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to my person, someday

To you, 

If I ever get to meet you,

Just so you know, I like to laugh.

I’m writing this to you, floating on the buzz of Malbec and gin (weird mix, I know), just to let you know about the laughing. It feels important right now. Don’t worry, though, I’m easy to please. I laugh easy, smile easy; life’s better that way.

I make lists, too, just so you know. I wrote this one months ago, on a little pad proudly titled “Eggcellent Notetaker.” I’ve got four sunny-side up themed pages on who I hope you’ll be. Eggcellent, obviously.

Besides that: You will be kind.

The human in me also hopes that you’re cute. Let’s be honest, I’ll have to look at you, and I tend to like guys with sweet smiles and kind eyes. Usually tall too, but that’s not a dealbreaker. Just please don’t be so gym-y that you’re douche-y. Maybe you exercise a little but also eat pizza? We’ll get along better that way, probably. Or maybe that’s just my insecurity talking. I’ll work on it.

Anyway, the back to the list.

I wrote down normal things:

  • Intelligent
  • Genuine
  • Driven
  • Responsible

And some more particular things:

  • Balanced
  • Attentive to the present moment
  • Self-reflective
  • Growth-oriented

And some more fun things:

  • Will dance
  • Will drink
  • Will play games
  • Will have friends

And the dealbreaker NOPEs:

  • Creepy
  • Mean
  • Uses women
  • Doesn’t want kids
  • Lack of faith
  • Disrespectful of boundaries
  • Selfish
  • Lazy
  • Poor priorities

AKA a decent human (according to my sister. Also probably me too, now that I look again).

If you aren’t a nope, congrats. 

If you’re the match for me, we go further.

I think you’ll be faithful, but not a weirdo. I’m Catholic, and it’d be lovely if you were too, but if you were centered on Love and oriented towards Good and understood (as much as any of us can understand) Jesus I think we’d be cool. He’s my friend, and I’d like it if you knew Him too. 

I hope we can go on dates and we can get appetizers and bottles of wine and dessert. I hope you have a budget, but sometimes know that beautiful living means there’s a little bit of wiggle room. Good food requires the wiggle. So does art. And music. And travel. I hope you like those things as much as I do.

I hope over the wine and apps and pasta we talk, and talk, and laugh, and talk some more. I hope you’re a good conversationalist, which implies that you’re also a good listener. And also probably funny.

It’s a pipe dream, but I also hope you are loyal to the Patriots. If not them, at least football. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s how I spend Sundays after church. If you’ll be there it’ll be easier if we can just hang and share the nachos.

I hope you love your family. I hope you want one with me. I want one with you.

I hope you are compassionate. 

And here’s what I know, before I’ve met you: 

You have a strong character. You know what you’re about. You’re a leader. A leader who I’ll let lead me because you’re so damn respectful. And you appreciate women. You support them. 

You support me. 

You see me.

And you’re gentle. Strong, and brave, but soft.

Maybe we can read together, some time? With coffee? I like both those things. Then, maybe, a bit of wine and pasta later, we’ll fall in love. And go to church and eat nachos and yell at the TV and talk about philosophy in our sweats then go to game night with the neighbors. Or maybe we’ll cancel on the neighbors because we decided to make a baby or two and finish the nachos in bed.

Anyway. Hope you’re doing well, wherever you are in the world.

Looking forward to knowing you.

Love,

Me.

a woman in the world

How am I supposed to pass the Bechdel test?

There should be two women (this woman) in a room (on a blog) talking about something other than men. Preferably they have names.

I tried to pass. Put in my very best effort. I went to Ireland last month a very happy me, full and satisfied and single and thoroughly enjoyed all things green.

I started to worry, though, because I had nothing to write about. Nothing new to say. I was just living, and living well. There’s not much to tell when I’m wasting hours in the back corner of a pub with my Baileys coffee and book. No drama to investigate. Just me, feeling alive, riding bikes on an island, content with sweaters and soups, just as impressed with latte art as real art. No story hidden in the simplicity. No secrets.

Who wants to read about girls who are, well… fine?

Am I interesting anymore, without a man? Without a story to tell? With the story I have that’s just featuring me?

But then again, it’s not just about me, is it? I don’t want it to be, anyway- I still would like to find a man, right? (*cue feminist cringes*)

Should we be cringing, though? What’s wrong with men? What’s wrong with wanting to be with a good one?

There were some Irish nights, instead of soaking in my singleness, that I found myself putzing around on newly downloaded dating apps. I wasn’t really interested in the guys looking for someone who’s “a freak for her man” (whatever that means), and not really interested in guys who think Vegas bachelor parties are considered world traveling. Even still, I was there, and a little interested. 

Why couldn’t I just be the lovely, independent, strong woman that Lizzo wants me to be?

Why was I on the other side of the ocean with two sisters, adventuring away, and still hoping for the attention of heavily accented red-headed bartenders? Go back to your Guinness, girl! 


No Irish bartenders for me, but I did get home and try to go on a date. Shocking, I know.

We met on an app (weird), he asked me on said date (weirder), then hours before meeting flaked on date (weirdest). No explanation, no follow up, hardly even an apology. Maybe the actual weirdest part was that I was surprised. 

Anyway, it was a strange, disappointing entrance into the so-called dating scene. 

In an effort to redirect this post away from the feminist rant it could be and towards the peaceful, lovely, self-secure place it should be, I’m going to tell you the truth now. 

I was annoyed, yes. However, primarily, I was relieved. Despite my wishy-washy I-want-a-man meanderings, I don’t think I actually wanted to meet the man. 

Probably in part because it’s much safer and easier to be single. No one can hurt you when you take yourself to the movies, right? Also, I really don’t know if I have the energy right now to form a meaningful connection with a stranger male, or the real desire to take responsibility for a that same male and incorporate him into this life of mine. I’m still busy stretching and wiggling and allowing myself to toy with the idea of learning Italian and taking writing classes and doing whatever the hell I want because I’m relearning what it is I want. 

Of course, I’m also relieved to learn of flake-boy’s flakiness before I’ve started to care. He’s been kind enough to reject me before he’s actually met me, which is much gentler on the ego. 

Anyway. 

I’m failing Bechdel again.

I would like to have something to say that doesn’t have anything to do with relationships, whether that’s getting into them or out of them. 

Or maybe Bechdel was a little bit wrong. Maybe I just need to make peace with relationships and having things to say about them. Really, the whole point of life is relationship, isn’t it? It’s an endless back-and-forth between us and ourselves, with God, with others. It just so happens that a significant portion of those others are male. And, ultimately, I’d like to be with one of them. 

In the long run, it’s not going to be the most interesting thing about me, but it might still be worth my attention.

Yes, I’m already on an adventure- insert strong independent woman cliché- but I’m thinking that maybe strong independent women can also coexist with men who respect them. Maybe she’s even encouraged by them. 


In the meantime, I’ve gone to Ireland and bought my own Claddagh ring. I’ll not die pining after anyone like the sad little man who made the first one. I’ll buy my own jewelry and I’ll turn the heart towards me, not because mine is taken by a man, but because I’m already cared for. I’m quite securely held by God, my friends, my sisters, my parents and myself. 

I think I’ll try to operate out of that place and let go of the rest.

Bechdel approved or no, I’d like to anchor into myself just enough that I can still move through the world with love. After all, isn’t that the most wild adventure of all?

Ever so slowly, these doors I’ve closed are opening. Fresh rain-clean breezes are blowing in freedom, untamed by rules or tests or time. This new, free, self will be the best self.

All will be well, no matter who’s talking in what room. Just love. Live well. Drink Guinness. Move on.

the words that dwell among us

This Christmas I was given the gift of words.

Between a New York Times subscription, Kindle Unlimited and a handful of paperbacks I have enough to keep me going happily for all of 2020.

Even the mass readings were a gift: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Very explicit, courtesy of John, followed up with, “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1, 4-5).”

That last bit I had carried in my heart through this year; light was the word of the season as the darker parts of my heart were illuminated and the dusty corners of my soul cleaned out. A year of open windows, fresh air, therapy, journals, night skies, starlight and the first pinks of dawn. A year of refusing to be overcome, and then, beyond simply defying defeat, a year of resilience that overflowed into life.

What word, of all the words, will speak to the season ahead?


I was out last week with my cousins and we walked by a bar, all cheerfully buzzed on G&Ts and the cold December air. A bouncer stopped us, begged us to come into the hazy-blue bar with it’s empty dance floor. I’m sure we were an impressive bunch; a gaggle of tall, red-lipped, long-haired twenty-somethings. We walked past, intent on our destination (pizza), and continued to ignore the calls of the boy behind us. I trailed behind and heard him plead, one last time, “Come on, come in! You’re pretty too!”

I rolled my eyes, shook my head, and marched on to more important things (pizza). A couple slices and an uber ride later we were safely in our beds, bouncers all but forgotten.

The next morning, though, I found traces of annoyance lingering.

Was this boy used to having girls do his bidding just by calling them pretty?

Why had I even turned around at all?

And, by the way, aren’t I more than just pretty?

Such a small word, but enough to throw intelligent women off their axis at the mercy of smaller boys.


Which is the word I want? If I got to pick something better than pretty, what would be enough to catch my attention and hold it?

Which is the one that I am?

Which is the one God says I am?

Another Christmas Scripture nudges my heart and settles in like the last puzzle piece: “No more shall people call you ‘forsaken,’ or your land ‘desolate’ but you shall be called ‘my delight’ and your land ‘espoused’ (Isaiah 62:4).”

I wouldn’t mind being a delight. I’d definitely like to move away from those old characters Forsaken and Desolate.

I think back to a few weeks ago when I felt Jesus whisper “let me take you to France.” A small, almost silly, thing, but a thing that meant something to me. I went home that day and booked a trip to visit the land of my dearest Saint friends. That day felt like the beginning of this- a journey where I am no longer espoused to the little earthly man who hated travel, but rather to the man who died for me.

Another whisper takes shape: This year is the year I am beloved.


Beloved:

adjective

be•loved /bəˈləvəd/

dearly loved


Thank God the open windows of last year let in the holy breezes of this one.

I am seen. I am known. I will learn to live out of a place where I am anchored, deeply set in who I am and who I belong to. Beyond pretty, but beautiful.

A lot of words packed into one little word.

I’ll take it.

an incoherent stream of consciousness ft. ts eliot

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.

after the flood

She’s alert at the bow, her grip on the ledge breaking splinters, bright eyes squinting through tears and the rain of a storm. Wails lost in the wind, the spray, the haze of salt and mist; she rolls in a wave. 

Again and again, merciless, never-ending, until, exhale, it ends. The waves slow. She tucks low, exhausted, surrenders to the sea, heavy eyes under a heavier sky. 

She rolls to her back, sore from the stillness of sleep. Black has poured over the sky; she floats, an island alone in oceans of darkness. There are stars, diamonds spilled from a jar, there is so, so much of the sky; she can breathe. In, out. In, out. Left, right. Up, down. She rocks with the boat, onward, onward; she sleeps.

A bird flutters to perch, riding the waves of a slow golden glow, sunlight melting over the sky, the sea, her skin – she blinks silent greeting to her new feathered friend. 

They watch the day together, blues and grays roll by. She tilts to the sky, eyelashes eskimo kissing the salted breeze. She never knew what it meant to bask before, but there she was, doing it. Basking.

And then there was land.

The loudest sound yet, she leaps overboard, splashes into the sea. 

She is everything and nothing in the pull of the ocean; she is lost in the power of what was long before her and what moves after. She is salt and water and life, she is death and birth and baptism and eternity. She swims and soaks and delights. 

She wades ashore, guiding the boat by hand. Two-handed now, plodding through the thickest surf, moving steadily towards the final grind of wood against sand. 

She turns, hands on hips, facing what lays before her. Lush and green- every shade of green- the hint of honeydew and the depth of pine, the radiance of emerald, the richest of moss- it is here. It is life.

She walks in. 

dear father ryan

“Ask her how she’s doing sexually.”

A strange question for a priest to pass along to a friend to pass along to me (follow that?). She told me about it months ago, and we laughed. Strange, though, that the question still echoes in the back of my mind. How am I doing sexually? As a woman previously active, now alone? As a woman redefining womanhood? As a person redefining my relationship with my body? My heart? My mind?

I thought I was fine. I missed sex, sure, who doesn’t? But as my youthful I-better-not-die-while-I’m-a-virgin phase was over, I didn’t feel it’s absence quite as keenly as I thought I would.

Something changed last week. 

As usual, I was working on my annulment paperwork, the familiar cluster of moths waking up in my chest, fluttering away in a panic. I’m annoyed; I appreciate that anxiety shows up to send it’s own weird little message- Something is amiss! Protect yourself! This time, though, I can’t figure out what the heck today’s offending object might be. The writing was emotional, but not impossible. Maybe it’s not psychological this time, maybe just a hormone imbalance? Nutritional deficit? Too much coffee? Not enough sleep? Nothing stood out, so the herd of flapping wings took up happy residence in my throat and I carried on.

Enter Scene: Therapy

We circle through the chit-chat and Thanksgiving plans until we come around to the strange, unname-able, unblame-able anxiety. We work through EMDR and, voilà, like magic, the knots unravel. It seems my poor little mind was more upset than I realized by the disturbing process of filing through my poor little marriage. The offense this time? Sex.

In general, I thought we had been having fine sex. Good, even. We had chemistry, I thought he was hot, it usually worked out fine. I was, in general, satisfied, and felt pretty smug about being the sexually-enlightened and active wife he so longed for while we were dating. 

It only took a month or two before things started taking a weird turn. Irregularly, unpredictably, he’d be completely uninterested. I’d try to make the moves until it felt like begging, until it was too embarrassing and I walked away. Some nights I’d be wrapped up in hardly anything but a Christmas bow, and he would look at me and groan, with a smirk and a half-laugh, he was too tired, did he have to? Of course, on other days, he’d be in the mood, but my body would not (recall, he adamantly did not want children, and I adamantly did not want birth control). Those days, he would either get a fix his way or leave me feeling deservedly alone (Useless wife! -Another joke that stopped feeling like a joke). Occasionally, on stranger nights still, I’d wake up the next day with bruises or sore throats or other evidence of a night too-rough. 

We unravel the stories again, me ever-baffled at the inconsistency of it all. He wanted me so badly when we were dating! Could hardly be moved when we were married! Had such lazy, inattentive sex he couldn’t even tell when I orgasmed. Refused to talk about it at all. Wouldn’t when I wanted, wanted when I couldn’t, left me feeling used, at worst, unseen, at best, and all more often than I preferred. 

But there were nights that seemed good, we felt close, it felt real! Until he would hold me after, joking that I was gross.

How dare I feel wanted or seen for more than the moment required for him to get off.

I needed love. He needed control.

Hearing that for the first time – He Needed Control – hits in the sore spot that makes the most sense, and now I find myself grieving for the sex life I thought I had. I thought I knew what good sex was, but now I’m coming to terms with the reality that just because it felt good doesn’t mean it was good. 

Where I thought it was safe to be vulnerable, I was disposable. Where I thought I was seen, I was hardly noticed. Where I thought I was loved, intimately, completely, passionately – I was nothing but an urge met. I was competing in a battle I’d never win- to fantasy, perfection, endless flexibility and excitement. 

I grieve the small pockets of our relationship that I mistook for love. Those smallest of moments, when not riddled with dysfunction, were something I thought, occasionally, we got right. We’d had fun, it’d felt good, I felt noticed, enjoyed noticing in return. Now even those moments are gone. They never were.

So, Father, I am not doing well sexually. I am realizing that I was living in my own fantasy of sorts, and now I’m facing the possibility that I’ve never really known great sex, and maybe I never will. It’s a bit of a let-down.

Mostly, Father, I’m worried I’ll never actually be seen. That’s all I want, really, in the end.

Sometimes I’d like to run to the next man – that’ll be the time it comes together just right.

A faulty urge, on my part.

I’ll only ever be seen by One, I know that theoretically, but I can’t help but want it ever so badly from a man. It annoys me, how much it distracts me.

Maybe you can pray me through that bit, if you’re up to it.

Thanks,

Me

thinking and thanking and dating

If you looked into the windows of our first Thanksgiving you’d see us laughing. 

About the turkey I let rot on the counter for a week. About what No-Shave-November had done to his face. About the fish at the restaurant with eyeballs.

Sweet, at first glance. 

Look closer.

You’d see me panicking in the bathroom thinking I’d tracked my cycle wrong and we were going to be pregnant.

You’d see me praying at mass that I wouldn’t be, that it’d all be okay, that he’d be okay, that he’d still love me.

You’d see me leaving for Kroger, telling my parents I needed Midol, buying First Response. Hiding in the bathroom by the check-out, heart pounding in my ears watching the timer tick down.

A negative test washing the anxiety off.

Back to laughing.


I’m sorting through my life again, turning stories into essays for the never-ending ever-involved annulment questionnaire. 

I put down paragraphs on the tangled mess of my marriage; it’s winding the strand of anxiety back around my heart.

Why was I so stupid

Why couldn’t I see

Why did I stay

I was young

So dumb

In love

Maybe love is just as blind as they say. Maybe it shouldn’t have been.

I read a book on annulment the other day, and as I type along I wonder why the author said I’d get through this process and see how I’d contributed to the divorce. 

I certainly contributed the lawyer, so I guess there’s that. 

I look again, but still, no, it wasn’t my flaws that fueled our demise. My error wasn’t in the end, but in the beginning. I’ll take responsibility for that- I knew what marriage was. I knew what marriage should be. I didn’t know enough about what it would be with him, and maybe I should have.

The rest is on him.

Leaving was the bravest thing I’d ever done, and that is the only part of this story I will take ownership of. Aside from picking poorly- I did not deserve the hell he put me through. I did not deserve the callous cold, the manipulation, the fear, the anxiety, the neglect, the rage. Those were not my mistakes. 

I continue narrating my story, the list of questions stretching on like a bad dream.

I wonder why the process wasn’t this thorough before our wedding day.

I wonder how to explain the bits that need explaining without scandalizing the readers.

I wonder what to call it when you’ve been fighting with your husband because he’d lied about the strippers and later when you’d asked him what to do about the day you’d had sex – should you drink at the wedding in case you’d be pregnant in two weeks – his response was a laughing, “Better drink up!” 

What do you call it when you’re so mad you make him a bed on the couch but he’s drunk and wakes you up from sleeping to have awkward clumsy uncomfortable sex you weren’t interested in and you were angry and it didn’t feel good but you don’t tell him to stop because good wives don’t deny their husbands?

What do I call that?

I’m writing it up for a committee to review and I’m not quite sure what else to say.

This whole thing sucks.


Except, a little bit, it doesn’t.

Begrudgingly, after my fuss about the Church’s encouragement to avoid dating, I find it’s possible the advice might be valid. I feel a bit like a harrumphing teenager, skulking off, too moody to admit she was wrong. 

Eventually, though, I stop worrying about finding new men and start worrying about finding myself.

I suppose if I spent last year heart-broken this is a good a time as any for re-building. 

Makes enough sense, so I reinvest in the things I used to love. Ever-so-gently my heart starts putting itself back together.

Instead of men, I’m dating words. I’m writing. I’m reading. I’m soaking up stories. Book after book, I’m eating them up, finishing the ones that’ve been half-done for years. I’m choosing a life of expansion over life with a man who thought he was good enough, who scoffed at self-improvement. 

I date music. I realize this year alone I’ve been to more concerts than I’d gone to in years. I play classical at dinner, pop in the car, country in the shower; I soak in new albums and genres and pianos breath over me like a balm.

I plan to date the world. He didn’t want to travel. Didn’t like it, didn’t want it, angrily planted in America, uninterested in cultures or places or people or putting his feelings aside to invest time in his wife. To that I say – I’m going to Ireland this winter. To Italy this summer. To France next fall. I will see the world, I will see it’s people, and I will learn. I will explore. I will adventure. I will be a student of all this earth has to offer.

Most importantly, I spend time dating God. Where my husband made me choose between love of God and him, where he yelled when I chose God and put a hole in our bedroom wall, where he told me I was selfish for choosing my faith, I was uncompromising and hateful and made him feel unloved because I wanted a life with children in it- 

Now I pray. And I pray and pray and pray. I go to holy hours without sneaking out of the house. I go to church events and confession and mass. I play Lauren Daigle and Audrey Assad and hymns and podcasts and there is no shame. I read about saints and philosophers and Scripture and faith. I rest. 

There is no more fear. 

I am free.

I am me. 

I am thankful.