curiouser and curiouser

an attempt to define the un-definable

I hate Alice in Wonderland—too trippy—but there’s a scene that’s been replaying in my head these last few weeks. It’s the one where an oversized hookah-smoking caterpillar blows smoke rings around Alice as he asks, “Who…are…you?” 

I see myself staring up at the worm, as unsure as Alice as she responds, “I hardly know, sir!” 

They go in circles and she insists, “I can’t explain myself, sir, because I’m not myself, you know.” The worm is a poor listener, or high, so Alice grows frustrated. She absolutely has no idea who she is, and she cannot possibly come up with an answer to satisfy him. The best she has to offer is vague: “I can’t put it any more clearly, for it isn’t clear to me.” 

Similarly, I am at a loss for labels. So many of the ways I used to define myself have drifted away as quietly as smoke rings: 

Married. 

Republican. 

Believer in post-racial America.

Nurse.

Eye-roller at vegans.

Despiser of feminists.

Knower of life’s timelines. 

Things have changed, and now I am in place where things are less solid, more fluid. More nuanced, complex, and messy.

Status: Divorcée. A one-word title, but there’s nothing in the name that carries the weight of a life’s vocation as nicely as married. It feels a little fuzzier.

Absolutely not a Republican, but maybe not a Democrat? Maybe more of a centrist, or a Libertarian? Don’t come at me, it’s TBD, I just know that I’m not in favor of he-who-shall-not-be-named.

Occasional vegan. Turns out I care about the planet, though I still love cheese.

Feminist, though a pro-life one, though also one that isn’t sure what the most effective way to support mothers/family/society is.

Human trying to become anti-racist after a lifetime of disbelief. V flawed.

Writer? Blogger, casually. Student, definitely. Does that make me “a creative” (I imagine this means I’ll take up wearing berets and snapping in smoky clubs, so maybe not). 

Still a nurse, yes, but not a full-time one, and unsure of how well I love the work. Overall, displeased with the business of healthcare, and burned out from caring so hard in a world built more for money than people. 

Real estate agent—this one is new. In my previous timeline I always imagined I’d quit nursing to raise children and let my fancy husband make ze monies. No children and no husband makes me my own breadwinner, and I realized I should probably be in a career that I wasn’t planning to quit someday. While, in a perfect world, I simply become the next J.K. Rowling and float about writing best sellers, I think this real estate business might be the place where I have the time and space and flexibility to write, the money to eat-pray-love my way around the globe, and the chance to still serve my community. I believe in home, so why not make myself a part of it?

Where does all that leave me now? Dabbling in several careers, with a mishmash of political leanings, no romantic involvements and some kind of half-assed vegan habit?

I’m a little bit of everything and entirely nothing.

My primary concern: I have no idea how I will explain myself at parties. I can see it in my head— 

“What do you do?” 

*brain short circuits*

“NurseRealtorWriterStudent.” 

Nothing neat enough to put cutely. But, then again, why the need to define myself by what I do at all? Sure, it might be the easiest to say, and, yes, you learn something from knowing a person’s job. Like when I say nurse, you might hear caring. You might find me trustworthy, reliable, kind. On the other hand, if I get into my current crossroads, you’re more likely to see a huge mess. You’ll nod your head, bemused, unsure of a girl who can’t commit to any one thing.

I know the gist of what I’m after, of course, but there’s nothing easily knowable from something as simple as a title. What I really want is beauty. Creativity. Rhythm. Abundance. I want peace, and grace. Wholeness, health, and a life where I am content, doing what I was made to do, not on a five-year-plan, but in finding one right thing after the next right thing.

Maybe the whole mess of myself, the possibility and the journey and the flaws, the beauty and the wonder and the hope, what I do or what I don’t do, will be caught up in one phrase after all: a name. My name. Rebecca Joy. Maybe that’s all you’ll ever need to know—maybe I grow so grounded into myself that you can reach the heart of me just from hearing it whispered. If only Alice knew how to say hers.

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.

a woman in the world

independent women who like men

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.

loving again

things left, still loved

We used to love football. Dogs. Pizza. 

We loved long nights out with friends. Silly things like Minions and Star Wars. We loved Mumford & Sons. Country music. We loved campfires and sweater-weather and the way the leaves changed in the fall. 

We loved each other.

We shared a home. Hearts. Lives.

What do I do with those details now? 

The small, sweet casualties of a love gone wrong? 

Do I put them into storage with the rest of the boxes and pretend they never existed? 

Will they always be tainted?

Do I still have a claim to any of it? Am I allowed to love what I left? 

Am I brave enough?


I spent a year wandering and wondering, meeting moments like holidays and anniversaries and seasons that highlighted the new-ness of alone-ness. 

Somehow in all the sadness I realized it wouldn’t be fair, not to me, not to the things I’ve loved, to let it all pass me by in a haze. Christmas was still Christmas. Music was still music. I might as well enjoy the hell out of it, and perhaps all the more deeply if I’ve made peace with the journey. 

Really, there was no need to put away parts of my heart to protect the pieces that broke.

So I went to the concerts we both would’ve loved. I watched every game we could’ve seen side-by-side. I sang all our songs, then again on repeat. I ate our foods, drank our wine, and went to our beaches. 

I loved it all the same, and, this time, for myself.

Of course, it’s one thing to say that I’ll keep loving music or sports or food. It’s another thing entirely to take ownership of the most complicated of relationships: the one I have with my body. 

He used to love it. I used to love it. We used to enjoy each other, very thoroughly.

However, sometimes this relationship took a more disrespectful-dysfunctional-disordered turn. 

Sometimes at my hand, obsessing with diets and thinness and comparison to other women. 

Sometimes by his, with boundary-crossing, coercion, neglect, unfaithfulness, or, again, comparison to other women.

A mess, really.


Last week I traveled to the place I was most afraid to go— California, the home I last shared with my ex. A place our marriage was lost and I was found; a place I thought would be heart-wrenching and anxiety-ridden. Despite this, my return was healing in a way I hadn’t expected. Instead of pouring salt into the wounds of last summer, this coast gave me the chance to undo another knot in the net I’d been tangled in.

It was nothing profound, no lightening-bolt from heaven or words from above. Just a day at the spa with a sister, and something as simple as a massage.

Honestly, it seemed strange at first, but there I was, resting on the table, only ever having learned to poke and prod and despise my body for softness or stretch marks or rest days. There he was, stretching my shoulders wound-up from work and undoing more damage than he realized. 

In the end I could not have been more grateful for that particular massage with that particular man. The whole experience was so incredibly respectful, it left me wondering— when was the last time anyone was this kind to my body? When was the last time I was this kind to my body?

I left that day and found myself enjoying the longer walks home, simply for the sake of enjoying the breeze. I kayaked and swam. I embraced the sun and my heartbeat and the movement of a body not being punished by exercise. I moved because I enjoyed it, and I moved because I deserved it.

At the end of the trip, I stepped one last time into the Pacific with nothing on but the water; waves crashing, the sand dark, the sky ink, the only light from the stars. 

I was there, both found and lost again in the middle of it all. Surrounded by primal, incomprehensible, beautiful majesty, and somehow just simply a part of it. 

And now I’m here, home again, and I’m taking it back. 

Everything I loved, and everything I am, will be mine again.

Both for you and for me, and for the girl who found herself again in the sea. 

i’m glad you were born

a letter to myself

I’ve spent time building this little home for my words to tell a few stories, get through a few thoughts, and form small bridges of connection. This cozy corner of mine is titled Letters to You– I’ve always found letters to be both profoundly personal and still, somehow, a bit mysterious. They can be thoughtful and wandering, casual or serious; a hidden place to put down words, and a proclamation worthy of sharing.

I’ve tried to write straight from my heart to your yours: to friends, family, colleagues, people I’ve yet to meet, those I love and those I loved.

Today, I’m taking this space for myself.


To You,

Hello.

I see you.

I see you last year, on the bottom of your shower, crying so hard the room is spinning. I see you with your world ripped out from under you. I see you confused and scared and lost in a heartbreak you never could have imagined.

You’re tired. Exhausted. I see you packing up a house you once loved. I see you putting away dreams. I see you saying goodbye. I see you walking away. I see you still loving him, fiercely, beyond comprehension, and still choosing a new life. I’m sorry that was so hard. Thank you for being brave.

I see you alone in your kitchen, drowning your heartbreak in wine. I see you hiding. Burying yourself in chocolate, in pretzels, in pasta, in secrets. I see you trying to make everything else hurt worse than your heart. You try, but it doesn’t make you ugly. You aren’t forgettable. You are good.

I’m sorry you feel bad when you need to buy new jeans. He wouldn’t have loved you more if you fit in the smaller ones anyway. It’s okay to let them go. 

I see you in the panic attacks. I see you in the insomnia. I see you in your moodiness, your tears, your anxiety, your loneliness. I see you in your quietness and snippiness and busyness. I see you needing nap after nap after nap. Your body has been through a lot, for a very long time. Be gentle.

I see you in your anger. I’m sorry for what he left behind. I’m sorry for the reminder of the times he hurt your heart and took advantage of you. It’s okay to be mad.

I’m sorry you aren’t who you thought you’d be. I’m sorry you’re no longer a wife and the promise of motherhood is no longer nearby. I’m sorry you are bitter and hurt and jealous of families and babies and couples in love. I hope your heart softens again. 

I’m sorry you trusted a man to see you and know you and respect you and love you and raise you up. I’m sorry you thought he would lead you but he hurt you. I’m sorry you planned for a life and hoped for a dream that didn’t come true. 

I’m sorry you invested so much of yourself in the wrong person. You had a lot to give. You still do.

I’m sorry you felt alone. I’m sorry for the nights without a friend, without the words to ask for help. I’m sorry for the times you didn’t even know you needed it. 

You will see that even here, even now, God is faithful. He is trustworthy. He has made a promise to you, and you will be blessed.

In this next year, and the years to come, know that you deserve respect. You deserve love. You deserve to take up space.

And guess what? There’ll be days you stop wondering if you’re too fat to be loved. 

There’ll be days where you dance so hard you can’t walk, and you weren’t held or kissed or noticed by a man all night long. That will be perfectly, wonderfully, beautifully okay. 

You will learn that you are enough.

You will know that your voice is worthy of being heard. Your face is worthy of being seen.

You have permission to dream new dreams.

You are a complex, beautiful, broken, healing, open, emotional, fun, intelligent, kind, hard-working, dog-loving, size 16-jean wearing mess. You are human. 

I love you. I respect you. I hear you. I see you.

You are good. Better than good. 

The best is yet to come.

Happy Birthday.

Love, 

Me

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.

#LFG