further up and further in

to the next right thing

Today is a daydream. Today I am simply a girl in a sundress, free to soak in gardenia-scented breezes and the birds singing praise to the spring. I’d like to stay here forever and let the days melt into each other like butter, golden and slow, because I’m dreading tomorrow. Tomorrow my alarm will ring until I crawl out of bed, pull on scrubs, and make my way to an alternate reality where the threat of a murderous virus has crept into my city. A pandemic has turned entire countries into war zones and we hold our breath as we wait for it to take us next. In the meantime our hours get cut, supplies rationed, processes changed, and rumors are spread. We live in the calm before the storm and I tick through the hours of my shift; I dream of a life where art and words and beauty weave the rhythm of my days instead of alarming machinery, upset patients, and the buzz of danger overhead. Some of my co-workers are proud to serve, but the state of the world has not reinvigorated my own love of nursing service. Rather, it has reinvigorated my desire to live authentically, invest in what I love, and protect what I care most about. I continue to practice the compassionate art of nursing and find myself yearning, instead, for the compassionate art of storytelling.

I am not ungrateful for the road I’ve been on; providing nursing care is a gift. I consider it a privilege to help new life into the world. I am glad to hold the hands of sick women and am always willing to advocate for patients in need, victims of abuse or victims of grief. I will happily bear cheerful news and offer condolences when news is unwelcome. In reality, some of these nursing days are good. Other days, especially lately, it’s become clear that the business of healthcare has outweighed its heart. I’m getting tired. More often now, I wonder why I’m here.

In an effort to redirect my future I comb through my past. I think back to my childhood and hear my mother, also a nurse, explain that the profession, above all, is a calling. I thought I heard that call. Maybe I still do. I’ve always appreciated how well nursing practice incorporates creative thinking, compassion, and technical skill. Sometimes, though, I consider my mother’s childhood, and there the doubts return. For a myriad of reasons, both cultural and practical, she grew up encouraged to pursue work she could lean on in case her husband failed her. Echoes of that encouragement lived in the back of my mind as I sorted through my own career goals; first to be rejected was pre-medicine.It would certainly be too hard to balance all that work with mothering, and how could I ever find a decent husband doing so much studying? I then passed up English, followed by theology, then psychology, because hobbies wouldn’t pay bills. Thus, in the service of practicality, another nursing student came into the world. 

Unfortunately that advice wasn’t entirely faulty; my nursing job did serve me well when I couldn’t rely on my husband. I married young, just after college, and was promptly carried off by his military career. Nursing provided some consistency in the chaos and I heard over and again how lucky I was that my job traveled so well. I agreed, thankful for the flexibility and the paycheck. I dove deeper into the field, supposing myself wise for working towards a masters before we began having children. Of course, life is never as neat as we hope for; my best plans were thwarted when my husband realized he didn’t want children. Thankfully, nursing was as reliable as ever when I realized I didn’t want him. I left and was indebted, again, to the job that traveled well.

Today, finally, in the absence of one dysfunctional marriage and many imagined children, I am free to envision what I want out of life for my own sake. There are things in my heart peeping out from the shadows, waking up with the spring to remind me of what I used to love. I easily recall the first book report I ever did and the vivid detail of my fifth grade English class. I remember ruining my eyes at seven reading Harry Potter by nightlight, poring through Lord of the Rings at eight, and my dad pulling me from the depths of teenage depression with The Right to Write. I recall the first book I ever scribbled out, a ten year old’s saga complete with fairies, and the newspaper I haphazardly started in high school. I used to tell people my dream was “to publish a book,” and it was writing that earned me a full tuition scholarship to college. I think back to nursing school and find that, of all the things I should have been proud of, the day my freshman English professor read my story aloud to the class was the highlight. Most recently, it was writing that helped me through divorce and brought me home to who I’m meant to be. Writing has been faithful.

Where writing has followed me, it is time I followed it. I am being pulled somewhere new and, hopefully, towards a more authentic version of myself. So far I’ve found that at my most wholesome, authentic core I am blissfully naive, enchanted with stories, and hoping to be in the service of beauty. In that service, in my most sparkling dreams, I join the class of authors who’ve told stories well through their novels, articles, television shows, films, poetry and music. The writing world is broad, the list endless. So endless, in fact, that I am not quite settled on where my writing voice will feel most at home in the future, though I do know where I’d like to begin. At this beginning, I hope for the chance to explore a world I did not allow myself to seriously consider in the past. Put simply, I want to write and I want to be given the tools to do it well. I am ready to learn. 

Naturally, there is also the possibility I find a way to weave my current profession into a writing career; I have found no better place to learn of humanity than entering into another’s experience of birth, life, sickness, and death. Either way, storytelling has my heart, and I want nothing more than to do it to the best of my ability in any of its forms. The unexpected nature of this journey has only proven that I must, we all must, invest in what we love. Destabilizing as it may seem to consider such drastic personal changes, all we can hope to do is take the small steps before us and move slowly in the direction of those passions. 


Further up and further in, friends.

The best is yet to come.

i’m uncomfortable

step back; dating is not a transaction

I matched with a guy who checked all the boxes. He was older than 30. Not a frat boy. Had a job. Benefits. Wanted a God-centered family, had friends, and was pleasant to look at.

Even better, he was intentional. He texted me, called me, followed up, and I responded. 

And then I turned him down. 

At first I felt guilty – how dare I turn away a perfectly nice guy who was interested? How dare I look down my nose at someone who’s crossed my path and actually paid attention to me and wasn’t a certifiable creep?

Something felt weird, though, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I spent a couple days torn between my head (He’s nice! Smart! Interested! Socially acceptable! Not looking to just get laid!) and my gut (This just feels wrong. Why did I wake up to four texts and a Bible quote when we’ve only spoken once?). 

My gut was saying get away! My head was screaming get over it!

But then- then!- my finger landed on the point my gut had been trying to make.

I felt like I owed him.

I don’t think that was his intention, but I still felt I had to keep up with the level of interest he was showing me. It started to feel pushy, not to mention ever-so-slightly delusional (why are you already so into me it’s only been four days you don’t know me). In the end, I just felt weird and I said goodbye. 

Sounds lame and felt lame, because what kind of excuse is that? I felt weird. Boo hoo. But then, my gut – that wise, mysterious organ of intuition – brought me to another point.

I don’t owe anyone anything. 

My discomfort is reason enough to step back. That needs to be okay.

Allowing the spirit of paying debts and fulfilling obligations to weigh me down is a social norm that might be harmless now but has the potential to spiral out of control. It is the mild-mannered gremlin with the capacity to evolve into something much more threatening. 

For instance: When he takes the time to call do I owe him one tomorrow? When he puts in the effort to set up dinner, am I obligated to attend a second one? When he pays for drinks must I stay for dessert? A kiss? A hand job? Sex? 

No.

Dating cannot be transactional.

Dating must be respectful.

He may have called, and I may have answered. We may have talked, and I may have been interested. He may have complimented me, and I may have been grateful. But then I was done, and I should not let these deeply ingrained, transactional, cultural standards pressure me any further.

It is time for me to practice ‘no means no’ in a much lower-stakes scenario. I’m now free to learn what I want to say no to and adopt my standards well before I’m faced with a situation where I feel like I want to say no but I feel like I can’t say no because the sense that I owe someone something has overpowered it. 

It’s time I practice making my own decisions and becoming obedient to my own intuition before the “you’re such a flirt” or “why’d you turn me on” or “but I want you” beckons the guilt back home. Before “don’t you want to make your man happy” feels less like a request and more like a demand to perform sexual services that no, I don’t want to provide if that’s what it takes to make you happy, especially at the expense of my security, safety, or preferences.

I must reserve the right to step back. We all must. Being uncomfortable should be an acceptable enough reason to do so.

I need to let it mean enough to me first. Men next.


In that same spirit, I’m going to bring up some things again that’ve gotten lost somewhere in my Instagram feed so they can get lost somewhere in my blog feed.

I repeat- again, I repeat: ‘No means yes and yes means anal’ is NOT a funny joke. 

This is a PSA for the creepos that’ve said it and a validation for the rest of us who’ve looked on confused. 

When we’ve agreed to become involved with one another, be that for a casual evening, a relationship, a marriage, or otherwise, we are agreeing to take on a small sliver of responsibility for that person. That person should be handled with care. With respect.

This means we are listening to the requests of that person and then ACTUALLY TAKING THEM SERIOUSLY. 

Behaving in a way that falls short of this, actually being douche-y enough to ignore someone’s NO, or joking about such inappropriate behavior is ridiculous. Ignoring consent is not funny, it never should have been, and it never will be to people who actually have fully formed brains.

Let’s also agree that ‘no means no’ is one of the weaker mantras we stand behind. At this point, evolved as we are, we shouldn’t be pushing each other so far that we’ve had to turn boundaries into a catchy marketing platform. As if they’re new.

Best practice: Ask for permission, not forgiveness. Don’t put people you date and love and care for in a place where they are on the defensive, awkwardly defending their decision to take your hands off their chest because choosing to kiss you did not also mean she wanted hands in her bra. 

So. To be perfectly clear. Me agreeing to step one did not automatically mean I wanted step two. You greedily taking what you assumed was yours is rude- you wouldn’t help yourself to my pantry without asking, my underwear drawer, my makeup box, the pages of my journal- and in the world of intimacy, behavior like that is barbaric and is also actually considered assault. 

This is especially true when I’ve been clear about what I did or did not want, you knew that, but then you tried it anyway.

Of course, there’s also those scenarios where no isn’t clearly communicated. Where it’s happened too quickly, where there’s a power imbalance, or where there’s simply confusion. Does that mean we assume all is fair in love and sex and take whatever the heck we want? Or does that mean we assume people have more boundaries than they’ve yet had the chance to describe? In practice it’s  the former. Best to assume the latter.

Also worth considering, what do we say about the situations where seduction has played a part? Where person A pushed the line so subtly and slowly that person B hardly noticed what was happening until it was too late and their no got lost in hormones and habits and appetite and then, even if mentioned, feels a little less meaningful because it’s a little more breathless and maybe the body now wants something that the heart and the head didn’t plan on. 

If we consider drunk college girls as incapable of providing complete consent, should we also consider consent incomplete when the body has been coerced, seduced, and is now practically drunk in a haze of endorphins? If nothing else, at the very least, it is altered. 

This becomes dangerous, especially when those seductions and coercions aren’t anchored in love or respect. Especially when those seductions are based in self-focused hunger. Especially when she’d made it clear days and weeks and months ago that she’d really feel most respected when you did/did not do X but you kept at it anyway because she looked hot or you were horny or she wasn’t complaining so that probably meant it was fine. 

FYI that does not mean it was fine.

Don’t take what does not belong to you.

Don’t push for a no. Listen for a yes. 

Then let ‘I’m uncomfortable’ be reason enough. 

We’ll practice that together.

to my person, someday

a letter to the future

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.

the words that dwell among us

good gifts for the new year

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

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.

dear father ryan

the sex wasn’t as good as i thought

“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

questions for the [annulment] questionnaire

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. 

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. 

uncool things to say

tips for communicating with your sad friends

In the spirit of ‘open and honest’ communication, a la The Bachelor, I’d like to get into a couple things I struggle with when talking about The Situation (Divorce, Trauma, Abuse, Etc.).

Some of these things genuinely annoy the hell out of me, and some of these things I realize are well-intentioned and possibly just poorly timed.

Let’s start with the Genuinely Annoying:

That’s not abuse that’s abandonment. Do I really need to spell this one out? Abandonment is abuse. Moving on.

I hope you and your husband work things out. I just spent an hour explaining that my relationship was emotionally abusive and that’s what you came up with? Obviously that’s not an option, so thanks but no thanks for your well wishes. It’s creepy and weird and you obviously A) don’t believe me or B) weren’t listening.

Did you pray about it? I know I’ve covered this before. Yes, I prayed. Yes, it’s confusing. Trust me, it confuses my understanding of God just as much as it confuses yours. However, the timing of this question can be completely inappropriate. I’d love to get into the faith-based philosophy of it all, but can we bring it up in such a way that doesn’t makes it seem like I could have prayed my way out of abuse?

Everyone makes mistakes. Thanks, cool. Next time I get manipulated into staying in a shitty relationship I’ll thank you for the wisdom.

As least XYZ didn’t happen to you that happened to me. Seriously? This is Communication and Validation 101. If you’ve invited me to talk to you, please just listen without comparing my experience to yours. We don’t need to be sitting around competing for Who’s Trauma Sucked Most awards, we need to be listening to each other. I’d love to hear to your story, if you can try to respect mine.


Those are the biggies. Moving on to the more well-intentioned comments that have the potential to land wrong.

I’ll preface this discussion by saying I understand that divorce is uncomfortable and sometimes there’s no right response, and I absolutely appreciate each person who’s offered support in the way they know how. However, I would like to clear a few things up, so maybe we can grow a little in future.

Phrases to Avoid for Healthy Communication with Your Friend Who Is Struggling:

What happened? Okay. This is an interesting one, because it’s kind and a good conversation skill to be able to ask open-ended questions. I do appreciate it. However, I don’t necessarily appreciate the timing when I say things like, “He just wasn’t good to me” or “He was abusive” or “It just wasn’t healthy” and I get “What happened?” in return. I just told you. Here are some additional bullet points, because inherently I’m a nerdy note-taker that prefers structure:

  • Asking this question at the wrong time puts me in a place where I feel like I need to provide proof that yes, in fact, my understanding of abuse lives up to your expectation, and, yes, my pain is valid.
  • I do not appreciate the skepticism or how small it makes me feel to simplify my experience into some version of, “He hurt my feelings.” If we were to talk about physical or sexual abuse I wouldn’t have to provide a laundry list of facts. It’s just in this vague, mysterious world of emotion that I have to somehow paint a picture to strangers that no, I’m not crazy, and no, I did not make this up.
  • I also do not appreciate the sigh of relief when I mention cheating or STDs. The tangible presence of medical fact gives people something logical to latch on to, something clearly clearly clearly WRONG so, sure, that makes my story easier to process for everyone else. Sometimes I feel like I have to bring it up just for that reason. However, I promise, without a doubt, this is no where near what cut the deepest. The emotional and psychological games were a thousand times worse, and I wish that was enough to swallow on its own.

At least you’re young. Again, yes, true. What am I supposed to say to this, though? Cool, my ovaries haven’t shriveled into hopeless little raisins. And there’s a potential I’ll be able to date someone someday without needing Botox. Awesome, right? Also awesome, I get to jump headlong into the miserable world of dating that I THOUGHT I GOT TO AVOID. Shit, I see enough people in my life struggling to meet decent guys as it is and, on top of that, I thought I already had it figured out! I certainly am not enjoying having my life un-figured out, even though, yes, I am only a baby bird at the age of 27. For the record, this whole shit-show has been infinitely more painful than I thought it would be, and I don’t think age makes that more or less legitimate.


Yes, I’m feeling a little sassy, so I’m sorry. To be fair, I will present some helpful alternatives to having a healthy conversation with your next heartbroken friend.

Do you want to talk about it? This gives me the freedom to say, politely, no thank you, or yes, please. It doesn’t leave me needing to present facts to prove a point, I’m not immediately positioned on the defensive, and I get the sense that you are kindly ready to listen. I am grateful for that and, truly, genuine conversation is healing.

Yes, you were abused. Validation is always appreciated, and the first time someone did this it meant the world to me. She looked me in the eyes, put her hand on my knee, and said the words out loud that I’d been playing with and hiding away. She allowed me to begin processing what had actually happened, in real life, and acknowledged that no, it was not just in my head.

What did that experience look like for you? An appropriate follow up question to the previous comment. This lets me know you appreciate that there are many faces and dimensions of abuse, you believe me, and you are a safe place for me to expand. 

How are you doing? Even if it’s been a long time, this one is always awesome. It’s been 14 months since I left my marriage, and I’m still sad sometimes. It’s normal to still be sad. It’s also normal to be happy, or excited, or nothing at all. Whatever it is, consistent follow-up is always cool.

Be there. In general, (not always! Writer, here) actions are able to convey more than words. Baked goods and wine go far. Sitting together with coffee, watching Bachelor in Paradise, going for hikes, whatever- its all therapeutic in its own way. And the presence of a good friend gives people space to breathe and talk organically, without diving into all too much all too quickly. Even better, things like that help life move on, new routines take hold, and fosters a sense of grounding normalcy. All super healthy and refreshing.

Avoid fishing. If you want to reach out, genuinely offer concern, or have words of wisdom, it’s all well-received. If you’re just fishing for the drama, that’s kind of a bummer, and I can usually tell the difference. Stay genuine, stay authentic. It’s more healing, especially  to someone coming out of a relationship plagued by disingenuous behavior.

Some other easy comments generally always welcomed:

You’re not crazy.

You didn’t make this up.

I see you.

You are enough.

I’m sorry that happened.

Thank you for sharing your story. 

And from me, to the rest of you, thank you for listening. 

bees in crisis

i have no clue how to date

Just like that, Bumble has come and gone. 

It was all just too bizarre and doing weird things to my head.

First of all, I think I forgot how to flirt, and my guard was flying up awfully quick at that creepy side eye emoji. Just… No.

Also, why do guys match me if they don’t want to respond to my messages? Stop ignoring me! I’m confused!

Sometimes more confusing, he does respond! And responds again, and again, and then…dies? Or had a household emergency that took him out of the country? His phone died for 27 hours? Should I call 911?? Should I not have asked him what he does for work??? WHAT DO NORMAL PEOPLE DO IN THESE SITUATIONS?!

Mostly, seriously, I’m not enjoying staring at my phone, sending little parts of my heart into the void, trying a touch of vulnerability again and receiving a touch of rejection in return. I guess that’s just the human experience, or what communication looks like in my generation, but I’m just not feeling it.

Yes, it’s possible that I’m a little too hypersensitive to inconsistency right now, with friends or bumbles or whoever it is, but whatever it is, it’s throwing off my game. 

It’s much more comfortable, much less anxiety-making, to just keep to myself. I do enjoy my own company, after all.

I think the little version of Becca that lives in my brain, the Lizzie McGuire cartoon-me (I know you know what I mean), is settling into a fluffy oversized sweater and taking off her metaphorical bra right now. It’s softer and safer and much more relaxing this way.

Little cartoon-me is especially grateful for the women in my life today (no Gordo here, unfortunately). They generally respond to my messages and I don’t have to try to prove to them I’m worth talking to. I don’t have to worry if they still like me or I said anything weird. I don’t have to reach out constantly to feel like I have a place in their heart. I am free to remain myself without running the risk of rejection. 

I wish I didn’t feel like this. I wish I felt brave enough to “put myself out there” or whatever catchphrase is the thing now, but, really, I just don’t see it happening.

I’d like it to, eventually, but for today, I don’t mind settling into the coziest parts of my heart with myself, my sisters, my friends- we’re all here, the pumpkin candles flickering, the bottles of wine emptying, the second season of Fleabag running. Maybe a little bit alone, but at least we’re alone together.