this week was the worst

love and loss and a dog

I love my dog. A lot. Too much, probably; last May I ambitiously submitted a “Modern Love” essay to The New York Times that detailed our mutual devotion. I have yet to hear back, and now I hope I never do.

I imagine I’ve run out of salt water. I’ve been crying at work, crying at home, crying in the car. Tears leak into all, like a faucet I cannot fix. It’s getting embarrassing. Even in school, faced with the most benign of prompts, I cry.


Prompt: Write about a long drive.

I am planning a drive to Pleasantview for Saturday. It will be anything but pleasant, though I picked the town for location, not for dramatic effect; it is evenly placed between my town and Steve’s. I’ve never met Steve, nor his wife, but they will both be there, at the Pleasantview Wendy’s, at 10:30.

They want to meet my dog. I’m not sure why. He bit our lab three times and my grandma once. He has a weight problem, an allergy problem, a guarding problem, and his nails grow too fast. 

The behaviorist promises he is fixable:

No, he won’t bite kids if you train him around kids. 

No, he won’t attack dogs if you bring him to the dog park. 

Yes, training will work. 

Does this work for normal people, or just dog trainers?

Which children should I volunteer? Hers?

I ruminate. Wherever I go he is there, reminding me of his devotion. I am torn between the teeth I’ve seen and the dog beside me now. He looks up trustingly, with his blue and brown eyes, his small tail twitching with joy, and I can’t help but love him back. He is a friend. He’s seen me through the worst of times and the best of times. I wanted there to be more times. 

Others will judge me, but I don’t trust me.

I feel guilty. I am guilty. 

I see us on Saturday; he will curl up in the front seat beside me. He will put his nose on the console, let me scratch behind his ears at the stoplights. He will pant, his pink tongue a bright spot against his white chest, his speckled gray back. He trusts me and I am leaving him. Another thing I’ve loved and left. 

I try to break it down, keep it simple. It’s just a drive. A meeting. A Wendy’s.

But then we will get to Wendy’s and simplicity will stop. He will wiggle his nub and hop out of the car. He will sniff the at the grass. We will peel our eyes for the unfamiliar car that holds a man named Steve and his wife. Together we will decide. 

I wonder if they’re kind. I wonder if I’ll change my mind. I wonder if I’ll drive away with an empty seat beside me, no traces left but shedded hair, and cry.


You can imagine how Saturday went. 

The couple was sweet; just this morning they assured me Bean has become “a big part of our little family.” 

My heart is warm, but broken.

And now, in the absence of one dysfunctional dog, there is nothing left to distract me from the more obvious truth: I am lonely. Really lonely. I realize that within my circle of friends, most live in another state. Most are married. Most have children. I can count on one hand the number of friends I have left who are single (in the sense that they are not married) though I struggle to think of anyone, siblings aside, who do not, at the very least, have a boyfriend. 

I am alone on this island. The grass here is charred, marked by plans that blossomed and withered under the scorching gaze of divorce. I wander around the desert, tumble weeks mocking, and find I’ve accidentally become a career woman.

Single wasn’t always a euphemism for lonely. For a while it was fun. There was a newfound sense of adventure, flexibility. The freedom to make my own choices. And, of course, there was always Bean. We were a neat little team of two. When asked about my home life, “It’s just me and my dog,” was enough. 

Until he was biting, then biting more, and I got lost. There were solutions but they were complicated ones; they demanded investment, prioritization, and held no guarantee of success. The liability would remain, squarely placed on my single-person shoulders. There was one else to carry the responsibility with, no one to distribute the weight.

Desolate in decision making, I decided to give my dog to a couple who promised they would love him and had the skills to help him. They were a team. They didn’t mind the vigilance or restriction or anxiety that comes with a sweet dog who hides a mean streak; they were ready to pick up where I couldn’t stand guard any longer.


In therapy we work on saying what I don’t have by adding a “yet.” I don’t have a date yet a boyfriend yet love yet a family yet. But what if there is no yet? What if the hope is misplaced? What if this is all there is?

How do I make it enough?


The answer comes this morning with feedback on my newest project:

“I’d like to see more of the narrator becoming her own separate person – separate from the husband and father. Most of what we read here is her seeing herself in relation to the men in her life – not her seeing herself individually.”

He’s right.

Who was I? 

Who am I? 

Apart from my ex, my mother, my father, my siblings, my work, my hobbies? 

Apart from my imaginary boyfriend, unrealized husband, fantasy children? 

Apart from my dog?

Is this aloneness a welcome mat? An invitation?

What next?

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