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.

hashtags, parenthesis & patriots

when football is more than a game

After last year’s AFC championship game I rewatched this video about 1020930392 times. (Also this one because so many lols #soundon).

If you’re not feeling like clicking, basically the gist is this: the Patriots have a crappy start to their season. Everyone asks, as usual, “is this the end of the dynasty?!” Pats turn it around, as usual, and make it to the AFC championship game. And win, in overtime, 37 to 31. A nail biter, literally. 

My friend Tom (a girl can dream, right?) sums it up pretty nicely to my other friend Chris (still dreaming): 

“I’m too old. You’re too slow. We’ve got no skill players. We’ve got no defense. We’ve got nothing.” 

A casual nod to the haters from a team on the way to their eleventh Super Bowl. 

What, you ask, does this have to do with me? 

EVERYTHING, PEOPLE!

It was this game where I felt my turn-around coming. A little spark of life peeped out that night from around the corner. 

Honestly, the weeks before that game bad been particularly challenging. Between the first-holiday-season-post-divorce and post-holiday-season-blues, everything had piled together and I was in a serious funkkkkk. 

Right up until that fateful evening when I made the first crucial connections between my weird little life and my weird little football obsession. 

Bear with me, I swear there are parallels here and I’m not totally insane. Because, truly, my team had been in a funk too! And somehow, with The Patriot Way and a sprinkle of Brady magic, they had pulled it together. So much so that they were going to the Super Bowl.

It was time for me to pull it together too. 

Yes, maybe this emotional investment is something that happens when girls get involved in the world of sports. It’s also possible I’m just a nut. Whatever. I’m a human with a heart and sometimes these things happen.

Either way. Here we are.

This team and this game had proven a point: 

Great things can still come after great failure.

And yes, it’s possible that to some of you last year’s Super Bowl was one of the more boring in history.

It’s also possible I’m biased because A) I got to go (thanks Dad!) and B) we won, but still! The game was a defensive masterpiece; a demonstration of slow-moving, steady, sturdy, hard-worked winning. 

Maybe not thrilling, but maybe that’s not the point. 

In real life/football life we don’t always get to take the most exciting or problem-free journey, but sometimes, in the end, it doesn’t matter. We still get to celebrate. And that day, when that confetti came down, it was a celebration like none other. A celebration of resilience. Bounce-back. Community. Overcoming odds. Becoming stronger, more brilliant, more successful humans despite setbacks and criticisms and NOISE.

So HELL YA I took this season personally. Again, for emphasis: HELL to the YA. There I was, watching a team win that had overcome their odds, finally ready to overcome my own.  Ready to climb out of a headspace where I was forgettable, unwanted and uninteresting. Not smart. Not strong. Not desirable.

Again, parallels abound, and I’d like to remind any of you who’ve forgotten that the Patriots hashtag for last year’s season was #STILLHERE.

Fitting. Looks like I’m #STILLHERE too.

I will not be told I am unworthy. I will not be told I am forgettable. 

I will be respected.

I will be bigger. I will be stronger. I will overcome this mess and be the better for it.

I am going to win my own freaking Super Bowl.

Get at me.

#LFG

some things i didn’t learn in sex ed

the unfortunate reality of stds (good girls get them too)

Yesterday I went to the eye doctor and got to check the box marked ‘herpes’ in my medical history so that felt just GREAT. Like an extra treat- not only do I get to have this shitty virus the rest of my life, I also get to tell people like my dentist and my eye doctor about it now!

At this point, I figure I might as well tell a couple bloggy people about it too.

My thought process is this: the problem I have is embarrassing. It’s a little taboo and a little hard to talk about, and it all inspires a rainbow of feelings. I figure if I’m having this experience, chances are someone else is too. 

Whether it’s herpes or some other annoying BS, there’s always someone else going through something similar. There’s no need for any of us to feel isolated, especially over herpes, especially when literally millions of people have it.

And to be honest, when I was first dealing with this I couldn’t find anyone to relate to, so I’d like to be that space for someone else.

Especially in a conservative Christian community, talking about things like this feels very off-putting. It’s not quite kosher, not indicative of a life well-lived, doesn’t point to the the white-washed purity that is the cookie-cutter goal. However, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Christianity is not about perfection. It is where our imperfect, messy, human lives come in contact with grace beyond comprehension. These things we hide in the dark, herpes included, are the very things that deserve to be brought to the light for healing. Jesus didn’t come for us and our perfect track record. He came to meet us where we are weak. He specifically met with the rejects of society, and I imagine they didn’t get ignored or shamed when they looked into His eyes. I imagine they were reminded of their beloved-ness and were invited into love. 

We cannot fully embrace each other, or even ourselves, if we are allowing ourselves to hide in such shame we can’t see our own goodness.  

Of course, I appreciate privacy and protecting yourself from those that will hurt you. I am being open in my experience here, and not everyone is called to do that. That’s okay. Read on and know you are not alone.

In the meantime, I’d also like to call into question the version of Christianity that left me too ashamed to talk about something that happened to me because there are those with uneducated opinions about the way the world works for some of us living messier lives. This content might be too explicit for some communities, but it’s explicit content that I lived, and that doesn’t make my walk towards eternity any less holy. 

Some of us are suffering for the poor decision making of others, and some of us have made our own poor decisions. Some of us got herpes. That doesn’t make any of us less worthy of love, less pure, less whole, or less good.


Stepping off my soap box, I’m going to give you a little glimpse into the experience of someone who’s just found out they have herpes. Exciting!

I see it plenty at work- the moment someone finds out that, yes, those bumps aren’t from shaving/bug bites/allergies. There’s usually plenty of tears. Sometimes the loud theatrical type, sometimes more of the soft weepy display. Luckily for me I was the quiet type (my co-workers would be proud!). 

Anyway, after all the crying and the milkshakes and the wine came the anger. I was angry for a very long time. Silly me, I had thought I had left my marriage behind. Now, instead, I have a permanent reminder that can pop back up for my enjoyment at any moment! A literal permanent mark in my body reminding me, hey, someone loved enough to treat you like shit. You thought you left it all behind, didn’t you?!

I was angry for the future, too. Angry for whatever marriage I might someday enter into; how unfair to someone else to have to risk sharing this affliction. Sharing pain is a normal burden to carry in marriage, but this just felt unfair. And what a hassle, having to add this to the list of prenatal care worries if I ever got to have kids. I could pass this on, I could require surgery, it could complicate things more than I imagined. 

On top of all that was the sense of violation. Something had happened to my body and changed it without my authorization. Without invitation. My boundaries were intruded upon and my DNA altered without permission. 

And then there was the shame. Literally, I was dirty. It didn’t help when I saw a forum where girls were discussing whether or not they’d date guys with HPV. I guess that’s their prerogative, whether or not they want to risk contracting viruses- it’s a choice I didn’t get to make. Still, I hope someone is more open minded towards me in the future. I wouldn’t reduce someone else’s potential to what baggage they carry from their past, so I hope I’d be shown the same courtesy. Whether or not that looks like a virus, a heartbreak, a bad habit (or two), we all carry something from where we were before.

It all seems quite unreasonable. I followed the rules as best I could. I tried to love well and work hard, and instead I got this. I’ve always known there were permanent consequences for certain behaviors. It’s just unfortunate I have to pay the price for someone else’s.


So there it is, in one neat little package. I am less than pure. I’ve been marked, I’ve been violated, and I am always going to have this in the back of my mind with the rest of my relationships for the rest of my life.

And at the same time, it doesn’t bother me as much today as it did before. This illness is only a symptom of the primary one: the sickness of a dysfunctional relationship. There are other things that left deeper scars and, hopefully not, but what feels like more permanent damage. This was a byproduct, and really, there is a part of me that just shrugs my shoulders and says, well, of course, this is what I expected, isn’t it? I’m honestly not that shocked.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what rules you did or didn’t follow or who gave who what. It sucks either way. I’ll still be your friend. 

And, guess what? Either way, you’re still good. I’m still good. Someday somebody will love me anyway and, really, plenty of people already do.

lying and cheating

the secrets that follow you

The other day it occurred to me that maybe he’s glad I left him. I’d never really considered the version of the story where he wanted me to leave… Somehow in my mind he was missing me more than I was missing him and he was sorry. Strange to think he could move on, too.

That’s not the way the world works, though, and, really, it shouldn’t feel new to me that he doesn’t want me. There were a million little ways he didn’t want me before. 

For today, I find myself considering the less-frequent-but-more-significant ways he didn’t choose me. Maybe that’s not the right way to say that- I’d like to think it was was less about not wanting me and more about just wanting someone else. 

However you want to say it, I think it happens more than we realize. Infidelity, that is. None of us can talk about it- sometimes to protect the integrity of a relationship, sometimes because we’re afraid. Maybe a little of both. Sometimes that’s okay. What isn’t okay: when secrets are kept so well that we isolate ourselves, unable to talk to those we trust about the blurry lines between normal and intolerable. This hyper-privacy breeds isolation and only allows bad behavior and poor decision making to perpetuate. We shouldn’t be shutting out the wise guidance and input of those we trust. 

Either way, secret or not, I hate that cheating happens. I hate it for me, and I hate it for everyone else who’s had to deal with it. I hate that it calls into question everything we thought we knew. Trust. Worth. Desirability. Are we good enough? Are we worth loving? Are we worth faithfulness if we’re busy, or tired, or not having as much interesting sex as other girls in the world? If we are covered in baby spit-up or tired from night shift or we forgot to shave our legs one too many days in a row? 

It’s sad. Sad and hard. However, truly, I don’t think it’s impossible to come back from unfaithfulness. I really don’t. I think if there’s respect and transparency involved, real vulnerability and love, there can be redemption. I believe in redemption. I have to.

So do I believe that once a cheater, always a cheater? 

I think not. If that were the case and we all were stuck with the sins we committed on occasion, we’d be doomed to the faults of our childhood. Once a liar, screamer, biter, fighter, etc., etc., etc. We grow up and grow on. 

On the other hand, I wonder if I didn’t so passionately believe in second chances if I would have let things get so far. Sometimes I wonder if I brought this on myself. Maybe I treated my relationship with a boyfriend with a grace and permanency it didn’t deserve. I put in the work, poured out forgiveness, and took back what I probably should have let go. 

Or maybe I just got damn unlucky when I tied myself to someone who forgot to grow up and just grew worse. Or better, possibly, but at lying. You tell me.

* * *

The first time it was just a kiss at a club that I found out about a couple months later. When I got home from studying abroad he told me about it: it was nothing, really, he was drunk, it was quick, he didn’t even know her name. Somehow, though, he was able to Skype me, email me, call me, even visit me overseas without mentioning it. For months? Weird. But whatever. It was small. He was probably lonely. He was drinking, he didn’t mean it, fine. Somehow the delay in disclosure was because he was worrying what I’d do. Okay. I lighten up. I don’t tell anyone.

But then it happened again. 

Let me put a disclaimer in here. I’m telling this story to remove the isolated secrecy of the past, however, I am also aware that this one-sided story telling might not lend itself to a balanced narrative. So, in the spirit of fairness, I will admit my own weakness. I will tell you that this was the moment that should have been the red flag in the damn mountain of sand. This was what should have told me to run for the freaking hills as fast as I could. This was when, instead, I pulled that flag out of that sand and promptly buried my head in as far as it would go. I was hopelessly naive, stupid, young…All of it. All in the name of love. I take some of the blame. No, I didn’t deserve to be treated the way I did. And no, this doesn’t excuse shitty behavior. But should I have been smarter? Probably.

Anyway, let me set the scene. We’re juniors in college. He’s at a military school, stressed and busy. I’m in nursing school, stressed and busy. I’m having significant problems with anxiety and mood swings (nursing brings out the best in us, amiright?).

Somehow we make it to Christmas break, where he tells me a story about a party he had at his house that fall. There were some friends over from high school, some of them girls he used to know. Everyone’s drinking and ends up spending the night, and one of those girls sneaks into his room. She comes onto him, starts fooling around, he manages to fend her off in his drunken stupor. I buy the story, wondering why he waited so long to tell me. Wondering why I only heard about her persistent phone calls weeks after that.

I tell the tale to some friends, really very proud of how loyal my guy was being. So tempted! So amazing! So loyal! 

They pull me aside a few days later and ask me if I’m sure I’m getting the truth. They don’t really buy it and something isn’t sitting right. 

I ask him about it again. Is there anything else I’m missing? Any parts of the story you want to fill in? No, that was it. 

Let’s fast forward some. We’re engaged. It’s summer time. He was able to hold onto his damn lie for that long and had the balls to PROPOSE to me in the meantime. Turns out, they had slept together. She convinced him I was going to break up with him soon. We’d been fighting a lot, mood swings are a bitch, school sucks for everyone. We were obviously donezo. 

My consolation prize was that he was too drunk to finish.

I wish I had left then. Not just because he had cheated. Not just because I was betrayed. Not just because I was working really hard to save sex for marriage and he turned around and gave it away to some girl he barely knew.

The real problem was the lie.

It still blows my mind that someone could be capable of such deception. To go day in and out telling me they loved me, telling me they were faithful, picking out rings and promising forever, when all along they were carrying that shit around.

And still, I didn’t talk about it. 

Even after we got married, as much as I tried, it was always in the back of my mind. If I was too busy, if I was too anxious, if I wasn’t cute enough or fun enough or just enough, there would be trouble. And I was gullible enough to buy his stories once, what was to keep it from happening again?

It didn’t help that there were a couple bizarre things that fed my pet suspicion. Not enough on its own to ring alarms, but enough all put together. Like how I wasn’t allowed to look through his phone. Couldn’t know his password, couldn’t look at his messages, couldn’t look at the browser. Wasn’t allowed to track him, even when we were on road trips. 

There was the girl who called in the middle of the night once, wanting to know where he was, wanted to know if he would meet her out. Was shocked when I picked up the phone while he was sleeping. Said she was from college and didn’t know he had a wife.

And then, like times before, he couldn’t keep it together during sex and was getting withdrawn. Wasn’t telling me when he was coming home or picking up his phone, wasn’t inviting me out anymore or putting any effort in to talk to me. 

And of course, there was that weird bump I thought was a spider bite. Found it right after our anniversary last summer. I remember making a joke to him about herpes and we both laughed. 

L to the O to the freaking L.

Even at the end he said there was no one else. I’ll never really know for sure, which sometimes makes it worse. Even when that bite came back last February and, shocker, wasn’t from a spider, he still denied it. I get it, that shit is a virus and it can come up anytime from anyone. Just unusual to have that first outbreak when you’ve been in a monogamous relationship for four years. 

But, again, whatever. You can draw your own conclusions about where it came from. I tried to ask about it, and all I got in response was “leave me the fuck alone” and “watch out.” 

Interesting. Ok.

Anyway. 

Infidelity sucks. 

I’m sorry if it’s happened to you.

I’m glad if you can find a way to heal. I’m glad if you hold out hope for redemption.

Just know, more than anything, that you are not alone. You don’t have to hide. I see you. And you are good. You are loved. You are beautiful. 

You are enough. 

And that’s the truth.

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. 

going public

it’s time to speak up

This account was set to private until last week. I’ve been typing away for months in hiding, getting my story down and out, processing, waffling somewhere between snotty tears and girl-power anthems. I knew I wanted to let this all breathe in the open someday, but I was planning to let it wait. I was scared.

Even here, after all this time, I was scared of him. 

I was scared he’d find this and read it all and be absolutely enraged. How dare I say this or say that, report this, talk about that. Interpret it this way, feel that way. No one was supposed to know, this was supposed to be private, it was personal, this was between husband and wife. I was afraid he’d be furious.

The thing is, though, he’s already furious.

The other thing- I already left.

I realized now was the time for me to let my story see a little daylight; it was time to stop being afraid of him. I couldn’t lose his affection any more than I already had, and I needed to stop giving him power over me. I stand on my own now because I choose to, and he doesn’t get a say here anymore.

I’m not trying to be hateful or take anyone down. I’m just trying to tell my story. And he doesn’t get to tell me how I do that anymore.

Of course, regardless of his opinion, telling a story of my own left me open to the frightening opinions of others. I was pretty damn afraid someone could hear it and tell me that I was crazy.

I was afraid that I could lay it out there: the moments, the facts, the feelings – and someone could look at the body of it all and tell me that I made it up. That I interpreted everything very, very poorly, and completely took it all out of context. That what I felt was wrong. I imagined it all. I was wrong to leave, I was wrong to believe what I did, I was insane to have the standards I did or the faith I had. He never really made me feel small, he never really ignored me, I must have been dreaming. I was stupid, I was being a typical woman, I was being overdramatic.

But I suppose that’s the point of overcoming any kind of abuse. I used to laugh when people claimed to own ‘their truth’ – it felt like a very millennial catch-phrase – but now I understand. You can’t cope with the reality of what happened if you don’t believe it yourself. Abusers are the ones who convince you it wasn’t real. Abusers tell you you’re crazy and completely in the wrong. So in the end, everyone might have a different version of this story, but I’m not going to believe the version where I am insane anymore. I have a claim to truth now, and I will not let that be silenced.

Aside from all that, there is still the problem of being seen. I was (am) afraid of that too.

Naturally, for all my fear, it’s one of my deepest desires. Who doesn’t want to be fully seen, acknowledged, celebrated, loved?  After spending a lot of time being unrecognized, becoming unrecognizable, I started to believe that was it until I left the shitty vortex of my marriage and found my voice again somewhere safe. 

Unfortunately, since then, I’ve come to realize that honest story telling isn’t safe at all. In all creation through all of time- in music, art, poetry, writing, acting- there is vulnerability. Even here, I open myself up to judgment, misunderstanding, forgettability, and failure. Still, I walk forward, willing to speak up and let everyone turn away, again, leaving me unknown, again. This time is a little different, though, because this time I don’t put so much weight on someone else’s seeing. This time, I see myself.

In reality, this story of mine just exists somewhere small, but it’s my somewhere small. I’m going to own it now. My story is part of a larger story, and I’m going to tell it without being afraid. Try like hell, anyway. 

Part of me still is cautious, and human, and I’d like to stay on your good side, so I’m sorry if my story bothers you. I’m sorry if it offends or paints a picture of reality you never noticed on your own. I apologize if the details are too much or you don’t understand or you don’t believe me. 

You’re welcome to walk on by. 

Because sorry or not, scared or not, I’m ready to let this exist. 

regrets and apologies

a goodbye to what might have been

I still think about it.

I don’t even know if it was real, but somehow I think it was. Somehow, somewhere in the universe, I think you still exist, and I’d like to say I’m sorry. 

That summer I thought you might have started to settle in I was scared. It sounds small, I know, and now I find myself amazed I could have ever been so feeble. I should have been stronger than that. I’m sorry.

He and I had been arguing for months. Over a lot of things, but mostly the turmoil and misery was all because of birth control. I didn’t want to be on it. I wanted to learn about my body and let sex be raw, stripped down and respectful of the way it all worked. He didn’t care much about that, but also didn’t want to take it upon himself to invest in his own version of “protection.” That was for high schoolers, and he wasn’t a high schooler. So it was on me to get it right, or else. 

Unfortunately, arguing long-distance allowed for an awful lot of terrible texts and calls and made the silent treatment all that more easily executed. The isolation was the worst part, when I was desperate for the yelling because at least he was engaged.

Then we were together again, the week before our wedding, and the arguments dissolved into nothing. He never acknowledged the fierceness, the screaming, the silence, the coldness. Even that conversation, just weeks before, where I told him I didn’t feel respected and didn’t think we should get married went ignored.

Did it even happen? Did I make it up? That night he held me and laughed and bought me a beer while we watched the Stanley Cup with his friends. It all got tucked into a closet, and every effort I made to find some kind of resolution got shut down.

Maybe it wasn’t real to him. Maybe I was making a big deal out of nothing. Maybe it was just stress. Whatever it was, it followed me. It lurked over my shoulder, waiting to rear its head again when I deserved it. Probably when my plans failed and cycle tracking didn’t work or was too hard or required too much effort. 

We got married and I was extra careful. Better be, or else the closet would creep open and the clouds would sweep into our sunny North Carolina home.

One July afternoon he came back early from a work trip. Inconvenient for me- it was one day too soon for any care-free sex days, but we wanted each other. How nice it was to be loved and wanted by the sweet man I knew was there all along. Do I tell him it’ll probably be fine, and risk a pregnancy I could be punished for, or do I say no, not today, and risk adding another no to the pile of no’s I could be punished for?

We went with probably fine.

Science can be rather predictable, especially when it comes to sex. Turns out one day early bought me a period that was a few days late. 

Not super late, not enough that most women would even notice, but it was enough that I did.

My sister was in town that week. We went to the beach a lot, and I went back home to pee a lot, hoping and praying that this time would be the time my period would come.

I stopped taking my meds, the supplements I took to keep my mood stable and my cycle regular. Those ones I knew I’d need to keep taking if I wanted to keep a pregnancy stuck.

I should have been braver. And I know my doctor said that it shouldn’t have mattered, that the medication wouldn’t have made a difference that early anyway, but I still have the guilt. I’m sorry.

I should have stood up for you, and for myself. I should have been able to tell him that my boobs were killing me, and I thought I was a little late, and maybe I needed a pregnancy test. But then he noticed the way my bikini top fit and the off-handed jokes- you better not be pregnant – started making me nervous. It didn’t feel that funny. And I didn’t want to be alone again. I didn’t want to be blamed, I didn’t want to be wrong, I didn’t want to be resented, I didn’t want to be hated every day of the rest of our lives for the bills, and the sleep deprivation, for the mess, for the responsibility. 

Even still, I shouldn’t have chosen fear. I should have chosen you. 

There was an afternoon when I started to. We all went swimming on a friend’s boat, him and me and my sister. I dangled over the edge and somehow the way the saltwater held me up made me feel like grace could hold me up a little, too. I felt like I could really be okay. I would go to the store and just pick up the damn test and face the future like a damn adult. Face my husband.

But then we went tubing, and I think that might have been the problem. I’m sorry for that too. I wasn’t thinking. 

The next morning I had the most painful and terrible period of my life. Probably not a period, really. Probably you leaving, but I’ll never know for sure. Instead I mostly just hold onto the guilt. I should’ve been more responsible. Braver. Smarter. 

And I know I was in a manipulative, abusive mess of a marriage, but I still think I should have known better. I don’t think that should be an excuse. Or maybe it should be. I don’t know.

I don’t even know if you’re really real. If you are, a small product of the blip of time when he and I were in some kind of love, can you pray for us? I’m a little tired of always thinking of him, and maybe you’re there in heaven with endless light and grace and all the energy for that. And I guess he’d be your dad, after all. I’m sorry I never did anything good for you, but I still hope you’d be kind enough to help me here.

In a way I’m glad you aren’t around for this. This heartbreak would have been infinitely harder to have you suffer too. But then sometimes I think about whether or not you’d have curly hair or hazel eyes or dimples. I wonder what your name would be. I wonder if you’d have liked dogs and cozy jammies and bedtime books. If you’d have liked my sisters and Easter eggs and Jesus. And then I’m sorry. I’m just sorry. 

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.