Friday, July 15, 2016

Cold day in July (or, the beginning of the fairy tale)

It was 10 years ago this month that my ex moved out.

If I'm honest, I'm still pretty angry sometimes. Angry, because that bastard stole eight years of my life. In those eight years, I could have been out finding the person I'd spend the rest of my life with. Instead, he stuck with me until someone else came along.

(Note that I didn't say "someone better." In every way, the man downgraded. Idiot.)

There's this song that the Dixie Chicks covered, called "Cold Day in July," and it goes something like this:
The moon is full, my heart is empty
all night long, how I pleaded and cried
You always said the day that you would leave me
would be a cold day in July
Well, it wasn't a cold day. It was a blistering July day in Chicagoland, and one of my best friends came over to rescue me from the torture of watching the leaving. Brian dropped the top on the Jeep, and the two of us spent the entire day driving all over hell's half acre. Music blaring, hair flying, we drove.

And when we arrived back at my place, I was well and truly alone. For the first time in my adult life, really, I was single. Didn't wanna be, but like Mick says - you can't always get what you want.

It took a long time and tears before I even decided I would move on. But once I did ... there was no looking back. The person I am becoming barely recognizes the girl I left a decade ago. And sometimes it scares me to death, because I do not know how this story ends.

Sometimes people ask me if I'm afraid of dying alone. If I'm honest, I do have moments when I'm afraid it'll take awhile for people to find the body, especially if I kick it in winter. But the truth is, I won't die alone unless I turn into an asshole. (Spoiler alert: I don't intend to do that.) I'm not alone now. But damn, was I ever alone during the eight years I was with my husband. I was an island. I thought I was on that island with him, but in truth, we had our separate islands.

And so, here I am. Ten years later, still figuring it out. But all that really means is that I'm still growing. Still becoming. It's a good life. It's not as full of romance as I'd planned. There is no white picket fence.

What there is, instead, is a girl who knows herself. Who isn't afraid to be authentic. She understands boundaries, and she understands her worth. She invests in people. She loves thoroughly and well. She cries a lot, but she laughs more. On a scale from one to 10, she feels at an 11. She's barefoot and tan, she hasn't combed her hair in a couple of days, and she had coffee for breakfast.

She's living happily ever after.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

a decade

He used to say we didn't need Valentine's Day. That our love was so special, it could be celebrated in any day that ended in "y." That flowers, chocolates, shoes ... such gifts shouldn't be relegated to one day a year, but rather showered upon the object of one's affection on a random Tuesday, because 365 was just about the right number of days per year to celebrate how special we were.

But then one day, I realized random Tuesdays never happened.

It will be exactly 10 years tomorrow that I finally relinquished my grip on marriage. Things started falling apart in December. In January, it became clear that there was someone else. February rolled around and I was done trying to compete.

In a moment, I made the decision to do something good for me instead of beating my heart against a brick wall. And 10 years later, I'm the same girl while simultaneously so completely different.

That night, I chose to surround myself with music and love. My life became a quest for more, an opportunity to find my edges. See, once you fail at something you thought you could not fail at - like marriage - failure becomes so much less scary. I started doing things. I started trusting myself and those around me.

I started living.

I took huge bites out of life - sometimes more than I could chew at a time! But in 10 years, I've propelled myself forward in my career. I've discovered things I truly love to do. I've learned so much. And yes, I've become an athlete.

I have actually improved the health of my heart. What was once broken can, indeed be filled.

The years have not passed in a vacuum. Truth be told, I don't think I would have survived without you, dear friend. Whether you've been the one who answered the phone in the middle of the night, or you proofread my resume when I was trying to figure out how to afford important things like a roof over my head, or you've bought me dinner, or played me a song, or just listened to me ramble, man do I owe yo all the gratitude. Your willingness to love me through it has allowed me to become something more than I was a decade ago.

Human beings have relentless capacity to become something they currently are not. We're more than resilient; when untethered, we are unstoppable. And as I stare down the barrel of 50, I'm grateful to have discovered all this about myself ... and I'm oh, so ready to see who I become in the next 10.

Happy Independence Day to you.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lessons from the Road, Part Seven

Goodbyes Suck

Because we are nothing if not awesome, the Young Prince and I argued on our last day. Partly because we had been together 24/7 for several days, partly because I was really sad to be heading off into the sunrise without him, and partly because of stuff I'm sure I can't begin to understand. The point is, saying goodbye to someone you love sucks, all day long.

We dropped Alex's stuff off at his apartment (seriously, the amount of stuff it takes for a college guy to remain on this side of the grass boggles the mind) and headed out into the world.
GCU's mascot is an antelope. Lopes UP!

We went to Churn for ice cream. And lo, it was good.
Pretty sure this is exactly how Alex felt having me in Phoenix. 

Somehow, the day slipped away from us. Our plan to lay by the pool, ride the slides and gorge ourselves on barbecue was interrupted by college friends (and let's face it - you'd be happy to see 20-somethings, too, if you'd been trapped with your middle-aged aunt for four straight days) and by the time we finished arguing, it was time for dinner. We decided to go to Top Golf, a souped-up driving range with targeted golf games and beer. It was the ideal spot for us to relax, regroup and watch a Phoenix sunset. 
Such perfect form!

We had a few sliders and played a couple games and we talked. A lot. After we returned to the room, we talked. Late into the night, we talked. Of all the souvenirs I procured on the trip, the conversations are the things that can never be replaced. Long into the night, we talked, covering controversial topics on which we most decidedly do not agree, and winding up with hugs and the realization that yes, the best people to keep in your life are the smart people who disagree with you. 

Too soon, it was time for sleep. Too soon, the alarm rang. 

Way, way too soon, my favorite person dropped me off at the airport. 

In the months since, I've continued to be a bad communicator. (Spoiler alert: so has he.) Much as I plan to connect, I tend to think of things I want to say to Alex when I'm in the middle of a meeting, or on a treadmill ... neither of which being ideal for a phone call.

I've missed him terribly since he left, but we made a lifetime of memories and learned a lifetime of lessons on an epic, cross-country road trip. 

Here's to many more.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Lessons from the Road, Part Six

It's a Dry Heat - making the best of it

They say that about Arizona. "It's a dry heat." As if somehow sticking your head in the oven is comfortable vs. sticking your head in the sauna. Dry heat, by definition, is still hot.

When we arrived in Phoenix, it was about 300 degrees. (Or, to be more accurate, 114 ... and that's actually not an exaggeration.) It was hot. Uncomfortably hot. Can't-sit-outside-for-too-long hot.

In the chill that is Illinois in November, I miss this.

And yet I remember thinking to myself, "there's going to come a time in the not-too-distant future when I'm going to need this memory."

It's mid-November in the Midwest, and I'm pretty much there.

So yeah ... it's a dry heat. And back home, it's a wet cold. And the truth of it is, you get what you get and if you're smart, you make the best of it, no matter what.

Alex and I spent a lot of time outside while I was in the PHX. We went for ice cream (where I had a scoop of the best coffee flavor I have ever had) and sat under an awning. We had the best burgers for lunch and sat in the car, windows down, under a tree. We did a golf thing, wisely as the sun was setting. And yeah, we moved the young prince into his new on-campus apartment, right in the heat of the day.

The point is to not hide out indoors, because that's just not going to serve you in the long term. We would have missed out on some pretty stellar adventures if we hadn't been willing to be out in the world.

And now here I am, back home, on the verge of bitching about the weather. I suspect it's going to be a long winter, because it's always a long winter. But I have all the gear I need to make the best of it. Because life is short, and if I can eat ice cream in 117-degree heat, I can sure as hell drink cocoa when it's below zero.