an incoherent stream of consciousness ft. ts eliot

finalized for christmas

It’s done.

I cried.

It’s like the race you never wanted to run in the first place and you’re so damn tired but somehow your legs carried you over the end

Or the divorce you never wanted and you didn’t know you needed and now you’re grieving but relieved and finally things aren’t entirely out of your control but shit, you loved him, you had a wedding, and the way it ends is a letter in the mail


This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but with a whimper


The pocket in my heart where the last bit of love lived leaks

Are you thinking of me too?

I’m sorry.

We never should have been together.

But, damn, I loved you. I really, really did.

I’ll see you on the other side.

I hope.


How does all of this sit together in the same room?

Its like the circus has met for a funeral.

A champagne toast for Scrooge and his ghosts.

Death meets magic meets hope meets tears meets me


I’ve been mourning motherhood lately, so at least we’ve come full circle. The first reason I left finds my first day as a divorcée. Long lost friends.

It’s not the kind of thing that has support groups or Facebook pages or even a name. It’s not the ache of infertility or the piercing loss of a child.

It’s quieter.

It’s the hushed undertone of something lost before it was had. A no, after no, after no. Months and months over. A man who sees you, but never quite sees you. Who knows you, but not well enough. Who refuses to make you a mother. He does not want to raise children who look like you. Who act like you or love like you or live like you. You are not enough. 

I see friends with babies. Beautiful ones. More than one. 

They don’t panic or hide pregnancy tests at the bottom of trash cans or the bathroom at Kroger. Their husbands look forward to fatherhood. They don’t have to stare as the moments tick by on their phone- has it been three minutes or two?- but watch the colors bleed -is that one line or two?- with someone who loves them. 

I see men who actually care. Who actively try. Who love their children and wives and want a life built with and for them. 

I used to be jealous. Now I’m just sad. 

I think there’s a hole in my heart, next to the pocket where the love leaks out. A little one, but big enough to need stitching- torn by the hurt that grows when you’re told, implicitly and explicitly, that you, specifically you, are not worthy of repeating. You are not good enough to parent children. Your terrible qualities tip the scales too heavily. You’re better off having none at all. 

Nothing stings quite so sharply as allowing yourself to be present- you open your heart and mind and home and body and forgive and forget, love and cry and love again- but you are still rejected, among all the other ways, in this last way.


And now it’s done.

I fall at the manger, a heavy head on the edge of the crib. She looks at me, would I like to hold him? His solid little weight rests on my chest, heavy over the place the anxiety sits; it melts for a moment. I can’t hold my own, but I can hold him. 

I suppose something new is beginning.

a season of shavasana

let go to grow

I’ve been making time for yoga lately. Not with the skill or intensity of a Lulu-clad millennial- I’m mostly in my room with my dog- but it’s felt good all the same. 

I used to practice casually in my little North Carolina town, attending beginner classes with retirees and other inflexible townspeople. It was around that time my marriage was at a low point, and I was grateful for mornings alone to unwind. It was just for myself, without people-pleasing or clock-ins or competition. My body moved the way it wanted and needed, without pressure or judgment or the eyes of a husband who loathed me.

All was well – I could even touch my toes! – until my foot broke, I had to stop working, and me and my paisley mat moved to California.

Unfortunately, years of picked-last-in-gym syndrome kicked in and I avoided yoga like the plague, unhappy in my skin and ability and intimidated by the way everyone in Southern California somehow grew up doing yoga (how?). I couldn’t compare or keep up, so I let it go.

It’s October now, another season of letting go. The heat fades, the colors change, the air cools, life stills. 

What am I shedding this season with the leaves? What am I letting settle to the earth with the reds and yellows and oranges? What is the sun warming again with its sweet autumnal light?

I turn into myself, stretch out tight hips, and unwind again in the evening golden glow.

I am in a new season, too. In my room, lengthening and strengthening, I’m given permission to reclaim what’d been forgotten as I greet downward dogs and fish and frogs like old friends.

I am learning to sink further into my body. I am slowly celebrating small victories, making peace with small failures and, through it all, enjoying my muscles and breath and sweat and strength.

More than anything, I find I’m enjoying this new space for aloneness. I sweep out the rooms of my mind, say goodbye to unruly, unwanted visitors, and close the door. There is quiet, there are candles, and at the center of it all, I lay a mat out to take care of myself, for myself, with myself. An outward sign that yes, I take up space in this world, and yes, I will foster that space. 

At the end of it all, I’m in shavasana, the corpse pose. On the outside, I’m looking like the meeting place of life and death. On the inside, I am anchoring. Settling into myself, my skin, my life, my mind, and letting go. Making room for the season I am in and new seasons to come. Sinking deeply into a rhythm.

As much as fall brings death to life, maybe this season, this shavasana of nature, is simply about making space. New space, new room, to breathe. To sink, once again, into a rhythm.


In this new light and space, I am most happily embracing this fresh sense of stillness. A significant stride, considering the unrest of last October.

Last year I was living at home, paying for lawyers, starting a new job, learning about life in a new state. This year, much is the same, but, even still, much is changed. Yes, I’m at home, paying for lawyers, not divorced, but, today, my heart is rested. The constant weight of his presence is fading. He isn’t driving me forward, moving me urgently towards the need to heal, pushing me towards conquering, fighting, processing, growing. 

I continue on my own road, this October, still conquering, processing, growing- but no longer at his expense. It is, this time around, for me, and me alone. This season, this version of me, is a little less tethered to that man, the one who held my heart and mind from a distance.

Now I move through my day, clear headed, both purposeful and purposeless, in a rhythm set by me. He doesn’t hover over my shoulder, doesn’t remind me I am alone, doesn’t tell me I am unlovable, doesn’t say anything at all. He isn’t anywhere to be found. 

Of course, occasionally, when I’m least expecting it, he does come back. October is for ghosts, after all.

Most recently, he was in a song floating over the trees, a tune from the family across the street. Those words had always brought me back to him, back to dancing at bars and at weddings, leaning into each other closer and singing louder, feeling breathlessly this is our life, feeling seen and seeing and wrapped up in home. 

My heart hurt, for a moment, and I wonder if these moments plan on revisiting me for forever. I wonder if I’ll go longer than hours or days- maybe years- until a song or a laugh or a smell returns my heart to his. And then again, for a moment, all the sorrow and all the ache will be back like a strike of lightening, a piercing flash, before returning to nothing. Just another rain storm, just another fall. 

I wonder if someday, at the end of these earthly days, I’ll see him again in another flash of light. Another strike without the pain and the anger and sadness and brokenness. 

I wonder if a part of my heart, a part of my soul, will be his for always. And I wonder if, maybe, someday, those littlest parts will be together again, in the briefest exhale, ah, I know you, and there will be a moment of love, the way we meant it to be. Now, as through a mirror, then, as face to face.

Or, perhaps, more autumns will pass by, and it’ll all be nothing but a lightening strike, an unseen scorch of earth in an overgrown forest, buried and buried again under the falling leaves. 

from a home to a house

packing the parts of a life

I used to love August. The month I was born. The last month of summer. The first month of sports. Volleyball practice in the golden evening light, football whistles in the background. New pencils purchased, jewel toned sweaters, last lazy trips down the river. The first yellow leaves.

Good things ending, good things to follow.

I guess the same could be said of last year’s August, the first August I hated, where one season of my life ended and another began. Good from this point of view. Not so good then.

It was last summer when I cautiously Googled “how to get a divorce” for the first time and immediately cleared my browser.

Last August, a year ago to the day, I hired a lawyer. I asked, still unsure, “If I change my mind, can I back out?” A loophole to make myself feel better about a decision I’d already made. Signed and scanned the paperwork as soon as I hung up. 

Then those plans that existed in cyber space began to grow more concrete. I found myself going out for finger prints, for notaries, calling nursing boards. Trying to endure small talk about why I was moving to Tennessee. Making it sound exciting- Nashville, totally great, right? Hiding the files when I got home.

And then he noticed the cards that I canceled. Moved to the guest room. Argued harder, then gave up altogether. We lived together in the tomb of our marriage for weeks, ignoring the bizarre reality of what we had become.

He left to visit his family.

I stayed behind to pack.


Have you ever had to sort through your life like that? Picked your home apart until it was nothing but a house? 

With the eye of practicality: Well, I don’t think I’ll need a set of pots at my parent’s house. I guess he can keep those. 

Or the eye of sentimentality: I think I’ll take the platters. They’re from my favorite aunts.

I took the china too. I’m not sure what that’ll look like, to take the set out again, but I know that it’s beautiful. I’d like to think I’m still a little bit lovely too, even with a bit of weird history. Me and the plates will just have to be a strange package deal.

Anyway. He got the regular plates. I took the mugs. The bakeware. Left him the grill things. 

Very straightforward.

Less straightforward- taking the pictures down.

You have to look them all in the face. Like seeing yourself from another life- a laugh from a date, a hug from his mother, a night out with his sister- and telling them all goodbye.

Family pictures that included him. The pictures of our friends, the pictures of our wedding, pictures of his nieces.

The prints I bought for our brand-new home. The frames I got for our bedroom.

One by one you look them in the eye, tell them you can’t be staying, they can’t stay either, and pull them off the wall.

Now all is lost in a crowd of U-haul boxes. Picked over and sorted, piece by piece, and tucked between towels, tossed in his closet, or put in the pile for trash. Calligraphy peeps through the mess, mocking:

Love begins at home.” 

God walks among the pots and pans.”

You are my sunshine.”

He used to sing me that song.

Another took its place more recently, “Pictures;” I recommend a listen if you’re in the right mood. A little sadder, a little more fitting. I cried the first time I listened, grateful that someone else put into words this particular aspect of heartbreak. Such a concrete finality comes with matching the surroundings to this broken reality.

I chugged along steadily that week, filing through memories with every new box, sorting my heart into high school and college and prom and marriage and sex and romance and tears and laughter… As if it could all be taped up, put away, and marked this-side-up with a Sharpie.

I wish it was so simple. Instead, I am haunted.

He used to make me omelettes on this pan.

I bought him that mug for Christmas.

That was the night of my best friend’s wedding.

This was the cross from above our bed.

These were the towels I picked for our bathroom. 

The painting of our shared last name. 

The print from his mother.

All gone. 

All the parts of my house sorted into separate boxes. 

All the parts of my heart broken into separate pieces.

I’m still trying to put it back together.

to his family

leaving behind more than a marriage

I love you all. 

I’ve been thinking about what happens if any of you are curious enough to wander this way, and it scares me. Makes me sad, really. I’m sorry if this hurts you.

I’m sorry if this is too honest for you or too much or if you asked him why I left and he just told you I was crazy. You can keep believing that if it’s easier. The truth is, though, that I’m not, and you know that I’m not. I’m smarter than that. 

It took me a long time to come to terms with the openness and publicness of these words, and I waited to post primarily because I was afraid of what you’d all think. Think of me, think of him, think of all of it. I wonder what you saw through your own eyes and if you can’t understand what I’ve done. To be honest, there were days in the past when leaving would cross my mind, but I stayed because I loved you. I didn’t want to leave your network and safety and all the ways I’d come to respect your family. I hate to think of losing yours.

So today, from the most sincere depths of my heart, I’d also like to thank you all. 

Thank you for always being so warm. Thank you for welcoming me in when I was quiet and shy and probably not all that interesting as a soft-spoken teen. Thank you for making me grow to feel comfortable and for always making me laugh. Thank you for sharing your children with me. I miss them. Thank you for letting me keep my beliefs and opinions and respecting them.

Thank you for teaching me how to sit for hours at dinner and the beauty of conversation. Thank you for the depth and color of life found in wine and taking the time for happy hour on a weekday. Life should be lived well, every day of the week. 

Thank you for all the time and money poured into visiting us or flying me to visit with you. Thank you for investing in me and supporting a relationship where you saw love. 

Thank you for nights out at bars, nights in for games, lazy days at the pool and trips to the ocean. 

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for telling me I was smart and telling him I was smart. Thank you for trying to teach him how to be kind to me.

I’m sorry that this happened. I’m sorry if this confuses the kids. I’m sorry that I’m here sharing my story and bringing you to places you probably didn’t want to go. Don’t read it if you can’t. I know your love and loyalty is for him. Just know that I still think of you all often, and there is a hole in my heart where your absence is felt.

Someday I hope you can see that I needed to stop protecting him and start protecting someone else. I needed to help the girl who feels alone and can’t tell if what’s happening to her is worth tolerating, if it’s all nothing, or if those small confusing moments of disconnect and disrespect add up to something a little more serious. I need to try to protect her. My sisters. My friends. The me I used to be. I need to try to let other people know they aren’t alone, even when they’re left in a house by themselves wondering why they aren’t worth the love they thought they deserved. 

I’m sorry, and I’ll always be sorry. I hope you all are well.

Love, 

Me

summer love lost

griefs unexpected unwelcome return

“I don’t think I miss him anymore.”

The words are out of my mouth in therapy the day before my flight takes off, but then I’m here, in the state we grew up in. I swallow my words; it’s all back. This is a joke, right? I mean, I still thought about him every day, but it was fading to more of the odd passing thing. Not this nagging headache.

Damn. He is everywhere. He’s here in the way the roads twist through the quiet woods, the way the headlights reflect off the leaves, brights turned up the whole way home because no one else is on the road. I see him in the stars, the way they splash across the sky in a dance of quiet faithfulness, and I’m back to nights breathing fresh air after hours lost kissing. 

I feel him in the breeze; chilly sweater-weather in the cool northern summer night. One of those nights he took me to the top of the hill by his house, hopping fences and lending me his sweatshirt so we could watch the hours pass by with the crickets. There was a shooting star that night- I was convinced it was a sign. 

I think of the night after prom, swimming in the pool with friends, mixing drinks, crawling into bed at dawn in his old football t-shirt. I think of rides in the truck with my feet on the dash, walks through the woods in the thick humidity. I think of the initials we carved in the bench near the swamp; I think of the sunset we went back for after we were married. It was still just as beautiful. 

There was the sweet innocence of hand-holding, shy first kisses and kayaking. He let me tie my boat to his, and I didn’t mind sitting behind him and watching the way his arms moved. There was Rita’s and Friendly’s and all the silly places you go on dates when you’re young. Summers were always full of each other- me home for a few months, him home for a week or two. It was like stolen time. I soaked him in until I wished I could just melt right into his skin and he stuck to me like the bonfire smoke in my hair. 

How did that become this?

And when does this end? He is still here, burned into every memory of this state, the air and the sky and the trees. Why? And worse than that, why is he in all my favorite songs, my best memories, moments where I grew up? Moments with my family? Why is he in all the movies I love, songs I know by heart, foods I eat, games I play? Why is he everywhere? Every damn thing is his.

I’m not sure what to do here and I wish I knew when it would end. I want to be free. I want to be done. But then I think of the way he kissed me that first night and those summer stars and something about how kind he used to be leaves me lost. I still have trouble knitting these pieces of him into the fabric of what we became. It hardly fits, like a gold thread of magic through a forgotten gray quilt. 

I guess I could thank him for that, for the little bit of magic we stole in our summers. Something about that young romance seems hopelessly lovely… What an unwelcome trick time plays. It’s as if we finally learned the ending: Cinderella doesn’t keep her prince, and the enchanted forest is nothing but a tangle of poison ivy. Probably full of ticks, too, knowing that part of town.

I’d like to think that Cinderella will be perfectly happy anyway, maybe involved with someone a little more consistently lovely. A nice cobbler’s boy or baker or something. Maybe no one, and that could be okay for her too. I guess we’ll see.

an anniversary

better days gone by

Our wedding anniversary was this week. Of all the memories I have of our wedding, the ride to the church is what’s been following me around lately. I was with my dad crammed into the front seat of his car, drowning in tulle. We rode through the Dunkin’ drive through and ordered iced lattes like it was a normal day. I wonder if we knew what I was getting myself into.

After that, memories of the dancing or the church haven’t bothered me like I thought they would. Instead, it’s the night after. I didn’t have much planned, just was hoping for a sweet moment in some girly cupcake-fluff lingerie. We had danced so much that we were both too sweaty for that, so instead of a sexy moment we just slipped into normal life like we were meant to be there. He helped me unzip my dress and birdseed fell all over the carpet. I got into the shower, where he found me, and it felt like coming home. 

And then Costa Rica. So hot, so sticky in our quiet jungle cabin. So deep in the jungle there was hardly anything to distract us from each other, but also too removed from the world for air conditioning. Required a lot more showering. Something about that stands out to me most of all- beyond the awkward first-time-sex energy… It was such a normal thing, but became something kind of lovely. He let me wash his hair. It wasn’t much, but felt vulnerable and intimate, something like a secret. And honestly, you don’t let just anyone wash your hair. You could create chemistry with just about anyone if you tried hard enough, but something about closing your eyes and letting someone shampoo you is meant for people you really trust. I was happy to do it. It felt very wifely, like a simple I love you that was brand new to our brand new way of life. 

We were happy that week. There were frogs and flowers, sloths and iguanas, fresh fruit from the garden. Walks to town for fish, piña coladas, sunburns, and the strange dark color of the sand. I remember laughing and talking and ending every night on the deck. Him in the hammock, me in the rocking chair. There was hope. Maybe relief, too, that I had his attention all to myself, and he was being so devoted after months of the opposite. We got lost in each other a bit, and it felt like it could stay that way forever. I knew marriage would be work, but I thought we’d always find each other and find a way through. We had before.

Someone asked me the other day when the rest of it started – the neglect, the bizarre manipulation. I think it only took a month. It’d all been happening, really, but something about living with someone highlights their worst in a more obvious light. Obviously. So there we were, him talking to me like I was stupid, me with those first alarm bells tinkling in the back of my mind- he’s just stressed, he’s just tired, it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine. 


After my wedding, grief had me flipping through the Rolodex of the other weddings we’d been to. Usually they were good times, except for one we’d been to in October, right at the start of a bad stretch. I felt his mood shifting while the leaves were turning, like the weather was changing for us too.

It started with the bachelor party, where he’d either he’d been to a few full-nude strip clubs and lied about it, or he was so damn drunk he honestly couldn’t remember a thing. I couldn’t tell which version of the story annoyed me more. Then there was the reception; he made a joke about getting me drunk just in case I was pregnant from the weekend before. Wanted to fix that problem, ha freakin’ ha. Then he asked – Are you done? Meaning: was I done being an annoyed/annoying crazy wife because, really, none of my feelings were worth talking about for real. Best to ignore it all and be done. That night he woke me up for sex that hurt more than it should. He was drunk and careless and I thought I couldn’t say no. It felt too weird to talk about after.

Then there was last year’s anniversary. We’d had a barbecue for the holiday weekend with some friends, and everyone was happily buzzed and ready for summer. At the end of the night it was just the two of us and we started fooling around on the patio, as one does when buzzed in the summer. It was sweet until he couldn’t quite keep it going enough for sex and the night ended with me guiltily helping him towards a one-sided finish line. Started out feeling a little loved, ended up feeling a little used. 

I cried that night, wanting God to make it end- the guilt, the coercion, the fear of what would happen to me if I starting telling my husband no. No, I don’t like how that makes me feel. No, this doesn’t seem like you want to have sex because you love me, this feels more like you just want something from me and more than anything, I’m scared because I really don’t think you care what I think. 

There’ve been many more tears since then at his expense, but that was one of the last when things were good. Good-ish. Maybe normal is a better word? Back when things were status quo. Before I’d decided I’d had enough. 

I miss Costa Rica. I miss the simplicity, the easy sex and showers and undivided attention. I miss loving and feeling loved. It’s a small moment of time untouched, like a little pocket in the jungle still wild. I wish it could’ve lasted. 

when you love the one you left

leaving the bad and grieving the good

I still miss you. 

I’ve been having dreams where we’re together and I can’t quite remember why we were ever apart. We’re happy again until I wake up and I’m left feeling like I’ve been visited by your ghost and that old maybe-I’ll-let-the-shit-slide feeling starts to haunt me; the old feeling I used to use when I crammed everything else down. I did it because I liked you and it felt like too much to tackle anyway.

And because your eyes crinkled when you laughed. 

The ghost starts unraveling my day with memories of our sweeter life. And then I miss you more.

I miss rubbing your back while we fell asleep. I miss sitting in bed eating trail mix and laughing. I miss hearing you sing in the shower. I miss your wedding ring, slow dancing, your arms around me. 

Sometimes you made me feel wanted. Needed. Special. Loved.

I think about that night near the end of it all when I sat on the side of the guest bed. I had started making you sleep in there. You didn’t understand at first and it was a stab in my heart every time I had to remind you and remind myself that I was leaving you. We shouldn’t be in the same bed anymore. Please go stay in the other bed. Over and over I told you. 

Then that night you were in that bed and I was just out of the shower, sitting on the edge in a little nightgown and crying. 

What a strange crossroads. How easily I could have just put it all away and invited you back to our room. How much I wanted to. I wanted you back where I remembered you, back where you wanted me and we could love each other. Instead, I was there crying, and you were telling me I was doing this. 

I guess in a way you were right. I was doing this. I was the one that was leaving. I was the one walking away. And I guess I didn’t have to.

I wish I didn’t have to. Too long, though, I had forgiven and forgotten and pushed and shifted and smashed things under the rug. It would have been easier to let it go again, and again, and again, and fall back into the pattern of life where it was good and I was holding my breath for the moment it wouldn’t be good anymore. 

Instead I’m waking from dreams of you to April mornings in this new life of mine, and I drift back to those springs that built our old life.

It was the last spring of high school when we started dating. It was a season of milkshakes after school, hikes in melting snow, runs in the park when the sun set late. It was kayaking and kissing, talking and star-gazing, Malibu in Coke and long rides in your truck. You were quiet back then. You were the strong, football-playing guy who secretly just wanted to hold my hand. You were sweet and you listened and your sturdiness made me feel soft. 

We got engaged on a late May night four years later. You were driving me home from college when we stopped in a park where you bent down with the ring I’d picked out a month before. The crickets chirped their congratulations and we got lost on the way back home. 

Our wedding was the spring after that. It was beautiful. Somehow, still one of the most satisfying, full, lovely days of my life. There was joy and flowers, all the people I loved in one place, and so much dancing I ruined my dress. It was heaven. Our whole hopeful lives were ahead of us, and when we smashed cake into each other’s faces I didn’t mind a bit. I loved the way we could make each other laugh. And then our honeymoon was the loveliest, laziest, stickiest week in the jungle I will never forget. It was you and me, alone on the planet, soaking each other in with the sun. There were rocking chairs and seafood, walks and sunburns and as much sex as we could manage. We belonged to each other.

We bought our first house last March. You made a joke about being stuck with me when we signed for the 30-year mortgage. Not so funny now, I suppose. We had plans for that house, though, ideas for the deck and the porch. You built a workshop in the garage and I was beside myself with the joy of a functional washer-dryer. 

Your family came to visit that spring and the week we spent with them might have been our last good time. You were easy to be around with your family there. It was safe for me. I felt at home with them. We swam and played cards and enjoyed the breezy California bloom. There was a lemon tree the kids loved and wine for the rest of us.

It’s hard to come to terms with these two versions of our marriage- the one where you were sweet and strong, and the one where you were angry and absent. The times where I was seen and the times I was invisible. 

I used to walk into the future holding on to these Springs of the Past- the easy, bright days full of hope- until that night on the guest bed, when I sat and cried over the place I’d finally put you in. I knew I needed to let the bad come out from where I’d hidden it and let it be as real as the good. I knew I needed to choose a future where I didn’t have to hide secrets or live hurt. That night I had to hold our marriage in my hands and cry, because I knew that when I chose to walk away from the darkness, I would leave behind a little light too. 

It’d be easier to pretend it never existed so I could just hate you. Instead, I’m here, in this first spring in this new life of mine, and I’m realizing I really only said goodbye to the man that I left. I need to say goodbye to the man that I loved.

So, goodbye to you. 

Goodbye to the boy who walked with me in the woods and carved our names in the tree.

Goodbye to the writer of my love letters, to my prom date, to my football-watching, dog-walking friend.

Goodbye to your arms and the songs you sang me. Goodbye to your lips. Goodbye to my rocking chairs and your cigars and country-music summer nights. Goodbye bonfires and dancing. Goodbye car rides and long talks and sharing families.

Goodbye to the part of my heart I gave you. Goodbye to my hopes for our future. Goodbye to our imaginary children playing in their imaginary yard and the way I thought you’d look when you held our babies. Goodbye to Christmas mornings and Sunday coffee and Game Night. 

Goodbye to your laugh. Goodbye to your smile. Goodbye to those moments where you made me feel safe.

Goodbye, friend. I love you.

a letter to you on your birthday

the two sides of one love

Today, in a bizarre toast to you on your day, I made the decision to go through my box of old love letters. Back when we started dating I went to TJ Maxx and bought a box with purple lilacs and French script printed on the cover. What a perfectly romantic place to store the letters you’d been sending me from school! How heartbroken our little teenage hearts were when you left! We knew it was the beginning of a long road paved by the military; lined with long-distance, hard-work, and loneliness. 

Your letters were sweet and short and written in between desperately busy days. You wrote to me about how beautiful I was. How sweet and kind. How much you looked forward to seeing me again. How much you looked forward to the next part, the next month, year, whatever, because it all meant we were closer to seeing each other again and always inches closer to the ultimate: life together after school. You wanted to see me wake up in the morning and hold me at night. You wanted to tell me you loved me and laugh with me. You wanted to be friends. You wanted to be family. 

What do I do with those letters now? Do I throw them away and pretend they never existed? Do I reduce them to some manipulative scheme and dismiss them? Do I let them sit in my heart and feel the love I felt when I was 18, 19, 20, etc., etc, etc. 

I’d like to think it was real. If you were manipulating me I don’t think you knew it. I’m not sure you loved me as deeply as you claimed or as intimately as I needed, but I think somewhere and somehow you loved me. In some universe, when you addressed cards as my love, I really was your love. When you wrote me that I was beautiful and would be a perfect mother and wife, that you would take care of us and protect us, you didn’t know yet I would need protecting from you. You didn’t know that you would tell me someday you wouldn’t want kids because you didn’t want them to grow up to be like me. That one day you could watch me tip the man in the parking lot and look at me, seriously, and say “I fucking hate you” and pretend you never said anything at all. I don’t think you knew on our first Valentine’s Day when you called me your heart and soul that on our last Valentine’s Day you would get me a blank card on the way home from work and never write in it. 

Buried even deeper in the box is a list of things you loved about me where you told me I was smart. I don’t think you knew we would get in a door-slamming, sleep-on-the-couch fight because you thought men were smarter than women, and especially that you were smarter than me. That you could tease me and call me dumb and useless and I would laugh it off. 

How do I reconcile these people that I knew? There was the sweet, sensitive boy who wrote these letters. He surprised me with a weekend to the beach one of our first married summers. We took a ferry to an island and spent the days eating seafood, sleeping on the sand, drinking and smoking cigars and singing 90s songs on the porch. We were at home together. You used to open your arms up to me and ask for a hug while you were on the couch- I loved that you did that. I would be busy, cleaning or folding clothes, and you knew that sometimes an interruption was best. Your arms were strong and warm.

How was that the same man who could leave me alone in a house night after night for hours at a time? Who could disappear to a bar with friends without caring to tell me when he’d come home? Who wouldn’t hug me or touch me or speak to me unless I begged him? Who could scream til he was blue because I took too long curling my hair? 

I used to think the kind version of you was the real one, and the dark version was the one that needed excusing, and there were plenty of excuses. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe that version was real enough, but those roots can only grow so deep. At the core and buried underneath is your darkness and sadness and hatred. I think it might be rotting you away, because it certainly tried to rot me.

I’ll put it so you can understand: I think your kindness is real in the way paint is layered on the canvas. You’ll paint it on thick enough until even you believe it and everyone else sees something beautiful. In the end, though, the canvas is weak and thin and when the paint starts to chip off there’ll be nothing beneath but sadness. 

Happy birthday.

Love,

Me

the morning i left my husband

the beginning of becoming

The morning I left my husband we both cried. I was going to the airport for a weekend trip, he was leaving to visit family for a few weeks. We both knew when he came back I’d be moved out.

I saw him in the kitchen that morning and we looked at each other a little awkwardly- were there rules on saying goodbye to your spouse? We did what we’d always done, held each other, until I rolled my bag to the front step and closed the door behind me.

He followed. Sometimes I wish he would have followed me forever. Or just found a way to stay good.

We held each other in the front yard. Me on my tip toes, my arms around his neck. Him bent over with his head on my shoulder, keeping me close.

More crying.

Somehow I endured a Lyft with a driver who talked the whole ride about nothing. I wanted to fall apart and scream and sleep all at once.

How do these people not know this is the day I’m falling apart? How do they all keep looking at me and talking to me and breathing near me?

Don’t touch me. Don’t look at me. Please.

The flight cross-country is a long one. Longer when you feel like you’re somewhere between crushing, overwhelming sorrow- and I mean sorrow, deeper and broader and more absurd than regular old sadness- and simply not existing. I just shrunk smaller and smaller, collapsing inside myself, somewhere quiet where it was a little bit safe and far from laughter and iPhones and snacks.

Honestly, it was almost was comical- “Hey, how are you, where are you going?”

“Oh, just leaving my husband. I’ll have peanuts, thanks.”

Who was I to walk away? This Catholic girl, marriage is forever, love-him-till-I-die girl? How do I leave those arms, that face? Those joys, those hopes, those dreams? The routines, the rhythm. The long mornings in bed on Saturdays. Brunch by the water on Sundays. Summer nights- bushels of oysters, bottles of wine. Endless fights with the dog about staying off the couch until we realized we liked him on the couch.


It was a summer night when our marriage met the start of it’s end. The emotional distance was getting to be too much again, and I had finally worked up the courage to confront him.

Strike that. I confronted him all the time. This night, he agreed to talk.

We met on the couch, fans oscillating furiously against another heat wave. Just a little extra misery, salt in the wound, courtesy of California.

He admitted he knew he’d been off.

I always can tell right away- the touches don’t linger. The sex is lazy, at best. Slow Saturday mornings are gone. I beg for brunch. He turns away in bed, doesn’t come at all. He’s with his friends more often than not. There’s no pet names, no chats about the day. He just exists.

Somehow he denies it and tells me nothing is wrong- until finally something is wrong.

This time, it was kids. He told me he didn’t want any.

So I told him we were done.

I already knew, really, that the problem wasn’t kids.

It was me.

You see, we had always planned on having kids. At least, I had always planned on kids, and he had always been agreeable.

All I’d ever wanted was to be a wife and mom, to have a little home and family where we could grow in love and grace. From the day I could hold a doll, I was planning on it. At seventeen I chose nursing so I could have time at home to raise a family later. Now I was halfway through grad school because I thought it’d be easier to finish before toddlers were running around. We had just bought a house with an extra room!

You cannot tell me this man I married somehow overlooked the fact that kids were part of the plan and then realized overnight he didn’t want it.

The truth is, he did not want them because he did not want me.

The night of his grand reveal he packed a bag to stay at a friend’s house.

We were crying, again.

Clearly, a lot of crying goes into killing a marriage. Crying and saying I love you, crying in doorways, crying outside. He told me he was going to drink till he forgot everything, saying something about the biggest decision of his life being a mistake. The mistake was me, I guess.

Even still, that night I followed him out the door until he made me go back inside. We both were crying so much he couldn’t leave.

It didn’t matter; there weren’t enough tears in the world to save us. 

It was another summer night, weeks later, when I told him some men chose women like me. Some men wanted women of faith who wanted children. He could tell me he wanted me to stay, but he didn’t want what made me me to stick around- my faith, my dreams, my heart.

It was enough when he, so sincerely, so kindly, conceded, “It’s okay, we’ll figure it out. I’ll just cope with it.”

That was that.

I am not a woman to be coped with. I am a woman to be cherished.

Welcome to your final descent.