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?

Snuggles

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!

Turning the Big 4-0!

Today is my birthday and I am officially in my forties! I have to say, I am so excited to enter this next chapter in my life.

For one, I can’t tell you the number of women who have told me that their 40’s were amazing. It was the decade when they finally felt confident in who they were, what they knew, and what they wanted. It was the decade of knowing their worth and, goodness knows, that is what I need right now!

I also have thought back on my thirties and see them as pretty tumultuous. That decade started with me getting married, moving to Alaska, living in a dry cabin for six years, getting my teaching certification, buying a house, having a miscarriage, losing two beloved pets, overcoming abandonment, selling my house, and moving back to NH.

I want my forties to be about my health. I want my forties to be about pursuing my writing goals. I want my 40’s to be about living fully and openly and with some vulnerability.

Goodbye to my 30’s. I’m so excited to put the last decade behind me and run full steam ahead into the next.

Christmas Blues

I was taken aback on Christmas morning when, sitting on the living room floor wrapping presents, I started to cry. They were strange tears and I struggled to really identify what happened to cause them. But there they were, and they kept falling all morning. I was late getting going. I didn’t even get to go for my planned Christmas hike. This was the new tradition that I had hoped to start for myself, something that was mine, but captured the feeling of Christmas that I had grown to love with X.

We used to spend the day together. Being in Alaska, we had no family events we needed to go to. So we made breakfast, did presents, and when it was finally light outside, we’d go for a nice long walk. We didn’t have the TV on. It was music and twinkle lights and a goofy dog who LOVED opening presents.

Christmas morning, I actually missed that. A lot. I missed the calm and the closeness. I missed the laughter. I missed my dog. I even missed X, which is not a feeling I have. (It actually made me really uncomfortable to miss him.) I just longed for the old days. Even though I really don’t. Even though most days I like where my life is going and who I am becoming, this day was hard. Harder than I expected.

I don’t know that it’s a setback, per se. I think it’s probably normal and even a sign that I am healing. It seems natural to miss something lost, to long for a life I thought was special. But I was blue. I had to push myself through presents with my family. Through dinner and the noise and the chaos. All joyful. All wonderful, and yet all different from what Christmas had become for me. The change was really hard.

The good news is that it has had me thinking about what it is I want from Christmas day. What does it mean and what can I do to make it work for me? I know I like the calm. I like the feeling of the world stopped, or at least paused. I like the TV off, the music soft. I like the walk into the quiet world. I like the joy of dogs. And a good, special breakfast.

I’m feeling better today, ready to step back into my journey of moving forward and building my life. And I know I can have a hand in defining what I want for Christmas next year.

Milestone

Today was the last day of school before Christmas break. It was a day of fun activities, crafts, and parties. It was chaos getting the kids out the door at the end of the day. It was a lot of work cleaning up the mess and packing up my gifts and party supplies. It was three trips to the car before the final well wishes for a relaxing break and I could pull out of the parking lot.

On the drive home, I was feeling pretty good. The class recitation of “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” went well. My crush said, “Merry Christmas, Kate” which obviously means he is in to me. And I was rocking out to Lizzo.

As I drove up over the ridge, the sunset over Loon Pond took my breath away. Lizzo was singing, “I’m my own soulmate.” And I burst into tears at the beauty of it all.

I cried for reaching this milestone – exactly one year since X told me he didn’t love me.

I cried for the knowledge that I am my own soulmate. That I have really grown to like me this last year, and that I feel good in my own skin, for the first time in I can’t remember how long.

I cried for the beauty of that sunset and the gift of seeing that view on this day at this exact moment.

There were so many moments over the past year when I thought I couldn’t make it through the day, let alone a year. When the sleepless nights couldn’t be over fast enough. But here I am – standing strong, moving forward, building my life for me.

I cried not because I was sad, but because I felt a rush of relief and pride. I did it. Heaven knows I didn’t do it alone. But I did it. I made it a year and I’m moving forward.

A Crush

So I have a confession to make – I have a crush! It’s the first crush I’ve had in 14 years, and I have to say, it’s really fun!

This guy and I barely talk, and he thought my name was Kath until just a few days ago, but I swear, he’s interested in me too. I keep catching him looking at me. And now that he knows my name, he says it when he asks how I’m doing. “How are you, Kate?” It’s good. It’s really good.

I don’t know him so this crush is just based purely on attraction. But here’s the coolest thing : while sometimes I think to myself, “I’m fat, why would he be attracted to me?”, I don’t actually believe that thought! I sense him looking at me ALL the time, and when I look, he looks away. He’s looking at me!

So, I’m going to trust my gut. I also need to try hard not to spend too much mental energy on silly fantasies like, he looses his apartment and needs a place to crash for a few days, and hey, I’ve got a spare room and a futon. (That was yesterday’s fun fantasy!) . Instead, I’m going to try to make myself be a bit vulnerable. I’m going to try talking to him more. I’m going to make eye contact and smile, instead of averting my eyes when I’m nervous.

The best part of this is I don’t feel like this is really going to go anywhere. I am enjoying just the crush, and pushing myself to be vulnerable. I’m enjoying the feeling that someone might find me interesting, maybe even attractive. I am enjoying feeling good.

A year out from abandonment, and I’m feeling good and enjoying myself. I’ll call that a win!

Twinkle Lights

I’m snowed in today, along with a large portion of the state. Usually these days are real gifts, and I guess in it’s own way it is a gift, but a hard one. I had a hard time getting going this morning and found myself numbing out on social media. This has been a challenge for me for some time and lately I’ve noticed I’ve been doing it a bit more frequently, most likely because I’m trying to avoid the tumultuous feelings the holidays are bringing.

So around 11, I set myself a timer, turned on a podcast, and started power cleaning the kitchen. When that was done, I turned to the porch, where I wanted to hang up some twinkle lights. I have been slowly feeling out the whole Christmas decorations thing. I usually love decorating for Christmas, but haven’t been sure how to approach it this year. Friday, I put up a tree. Right now it just is lights and a few red pinecones my dear friend got for me. I don’t know that I want to add anything else. But that felt okay, so I hung up a lighted wreath on the porch. That also felt okay, so today, while there was still daylight, I hung up the strand of white lights on the porch. As I was hanging them up I had some flashbacks to X. We always put up a single strand of colored lights around the kitchen window in our little cabin, then continued the tradition with our little house. X didn’t really like Christmas, but he loved me, or so I thought, so he did those things for me. My mind wandered to thoughts of him now, wondering what his new traditions with the new wife will be. It’s crazy, last year he was leaving one wife at Christmas, now he has another one. On some level, it sure is easy to see him as the villain.

Idyllic on the outside only.

When I finished the lights on the porch, I could feel myself getting maxed out on Christmas decorations. I could feel my mind getting stuck on past memories. So I logged into twitter, you know, to numb out, and there were two painful tweets. One from Senator Warren about her decision to end her first marriage and the shame she felt when her mother didn’t approve. This reminded me of a line from X’s goodbye email, saying he knows he’s disappointing family, and he doesn’t want to do that but that he had no other choice. Then, there was a retweet of this story by Peter Sagal. He also shared the shame he felt upon not being able to make his marriage work. Two people I respect, sharing honest accounts of their need to end their marriages for their own happiness.

And in that moment the self-doubt that had really been bubbling under the surface all week comes boiling over. What if it was just that? What if he was just so unhappy that there was no other choice? What if his decision to leave was valid? I’m back to being small. I’m back to that awful feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with me. That this man I loved so much just couldn’t stand to be with me anymore.

I know. He left without any attempt to work on issues with me. He left saying the problem had always been there, even though he never shared it with me. He left and immediately moved in with, and then married, another woman. But what if both things are true? What if he was a man-child who forgot I was a person worthy of honest discussion and effort, and also he had no other choice but to leave? It’s easier for me if he’s just the bad guy. He walked away so easily, stopped all contact with me. He left and didn’t look back. And here I sit, trying to figure out how to balance my old love of Christmas with the apparent triggering effect of Christmas lights, feeling the shame of never being good enough. He said, “There was always something missing.” The self-doubt rears its ugly head.

I want to love Christmas. I don’t want to let this ruin something I used to enjoy so much. But today these memories, and the possibility that X was valid in ending our marriage, just makes me feel such deep shame around being unlovable. And while I know intellectually it’s not true, that’s not enough right now. I don’t think the twinkle lights are helping.

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