and the blankets are not warm enough. Everyone likes to talk about the night.
But what about the morning? When the sun comes up and another day is fresh and clean and you wake up wondering if this is the day - if THIS is the day that things will finally feel less confused. You wake up, and you eat breakfast. Alone. You do your makeup and your hair. And you’re alone. You pull on your shoes, and you pour a cup of coffee that you brewed yourself, and you wonder
what happens to the rest of the pot?
Aimlessly, you look around your kitchen, and there’s no one else.
You dump the coffee out into the sink, and the steam feels hot like your tears, and yes. Mornings are suffocating and cold and quiet, too.
When people ask how you’re doing, the truth dances like the devil in between your lips. Do you think they really want to know how the dishwasher broke, or how you had to figure out how to reprogram the garage code with a phone call to the manufacturer? Do you think they really want to know about how you tripped over one of your newly minted not-spouse’s shoes, and you threw it so hard at the wall that you thought you’d probably leave a hole — and when it didn’t? You picked it up again and you threw it again and again. Over and over.
The truth dances between your lips like the devil and the stories dance across the heat of your breath in and out, and maybe they don’t care to know about how it feels like the dentist’s drill sounds, or how you don’t know how to just cook for one.
You put a bookshelf together by yourself and the toxic grief rolls off of your shoulders, and perhaps that’s not what people want to hear about, either. The victory of researching tire choices, or learning how to caulk the bathtub, or killing the spiders are bricks that heave off of your chest and suddenly, you start to think that maybe -
when people ask you how you are, maybe -
You just tell them that you’re fine.
Or that the sky still rains the same way, and people still don’t use their turn signals enough, and you have a date for next Saturday night.
You will tell them that you were destroyed.
You will tell them that hope is coming back to you in chunks, and you’ve been using them as triage for the parts of your body that are bleeding the most.
You will tell them that the fire from what you burned down has singed every single part of you - even the sparkling, unmarred part of your soul is charred.
You will tell them that walking back to yourself has been the longest hike, the hardest marathon, and the slowest sprint that you’ve ever taken.
And then, you will reintroduce yourself.
And you will use the ashy name that you saved from the inferno.
I joined Facebook in ...
I had to use my Peru State College email address because as Bestie Betsy said, "They only let college kids in." Bestie Betsy. She was still a sophomore ... she hadn't even yet begun law school.
I was living in a shitty apartment, I was newly married, and it was way back when your status updates started with, "am" or "was" because your linked name always came first.
We were babies.
Lord have mercy.
Fourteen years ago.
I was 22.
I've been to Australia, Rome, and to divorce court. I've gained a baby and lost a gall bladder. I dance in kitchens, listen to Indie music, and slow music, and country music. I dream about Texas and being a full time writer and bed and breakfasts.
I kiss a little boy goodnight, pray for a little boy during the day, and love a little boy every single second of every single day.
I have made some CHOICES in the last 14 years. Some good - some so gratifying that I carried them with me during the trying years.
Some were scalding, terrifying, and wrong.
I have been wrong.
But in the 14 years since I posted my first status update -
I have grown.
And THAT is what we're really all trying to gauge in the end anyway.
The one that worries about me, too.
The one that laces his boots, zips up his coat, and heads out into the cold - or into the fray - or into the arena with me.
The one that dances in the kitchen on Sunday mornings, Saturday nights, or Tuesday afternoons - when the afternoon winter light hangs in the air.
The one that's still there.
The one that stands in the low light of a living room and with careful words, fights for what you have. What you've crafted. What you've built.
The one that's still there when the smoke clears.
The one that listens to the music on the radio on Sunday afternoons, taps his hand on the console, and sings along. The one that raises his voice, bangs on the steering wheel, and laughs when I join in. The one that still doesn't stop singing.
The one that says yes every single time.
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences. And if you need an awesome virtual assistant, who is full of personality and really good jokes? Email me. I'm your girl.
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He saw her before he saw
anything else in the room.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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