Category Archives: Hope

Dear Daniel

Dear Daniel,

You drove me home yesterday, after the end of five days straight of 12-hour catering shifts. I could barely walk, looked like hell and probably smelled worse, but you were kind to me. (You smelled GREAT, by the way.) You engaged me in conversation, even though you confessed your English wasn’t that great. You were even kinder when I attempted Spanish and told you I loved you instead of what my name was.

I didn’t hide my attraction to you in the slightest. You see, Daniel, after getting my heart broken enough times, I’ve realized it is much more resilient than I ever dreamed it could be. Last night it fluttered, flirted, flip-flopped and fumbled for words, especially when you smiled at me and spoke honestly and openly about life. I appreciated your directness.

I was happy your GPS system malfunctioned, causing our time together to be extended. (Hence me tossing my hair and declaring, “I’m in NO hurry to get anywhere!”) I’m not sure if you noticed how I draped myself over the armrest, just to be that much closer to you. Yes, Daniel. I confess I have no shame. (You also have amazing arms.)

When you pulled up to the green awning in front of my apartment building, I didn’t want to get out of the vehicle. I don’t care that you’re making extra money driving people around. It’s hard to live in this city. Hell, I work catering jobs to pay the bills so I, too, can keep living my dream.

I’m so glad I met you, Daniel. Perhaps selfishly. But I’m just so damn tired of grieving the loss of my last relationship. It’s time to move on. There is no set time frame on grief, but at some point you realize you’re the only one crying. And life keeps moving on.

Daniel, thank you for taking my hand as I struggled to get out of the vehicle. And thank you for asking for my phone number. Did you notice how quickly I gave it to you? I hope you use it. If not, that’s okay, too. I have no expectations. Just hope. And a renewed spring in my step.

Life keeps moving on, indeed.

~Leslie

Five Days Left

Hopped in a Via and started chatting with my driver, Bakary.
 
We chatted about life, heartbreak, surviving in/the city; our dreams and fears.
 
I told him how I was attempting to raise funds so I can record an album. I told him how, when I first launched the project on Kickstarter, I don’t think I actually believed it would happen.
 
And now, with five days left, I’m so very close. I’m so close I can smell the vocal booth in the studio; I can hear horn parts on the bridge of one of my songs. I am close to tears thinking about all of the people who have pledged so far — a majority of you childhood classmates; friends.
 
It is an amazing thing to be so loved. Even if this project doesn’t fully fund (and I’m praying it will!) I have learned something absolutely invaluable:
 
You all believe in me.
You have supported me without question; without hearing one note of my music.
I am astounded.
And it pushes me even further: to get this project funded, recorded, mixed, mastered and delivered.
 
Bakary pulled over at my destination, got out of the vehicle and carefully placed my luggage on the curb. He smiled at me from at least a foot above.
 
“You have a good heart, Leslie,” he said. “You are a very special person. Don’t let anything or anyone change you. Even this city.”
 
I opened my arms to this stranger — my new friend.
 
“Let’s hug it out, Bakary!”
 
“I love you!”
 
“I love you, too!”
 
 Click HERE to pledge to my project. There’s just five days left!

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.

 

Sunday In The Park With Candace

I was out the door at 7:15 am yesterday, bound for a new church gig in Sheepshead Bay. Exhausted from the day before (brief video shoot in Central Park to promote fundraising for my album and co-hosting a baby shower in my home for a woman I had never met), I wasn’t sure I would be able to get through the morning.

But work is scarce right now, and any day I’m hired to sing is a good one.

The church gathered at an old-timey yacht club, right on the water. Originally established in 1908, it was built as a family summer home for Rheingold Beer. Upon arrival, my grumpiness over the 90-minute subway commute dissolved. The creaky dining hall overlooked the peaceful bay, which was well stocked with neatly parked sailboats. Seagulls, pigeons, geese and swans fluttered about, happily. After all, the forecast predicted an unseasonably warm day.

Song leading went as well as it could. The congregation was small yet familial; they embraced me with open arms and hearts.

Almost immediately after the service ended, an older gentleman appeared behind the bar and began polishing glasses.

“Excuse me,” I said, as I zipped my black leather jacket up over my spring dress. “Do you happen to know if anyone here offers sailing lessons? Last fall I took a course out in California but I won’t be going back there because — “

I stopped myself. This guy did not have time for a breakup story. It wasn’t pertinent, anyway. Furthermore, he had a bar to open.

I cleared my throat and began again.

“I took sailing lessons a few months ago and would like to keep up my chops.”

“You gonna be around this summer?” I could almost taste his Brooklyn accent.

“Yes,” I smiled.

He extended his hand.

“I’m Bob. Nice to meet you. Next time you come back, ask for George Johnson. He’ll throw you on a boat. He’s always looking for crew.”

“Great! Oh, wow! That’s great! Thank you!” I chirped, and skipped out the door.

I navigated my way back to Manhattan on the Q train, which recently has been extended up to 96th Street and 2nd Avenue. It isn’t my normal route home, but I was up for adventure. Especially since the temperature was steadfast at a perfect 65 degrees.

I exited the train, took off my jacket and slung it over my shoulder. The sun was bright and warm. A gentle breeze flirted with my hair. I felt good. Confident. Cool. New York is my boyfriend and he was treating me to a glorious day out. And, in a few months, I would be sailing again.

I casually strolled up 96th towards the park and noticed a very petite, blonde woman being walked by her three dogs. The male pit-mix puppy whined with excitement and anticipation.

“I know, Mac,” she blared. “We’re almost there. Just two more blocks. But you have to be patient.”

Mac shot her a look, barked, and kept tugging towards the park.

I giggled, audibly.

“Isn’t it wonderful to be wearing a dress in February?” the woman said to me.

I looked down at my clothing, then back at her. I had briefly forgotten it was February.

“Yes!” I shrieked. “I’m originally from California and I quickly realized that, although snow is fun and cute, it’s not necessarily welcome in my daily routine. I much prefer this.” I gestured with open hands to the clear, blue sky.

She laughed. “I went to college in California!” The five of us kept heading in the direction of the park.

Eventually we sat down on the same bench. She let her dogs off the leash.

“I’m sure I’ll get a ticket, but who cares? MAC! GET BACK HERE!” She bellowed, then bolted off the bench to retrieve him.

I turned my face towards the sun, closed my eyes and smiled.

“What’s your name?” I asked, when she returned with her exuberant, wayward puppy.

“I’m Candace,” she extended her hand.

“Leslie,” I said, and shook it. Her firm grip pleasantly accompanied her kind eyes.

Out of nowhere, a park ranger appeared and inched towards us in her golf cart.

“Here we go,” Candace rolled her eyes. She gathered up the dogs and held them close.

But the park ranger didn’t budge. Mac started impatiently whining again.

“Oh, fuck it. I’m just going to go ask if my damn dogs can have a little joy off their leashes today.”

I watched her as she marched towards the golf cart. Three minutes later, the dogs were released. The park ranger continued to sit still.

“Wow! That was impressive!” I called, as I shielded my eyes from the sun.

“Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want,” Candace smiled. “Life’s too short to be timid and follow the rules. Don’t let them take you by the balls! Take risks! Be confident! Believe in yourself!”

I began to feel like I had been to church twice that day, and the sun was still high in the sky.

“So, what do you do?” Candace asked, as Sadie the Weimaraner dropped a muddy ball into her lap.

“I’m a singer and a writer,” I replied. “In fact, I just got back from Nashville where I wrote an album.”

“Wow! That’s great!” Candace exclaimed. “MAC! MAC! STOP DIGGING OVER THERE!”

She turned back to me.

“What kind of music is it? What genre? What led you to writing it?”

I took a deep breath in.

“Well, it’s a culmination of a lot of things,” I answered, a little too eagerly. “It might sound like a cliché, but it all began with a bunch of lyrics in my head over my latest breakup.”

I paused, then laughed.

“I guess you could say I publicly process my heartbreak. With my divorce, I wrote a blog that is becoming a book. And now? An album.”

“I totally get that!” she chimed in. “I’m divorced, too. And I recently had to end a promising relationship, myself. But more on that later. What happened to you?”

We settled into our park bench. I told her the story of my divorce and she listened intently, sometimes nodding and humming in agreement; sometimes with occasional outbursts of disbelief.

“WHAAAAT?!!? Who does that?! How is that even legal?”

We howled with laughter. I silently took note of how easy it was to talk about my divorce; to actually laugh about it. I am relieved it is behind me. Certainly, time lessens the severity of the wounds, but it is what you do with that time that matters most.

I moved on to the story of my latest relationship endeavor.

“I guess the best way of putting it is to quote my therapist,” I concluded. “Right guy, wrong time.”

“Yeah, but you have no closure! I mean, GOD.” She threw her head back. “I swear, men are missing a sensitivity chip.”

I laughed, then twisted my lips, swallowing to keep a surge of pain from becoming too overwhelming.

“Very true. But, to be honest, if all of this hadn’t happened, I may not have gone to Nashville and written these songs. I’m not going full-on Adele or Taylor Swift here, but I believe writing – creating, really! – is cathartic. And in turn, healing.”

“It certainly is,” Candace agreed. “Hey, listen – ”

She pulled a card from her doggie diaper bag and gave it to me.

“I’m a CEO and produce a lot of high-end events. I think you should come to them and meet people. Network, et cetera. Aaaand,” she winked, “You never know whom you might meet!”

I beamed. I certainly wasn’t about to tell her I normally work high-end events as a Captain or bartender for extra money.

“I know you probably need some more time to heal, but you should definitely dress up, come out and have some fun. MAC! MAC! WHERE ARE YOU?”

I dug in my purse, fished out my own card and handed it to her.

“I would love that, Candace. I really would.”

She smiled, then glanced at her phone. She had two missed calls.

“Well, I should probably head back home to the kids,” she stood up. “Let’s be in touch! And until we meet again – keep writing. Don’t be afraid to get that album funded. You can do it!”

We hugged. Then she was gone. I sat still on the bench and allowed my pale, bare legs to be saturated with a little more sunlight.

Did I just meet an angel? I thought. A small, feisty, strong, independent, successful, very genuine and caring angel who, yesterday, celebrated her 47th birthday with just her kids. 

I allowed my mind to wander into fantasy. I imagined attending one of Candace’s events, smartly and sexily dressed, swirling a gin martini in my hand and entertaining droves of astonishingly attractive, extremely wealthy, outlandishly smart and genuinely good men. They would all clamor for my attention. I would casually yet humbly inform them how my book just hit the New York Times bestseller list, then hum a few choruses of the songs of the songs I had just co-written. A well-known producer would hear me from across the room, cease his trivial conversation with a couple of over-processed, under-intelligent, too-skinny women and approach me.

“That’s brilliant! Sing it again!”

My entire album would reach funding in two minutes, plus a little extra to help me pay my taxes and buy another dress for the following evening’s event.

Everything happens for a reason. Glad I took a different route home that one Sunday. Thanks, Candace!

But as the sun started to sink a little lower in the sky and the gentle breeze turned just a few degrees cooler, I shook it out of my mind.

Reality: I don’t need a man – or fantasy – to accomplish one single thing I am meant to do. Certainly, at some point, I would like to share my life with a partner. I am a relationship person. I have a huge heart. I may be a fool, but I am not afraid to love, and boldly.

But when I am hurt – when someone breaks my heart – I scream from the rooftops, cry in public, scrawl furiously on the page and fervently compose, because that is how I cope. I share my heart. That is how I heal.

And it’s okay. It’s okay to be human.

My pain has been turned into art. That can only ever be a good thing.

I will love again, I am sure of that. I’m hoping I have at least forty years left on this planet. There’s got to be a “right guy, right time” in there, somewhere. But I’m not worried about that right now. There are far more important things ahead. My job is to to keep riding the momentum that’s just been created.

Candace is right: Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want. Life’s too short to be timid and follow the rules. I’m certainly not going to let anyone take me by the balls. I’m confident. I’m taking risks. And I do believe in myself. More and more, each day.

I’m following my dreams. I can’t wait to see where it all leads me. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s already a success.

*****

Please support me in following my dreams. My goal this year – my fortieth on this planet!! – is to have my book published and have this album recorded, produced, mixed, mastered and distributed. There is no guarantee as an artist, but if anything I have written over the past several years has resonated with you, my hope is that my music will speak to you, as well. Every single contribution certainly helps, no matter what amount.

Thank you.

From the bottom of my heart.

~Leslie

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.

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.

Tagged , ,

Today

I went to the gynecologist for an ultrasound today.

I’ve never had an ultrasound before, so I was actually excited. I got undressed from the waist down, left on my purple, cheetah print socks and laid on the table.

The technician entered the room, gave me a big smile and got down to business.

“It’s going to be cold,” she kindly warned, as she squirted blue gel all over my belly. She pressed the handle firmly onto my lower abdomen and peered at the screen.

“Let’s see here…oooh, okay!” she exclaimed. “I want to take a closer look.”

Me, too! Me, too! I screamed inside.

She lubed up a condom (yep!), placed it over a very large, long wand with a camera at its end, and inserted it into my body.

I took in a short breath.

“Well, having a camera shoved up my vagina is certainly an interesting way to start the day,” I joked.

My technician smirked.

“I’m going to switch over into 3D mode,” she said, as she maneuvered the camera like a joystick. She pressed buttons on the keyboard, took some pictures and printed out a few. I lifted my head to catch a glimpse at the screen, to no avail.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of a heartbeat.

“Wow! That’s amazing!” I gasped, as tears formed in my eyes.

“I’m going to move over to the left side now,” the technician informed me. “Sorry if it’s uncomfortable. It’s going to be a bit noisy again. I want to check blood flow.”

“No problem,” I replied, and continued to crane my neck towards the screen. The sound of the heartbeat was getting louder; faster.

I heard the printer again. More pictures.

And then it was over.

She left me in the room to get dressed. Still pantless, I grabbed the phone from my purse to take a snapshot of the images left on the screen.

There, I saw it: my 38-year-old uterus. And what I suspected was growing inside of me for quite some time.

Fibroids.

*****

I’m not the first – nor last – childless woman who will deal with fibroids. They’re pretty common, mostly harmless, and don’t actually cause infertility. I have dealt with lady parts problems for years, first dating back to age 16 when I had an ovarian cyst rupture in the middle of my AP History class.

Embarrassing and excruciating.

But no one really knows I deal with this stuff because I’m strong and brave and can endure all kinds of shit. Right?

Not today. As soon as I left the doctor’s office, I burst into tears.

“It isn’t fair!” I cried out loud, as I stomped back home amidst a sea of yellow cabs and groaning fire trucks.

“The first time I have an ultrasound is supposed to be because a baby is growing inside of me, not some possible cancerous shit!” I sobbed. “I should hear two heartbeats, not just my own. My body was made to do this. And it isn’t happening. So why do I still have this desire to have a child and be a mom, God? Why won’t You take it away?! It’s just cruel!”

Funny thing: God’s silence is more deafening than any New York City street corner.

I quickly burrowed down the rabbit hole of self-pity and anger. My thoughts immediately turned to my ex-husband.

“Why the fuck does that guy get to have kids and not me? What did I ever do to deserve this? Mr. Peter Pan Syndrome cheats on me, finds an older woman with money, marries her while he’s still married to me and has a baby a year later, while I’m still mopping up my bleeding heart from our stupid, dragged-out divorce? Where is the justice in that? How is that fair, at all? Why does he, of all people, get to be a parent and not me? I would be a great mother!”

On and on goes the narrative.

I wish I could paint a better picture of myself in the moment, but I got angry. Upset. Frustrated. I’m sad. And I mourn the loss of the children I probably will never have.

I know I’m not alone. So many people – not just women! – have walked this path.

But it’s not about X. He’s just a cheap and easy target. In fact, I’ll bet he’s a great dad. I always saw that potential in him. Hopefully having that sweet little baby in his life will help him mature and ultimately become a better man. I certainly hope he is a better husband to Sister Wife than he was to me.

You know that super annoying verse in the Bible where Jesus addresses the “life is unfair” business?

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? ~Matthew 5:44-46

That’s the one that gets me, every time. It’s almost like Jesus is saying, “Listen, people. Quit whining. Life isn’t fair. You know why? Because we don’t always get everything we want this side of heaven. Also, I love everyone, not just the good, obedient, loyal soldiers. I love the people who have hurt you. You should probably get to work on that, too.”

There Jesus goes, being all Jesus-y, perfect and shit, speaking truth that cuts straight to the heart.

So, no, I cannot be angry with X. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s a good thing he and I never had children together. I have a clean slate. I get to live a re-written ending. A better ending to the story of my life, in that I have already experienced deeper, truer love with a partner. Additionally, I hope to have learned how to forgive and accept life for what it is, not what I want (or wanted) it to be.

As Sara Bareilles sings,

It’s not what I asked for
sometimes life just slips in through a back door
and carves out a person
and makes you believe it’s all true.

I really don’t want to be that jaded, sad, bitter, jealous woman in her late thirties who gives up because she got a raw deal due to life and circumstance. I refuse to marinate in the delusion that I deserve everything I ever wanted. But there are some days I cannot stomach the unending social media newsfeeds of happy, smiling, couples in love. Partnership. Marriage. Babies. Marriage and babies. Marriage, babies and more babies. Marriage, babies, more babies and puppies.

Guess what? Marriages and babies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Marriage is hard. It’s disappointing. It can easily crumble, without anyone even realizing it, until it’s too late. Child-rearing is not without its own set of harrowing difficulties. All babies grow up. Some leave the nest too soon, and others don’t leave soon enough. A lot of cute babies turn out to be real assholes.

Just give me a puppy.

The bottom line is, we’ve got to put our hopes, desires, faith and identity in something other than today’s wish list.

This is where I’m glad God is God, and I’m not. I’m ridiculous; just a speck on an atom of a molecule of humanity. With uterine fibroids and — as I discovered later today at the eye doc — astigmatism in both eyes.

What I do know is that my life is really good. I love it. Focusing on what I don’t have is an obnoxious waste of time. Why not focus on what I do have? Why not try putting my hopes, dreams and desires in the God of the universe? This life is too short to hold a candle for one small detail, as opposed to what is possible in eternity.

Today I’ve been given talent and a chance to do what I love. Today I have an absolutely mind-blowingly amazing man who understands, loves and accepts me for who I am. Today I have a joyful, healthy life and a gorgeous, cozy apartment in New York City. Today I am reminded I have beautiful friends and family who are real and true. I always have love, and therefore life, coursing through every fiber of my being.

Because of grace, I have another chance.

And that is more than enough for today.

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.

Spring is Coming

I am absolutely transfixed by the snow falling out my window at present.

Huge flakes gently drop to the earth. Some dance in circular motion before standing completely still, then change direction. Each is individual and dances with purpose. Some attach themselves to the bare trees, decorating them with leaves of crisp, frozen white. The rest fall to the ground. Eventually, the accumulation will be shoveled aside or melt. The unluckiest flakes become curbside slush, dirty ice or – gasp – yellow.

Yet, in flight, snowfall is the most peaceful, magical sight.

Growing up in California, snow was a rare phenomenon. As kids, we’d be corralled into the car and drive for hours just to touch a few inches of the white stuff. We made crude snowmen with whatever we could find and tossed around a few small balls of ice, but that was about it. Back into the car we went, fighting over our favorite seats. (More often than not, I shrewdly won, threatening carsickness.) We were anxious to get back to the sun, warmth and familiarity of home.

When I moved to New York, it was my first experience living in snow. Everything about it was exciting, even the wind chill factor. As the months dragged on, however, the thrill quickly wore off.

January. Yay, snow!
February. Ooh, snow.
March. More snow?
April. You’vegottobefuckingkiddingme SNOW.

It was cruelly cold and biting, and I suffered the worst: improper shoes. I became frustrated and anxious. I didn’t want to go anywhere. Yet, unlike Los Angeles, New Yorkers don’t cancel anything due to inclement weather. I found myself becoming withdrawn, maybe even a little depressed. I missed the sun. I missed the warmth and familiarity of home.

Just when I was ready to give up, spring burst forth, like your favorite boisterous, bosomy, bellowing aunt. She’s the life of every party and always has good gum in her purse. The ice and snow melted away; bare trees slowly budded again and new life emerged.

This happens every single year.

As the flakes outside have turned into a slanted, steady pelting, I realize I have finally learned to live in – and enjoy – the winter. I even have proper shoes. (Two pairs!) I never truly appreciated spring until I fully endured winter. Perhaps it’s because I had it so easy in California. More often than not, you can drive up PCH with the convertible top down; work on your tan and even swim in the ocean in January.

It’s no wonder why people move west. Winter tests our strength and endurance. It isn’t easy to live in such fluctuating weather. No one hands out awards for getting through the difficult season. You survive it because you know spring is coming.

The metaphor here may be obvious to the point of cliché, but I am in the thick of grieving right now. It is dark. I am no stranger to this season. I have survived before. The odds are in my favor: I will survive again.

But I am exhausted. My heart is worn out. And as the obnoxiously loud sanitation truck plows the snow off 5th Avenue below, I declare my resignation. Love is for the most reckless of fools. I give up.

I don’t want sympathy, encouragement or advice. Fuck the poetry of it all. I’ll be fine. Keep that well-meaning horse shit to yourself. (I just made myself laugh. See?) In fact, I’ll encourage myself. If I write the words, they will eventually mean something.

I trust I can get through this. I can trudge through the dirtiest slush and endure the pain of the most freezing rain, sleet or snow. My skin can take the most whipping wind and biting cold. I hope to find the beauty in this season. This is my home now. I trust the sun will re-appear. I trust warmth is waiting. I trust healing will happen. I trust I can love again.

I trust spring is coming. And she damn well better have strawberry bubble gum in her purse.