Taking Back the Woods

When X and I first started dating, we spent a LOT of our free time at a nearby state park. It was a very popular bouldering spot and since he was a climber, that’s where we went. I loved it. I loved watching him climb, I loved being in the woods, I was content to sit and hike and read. I also loved these particular woods – large boulders in the shade of pine trees with a small brook trickling through. It was magic.

Since returning to NH, I’ve wanted to go back to these woods as a way to reclaim them for myself. This past weekend I finally was able to go. My dear cousin went with me, which turned out to be really helpful. Of all the places I’ve returned this one was the hardest for me. Driving up, I had physical memories, of the feeling of being in the car with him, us, together, and how much I felt like I belonged to someone.

I had more memories in the woods. The woods felt familiar, though somehow smaller. What was so wonderful was that my cousin was there with me. I got to share memories at each spot along the way. I got to talk through things. It was healing and helped soften the memories. It helped them not feel so strong.

I don’t miss X. He really was a selfish partner. But that memory of belonging hurt.

I don’t know if I’ll go back, honestly. I thought I wanted to reclaim these woods. But I don’t know if I can. It’s possible that they just need to stay a memory that I leave behind. I didn’t belong with X. It was all lies. I need to go find my own woods.

Valentine’s Day

Last week was Valentine’s Day. It’s not a holiday I really care about. Honestly, I think it’s more for elementary school parties than anything else. I don’t feel sad that I don’t have a partner right now. Certainly not because everyone is advertising chocolates and flowers. It’s just a day, and it doesn’t define me.

And yet… I found myself feeling blue. I was a bit mopey and low energy. I kept catching myself having little fantasies of receiving flowers at work, or a cute little valentine from a secret admirer. I even wondered briefly what X was doing for the twatwaffle.

This brief, and now rare, wondering reminded me of all the Valentine’s Days we’d had together. How anti-climactic they were. How I always wanted more.

By the time I left school, I got in the car and had a good cry. Then I drove home and spent my evening moving slowly in the house, writing and thinking. I though a lot about how expectations from outside, from society, about what Valentine’s Day is really do seep in, whether you want them to or agree with them or not. But I also thought a lot about why I always felt let down by this holiday with X. The conclusion I’ve come up with has to do with the other 364 days of the year. I think I always put my hopes on the holiday for a grand gesture, because gestures throughout the year were few and far between. Because I always felt last on his priority list. Because so often I felt like an afterthought.

The holiday seems to have some weird, lurking expectations for me. I spent the day trying to work through them. But in the end, it was just a day and I moved through it the best I could. Next year, hopefully I’ll be ready for those sneaky expectations.

The Mundane In-Between

I reread my last two posts and, clearly, I was feeling a bit angry when I wrote them. Sorry for all the f-bombs! (Although, I have to say, it’s a very satisfying word to say!)

The truth is, yes, I still get angry, or hurt. I still feel the weight of what happened. But these days those feelings are really intermittent. They don’t come that frequently, and they don’t last very long. I actually wrote both of those posts on the same night, as writing was helping me move through the tough feelings.

And that’s the thing about healing. It really does get better. I don’t hurt as much. I’m content a lot of the time. This weekend, I ended up spending the whole day yesterday reading Evvie Drake Starts Over. I read the whole thing in a day – started in the morning and finished at bed time. And it was glorious! Laugh out loud funny book, characters I cared about, a love story I very much related to. Then today, I got some, but not all, of the things done on my list. I cleaned a bit, did some laundry, did some school work, and went for a walk.

The weekend’s challenge.

It’s nothing exciting or profound. It’s the mundane in-between of the hard parts, and really, they aren’t that interesting to write about. I’m healing! It’s pretty cool.

Feeling Beautiful

I started curling my hair a month ago. This is actually a big deal for me. I’ve never really cared about my hair before, preferring to dry it in the air vents as I drive to work instead of waking up a half hour earlier to do it with a blow dryer. But, I started using styling product, drying my hair with a blow dryer, and then curling it. I’ve been experimenting with different styles, and I am loving it. I feel beautiful when I do this, and that’s really what I need right now.

Because, I recently realized, X never told me I was beautiful. Maybe a few times in the beginning of our relationship, but certainly, in the last five years, he did not say this to me. Sometimes, I would ask if an outfit looked ok, and he’d say, “Yeah,” or even, “It looks nice.” But as I gained weight, I got less validation from him and so internalized that as me being ugly. I was ashamed of myself, thinking he was ashamed of me. I grew to believe I was ugly, and treated myself like I was ugly.

I’m not doing that any more. Honestly, fuck him for not seeing how beautiful I am. How full of light and joy I am. How that radiates when I smile and laugh and dance. Fuck him for not seeing how shiny and thick my hair is, the curve of my lower back, and the way my eyes crinkle when I smile. The softness of my lips.

I see these things. I see them now. I am beautiful and I am determined to treat myself that way. It started with waking up a bit earlier and curling my hair, but I keep going. I’ve started doing Pilates. I am trying to walk every day and while I’m not there yet, I’m still trying. I am trying to put nourishing food into me. I’m getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Because I deserve these things. I am beautiful and I deserve to be treated that way, by any future partner, yes, but most importantly, by me. More and more, I am feeling beautiful.

Pulling Over

Tonight I left work feeling rejected. A small hope I had about an encounter I envisioned in my head with this guy I have a crush on didn’t materialize, despite my efforts. There are a myriad of reasons why that might be, so many that are not about rejection. But there I was having anxiety over it, right in my solar plexus, a gut punch.

This is the impact of X’s betrayal. Here I am, trying to put myself out there, just a little. I really think it’s possible he is actually trying to put himself out there a bit too. And the smallest thing feels like rejection, even when, objectively, it wasn’t.

As I drove home last night, I began to cry. And those tears turned into sobs. I began yelling at X again, like in the beginning of this mess. I was yelling about how he did this to me. How he stole from me companionship and confidence, how he stole my dream of a family. It was so intense, I had to pull the car over.

I sat for 20 minutes and cried. I texted a friend to say outloud what I was feeling. I got my bearings and was able to drive again. And by the end of the evening, I had genuinely calmed down.

I decided I was going to continue to put myself out there, even if I do get rejected, knowing that when that happens, it’s going to hurt a lot, more than makes sense. I made this decision knowing that these feelings are going to be big at first, because X did cause damage. What he did was intensely hurtful. But I decided that there is absolutely no way I am going to let this small, coward of a man shrink me any more, or make me stop living a life that I can create.

And when the feelings become outsized, intense and irrational, I’m going to pull over so I can get my bearings again.

The Snow Blowing Fallacy

We got snow this week. On Thursday, every town in a 70 mile radius had school cancelled, except my district. We didn’t even have a delay! The drive was rough and when I got home that night, I still had the driveway to deal with.

When X first left, it was the dead of winter and I had to figure out how to operate the snowblower. A few days after X left, on the phone with my dad, he walked me through using a choke and how the levers worked. Then, I set off alone, in the dark (because it was always dark) to clear my long, hilly driveway. I repeated this feat at least once a week, often more, as snow continued to fall throughout the winter. I got good at it. I developed a rhythm with it. For me, it became a symbol of my ability to do this alone, to pick up the pieces of the life he shattered and keep moving forward.

On Thursday night, I had to tackle the driveway again. And let me tell you, I absolutely didn’t want to. I was tired from the day and the idea of having to do more work was exhausting. But then I spoke to a friend and in that conversation told her, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” It was like the version of me clawing my way through the first horrific months after X left, reminding myself over and over that I’ve got this. And so I ate a quick dinner, put my gear on, and went out to tackle the driveway.

I still don’t quite have the rhythm of my new driveway. I messed up in the fall and didn’t rake all the leaves and now when I go over them, the auger picks them up along with the gravel underneath and flings the rocks. I also haven’t figured out the path that is most efficient, so each time I’ve been experimenting.

Anyway, as I made my way up and down the driveway, trying not to send flying rocks toward the house or my car, I thought about this next chapter of my life. I thought about how I am starting to open myself up to the idea of dating, but really, to the idea of being vulnerable with someone, to trusting again, ever so slowly. I’m starting to open myself up to the idea that relationships can look different from what I had with X. That I can have an intimate relationship with someone and still have my own life, and be my own person. So I made a decision – no matter what happens, I’m going to continue to do the snow blowing. It’s my symbol of independence. I’m going to hold it close, to remind me that I can do it.

Powerful, right?

Well the universe seems to think that’s funny. I woke up this morning and I have injured a muscle running from my neck down my spine, stopping at my shoulder blade. It’s so painful that when I turn my head a certain way, or lift my arm, the pain is so sharp I gasp. And the kicker is we got more snow last night and I need to snow blow again, but I can’t. My back hurts too much. Shoveling the deck is definitely not possible today. I do not want to ask anyone for help. The idea I can do it all alone seems to be a fallacy. I feel like the universe might be sending me a message here. Something about not being too rigid with my expectations of what the future may bring? Or a healthy relationship means you both do your part and you can lean on each other? I don’t know. It appears life has no user manual. I’m going to be slowly feeling my way through this next chapter as well, with no certainty of anything.

My New Dishes

I’ve been looking for the past year for a new set of dishes. Our old dishes served their purpose – Fiestaware, bright colored in the dark winter, sturdy and easy to clean, cheerful and practical. But it feels strange to continue to use them. While I have some still, I resist using them unless I have no other option.

So the last few weeks I began actively trying to find a replacement pattern. Then, I discovered Macy’s was having a massive sale. I knew I wanted white/cream. I knew I wanted a little bit of detail, but not a lot. I knew I prefer classic to modern. And I knew I wanted them to have a bit of weight to them.

After narrowing it down to three patterns, I made the final call and ordered myself six settings of Villeroy and Boch’s Manoir pattern. They came yesterday and I am over the moon excited for them.

Just unpacked! Don’t they look great against my dark table?

I love the color. I love the size and the weight. I love the touch of detail that isn’t too much, but just enough. Mostly, I love that they’re all mine. I picked them out. I bought them for myself (and got an AMAZING deal on them!). I get to look at them and use them and enjoy them every day, without the added weight of them feeling sadly familiar.

I love my new dishes. I’m proud of these little ways I keep letting go of the past and moving forward. The old dishes have been moved out. The new dishes have been washed and put away in the cabinet. Don’t they look pretty?


I’ve been trying really hard to have a positive attitude the past few days. Focus on the future, push myself to think of the possibilities. But the truth is that even while I was doing that (and I do think it was good for me) I was also really weepy. I’ve been sad. Nothing in particular, nothing I can really pin down, just a general sadness. I suspect this is part of letting go, of the grieving process. It sucks that it takes so long, but I suspect I’ll be at this for a while. I wonder if the hurt will ever really go away.

For a while now I’ve been noticing that I generally do enjoy my time alone. I like having my own space, my own bed, my own decorations. I like being able to choose where I sit and what I eat. Being alone hasn’t been that bad. In fact, it’s been kind of great. But this morning, in the midst of that weepiness, I just wanted to be held. I wanted to snuggle. To have someone wrap their arms around me and hold me for a long long time. And no, a friend isn’t going to cut it here. I wanted something more intimate.

It made me realize that, while I do like being alone, and I’m enjoying it for now, I definitely am going to want something more. I am going to want to find a partner. Someone who is there with me. Someone who can wrap their arms around me when I need it. Maybe not right now, but I think I’m getting closer.

In the meantime, I really need to get a dog.

A Word for 2020

Apparently there is a trend where people choose a word to embody their intention for the new year ahead. And while it seems to me a bit simplistic, I find myself thinking about it a lot as I head into the new year.

This last year, for certain, was about survival. It was about struggle, overcoming, strength, grit, perseverance. Any one of those could be my word for 2019. Not that it was my intention at the outset – I was in “getting to the next minute” mode, not “what’s my word for this year” mode. Oh, how I’ve grown!

As I look ahead to the next year, I see that I’m leaving the stage of survival and am starting to enter a period of time that I can shape for myself. God willing, it will be a time where I’m not acting in defense, but in offense. I can choose this for myself!

So what will my word be? HAPPINESS – I am not going to be down and bitter from this, but am going to chase all my goals. I’ll continue to work on my physical fitness. I’ll get outside. I’ll get a dog! I’ll knit and write and felt! I’ll spend time with friends! All these things make me happy.

Maybe, then, my word should be YES! I can say yes to more things. Hide out less. Do more! Say yes! Maybe even say yes to a date?

Or the word could be LIVING. No more sitting on the sidelines. I want to get out into the world and live it! Try new things, meet new people!

Definitely the word could be COURAGE. It’s very scary to think of my life stretched before me. It’s completely unplanned and incredibly uncertain. I suppose everyone’s future is uncertain. But when I was married, there was a small map. Now? Will I meet someone? Do I want to meet someone? Will I have kids? Will I become a writer? I have an idea for what I want my new life to feel like, but it’s going to take a lot of work to get there. It’s scary to step out of my shell and do the daily work of growing. It’s going to take courage.

The good news is, these won’t be cold turkey, all or nothing words to live by. In so many ways I’m already living them. I’ll certainly make small steps to embrace them more and more. So 2020 will continue to be the year of YES, the year of HAPPINESS, the year of COURAGE. This is the year I really LIVE my life and own it, shape it, the way I want! Cheers to 2020!

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