this week sucked

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?

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.