Category Archives: Healing

18th Universary

Today is my 18th Universary.

I don’t feel anything. It just seems like an uneventful blip on the radar of life. A hiccup. A fart. Weird.

Last year on this date, I sang at my uncle’s memorial service. Just a few days prior, my boyfriend ended our almost two-and-a-half-year relationship over email.

You know the story: that event sent my heart and mind into a spiral of lyrics. I began to compose music in my head. And then I asked for help. And then I went to Nashville and wrote more songs. And then I raised funds to help pay for the cost of recording, and all that other stuff. And a week before my 40th birthday, I recorded my very first solo album. And it’s REALLY good.

Bucket list. Check.

In the back of my mind, I have been waiting for this week to happen. Not so much that today would have been my 18th wedding anniversary, but that I would make it to the year mark of my blindsided breakup.

“I think that dude’s actions have probably occupied your mind and heart long enough,” recently said my friend and fellow bandmate, Phil.

He is so very right. Perhaps it is hard for me to let people go. I don’t understand why they act so epically shitty without regard for other people’s feelings, or seeming consequence. And perhaps it’s a simple explanation: it actually has nothing to do with me.

“As you grow, you pick people who match you. You’ll choose better next time. It’s less a matter of finding someone up to your standards and more about gravitating towards a better match,” said my therapist back in December.

Hey, guess what? I’m growing. It hasn’t been easy, but right now it feels really damn good.

It’s necessary and good to grieve. I have done that. It is necessary and good to move forward. I am doing just that.

And as scary and wonderful and unexpected and unplanned as it has been, I am dating again.

Here we go.

Again.

Heartbreak is a Gift

I’ve 20 days left to raise funds to make my album happen.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m pretty terrible at self-promotion. I can’t be anything other than myself. I do my work and hope it speaks for itself.

But sometimes you have to see yourself as others see you.

My friend Chelsea — an exceptional writer whom I met several years ago when she interviewed me for an assignment about Christians who exercise curse words — offered to write yet another.

Leslie-Intelligentsia-2-copy

And it’s just perfect. Here’s an excerpt:

“That’s what I’m looking forward to, when Leslie’s record comes out. Knowing her and her work, I know it will be sour, bitter and sweet in perfect proportion, like an old-fashioned made right. It will be sharp enough to make the heartbreak culprit bleed, while being gentle enough to bind up your own wounds. It’ll stroke your hair with reflective insight and slap your ass with humor.

Best of all, Leslie’s record will give you more than words. Hers is the big, bad, ‘you can’t ignore me now’ voice of the woman who really tried to do it all the nice way, and is finally going to speak her mind.”

Read the article here.

*****

As of today, I am 40% funded. That is amazing! But I still have more to go. Click to make a pledge here. Don’t be afraid to pledge now; the funds will not be deducted unless the project is entirely funded on March 29, 2017.

And, as always, sincere thanks.

 

A Single Star

In the wee small hours of this Christmas Eve morning, we were stalled in a snowstorm over Donner Pass. The delay was distressing to our drivers because we needed chains. Morale was low.

Yet, around 1:30 am — after a snowball fight with the crew — we carried on.
We are all exhausted, but for some reason I was the last man standing on my bus. I sat and watched all the snow-covered evergreens go by.

Then I realized something.

In ten years I really haven’t had Christmas. And, as a native Southern Californian, I certainly haven’t ever experienced a white Christmas.

This morning, I got to enjoy thousands of Christmas trees in my home state, as I breathed in the crisp, fresh air of the glorious Sierra Nevada mountains. The trees were beautifully decorated in glorious, white, frosty powder.

I wept alone as I gazed out the window. Each tree was uniquely ornamented, designed by the force of nature. I wanted to share it with everyone, but dared not wake my dear friends who were cozy; fast asleep in their bunks.

It’s been a lovely and difficult holiday season. I’ve probably felt sorry for myself more than I should, yet sometimes in suffering, I wonder where God is. I know I’m not alone in this.
But early this morning, when the storm cleared, there appeared a single star.

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” ~Matthew 2:10

I am overjoyed, because I choose joy! I choose to rejoice in the things I have, instead what I don’t. God is real. He is kind and good. Maybe shitty things happen, but they are never far from His reach. He is love.

And, too, may you all choose joy this season. No matter what you are facing. You are so loved!

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Worth The Risk, Part Deux

For the last ten years, I have been on the road at Thanksgiving and Christmastime. It was hard, at first, because I was married. I didn’t want to be away from my husband or family. But then I found myself going through a divorce. The road was a soft place to land during a confusing, difficult and traumatizing time.

And then there were a few years where I was single. Transitioning. Moving across the country. Still, the road was good to me. Then I was pursued. Treated as I have always dreamed. I fell in love again and was finally in a good relationship. I had it all.

Two months ago, my relationship miscarried. I never saw it coming.

And what can I say? Nothing. If anything I have learned through my divorce, it is to let people go. I am done fighting for a relationship that only I want. People choose to leave, for whatever valid or huge-pile-of-horse-shit reason. It is the worst, most familiar feeling in the world. So much so you start to befriend the ache in your heart and pit in your stomach. You keep telling yourself that someday, someone will actually choose you and be all in, no matter what. You have to believe it, because otherwise, you sincerely will become jaded and succumb to anger and all of its accompanying pain and grief. You’ve been in this place before. You can certainly do it again. It is an old friend.

And the grief. Oh, the fucking grief. It is an unexpected, rude and sometimes cruel visitor. An unwelcome one, too. A memory, song or a familiar smell triggers the wave that pulsates through your entire body, sending your heart all the way to your wobbly knees. It’s like a bowling ball that’s constantly hitting the gutter, unable to knock over any pin with precision because it was tossed with the sloppiest, most unplanned aim.

“You’ll find someone better,” people say, seemingly flippantly. But it isn’t helpful.

A good male friend recently said, “Leslie, you’re a smart lady. You know pain and I’m not in any way going to talk you out of it. Welcome to disorientation and all of the accompanying shitty, self-loathing and self-questioning feelings that come with it. I don’t know the journey ahead but I know this, too, shall pass and you will come out the other side and know more about you; deepen yourself and find your true relationships and community in the midst.

It’s one of those things. When you hit rock bottom, what do you do? You kinda just sit there and play with the rocks for a bit. You know this is not about you or anything you’re lacking. It sucks and is hard that you’ve come this far to lose this much. I know you feel duped and like you shouldn’t have given so much, but you had no other choice. You had to give yourself.”

He’s right: I did have to give myself. And I was happy to. My relationship was good. The best of my life, so far. I haven’t anything terrible to say about it, except for the way it ended. Or just that it ended, at all.

I told myself I wasn’t going to write about any of this. Who wants to hear about yet another breakup? But here I am. Back in the land of writing as catharsis.

“I don’t know why you fight it,” my dear friend Meredith smiled, knowingly.

I am not looking for attention or sympathy. I am also not looking to censor myself or my feelings. This is who I am. I write to process. I’ve even begun writing songs. If my lot in life is to love and lose, then I might as well capitalize upon the real, raw and vulnerable place in which the pain repeatedly shoves me.

So as I type this from my stale hotel room in Newport News, Virginia, I am yet again thankful for the road. It does not allow me to fully get lost in an ocean of self-pity or grief. My friends out here listen and let me laugh and cry, without any judgment. They’re even helping me create music. It’s as if I have thirty overprotective big brothers. And I am very loved and cared for by them.

I long for the day when I cease crying over this loss. My heart doesn’t believe it, but my head knows it will come in time. And it is what I do with that time that will help shape my immediate future. I am already grateful for the opportunity to have succeeded in relationship where the odds were probably stacked against us, from the start. But when you choose to love; when you choose to make it work, it does. And well. It isn’t that hard.

Perhaps I’m the biggest fool on the planet, but I’ll keep getting back up, dusting myself off and jumping back in the ring. Because I was made for, and to, love. And, again, the risk of loving is always worth taking.

The Invisible Thread

Tomorrow, I will have been officially divorced for five years.

That’s half the time I was married.

If you want to get really technical, the official date of separation was March 1, 2009, which means I have been single for seven years. The majority of my 30s – supposedly my prime – have been spent without a partner.

Weird.

Inadvertently, I scheduled a bikini wax on my divorce-versary.

*****

Recently, I received an email from a reader who builds pianos in Norway. She shared pieces of her story and how my blog had challenged her thinking. She encouraged me to keep writing (thank you!) and asked me a question.

What do you think…even if you’re doing great, even if life is really good and even if you know it (you are way ahead of me in the process there) …even if you’ve healed and you truly know that…will the pain hang around maybe for the rest of your life? Not constant, but apparently still there and ready to pop up? Do you experience that? How do you deal with that? Could you blog about that?

Besides input about divorce as a whole, it seems everyone has an opinion about the divorce process: how long it will take to heal; how long you should wait to start dating again; to what degree you’re fucked up (and over!); what you should and shouldn’t be doing to get over it.

Perhaps the obvious answer is, it’s different for everyone. Divorce is not as clean, quick and relatively painless as a professional waxing strip. Why do we assume recovery will be? I believe every divorced person experiences the five stages of grief, not necessarily in linear fashion.

It simply takes time. But time doesn’t heal all wounds.

Divorce is like a death — perhaps worse because the other person is still alive! And to think that person who loved, accepted and married, then wounded, rejected, abandoned, abused, angered and/or betrayed you moves on and is happy…?!?!?

Some days I’m outraged by the injustice of it all. Other days I am so relieved to feel nothing but apathy for my ex-husband. Many days I completely forget any of it ever happened.

I think it’s safe to say if I weren’t writing and editing a book on divorce, it might just slip into the back of my mind as a mildly interesting fact about me. I don’t burst into tears over having to choose which marital status box to check anymore. I no longer use the “D” word as part of an introduction. I don’t feel judged or like an outcast; I don’t feel undateable. I’m still fairly annoyed by blissfully naïve and happily married couples (especially the ones who give each other back rubs in church), but I’m not threatened by them. For whatever reason, I have remained single. I think I’m okay with that. For now.

Most of all, I don’t feel like my marriage – or I – failed. I simply did the best I could, then moved forward.

A couple of years back, my therapist mentioned that certain wounds could only be healed in a relationship. I have had a few post-divorce relationships over the last five years. And, to some degree, I have felt like a complete disaster in all of them. Something inevitably happens to trigger my insecurities and fears and I get jumpy. I want to run away as fast as I can before I get hurt, realize he’s just not that into me, or – scariest thought of all – discover there’s another woman in the picture.

But when paired with the right kind of partner – one who is steadfast, kind, patient and unfazed by my version of crazy, I regularly experience – and affirm – the truth.

I am healing in relationship.

*****

What about the lingering pain, threatening to well up at any moment?

Twenty years ago, my college roommate lost her younger brother in a freak accident in his woodshop class. On the anniversary of his death, their mother, Bonnie, posted a beautiful tribute. I was moved by her honesty and wisdom.

I admit, sometimes I need to be on the road; to feel the pain of grief; to mourn the loss of my precious Scott. I know that when I am there, on the road, when I allow myself to truly mourn, that is when the God of all Comfort brings peace to my soul. You see, time does not heal all wounds. It is what one does with the time that heals all wounds. Grief boxed up, stuffed down, ignored or denied, only festers and seeks a way out. It is what we do with our grief over time that heals.

You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t experience grief over your loss from time to time. Like the chicken pox virus, it will probably remain dormant within you. But it doesn’t necessarily have to take over, nor will it be so visible. Acknowledge it with kindness. Don’t judge or ignore it. Experience it, even if it hurts like hell. Reach out to those who love and support you and ask for help. Stop pretending you’re okay when you’re not.

And in those moments of vulnerability and surrender, authentic growth and healing can take place.

I would never compare equally the death of a child to divorce, but they are both losses, nonetheless. What do we do with the loss of our spouse, identity, home, family, friends, pets, dreams, children, hope for children, etc.?

We fight, cry, pray, scream, grieve, despair, experience, run from, numb, run towards, stand still, spin, question, answer, learn, discover, laugh, try, try, and try again.

And the thing that keeps us going is the invisible thread of hope.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ~ Romans 8:24-25

 

16th UNiversary

Moments before I walked down the aisle, sixteen years ago.

Sixteen years ago today, I got married.

My dad walked his 22-year-old daughter down the aisle to a majestic organ in a beautiful sanctuary on a hot afternoon. I carefully recited my vows and promised my fresh-faced groom I would love and honor him until death did us part.

I meant it.

The reception was small: held in a petite garden area next to the church parking lot. We served sparkling apple cider and charcuterie from Costco. A jazz band comprised of fellow college students played quietly and a budding filmmaker captured moments on Hi8 tape. Due to the unseasonable warmth of the day, the homemade wedding cake melted before my new husband and I could ceremoniously cut it. He proceeded to smash a piece all over my face, anyway.

There was some confusion over the remaining few hundred dollars of the wedding bill, which caused the last of my makeup to be cried off. We left for our honeymoon in my 1997 Toyota pickup truck; the remnants of the fallen cake streaked all over the vehicle. The back window jokingly read, “Mr. and Mrs. Spencer”.

It wasn’t the wedding I wanted, but it was the best I could do.

We were so young.

Today, the sanctuary has been torn down and made new. The garden has been replaced with church offices, where I spent almost five solid months in marriage counseling after discovering my husband’s infidelity.

The organist recently received a heart transplant, the musicians all have steady, successful careers and the videographer became a widely recognized director and won a million dollar Superbowl commercial contest.

And I am happily divorced.

*****

“It’s not the wedding, but the marriage that counts,” they say. If my wedding was any indication of the sort of marriage that followed, I should have bolted the opposite direction down the aisle at the very first note of the processional.

But I believe in marriage. I think it’s amazing, difficult and utterly courageous to make that kind of commitment to another person. Certainly, I was young. Perhaps too young. But I wasn’t afraid. And when my marriage went to complete shit, I held on and fought for the concept – and the person – as long as I could.

I admire that girl. I’m proud of her.

The person and the girl are now gone. But I do not regret the commitment, if only for the role it played in giving birth to the woman I have become.

So today, on my 16th Universary, I do not mourn the loss of a marriage, but cheer for forgiveness and the freedom that accompanies it. I honor growth, wisdom, vulnerability and true, selfless, mature love.

I celebrate the gift of a second chance.

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Four Years

I have officially been divorced four years.

The day – March 3rd, to be exact – came and went without incident. In fact, it didn’t even occur to me until this morning that another year had gone by. It feels so damn good to have that time behind me.

March 3, 2011

I’m guessing Marjorie must have gotten tired of signing her name.

 

The past four years – six, really, if you count from my discovery of X’s infidelity – have been the most difficult, refining, tragic, incredible, horrible, deep, dark, elating, wonderful opportunities of growth. What is more, they have been saturated in grace.

I never mean to treat or speak of divorce flippantly, nor do I advocate running out and getting one to find new meaning in your life. But I do think any arduous road or suffering, if faced with honesty, vulnerability and grace, will inevitably bring surrender, acceptance, peace and maturity.

But it’s fucking hard. And there are consequences; results. I still have questions.

Did I marry the wrong person?

Given the fact my husband cheated on me and got remarried four months before we were divorced, my knee-jerk reaction is, “Absolutely! That guy was and still is the worst kind of idiot douche!”

(Side note: as initially painful as it was, the fact I had a Sister Wife will always be ridiculously funny. And true!)

I can argue that I was young and immature when I got married. Sometimes one will make choices that aren’t conducive to marriage. People change. I can also say all the work I have done in therapy over the years has helped me identify my own issues, how to deal with them and exactly what type of person/relationship to avoid.

Yet I have seen young people get married and stay married. People change for the better. I have seen couples stay together after an affair (or two or three). Staying married is a daily choice. Love, itself, is a choice. It takes two people to make it work, long after the romance has faded; when the cellulite is harder to battle; when it takes more than one match to cover up the foulness in the bathroom; when arguments and disappointment are a daily occurrence; when the snoring gets louder and a good night’s sleep is infinitely better than sex.

In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller writes,

“Both men and women today see marriage not as a way of creating character and community but as a way to reach personal life goals. They are looking for a marriage partner who will ‘fulfill their emotional, sexual, and spiritual desires.’ And that creates an extreme idealism that in turn leads to a deep pessimism that you will ever find the right person to marry.”

As much as I want to re-write history and celebrate the fact I have been given a second chance at love (and perhaps marriage), I do not believe I made a mistake in choosing the person I first married. I walked down the aisle in 1999, excited about my future. The young man I married that day had great potential. I loved him. He was my friend. We saw life as an adventure, together. That was enough.

But people make choices. X chose his path and I chose mine. And because God is good, there is a copious amount of grace for us both.

What about the children?

I did not have babies with X. For that I am truly grateful because I would forever be tied to him. I would have never been able to pick up and move to New York on a whim. I wouldn’t have the freedom to travel and do what I love for a living. What is more, I would have to co-parent with someone I do not respect. Most of all, the children would suffer the effects of divorce, perhaps more so than I.

I will never feign to understand what it truly feels like, but I mourn with those of you who have kids and are enduring divorce. I hope each party can be kind to one another. I pray personal issues or suffering will never, ever be used to manipulate children into turning against the other parent. It is child abuse.

I still mourn the loss of my sisters and brothers-in-law, and my nieces and nephews. I was in the operating room when two of them were born, via C-section. Unless the photo albums have all been thrown out and memories erased, there are fourteen years of documentation I was their aunt. I was X’s wife. I was a daughter-in-law. I was a sister-in-law. They were my family.

But they are now strangers. That is deeply sad.

Will I ever marry again? Have a family?

Hell if I know the answer to that question. I have days where I am beyond grateful to be single and childless, living some watered-down version of a Sex and the City episode. There are other days when I wake up to the noise on 5th Avenue and desperately wish I were being smothered by the weight of a good man. If I had a baby, I can assure you I would be the biggest offender of saturating social media news feeds with his or her every waking moment. Ad nauseam.

But marriage is not the answer to life or its problems. It is not the completion of self or fulfillment of happiness. Nor is birthing or even adopting baby humans. I worry for people who are waiting with bated breath to start enjoying their life when marriage and/or family happens. These things are no more guaranteed than the next minute of time.

I sincerely wish we – especially the church – would stop placing marriage and family on a pedestal. Isn’t it enough to be alive, demonstrate love to those around us and acknowledge we, too, are loved?

Easier said than done. But it should be.

When will I fully heal from my divorce?

I believe healing happens in process, and is different for everyone. I was an absolute insane person the first six months after I recognized my marriage had fallen apart. Looking back, I wouldn’t necessarily blame X for wanting out since I reacted to every little thing he did. I felt mortally wounded. A nonstop rollercoaster of fear and emotions drove my words and deeds.

I was a different kind of hot mess after I filed for divorce. I needed to feel free and allow myself to act irresponsibly. I needed to explore what it meant to be single in my thirties, after having been married for the majority of my adult life. I needed space and time to ugly cry, get drunk or laugh heartily. I needed to feel safe. I needed my community. I needed support. I needed therapy. I needed to experience healthy relationship. I even needed to withstand more breakups.

And then I needed to pack my bags, move across the country and start my life all over again.

I’m not sure anyone is ever fully healed from divorce. It is an emotional, physical, mental and spiritual trauma. Initially it is a huge, gaping, seeping wound that needs constant monitoring and care. Sometimes it requires life support.

But eventually the wound scabs over. It becomes a scar. And whereas that scar may never go away, it – along with the memory of the trauma – fades.

****

So, wow. Divorced four years. Separated for six. Soon enough, I will have been divorced longer than I was ever married. The scar remains, but is slowly fading.

X and I have both moved on. We have completely different lives now, and I (think I?) genuinely wish him well. It still strikes me as odd that I was married to someone for ten years, yet I cannot remember the sound of his voice or the touch of his hand. Sometimes he has a cameo in my dreams. Other times I will regale a funny story about my old life with one husband, two cats, three dogs and four chickens in an old house on a rocky hill in sunny Los Angeles.

“That’s so not you!” my new friends gasp, as the Chrysler Building twinkles behind us in the warming spring sunlight.

And they’re right. It’s not me — anymore.

X was my first love. He hurt me deeply, but in no way did he destroy me. Neither did my divorce. If anything, I am free to love more fully and deeply now, and without fear.

Divorce has not defined me. It has refined me.

The Most Refining Thing

Fifteen years ago today, I got married.

I think it’s pretty safe to say no one genuinely walks down the aisle, planning to be divorced. I most certainly didn’t, as a young, extremely wide-eyed, blushing virgin bride (who was very much in love with her charming husband).

But somehow the marriage begins to crumble. It’s a slow fade, over time and choice.

Love is always a choice.

And so, through the struggle and pain and shit and hell and fire and snot and screams and tears and questions and rage and mistakes and surrender, you wake up one day and realize you’ve survived.

I hesitate to proclaim my divorce is the best thing that ever happened to me, because I believe in marriage. What is more, I believe in fighting for marriage.

But when the battle has been fought and you realize you’re the only one left in the ring, you learn to put down your sword, take a deep breath and let the dust settle.

Beauty from ashes.

So I say my divorce is the most refining thing that ever happened to me.

I learned my worth.
I learned I am worth fighting for.
I learned I have the most incredible people in my life, who love and stick by me, for better or for worse.

I am learning to forgive.

I am not the person I was when I got married fifteen years ago. I am also not the person I was five years ago, when my marriage ended.

I’m not even the person I was five minutes ago. I hope and pray to be continually refined, by the One Who will always love me; who will never leave me. For that, I am so grateful.

God is good.

Thirty-Seven

On August 30, I celebrated my 37th birthday.

I had a very small gathering at a cozy, candle-lit wine bar in Greenwich Village, called 8th Street Wine Cellar. It was the same place I celebrated my 32nd birthday, just one day before moving home to Los Angeles and discovering my husband’s infidelity.

I remember pacing the sidewalk, arguing with X over the phone right before my party started. I didn’t understand why he was so volatile. I didn’t understand why I was so angry with him.

We left the conversation unresolved. He mumbled “Happy Birthday,” and I hung up. I walked down the stairs, into the cool cellar where my friends were waiting. Almost immediately, I was happy again. I was loved. I was celebrated. And I felt torn. I didn’t want to leave New York but I had to try and save my marriage.

*****

It would be more than two years before I returned to New York City. And every time I did, I arranged social gatherings at 8th Street Wine Cellar.

In December 2011, my boyfriend (at the time) surprised me with a trip. I was beside myself with joy. I took him to all my favorite places, including the wine bar. We shared Malbec and charcuterie with my friend (and future roommate), Christy.

In December 2012, I sat in a corner booth with Christy and cried.

“I want to move here,” I blubbered, as tears streamed down my cheeks. “I have to live in New York. But I am so afraid.”

Christy took my hand. “I believe you belong in this city,” she said, gently. “I know God will make a way for it to happen.”

And He did.

In December 2013, after having just found our current apartment, Christy and I sat in the very same corner booth and sketched living room designs on a Tempranillo-stained napkin.

Last Saturday, I celebrated my 37th birthday at 8th Street Wine Cellar. What is more, I experienced a miracle. A full circle. I celebrated God’s kindness in restoring me from the pit of divorce; the ashes of pain and loss. I rejoiced in the fact that even though my marriage failed, I had not. I proclaimed God graciously carried me back to the city where I had begun to find my true identity. I applauded the goodness of singlehood. Over wine and in candlelight, I laughed with my friends at horrible dating stories, parenting snafus and work crises.

I raised a glass to healing and hope.

Thirty-seven is the year of surrender. I know not what the tomorrow may bring. What I do know is that I am fiercely loved. My future – whatever it holds – is bright and full of life.

Thanks be to God.

New Me in New York, Part Deux

I’ve been in New York for two weeks now.

Even in winter, it’s everything wonderful I remember: towering architecture, flashing marquees, glowing stage lights and bright, yellow taxicabs; crowded subways and quaint cafes filled with people from all walks of life. The bustling noise and busyness is always offset by a quiet, wooden park bench, and the harsh wind and cold, made warmer by the coo of a lone dove perched on the fire escape.

I love this city with all my heart.

I’m staying in my friends’ apartment in West Harlem, while they are away for several weeks. A couple of months ago, while I lay sick in my bed in Pasadena, I declared over social media I was going to allow people to love me this year. Almost immediately, I received a phone call. My friends responded with, “Come to New York, stay in our place and pay what you can. And by ‘what you can’ — even if we don’t get a dime, it’s okay.”

I burst into tears, accepted their more-than-generous offer, and started packing.

Here I am, and I even survived – I’d say frolicked in — the big blizzard of 2013.

I heart blizzards.

I heart blizzards.

There is always beauty after the storm.

There is always beauty after the storm.

It’s hard to not project into the future, however. I started looking for apartments so I can live on my own, but quickly got discouraged because I can’t afford it. I’ve been auditioning as much as I can, but nothing happens overnight. I need work, and badly. I want so desperately to be able to support myself and really make this happen. I am determined to not have to move back to Los Angeles, with my tail tucked between my legs, and nothing to show for my time here.

I’ve been given a second chance and do not want to fail.

*****

I’ve lived in New York City before. I moved four years ago, on February 13, 2009.  X accompanied me on the plane ride out, for I didn’t want to go alone. I was still reticent about the decision we had made – and prayed for – together, but somehow I knew it was a huge step forward in my life.

We arrived at JFK and lugged my three tattered suitcases through the subway, towards Morningside Heights (Harlem). The same couple housing me now had offered their couch for a couple of weeks while I waited for the room I had rented in Queens to be available.

As we crossed the threshold into my friends’ tiny apartment, I immediately felt at home; peace.

X and I sat down on the blue, velvet couch and sipped homemade coffee with our friends. We all marveled at how I had finally arrived in New York, with a job, and an opportunity to shoot for the stars — at least for six months. I complained about having to swing the off-Broadway show I was in (I want to go back and slap my entitled attitude!), and worried about how I’d manage a six-month separation from my beloved husband.

The answer was simple: we’d endure. It was only six months. The potential opportunities were worth the possible struggle of loneliness and separation.

Yet, those six months – February to August, 2009 – were the cruelest, saddest and loneliest times I have ever experienced in my life.

“I love you more than anything, Leslie,” X reassured me, after we had finished our coffee, and were waiting on the curb for his airport cab to arrive, to take him back to Los Angeles.

I kicked a chicken bone out from under the heel of my boot and brushed the tears from my eyes.

“I hate the thought of not being with you,” I cried. “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and your unwavering support and encouragement means the world to me. I could not do this without you. I honestly couldn’t have dreams without you, because I think you believe in me more than I believe in myself.”

“I support you one million percent,” X replied.  “I will hate being away from you, too, but we’ll make it work. After all, we love each other and are most important to each other.”

The cab arrived. My husband hugged me, slid his tall, thin frame into the back seat, and drove away. I would see him in New York just once more in the following six months. Little did I know then, I had already lost him.

*****

Four years later – I have gained a whole new me.

As I have wandered the city these past two weeks, I know I am different.  I feel it.  I may be alone, but alone doesn’t necessarily mean lonely. I have bigger dreams than I ever had the courage to dream before.  I feel calm. Humbled. Confident. Expectant. Excited. My future has never been more unsteady or unsure, but I know it will be all right.

I am not worried about failing.  Just by being in this vibrant city this very moment, and every millisecond that follows — for however long I am able to remain – I have already succeeded.